The World is OPEN

For Citizens, Groups, Businesses---for all of us to become Smarter, Better Connected Cities, Learning Together





Smarter Cities, Learning Together

Moving Beyond Silos and Institutions

OPEN invites all of our voices, ideas, resources and engagement to converge within the context of each theme. As concepts become more clearly defined through collaboration, OPEN empowers solution proponents with connections to expertise, resources and potentially even funding to bring these themes to life through experiences and community-led initiatives.

Thematic Community Dialogue

Connecting Around Ideas that Transcend Society

OPEN’s general programs, tools and events come into play around areas of focus, each defined as a THEME. A theme is a multi-dimensional topic that touches almost everyone in the community in one way or another – today and long-term. Themes encompass ideas that transcend the community in many ways. Themes are not concrete subjects, like "racism", but rather abstract motifs, like "common ground", that capture the essence of a transcendent idea in a binding but non-dominant way.

Networked Community Learning

Meaning and Belonging in a Distributed World

Themes are identified informally through OPEN partner dialogue and interactions, and codified formally by the OPEN process and systems. Beyond theme launches, the OPEN program supports continued networking and socials so thought leaders in a community can connect, share, and build forward-facing solutions in the city.

OPEN Memberships

Taking Your Own Learning Journey

OPEN offers various benefit-rich categories of annual membership for those who wish to explore ideas and engage more deeply. Commencing in 2022, OPEN Member Learners can receive micro-credentials for engaging in community conversations, conferences, and other experiences that translate into verifiable credit. Verified experiences may be transferred for personal enrichment or for professional purposes, such as a member's Learner Employment Record (LER).



Community Life and Storytelling All Year Long

OPEN leverages its resources to elevate the reach of local groups, such as nonprofit agencies, schools and universities, or even non-institutional players.
Neighborhood communities, individuals and dedicated groups bring ideas into being around localized events – encompassing not only discussions, but hands on demonstrations, film screenings and more.

Signature Speakers

Curating a Season of Intellectual Engagement

For next-level intellectual engagement, the sponsored Featured Speaker Series brings leading thinkers from across the country—and perhaps world—into a community's midst. Featured Speakers are embedded as keynotes into existing conferences, mini-conferences, or festivals. Likewise, multiple partners may join forces to co-produce a stand-alone OPEN Featured events.

Conferences & Festivals

Learn, Laugh, Maybe Even Dance a Bit

OPEN is a strategic partner to festivals and conferences, responsible for jointly planning speakers and other interactive programming. OPEN helps curate conversations with outside experts and local leaders through presentations, panel discussions and interactive in-person experiences, including solution demonstrations.

OPEN Media

Show and Tell.... and Learn

OPEN produces short form "sizzlers" and mini documentaries to orient community learners to conversations locally and beyond. The OPEN Media channel supports local filmmakers and creators while also syndicating valuable locally-sourced media that can be shared in themes and in a broader cultural-intellectual context.

Featured Learning

An OPEN Learning Experience is more than an Event

The OPEN platform offers a dynamic Learning Management System (LMS) where any single event can become an open source, community-based repository for continued learning on any topic. Additional links and resources, such as books and articles, are embedded into prior experiences to provide more context, depth, and perspectives. Based on demand and co-creative energy, events may evolve into mini/nano courses with learning modules, assessments, and badges--all developed via open source and disseminated through the learnOPEN platform.


Community Learning Exchange

Trustworthy Learning Networks

EXCHANGE is a collaboration and co-creation environment in which OPEN values prevail. Exchange moves the networks that begin to take shape in Experiences to the next level of engagement and action via courses, media, microcredentials, and other forms of community-based learning.

Community Value

Share, Give, Exchange

OPEN’s Exchange domain is a context for visible, public information collaboration – asking questions, seeking replies, understanding issues in deeper ways. OPEN group participants have always been, and will continue to be, a decentralized consortium of agencies, organizations, programs and individuals that engage in the co-creation of learning experiences, and the continued sense-making that comes from that original spark.

learnOPEN Wiki

A Roundabout of Ideas, Projects and Possibilities

EXCHANGE is a feature-rich work setting where such groups can gather in real and virtual ways to discuss and decide, develop written and visual output, and undertake the planning of a group’s policies, standards, plans and tasks. The Wiki domain serves as a directory through which ideas and resources can be matched with those seeking deeper collaboration. It enables users to find and connect with like-minded people and projects with similar missions. Through the Wiki creators across agencies and sectors can exchange skills, knowledge, or problem-solving expertise.

