By: Michael Levkowitz
Earlier this week the Tulalip Tribes hosted Making Sense of Sea Level Rise, a Tribal Climate Change Forum at the Seattle Mountaineers club. The Forum brought together representatives from Washington’s coastal tribes, state agencies, non-profits and academia in a somewhat unusual format to address local sea level rise issues. The Forum was broken into morning plenary presentations and afternoon “open space market places.” While the plenaries (including presentations from CHRN members Dr. Lara Whitey Binder, Ian Miller, and Eric Grossman) were extremely informative, it was the afternoon open space sessions that really caught my attention.
These afternoon sessions were a topic of some skepticism among attendees I spoke with heading into the two-day forum. The basic idea was to ask those in attendance to propose topics or questions for discussion in “real time” (immediately following the morning plenaries concluded) to the entire group, and then allow everyone to self-select into sessions of interest. People were encouraged to follow the “law of two feet” – which essentially states that you are responsible for engaging in the conversations most interesting to you, and the onus is on every individual to stand up and use their own two feet to move to whatever topic or conversation which their participation would be most valuable.
As one of the aforementioned skeptics myself, I can speak to my own concerns going in: How many sessions would be proposed? Would attendees find proposed sessions relevant and interesting? How well the sessions would be moderated? Consider me convinced. The dynamic was extremely fluid, flexible, and seemingly productive! Great topics were proposed, sessions were combined, broken apart, extended, dropped in-and-out of by attendees, and all with a rather seamless horizontal-management structure. Open space formats provide a uniquely simple option for organization, allowing people to truly organize themselves in a way that they value. You can find a simple 2-page guide to open spaces here.
A few of the topics for discussions from the Forum included:
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