Occupy Wall Street. Open Spaces

OWS Open Space Commons

I finally made it to my first Open Space event. What a breath of fresh air. In recent weeks we have reduced the number of decision-making meetings and opened up space for different types of meetings/events, like Open Spaces where we foster dialogue rather than focus on making any decisions. This was only the third Open Space event we’ve had so far but it was really great, well attended and definitely renewed my love for Occupy Wall Street and the community we are building.

For a long time after the eviction people were left without a place to soapbox and have dialogue with each other. Most of the meetings being held tended to focus on decision-making and were process driven. And this often manifested itself in the form of people speaking out of process in order to be heard about something they felt passionate about. Open Spaces provides a great venue for this.

The night started out with people able to post anything they wanted to talk about. You could post a brief description to the wall and let people know where you would be. For instance, one talk I attended was on our monetary system in section A (basically a group of chairs in a circle.) So the room was divided into little circles with each having some interesting discussion. You could stay as long or as short as you like. Some people just floated around the room from one discussion after another. Others kind of stuck it out in a handful of conversations. Each has their merit and it was interesting to hear people’s responses when we wrapped up.

As the conversation about our monetary system wrapped up I happily stumbled upon a discussion on Anarchism! There were probably about a half-dozen or more conversations going on on a variety of topics. During the conversations we had giant sheets of paper to write down our thoughts and observations that we could later share with the group.

What’s always blown me away about our Occupy community is that people really want to listen. During the occupation of Liberty Square I could sit at our labor table and just marvel at the amazing, intense, and very deep conversations happening all around me. And that beautiful spirit was very much alive at Open Space where people listened just as passionately as they spoke.

At the conclusion of the night we came together and shared what we took away from the night. One after another our beautiful community shared some nugget of insight with heartfelt sincerity. When it came to me I said, “I’m filled with grattitude for being here with all of you and I’m taking with me the importance of having space like this to dialogue with each other so that we can continue to learn and grow.”


  1. “7. Take control of (a place, esp. a country) by military conquest or settlement the region was occupied by Britain during World War I

    8. Enter, take control of, and stay in (a building) illegally and often forcibly, esp. as a form of protest the workers occupied the factory.”

    Google Dictionary

    Uh, do you think we could find a better verb?

  2. People will listen intently, people are looking for answers, they will listen and try to sort things out in their mind, they are hungry for change but what that change should be is still not clear. As an anarchist of many years, what you describe in the open space, to me is the most natural way of doing things, once embarked on it just seems to be right. I would be interested to hear how the discussion on anarchism went and what was the general feeling of those involved?

  3. JcWinnie,

    I’m usually of the opinion that dictionaries are a horrible place to go for the meaning of any word. And I’d go on to say that we have radically shifted the meaning of Occupy. It’s not the word we need to change. That’s just my two cents.


    The discussion on anarchism went really well. People were either long time anarchists or people who were just curious about it. Overall it was a great discussion and we plan on bringing some readings to the General Assembly, maybe something from Berkman or Goldman or perhaps Cindy Milstein’s recent little book. But the idea being we’re going to be fostering more discussion on Anarchism, which I think is great. The point I brought up was that whether people in OWS think positively or not about the term Anarchism, the fact is they are practicing it and that’s what really matters. Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated.

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