Community Created Humboldt (CCH) — an Open Working Space, is a coalition of individuals, businesses, non-profits and other organizations that believes that Humboldt County is capable of providing a stable, prosperous and thriving future for our kids and our grandkids—a future in which they are safe and secure, and not overly dependent on systems and events that they cannot control. Many of our social and natural systems—energy, agriculture, water, timber, and so on—are key elements in creating a thriving future. We need non-divisive, creative, open ways to talk openly about these issues, to bring multiple stakeholder viewpoints to bear, and to simply listen to each other. We need to talk to each other if we hope to develop a workable vision for the future of Humboldt County.
Most organizations use meetings as the primary method of connecting people with tasks in the hope of getting something done. Typically, meetings have pre-set agendas, a fixed structure, and a designated process to follow. Meetings are where you are assigned obligations and responsibilities that you do not really want to take on. But it is very likely that most people don’t like meetings or think they are a particularly productive way to get things done. CCH promises to be a different type of “meeting.”
Most people that have attended a multi-day conference will tell you that it is during the coffee breaks—the open spaces in the schedule—where the most productive and substantive discussions actually take place. Coffee breaks are where you meet new people and exchange ideas and business cards. They are where you form new strategic alliances and networks because they matter, not because you are obligated to do so. Everyone loves coffee breaks.
How does it work? The participants at CCH can identify issues related to a theme (in this case – how to create a healthy, prosperous and thriving future) for which they have real passion. Issues are written on a large piece of paper, grouped, and posted on the session (coffee break) schedule. Participants then attend sessions that include the issues they are most concerned about. Importantly, participants are free to move among sessions as their heart desires (e.g., they can get up and move in the middle of a session). Over the course of an hour or so, discussions, opinions, and ideas are recorded. At the end of the hour, session participants can decide to stay or to move to another session. The compilation of the proceedings is a significant outcome of the event; a bunch of new connections is another. The proceedings are combined and distributed to all participants. Additional information on this approach to meetings is available online at Open Space. Read about our January 23, 2010, event here.