Feed aggregator

The Lucky Penny: A small home in one tiny co-housing community (Video) - Treehugger

Cohousing News from Google -


The Lucky Penny: A small home in one tiny co-housing community (Video)
Whether it's a modernist gem or a gypsy-styled vardo, it's a delight to see tiny homes that deviate away from the "typical" tiny house floor plan and ditch the gable roof. Measuring 100.3 square feet, this is a ultra-tiny home, created and inhabited by ...

Love That Survives Divorce

Laird's Blog -

The last three months I've written quite a bit about the end of my marriage with Ma'ikwe, reporting on my journey through anguish, sadness, grief, and even some hopefulness. Today, I'm turning a page and starting a new chapter, where I chronicle developments as Ma'ikwe and I work our way carefully and tenderly toward reknitting precious aspects of our relationship, while respecting her decision to no longer be partners. In contemporary parlance, you might think of it as friends without benefits… yet close friends.

On Sunday I sent Ma'ikwe a Mother's Day email, and it led to the following sweet and healing sequence the last 48 hours (I've edited out the extraneous references to the weather and such):

Laird #1:

I hope you have a wonderful day.

It must be fun having Jibran back: the official reason that today’s your day.

You should be proud of how well Jibran has turned out and how well you did giving him considerable latitude to find his own way in relation to education. I’m glad the mother in you gets these precious days with him now, all to yourself, before his California adventure this summer. [Jibran has a summer job in Mill Valley.]

Ma'ikwe #1:

Thanks. It means a lot to have you celebrate this part of me, as the main witness to my mothering for the past decade.

Yesterday turned out to be a hard day for me. Being at Sandhill was bittersweet. [It was Sandhill's 41st birthday cum May Day party.] After a couple shots of whiskey, I found myself wandering around, doing a kind of melancholy tour of the nearly two decades we've known each other. Some of my best memories of us are contained at Sandhill. I was feeling both the loss of you in my life and the loss of Sandhill in yours, and they were both weighing heavily. Some combo of straight of pain of loss and self-recrimination and joyful memories that were nonetheless coated in a kind of haze of sadness. I came home early in part because I was running the risk of just getting caught in it. I clearly am working my way through my own layers of mourning us.

Laird #2:

Thanks for sharing from your heart. That’s the part I love the best, even if I didn’t always handle it well.

I wrote my blog yesterday afternoon in a state of melancholy, thinking about not being at the party, and as I stared out the window (on the train) I was trying to figure out how I’d handle it if I were in Rutledge. I’m not sure I could have handled it at all, and might have not gone. I suspect you were braver and more together than I am capable of right now.

While sadness does not dominate my life (and never has) it’s definitely close to the surface right now, and I’ve made a commitment to not fight it. Harder, I suppose, is knowing whether I’m wallowing in it.

The cold gray fog outside my window exactly mirrors my mood right now.

Ma'ikwe #2:

You're welcome. That's true of both of us, you know. Not handling it well. As I'm into this new connection [with a potential new partner] I've been thinking a whole lot about what I did well and not well with you. We both have responsibility for it not working. And I'm sad about that.

I think the stakes are really different for us, honey. I was walking around [at the Sandhill party] with one (major, important, but still one) thread of my life laid bare. For you, being at Sandhill would have been a whole tapestry. My bravery and yours are apples to oranges in this case.

Laird, you've gotten so much better at not wallowing [in reaction]. And this is huge, this break up. It's worth giving space to it emotionally. So I'm glad you aren't fighting it, but I'm not worried about you getting stuck in it. You've moved past that in your life, and I'm really proud of you for having done that work.

Yeah, it's [the cold, gray fog] been suiting mine some days as well.

Laird #3:

I’m sorry about your sadness, yet you've seemed clear in your choice to end our intimate relationship, and I’m holding that you know what’s best for you—that the predominant feelings are release and liberation; that you are no longer held back and can proactively seek a more joyful life. I wish you only the best with [future relationships], or whatever you choose.

Ma'ikwe #3:

Thanks. Your well-wishes mean a lot to me.

