Welcome to our open space.

All our events are held using the open space meeting method.

This is a form of meeting where the agenda is set collaboratively and the outcomes are all recorded organically and instantly.

Our animation shows you how it all works.


To gather our community’s ideas on what 'civic' could mean to them, we use the open space meeting method.

Gathering participants into a circle, we give the group a question to answer together.

The question for the events are: “What could a civic university mean for you and your community?”

Next, the community sets an agenda by coming up with all the topics and questions that they want to discuss at the event. This means that nothing is decided in advance and every topic to be discussed has been provided by one of the participants.  

Once the agenda is set by the circle, talking groups come together to hold their discussions around each question, and these discussions are written up live on a big projector screen and saved as a record of the event.  

The open space is governed by one overall law: if a participant feels they aren’t learning in their discussion group, they should move somewhere they can. 

Open space meetings have four rules which are used to do run the event:

  1. whoever attends are the right people
  2. whenever it starts is the right time
  3. whatever happens happens
  4. when it’s over, it’s over.  

Participants must be prepared to be surprised! 

After all the topics have been discussed, we regroup into a plenary circle and share concluding thoughts and feelings on the event.

Open space meetings bring participants together through this shared, friendly and democratic experience.

Upcoming events

Want to talk? Join us at our upcoming open space events to add to the conversation.

Previous events

You can read about our previous events below, and get a feel for what it's like to attend from our picture gallery.

Our first open space event was held in Norwich 27 November 2021. Here are the key topics participants discussed wanting to be the point of UEA’s civic focus.


Participants highlighted the need for more university resources in the local community and how we could use them to benefit local life civically – one job for our team now is to help people understand university income streams and where and how its money is spent so that we can collaborate effectively with our local people!

Inequality issues

Participants also discussed what civic could mean for racial and gender issues, and inequalities linked to place, social class and educational attainment (and the crossovers between them).

Place bias

Another key theme was asking: how can we make future civic activity less Norwich centric? This leads to questions such as what space is there for the local community in further-afield areas to come and share their ideas with UEA? Setting this up is vital in order to carry out continuous, useful civic activity throughout the whole of the region rather than just in Norwich.


Finally, it was highlighted that a key area UEA could be more focused on, in terms of civic activity, was increasing safety within the local community.

This covered ongoing struggles with COVID-19, women’s safety, and people from minority backgrounds. How could a civic agreement benefit these groups of people who face safety threats?


UEA has a lot it could be doing in the local community. Although we are already highly involved, listening to what local people want from us has given us a clearer vision for future activity. The more we listen to our people and place, the more useful we can be to them as an anchor institution.

If you're from the Norfolk/Suffolk region and would like to share your ideas with us on how UEA’s civic activity could benefit you and your local area, register your interest for one of our upcoming open space events.