I was bad and was asked to leave the General Assembly plenary hall one year.
Oh, I wasn’t alone. This was Before Blog, but there were two or three other current bloggers with me. We were cutting up and talking too loud. (We could pipe down or leave; we left.) I, for one, had felt obliged to sit in for some of the mock-cheerful official droning, seeing as I was a ministerial delegate and all. But there’s something about a Big Talking Head shuffling papers on a Big Video Screen that brings out something very wicked in me. In each of us, it turned out.
“If I had a hammer . . . .” And a killer pair of red track shorts.
Note: the maker of this blog does not approve of proprietary software, even when he’s making a pop culture point.
But I think the Open Space Technology process — a terrible name, suggesting more video screens, hereafter just Open Space — could be very helpful if
- GA participants trust that it might do any good: a hurdle since, apart from a bit of fun, it’s hard to see how GA does any lasting good, and
- GA participants trust one another a bit: a bigger hurdle since the fear that “somebody’s trying to take us over” is built into our operating system. Unitarian Universalists, as a community, are too small and culturally isolated to get caught there. The Sacred Cod fishery was depleted long, long ago.
While a couple of decades old, Open Space depends on the same principles of self-organization that makes Internet social networking possible and lively. in short: go where you need to be. A rule of the closely related — if less formal — Unconference movement is that if you’re not teaching or learning, go somewhere else. Also: there are no observers, only participants. If the group you’re in isn’t the right one: move. These principles trust there is “more wisdom in the crowd” than on the platform.
I will confess some worry about who’s allowed a voice and who isn’t. UUs have a history of experimenting with unscientific and unrepresentative polling and sampling and then using the data as if it was scientifically or representatively gathered. Since all GA participants can participate in a process that speaks to the Board of Trustees, then anyone who can afford to go to GA gets a voice, delegate or not. Not there? No voice.
That’s a problem which can be mitigated if
- this experiment goes on for several years, at least
- similar unconferences meet all over the country (and not just at district meetings.)
- there were clearer lines for individual feedback to the Board, either directly to members or through an ombudsman office.
Bloggers can each help by examining the process and — should it be found convincing — promoting it in their space. We can also hold the UUA Board of Trustees accountable if the results are misused or unfairly discounted.
Because believe me, I’ll find the right place to speak and listen.