City Think Cooperatives

Maximizing Impact by Reducing Coordination Costs

In a networked world - in the OPEN world - hierarchical structures morph into peer-based designs and self-governed work. OPEN’s “think cooperative” philosophy moves intellectual groups out of silos and into a collective open public space. OPEN acts as a distributed "community institute" platform that helps municipalities, agencies, local foundations, schools, and business groups build sustainable and continuous community-facing dialogue and solutions. Using the OPEN framework, authentic cross-disciplinary partnerships are formed, synergies are identified, and coordination costs are reduced for all.

UNESCO peace leader Kuany Kiir Kuany leads youth in Common Ground Discussions

Joshua Johnson from NPR's 1A hosts a national broadcast with OPEN and Poynter Institute

Urban Designer and Author Jeff Speck shares thoughts on maintaining uniqueness in city design

Futurist Roxanne Meadows of the Venus Project shares on the circular economy and sustainable community design as part of Future City

Educational thought leaders from St. Pete, Boston, and New Orleans share ideas on holistic growth for youth

Geoffrey Canada hosts strategy session with prominent leaders

Rolling Stone editor and author of The Water Will Come, Jeff Goodell talks about sinking cities and rising seas

Elsa Bua of Sea Watch speaks on forced migration due to climate change and conflict

OPEN partners to celebrate World Indigenous Day

Women leaders share experiences in "Hidden No More" series

Aresty Speaker Charlie Shrem with Rosa Shores and Jimmy Song discuss Bitcoin, Blockchain and the Future of Finance in a Future City Conversation

Learners pondering the future of digital currency as Charlie Shrem presents

Aresty Speaker Michael Sturtz of Stanford Ignition Lab shares thoughts on vibrant cities - Future City Et Cultura 2017

Aresty Speaker Will Allen of Growing Power! shares his work in urban agriculture and community resilience at Seeds kickoff

Aresty Speaker Geoffrey Canada hosted at Rad Schools Jam - Et Cultura 2017

Health and nutrition leaders discuss food as medicine at Seeds launch

Community members attend the launch of the Seeds theme

Author and scholar Dr. Jamila Michener discusses poverty, race, and public policy

Community members attend a We Dig St.Pete microbrewery tour

Dr. Colin T. Campbell - renown nutrition scientist and co-author of the China Study led an all star Live Well panel during Et Cultura Festival

Audience members listen to Aresty speaker at Rad Schools Jam

Pulitzer Author Hedrick Smith - Pulitzer Prize Columnist discusses what caused the Populist earthquake in 2016-2017 - Common Ground

Organizer of the Women’s March Suzanne Benton gives a dramatic review of the challenges of our time

Panelist Katie Sanders of PolitiFact talks truth and politics

Devil in the Grove Pulitzer author Gilbert King speaks with university students about race and history

Angela King of Life After Hate shares stories of compassion and forgiveness as part of our Common Ground theme - January 2018

US Representative Charlie Crist gives opening remarks in OPEN Future City theme at Et Cultura Festival

City leaders discuss affordable housing in Future City theme at Et Cultura Festival

Mayors from hurricane-prone areas gather for a iCAR conference on building resilience

OPEN Rad Schools Jam @ Et Cultura Festival hits the downtown streets of St. Pete, FL.

Jim Aresty and University Chancellor Martin Tadlock chat before event

Seeds theme leaders prepare for a full day of events

OPEN learners wait for a microevent on climate change and migration

Audience members from local colleges listen to No Home for Hate speaker Angela King

Community members share Frontiers ideas at a local brewery

Educators and Rad Schools thought leaders share ideas for the next season of engagement

An OPEN invitation to enlightenment

Our Vision & Mission

OPEN’s mission is to make us smarter, better connected cities by making it easier for citizens to be inspired, educated, trained, funded and engaged in practical ways to address the issues we all face.

OPEN invites everyone into a stimulating world that dares participants to dream big and act local. To accomplish this OPEN offers a platform of activities, collaboration tools and learning within a single real and electronic environment. Online experiences pair with complementary in-person activities such as speakers, festivals, practical and visionary idea demonstrations, dialogs, celebrations and community-of-interest gatherings that occur year-round.


The concept and body of work presented here seeks to move cities into the forefront of how local social and civic institutions, businesses, city government and citizens come together to build their shared community.

Read the OPEN Whitepaper