The premise for the Civic Salon as a pop-up democracy incubator is rooted in several key ideas, which this blog will help explore.  The first is the role of civic society as a buffer between commerce and government.  Another element is the value of spontaneity for catalyzing new ideas.  Both of these will be explored and illustrated in subsequent posts.  But the most significant organizing principle for The Salon is the concept of Open Space, a social technology designed to help groups self-organize, develop deeper understanding, and generate ideas for action around complex and compelling issues.

The idea is very simple:

“A large group of people comes together to explore a particular topic or issue, with no agenda, no timetable, no obvious coordinator and no minute takers. However, by the end of each meeting, everyone has said what they needed to, extensive notes have been taken, lots of networking has had taken place, and a huge number of ideas have been identified, and visions set out.” (1)

To learn more about the principles and process for Open Space, check out Harrison Owen’s Users Guide.

The convening question for the Civic Salon aspires to embrace the complexity and potential of the issues shaping our current social and political context, asking:

How can we organize a community that works together to maximize compassion, empowerment, agency and responsibility for the common good?

The events this weekend (see below) will provide a space to dive into this question.  One goal of the Open Space will be to identify and support action that can be incubated and initiated over the rest of the month.  It will also serve to introduce and model the social technology for additional use throughout the Salon.  Starting with the question above, we’re providing an empty physical space with very little initial agenda, inviting the community to use the space to convene further conversations and support related actions and initiatives.  We also hope to provide community connections, access to resources, and facilitation support where possible; your ideas and intentions will provide the fuel.

Starting with a blank space and no agenda can be a leap of faith.  But allowing a community to self organize around the issues and ideas it identifies for itself can unlock outcomes that rarely occur through conventional planning processes.  Applying these principles to a physical space for an entire month will stretch the Open Space concept even further.  But given the rich potential evident in our community, and the urgent needs of our current context, what have we got to lose?

To participate in the free Open Space event on Saturday, 1/7 from 2 to 5pm, hosted by the Community Resilience Guild, please RSVP to


  2. a World Cafe on Saturday, and an Open Space on Sunday.