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Open Space at the 9th National Harm Reduction Conference

Creating Space for Critical Conversations

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in collecting the invaluable conversations that often happen outside of our traditional conference sessions – you know, the ones in the hotel lobby, after (and during) sessions, out to dinner, on the soccer field, at the bar, etc.

So, this year we are trying something new.

We will offer Open Space in Salon E where conference attendees will invite each other into conversations and, through Graphic Recording, make visible the connections, insights, strategies and actions that we create together!

Why have Open Space at the national conference?

Harm reduction communities have never assumed that one leader, organization or issue-based coalition could lead the way. This has been our strength and our political challenge. These times demand that we up our game and fully engage the vast experiences, perspectives, insights, and genius that have gravitated to the harm reduction movement.

Conference regulars, new leaders and harm reduction activists across the nation have been asking Harm Reduction Coalition to include space for important conversations given the influence that medicalization, shifts in funding, and persistent and escalating social inequality is having on our work. For example: What “time is it” for harm reduction? What will it take to activate our core anti-oppression values and vision for a more just world? What will it take to move forward together?

Our Invitation to You

We invite our elders to bring the wisdom of our origins, failures and successes…our grassroots leaders and conference participants who are directly affected by structural inequity to keep us grounded in purpose…our emerging leaders to bring their innovation, impatience and willingness to keep the torch burning…our thinkers and researchers to offer edgy questions as well as analysis. Most important, it is an invitation for everyone to draw on our harm reduction principles in order to create an environment together where open, honest conversation can allow us to move forward wisely.

What will actually happen

Despite the uncertainty about what issues will ultimately be discussed, what the agenda and action plans will ultimately look like, there are some things that we know for sure when we begin our journey in Open Space with a first invitation and meeting:

  1. Any topic that is important to participants can be put on the agenda and facilitated by anyone who takes direct, personal responsibility for hosting the conversation.
  2. Highlights, insights and actionable steps from all discussions can be recorded and posted for everyone to see during the conference and, later, on the Ham Reduction Coalition website.
  3. Follow-up actions are up to conference participants. This is not designed to create an action plan or recommendations for Harm Reduction Coalition. This is an opportunity to find each other around common passion and possibility and to take responsibility for carrying the work forward.
How do I get involved NOW?

We want to know what conversations you are hoping to have at the conference.  Every week we will update this website and post your questions and comments on the site.

So what are you waiting for?  What conversations are you longing to have? Let us know here!

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