The Open Agenda Ethos:

'Carpe Forum' - Seize the Meeting: The Open Agenda is about bringing the latest and most up to date ideas into a commonly shared real-time moment, where emergent patterns of concern can occur between participants (face-to-face) on the day.  The open agenda intentionally does not allow for an agenda to be set prior to the day of the meeting to assure that the latest thoughts and concerns are brought on the day to share with everyone.  In place of an agenda,  the Open Agenda creates structure by putting forward a set of guidelines by which people can come together to participate and share ideas in an agreed manner.  This document defines the structure for conducting a ‘open agenda’ meeting.

Open Agenda Guidelines:

Terms of Meeting Engagement:

Open Agenda Pledge:

I agree to participate in today’s open agenda meeting by adhering the open agenda ethos throughout the day.  I will do my best to uphold the open agenda guidelines and utilise the terms of meeting engagement when participating.  I will adhere to the instruction of the chair and do my best to create an amicable environment where the best ideas can emerge via the group consensus.

Being an Open Agenda Chair[a]:

The chair of the open agenda meeting should adhere to a set of principles which are not obligatory but encouraged.  It is suggested that chairs prior to chairing an open agenda meeting should observe a previous chair of an open agenda meeting two or three times prior to chairing a meeting themselves.  In general the following patterns have been observed by Open Agenda chairs:

Open Agenda Step-by-Step (suggested timeline for a day long meeting)

  1. Prior to the meeting the note-taker will send out: a.) list of all meeting participants including short bios of each delegate and the organisation they are representing, b.) official start time of meeting, c.) directions to the venue, and d.) instruction for attending the meeting.  
  2. Prior to the meeting the chair will be introduced and the ‘open agenda guidelines’ and 'terms of meeting engagement' will be sent to each participant (invited participants must agree to the ‘open agenda pledge’ prior to participating).  Participants are encouraged to NOT create discussion prior to the meeting day, see 'Open Agenda Ethos & Guidelines'.  
  3. On the day of the meeting, participants will arrive prior to the meeting beginning (late participants will not be admitted).  Participants should arrive with enough time to get a cup of tea/coffee, say 'hi' to several people and find their assigned seat.  Participants may begin to discuss their interests and ideas, however the meeting will not start until it is called to order by the chair.
  4. The chair of the day will call the meeting to order on time: the door will be closed and late participants will not be admitted (the chair may make exceptions for special cases).
  5. The chair will introduce him/herself to the group.  
  6. The chair will read the 'Open Agenda' pledge out-loud to the group and any objections to pledge should be noted (all participants must agree to the pledge, those who do not agree may observe but not participate).
  7. The chair will oversee a session where each participant introduces her/himself.  Each participant should state what organisation they are representing along with one or two sentences on what topics/themes they would like to put forward for the agenda (the chair will assure this activity is quick and that no one person takes too much time introducing themselves).  Emphasis for this session should be on the ideas and topics of discussion that each individual is thinking about.  The chair has the right during this period to add potential agenda items to the agenda items list based on common interests put forward during the introductions.
  8. After introductions by each participant, the chair will open a session to allow for additional items to be added to the 'potential item agenda list' based on observances from participants during the introductions.  The items added to this list are not assured a place on the meeting agenda, see 'terms of meeting engagement'.  The chair will close this session once enough items have been added to the list.
  9. The chair will open the first 'open discussion session' by asking for participants to put forward a 'vote of confidence' for one of the potential agenda items.  The item is not able to be discussed (aka become an 'open agenda topic') until it has been ‘seconded’ and then voted upon by all delegates, see 'agreeing and voting on open agenda topics' in the 'terms of meeting engagement'.  Once an item has been agreed the chair will oversee the discussion to assure it runs to a reasonable time.  The chair will close the session once an action has been agreed or the conversation is agreed to be over.
  10. The chair will oversee the opening and closing of several 'open discussion sessions’ (see 'terms of meeting engagement') for the remainder of the day (noting time for lunch and comfort breaks).  Each 'open discussion session' will follow step 9 above in terms of progression and in 'agreeing and voting on open agenda topics'. The chair will assure that the meeting is closed on time.
  11. The note-taker will distribute the notes after the meeting to each participate prior to publishing, following the Open Agenda guidelines (see 'Chatham House Rules').  The notes will not be published until all have agreed the notes and actions.  
  12. Participants are encouraged to go to the pub or dinner to reflect upon the meeting.


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[a]Suggestions from an exemplar chair:

1)  Stack the "open" agenda with (a) one or two "easy" topics to warm

the room up with, and (b) the serious strategic ones of the moment.

Usually these will come from the participants during the initial "write

down a topic" phase, but having them in your back pocket helps.

2) Be shameless in tapping the usual loud mouth suspects if the

conversation is lagging.

3) Be ruthless in stopping the conversation every 20 to 30 minutes,

polling for interest, and then killing it or restarting it with the

aforementioned brief summary.  Hint:  It doesn't matter if you get it

wrong, somebody else will correct you and the room will forget that

you're a blooming idiot (worked for me ;)

4) The first two topics almost always end up as throwaways, so don't let

the good stuff happen then. —dff.jisc