The Open Space format gives rise to self-created discussion groups at the “Connecting for Compassion Action” event organized by the Compassion Action Network. The event took place in Seattle on October 17.
Saturday, October 17, 2009 appeared to be another typical rainy day in Seattle, but in the Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center warmth radiated from the participants of the singularly atypical Compassionate Action Network (CAN) “Connecting for Compassionate Action” gathering.
In a time of increasing social, economic, and political tensions, it was not the fervor of nationalism, fear, or fundamentalism that spurred this group on. The unifying theme that magnetized so many different people is as elegant as it is revolutionary: compassion.
This extraordinary event brought together about 175 concerned members from a diverse cross section of dozens of communities across spiritual, cultural, ethnic, and social traditions and backgrounds, all inspired by what is described by the Charter for Compassion as:
The principle [that] lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
This special event was hosted by the equally special Compassionate Action Network, "a network of self-organizing groups in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia who share a common vision for a more compassionate world," which now has over 1,000 members.
Many partners and individuals collaborated in creating this manifestation of compassion in action, including Seeds of Compassion, the Bellingham Compassion Movement, Northwest Interfaith Community Outreach (NICO) and The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education from Vancouver B.C.
Instead of rallying around a definitive statement or rationale, the event instead revolved around the open question, “How shall we inspire and connect compassionate action in ourselves, our communities and the world?”
Rather than listening to speeches, participants shared their gifts in an Open Space format, allowing us to convene and attend sessions in the spirit of community, discovery, exploration, and collaboration.
More images from the “Agenda Wall”.
People came together to develop creative solutions, to inspire and support compassion in ourselves, our communities, and the world. The manifestations of altruism took as many forms as participants, ranging from playful, silent, to strategic, outrageous, and delightful.
The format for these individual and group explorations, Open Space, is a kind of open-source plumbing of our collective wisdom and experience. An agenda wall was populated by spontaneous and planned meetings and discussion groups with a dazzling array of almost 50 topics, including:
Through partnership with the Council for the Parliament of World Religions, the October gathering was designated a “Pre-Parliament Event” in anticipation of the full Parliament of World Religions planned for Melbourne, Australia in early December. Dating back to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Parliament of World Religions takes place every five years and is the largest interspiritual gathering held in the world. The theme for 2009 is “Making a World of Difference: Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth”. Rev. Guo Cheen, a Buddhist nun from the Seattle area, will attend the event.
The questions and discussion shared at this event ripple out to benefit all. Like any worthy and epic endeavor, cultivating compassion in action in the world is a work in progress. This event helped spark and motivate compassion, and the work goes on in the form of the Compassionate Action Network.
It was an inspiring happening that united diverse people in the spirit of concern and care for ourselves, each other, and our world. Many thanks to Jon Ramer, the Executive Director, and many others, who made this special event possible.
May we all keep up the good work!