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:
- (I) All people attending on the day must participate by both suggesting agenda items for the day and participating in conversation where they have expertise.
- (II) The chair is responsible for the overall discussion progression throughout the day (please see below for the guidelines by which the chair should operate).
- (III) Attending delegates must agree to the ‘open agenda pledge’
- (IV) A note-taker will keep time and take notes. A set of notes from the meeting will be published openly under a creative-commons-zero license with organisation and personal affiliation removed from context (see, Chatham House Rules). All notes should be approved by attending members prior to publishing.
Terms of Meeting Engagement:
- All participants should abide by “Chatham House Rules” (from Wikipedia): “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed”. In short, it is the ideas that should be the centrifuge of the meeting and any meeting(s) that build upon it.
- Motioning a proposed open agenda item. Participants of the open agenda meeting are able to motion for proposed open agenda topics at the start of the meeting under the instructions of the chair. All participants are encouraged to motion an agenda topic at the start of the meeting on the day of the meeting (not prior to).
- The chair may put forward a vote to narrow the number of motions to choose from throughout the day. This period can also be utilised to either disambiguate topics or join topics together if similar enough.
- Open Agenda topics should be selected using the parliamentary procedure of “seconding” (from wikipedia): “a ‘second’ to a proposed motion is an indication that there is at least one person besides the mover that is interested in seeing the motion come before the meeting. It does not necessarily indicate that the seconder favors the motion.”
- A ‘second’ may be withdrawn if the motion is amended by the maker of the motion before it has been stated by the chair.
- The chair is responsible for assuring topics are thoroughly discussed and that a range of topics are tabled and motioned throughout the day. The chair has final say as to the topics that are addressed and for how long.
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:
- The role of the chair is to observe the ideological progression and ambiance for the meeting as it occurs. This usually requires the chair to NOT participate in the main discussion of each open agenda item; rather, their role is usually to observe the discussion so that as it flows, peaks and ebbs they will know when to end the agenda item and move onto another agenda item.
- Where applicable chairs should attempt to come to a conclusion or action from each agenda item. Though it is recognised that the conclusions can be anything from “information was shared”, “these points were of significance”, “there could be an action from this”, “there is an action from this that will be taken forward”. NB There should be no obligation created for an agenda item to reach any kind of required conclusion. Often the affects of the open agenda meeting are achieved as an afterglow of the meeting that takes place weeks if not months or years after the meeting has taken place.
- The chair should make every effort to encourage participation by all at the meeting, and should accordingly observe the discussion and encourage an equilibrium where possible. Accordingly, the chair is often the best known person in the room so that any participating will feel the chair partially understands the knowledge and information they are bringing to the meeting.
Open Agenda Step-by-Step (suggested timeline for a day long meeting)
- 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.
- 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'.
- 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.
- 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).
- The chair will introduce him/herself to the group.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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