Caelin Niehoff is a sophomore at DePaul University pursuing a degree in American Studies. Caelin is an Interfaith Scholar and is involved with Catholic Campus Ministry at DePaul.
A few weeks ago, DePaul Interfaith scholars engaged in a social experiment: an open space event. An Open Space invites individuals to come to a space where participants set their own agenda for the evening, asking questions and discuss solutions. This particular Open Space event was hosted by DePaul Interfaith scholar and veteran Michael Evers. The group was small, but, as in accordance with the rules of Open Space, those who were there were the right people. The evening was an invitation to those interested in faith, diversity and action at DePaul.
As an interfaith scholar and active member of the DePaul community, I attended the event with curiosity and hopes for a new experience on campus. Participants in the Open Space generated their own questions and topics that they were interested in discussing. The group voted on a series of topics: has anyone thought about using Open Space for the Quarterly Interreligious Celebration? How, where, and when can we share our deep stories at DePaul? Can people of two faiths ever really agree? What about DePaul University makes it seem good for interreligious and cross-cultural diversity?
I found the evening to be fruitful and encouraging. I would like to see and experience the manifestation of the ideas discussed that evening. I also wished that individuals (including myself) had taken part in one of the evening’s only rules: the law of two feet. This rule allows individuals to get up, move around, and start new conversations at one’s own will. I think this could have initiated a more diverse range of conversations simultaneously within the room. The event, overall, was reflective of the diversity of ideas and the commitment to action on DePaul’s campus. Open Space is an innovative approach to conversation. I found it similar to events I had previously attended, but unique in its own. As a methodology, facilitating and fostering new ideas and comments on the DePaul community, Open Space has great potential. I hope to be part of future Open Space events and witness the action and thinking they stimulate.