As a group of women clergy in mid-ministry, we were looking for someone to provide us with a way into defining, exploring and taking forward issues of career development. We were hoping for a methodology which would provide freedom to go with whatever might be of importance to participants, without prejudging what that might be. We wanted to come away energized rather than drained and with a sense of having defined some actions to be taken in our own ministries and some questions to be put to the institutional church.
The Open Space methodology ensured that the contribution of each participant was valued and given time for development. We didn’t feel under pressure but at the same time we were encouraged towards practical outcomes. Somehow the format seemed to enable us to work from our enthusiasms and sense of achievement. Whilst we addressed a number of negatives we had a sense of being ‘on the move’ positively.
As a result of what felt like a truly collaborative enterprise, we did come away with a number of actions to pursue and questions to ask for the good, we believe, of the diocese.
What we can do now that we couldn’t do before
As Bishop’s Advisor for Women, I feel that I have a stronger mandate than before in this particular advocacy role. I think that many of us came away with an increased sense of confidence gained through mutual encouragement, recognition of common problems and a sense of the strength to be gained through supporting one another as we dare to be ourselves in ministry. Maybe we also discovered the value of not getting bogged down in detail before identifying the main issues for action.
Having worked with Claire four years ago, I knew that she would come up with the goods for us. What I hadn’t bargained for was the effectiveness of the Open Space methodology. At the outset it felt a little disturbing to be working entirely without an agenda, stepping into ‘Open Space’. The method certainly worked for us, combining the freedom to run with our own concerns with the drive to keep our energies on track for creative outcomes. I would definitely recommend Claire’s work to others.