It’s not just possible, it’s happening

by Lucy Garrick

An opportunity to contribute to positive social change gave me a new appreciation for Open Space Technology. Our access to technology and is making possible ways of connecting that were never before possible -crossing community, geographic and organizational boundaries.

On Saturday, May 9th, Approximately 54 people from around the world logged into Skype Chat to hold the opening session of a global collaboration for positive change using Open Space principles.

The Conference, Real-time Virtual Collaboration (RTVC) convened participants around the question:

'''“What Tools and Principles Do We Need To Help Change Unfold?

Social and Technological Developments Mean

Better Organizations and a Better World”'''

The conference was the brainchild of Holger Nauheimer, creator of the [Change Management Toolbook]. It was the simplest of acts, Holger put out the invitation and RTVC was born.

The concept of the world’s first Real-time Virtual Collaboration Conference was to learn what is possible when integrating simple facilitative change tools such as Open Space Technology with online synchronous communication tools, such as voice over internet protocol (VOIP), wikis, chats, collaborative work tools and social media. Participants organized before, during and after the conference through a Mind Map portal created especially for the event. Links in the mind map led people to conference registration, pre-session preparations, areas to post sessions, and help.

The four-hour conference was the collaborative design of a self-organizing group of consultants, facilitators and technologists who met online and reside in six countries: Germany, S.Africa, Brazil, United Kingdom, USA, and Canada – most have not yet met face-to-face. In addition to Holger, the RTVC steering team consists of [Stephan Dohrn], (Belo Horizonte, Brazil), [Lucy Garrick] (Seattle, USA), [Hans Gaertner] (Bremen, Germany), [Suresh Fernando] (Vancouver, Canada), [Sofia Bustamante], (London, UK).

We chose Open Space because of its simplicity and flexibility which empowered conference participants to define their own session topics. Participants attended from around the globe, representing 30 different countries. Online postings of topics for break-out sessions was supported by a discussion board and the RTVC steering team. Break-out sessions were held on a variety of social media chosen by session conveners. Imagine a sort of virtual, conference hotel. 
Over 50 participants from around the globe signed on to the opening session using Skype Chat. 
Opening and closing sessions were facilitated by members of the RTVC steering team.

During the Closing session, held on a Skype Chat, I asked participants for one word reactions to the conference and here’s what they had to say:

thrilling technically challenging just starting

excitement engaging difficult connections

multilevel falling off the cliff interesting

smooth bacterial complex

encouraging crossing boundaries What's next?

engaging calls for more exhilarating

conversations surfing germinal

learning disruptive possibility

like riding a roller coaster

What did we learn?

Well for one thing, it works! Humans really are self-organizing systems even in cyber space. And our team was synergistic. Someone always had the skill and commitment that was called for. We believe that this is the wave of the future and that nothing could be a more open space than this. We’re planning to do more. You’ll find a full report of all facts, stats, break-out topics, and key learnings posted in a new [RTVC Mind Map]. At this writing it has been viewed 811 times. Note files of country representation charts and other transcripts are attached to the mind map.

To learn more and follow RTVC developments: Visit the RTVC Forum currently housed on the Change Management Toolbook website at

Lucy Garrick is an organization and leadership consultant and coach.