Developing Enterprising Artists Using Open Space

Yesterday I was invited to help Axis and the ever wonderful Culture Vulture to run a ‘Cultural Conversation’ to help a group of around 60 artists, project managers, collectors and gallery managers to explore the role of social media in supporting their work.  The group included some social media users and ‘experts’ (I use that word cautiously) and one or two technical types.  Peopl trsavelled from all over the north of England to take part and the venue at Project Space Leeds was rammed!

Instead of using the default setting of finding some experts to explain it all to the numpties we went with an open space meeting.  In this format groups of people meet to explore as peers the issues and topics they wish to explore.  They set the agenda, in real time on the day, and learn by exchanging experiences, insights and challenges.  They talk to each other, like human beings, in conversations.

In under four hours the group of 60 were each able to attend 4 conversations chosen from a schedule of 18 or so.  The topics included:

  • ‘What is Twitter and How Do I Use It’
  • Social Media Dialogue as Artwork’
  • I am Completely Overwhelmed! Where Do I Start?
  • Using Social Media for Critique

and many more.

Despite the fact that there are no experts holding forth, no lectures and no exhibitions the feedback from those who attended was excellent.  They enjoyed the process, they learned a lot, and most (perhaps all?) went away enthused about increasing or changing the way they use social media either to produce or attract and audience to their work.

This kind of open space conversation that builds relationships amongst participants and fosters enquiry and peer learning, rather than sitting passively while an expert holds forth, seem to me to be consistently effective ways to both build the social capital that forms the bedrock of an enterprising community and enable them to access the insights that they need to know, right now.  Indeed as the afternoon wore on a few new conversations were added as people though ‘Right, know I need to find out about….’

60 people smiling, laughing, talking, challenging, enquiring and advocating.  In short being human and exploring the implications of social media for something that they love.

A low cost, high value and extremely productive contribution to the enterprising ecosystem.  At a time when we need to be creating more value for less cash I can’t help that the world of enterprise development needs to embrace this type of peer to peer learning event.  We not be able to do much to improve the transport infrastructure in the city without a great big dollop of cash from government, but we can surely improve the enterprising infrastructure for next to nothing!

Some more thoughts were captured on the day in this audioboo – Why Open Space Works for Artists

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