March 2013 Meeting Minutes:
We had a very successful meeting on Saturday, which built on the strong alignment achieved at the last meeting. Those attending included Ute, Janine, Mike R., Barbara, Robert, Joe, Victoria, Jonathan. We discussed a wide range of topics, and also produced some very practical outcomes.
• We changed the meeting schedule from Saturdays to the first Sunday of each month from 2-5, with the exception of July 14 and September 8. Unless otherwise communicated, the meetings will take place at Soulutions, 126 N State St, Newtown, PA.
• Janine will take on scheduling the weekend retreat, which we now expect will be in June at the Tiffanys.
• We agreed that at the end of each meeting, along with reflections, everyone will state what they are taking on and will complete by when. Jonathan agreed to write up his notes and synthesize the discussion as a basis for next month’s meeting. Jonathan will also look for a better online tool, since some people find it difficult to use the Yahoo group.
• Tiff will take on researching and compiling some basic “rules and regulations” documents for us to discuss.
• We agreed that at the beginning of each meeting, people will have an opportunity to say anything they feel they need to in order to “leave the ego at the door” and be fully present; for the period of the meeting we agree to stay on time and on topic, and only say things that are intended to “forward the action.” At the same time, each of us needs to speak up if we have an unresolved issue in any area, and put things out on the table, since silence will be taken as alignment or tacit agreement.
• We will also look at “compassionate” or “non-violent” communication (NVC) and other methodologies to provide us with additional tools for communicating and resolving differences; in particular we discussed the framework of the “strategic design workshop,” of the structure of effective communication derived from Landmark, and the insights of Imago couples therapy. We need to develop a group practice of our own, that uses the skills and contributions of the members first, and then brings in outside consultants or facilitators as needed.
• We agreed that the “homework” for next time will be to have everyone think about their “wish list” for the community, their hopes, fears, and actual expectations, and any “deal breakers” for them. They can write these down, or simply come prepared to discuss them. We’ll have a visual and interactive brainstorming session to get as much on paper and out in the open, to begin to put some meat on the bones of the rather abstract concept of the “ecovillage” (which at this point still means very different things to different people).
• We agreed that members should at this point invite anyone they truly feel they want to have as part of the community to join us, so that the outcomes can reflect the broadest possible vision. Membership criteria do need to be developed and aligned on, but applying these criteria is always a matter of good judgement and we need to trust the current members that they will choose to invite only those they feel will make a contribution to the group.
• And we agreed that those attending a meeting are empowered to make decisions to move the group forward. To have a voice in any decisions, members need to be present at meetings.
Ute opened with a reading from The Intender that spoke of the need many of us feel that we need to change everything — how we think, work, and live together on the planet. Victoria reviewed the distinction between alignment and agreement that we worked with at the last meeting, and introduced the idea of distinguishing “context,” “process,” and “content” — to begin with as buckets we can put things in, so we know what we’re talking about. We see all of these as equally important, and aligning on what we mean by each of these as critical: the first is the broad vision or mission that we share, the second the rules and agreements we make about how we communicate and make decisions, and the third includes all of the practical actions we need to take to build the community. By knowing which one we’re talking about at any given moment, we can look in each case at the range of possibilities, identify genuine opportunities for the group, and choose practical actions consistent with our values and intentions.
We agreed that creating the structure of committees and assigning people tasks at the outset was premature, and that we need to work together as a group to put the common ground of agreement in place, and establish an experience of the shared quality of relationships in the group, as the basis for aligning on structures and processes and practical action steps to be taken in the world. We will therefore use the next several meetings leading up to the weekend to work on these things, so that we can plan the agenda for the weekend to come out with tangible results.
As part of this, it is proposed that we rotate the facilitator’s role so that, in the end, each member of the group has an opportunity to lead one of our meetings if they wish. At the same time, we recognize that each person’s contribution is unique, and that we are each responsible for welcoming those of others as well as putting forward our own in a way that best serves the needs of the community.
We also discussed creating a culture in which people honor and keep their word — and communicate about it where we’re not able to, and need to remake our commitments and agreements. We acknowledged that we had earlier agreed that everyone needed to come to meetings, be on a committee, do their homework, etc., and that we need to balance compassion with letting people off the hook too easily. At the same time, we need to develop a structure of requests and promises within which it’s natural for people to keep their commitments or communicate about it. Within this structure we need to be willing to acknowledge when there are breakdowns, whether in communication or in follow-through, and accept that there will be breakdowns and that we need to learn from them in order to find what works best for us as a group.
Jonathan will put together a map or diagram of some of the things we discussed as a basis for the agenda for next time. He will use the “permaculture flower” to lay these things out visually and in ecosystem categories: