Open Space in Oral Cultures



last month i did another open space meeting with a group of people, most of whom do not read and write. we decided to have no signs, nothing written to make sure that noone felt alienated.


this time, i had noone else with me who was familiar enough with open space and who could help me to communicate the principles and law by doing a skit. i just simply explained them as clearly as i could in their native language-haitian creole. they did just fine. subjects were presented-lots!-and people sub-divided in groups throughout the day.


the group was 35 woman and 5 children. the woman are victims of the haitian military during the coup years in '93. they were raped, beaten in most cases imprisoned and some watched as family members were killed. some have aids as a result and some are raising children that were born from rape.


there is an international law firm that is working to bring the perpetrators to justice and they invited me to help the women to become more organized together and skilled in communicating in public.


as you can imagine, i feel so inadequate with group such as this. its like when i work with kids who have lived on the streets of port au prince. i can't begin to imagine the pain and suffering that they have experienced. i can only be present with them. open space, listen, and support them.


i had been meeting with 12 of these women regularly for 6 months before we did the open space meeting. there objective was to reach out to other woman who had been raped and to attempt to integrate them into their efforts. they were pleased with this one day event. one result of the day is another day of open space scheduled in november.


keep in mind, everyone involved with this group of woman knows that things are going to take time. for me to push to converge or to be too intervention nary in any way would be ridiculous. they seem to find tremendous strength and encouragement when they simply come together. i simply try to take care of the logistics to make it possible for them to come together, open space, am mostly silent in the large circle, and always am trying to affirm their process, which is often chaotic, slow, and the furthest thing from smooth.


...when it comes to being with people who have histories so very different than my own, which includes not knowing how to read and write, the laws of spirit seem to be particularly important:


1. show up and be present

2. tell the truth without blame or judgement

3. follow what has heart and meaning

4. let go of attachment to outcome


 john engle

June 14, 2002