The open space method as workshop form for large groups


Together with our partners we often organize large tourism workshops with local stakeholders. But how can a meeting with a large number of participants be arranged interactively? In contrast to the frontal consumption lectures, the open space method is a good way to utilize the participants´ commitment systematically.

Responding to the needs

In which topics are the touristic stakeholders interested? What are their needs and desires? What are their ideas regarding development of tourism e.g. of the destination? By the open space methodology these and similar questions could be focused. Sometimes the best conversations arise in the coffee pauses so that exchange among each other is much more fertile than the frontal input. The method especially picks up this dynamic by giving plenty of scope for personal evolvement. True to the motto: Everything goes!

How does it work?

Initially, the participants are asked to write down their individual topics for which they agree to be responsible for that day. Afterwards these topics are presented to the whole group. Depending on interest other participants can join these topics and can discuss them with the other group members. For these group discussions separate rooms are available. The discussions and results are documented. Depending on the number of topics, participants and interest two or more workshop rounds can be offered.

Good to know

  • Since not everyone is familiar with this concept, the procedure and its peculiarities must be explained to the participants. Only organisational questions are allowed here.
  • Confidence in self-interest and personal responsibility: Even if the participants are initially quite hesitant, the ideas will be coming after a short time
  • Not all topics are self-explanatory, so that the responsible “head of the subject” (= initiator of that topic) should briefly explain his/her intention.
  • For such workshops sufficient space and materials should be available to allow the discussion groups enough retreat.
  • The results of discussion should necessarily be recorded and documented by photographs in order to keep working at it.
  • At the end a get together with the results is arranged that allows the other participants to learn about all topics.

What´s next?

By this form of workshop many different issues are raised that need to be worked out together with the partners/client in the aftermath. If possible, the subjects are summarized and clustered. In consultation with the “head of the subject” further dates should be fixed in order to step deeper into the issues, develop ideas and set up an action plan. Again, the commitment of the parties is essential. For those deepening workshops other stakeholders could be invited that contribute to the topic.

An experience report

In the project “Region without borders” we have arranged such an open workshop for around 180 touristic stakeholders – this even in combination of German-Dutch. The following article reports from the practice and gives detailed information on background, methods and success factors.
View the experience report (German).


Das Team von COMPASS widmet sich in diesem Blog inhaltlich den übergeordneten Themen Marketingbüro, Europa, Tourism & Peace, Nachhaltigkeit und Marktforschung.

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