Laird #4:

To be sure, I’ve found myself in many swirls the past three months (not all of which have been productive), and tenderness is always close at hand and easily triggered. Throughout it all, however, I have never lost sight of a foundational sequence:

o  I love you
o  I have no regrets about having tried as hard as I knew to make our partnership work (which represented the biggest investment in relationship that I’ve ever made; I’ve never tried harder or opened myself up to as much personal work as I have in pursuit of a great marriage)
o  Even being rejected by you as an intimate partner, I still love you (repudiating that love would be soul shriveling for me and self-destructive)
o  Love is not about possession or control; it’s about connection, celebration, and being there as support in hard times; it’s about your partner thriving in all senses of the word
o  In loving you, I wish you happiness and success in whatever you choose (the ultimate test of which is that I can truly mean that when your choices have nothing to do with me)

So you see, it’s not that hard to hope your budding relationship is joyous and successful.

Ma'ikwe #4:

Thanks, love.

I have a similar list with you.

1) I still love you. It's been there a long, long time and will continue.

2) I still think you are doing some of the most important work in the world I've ever been privileged to be a part of, and our mentor/mentee relationship is enduringly valuable to me. It was always part of the attraction: your brilliance, your dedication, your fearlessness.

3) I also have no regrets about all the work that went into us for all that time. It was really a decade long journey for me, because I knew where it was headed long before I worked up the nerve to tell you that. Our relationship was the most powerful one I've ever had. I had more fun, more learning, and more growth with you than anyone else.

4) It is abundantly clear to me as I'm exploring with [someone new] how much our time together has turned me into a far better human than I was when I went into it. If this next relationship is a success (and I'm hopeful about that) it will be in no small part because our time together matured me immensely. I feel a lot of gratitude for that, and also a lot of hope that you'll have a parallel experience at some point where love is more possible because we did us.

5) And I feel incredibly grateful that you've never been run by jealousy. It's making this much easier. I really get how rare it is for someone to be able to celebrate their ex-partner moving on, and I have no doubts of your sincerity with that. I'm grateful you are mature enough to be able to tease apart your hurt (which I know is real and runs deep) from any resentment about me being happy. You're a remarkable man, Laird.

6) And did I mention that I still love you? Because it is worth repeating. Whatever I can do to support your return to peace and moving on for your own good life, I will try to do. I know there's serious limits on that, because you can't really lean into me to heal from the loss of me, but please tell me if I CAN do anything.

I feel truly blessed to receive the gift of these healing words from my estranged wife.

Good Food Here cart pod closing at end of year to make way for senior ... - OregonLive.com

Cohousing News from Google -


Good Food Here cart pod closing at end of year to make way for senior ...
The building, described on the website as a "senior co-housing community," will offer the majority of its housing for people 55 and older with lots of common space, including a dining room that could seat 30-45 people for meals together, a yoga room.
Exclusive: Condo project to displace popular Belmont food cart lotPortland Business Journal (blog)

all 2 news articles »

3 Ingenious Spring Products for Comfort and Energy Efficiency - Triple Pundit (registration) (blog)

Cohousing News from Google -

3 Ingenious Spring Products for Comfort and Energy Efficiency
Triple Pundit (registration) (blog)
Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine ...

Google News

Sandhill Turns 41

Laird's Blog -

Today Sandhill Farm is hosting its annual May Day party, which is a tri-communities all-skate gala marking the anniversary of its birth in 1974, the pagan holiday of Beltane, and the fullness of spring.

Last year, I was on a leave of absence from Sandhill, exploring living with my wife at Dancing Rabbit (though we’d been married since 2007, we had not ever lived together, and my willingness to make that move was an integral part of her decision to rescind her request for a divorce the previous July). As Dancing Rabbit is only three miles distant from Sandhill, I had no trouble making over for the May Day. I remember last year’s festivities for all the storytelling on our 40th birthday, which included a number of ex-members returning for the occasion. It was a happy day.

Today, I think back on a year ago with wistfulness, sadness, and wonder. So much has changed. I’m typing this on board the westbound Cardinal (Amtrak’s train #51) as it limps toward Chicago more than eight hours behind schedule. I’ve long since missed my connection to the California Zephyr, which pulled out of Chicago at 2 pm without me. As I look outside the window, the green in the trees is right (spring is here!), but I’m missing the party back in Rutledge. Sandhill set the date after I’d made plans to visit Annie in Virginia and Betty in Denver with no stopover in Missouri in between.

I let go of my Sandhill membership when Ma’ikwe and I recommitted to our marriage last July, on the one-year anniversary of her first decision to end it. Though that represented a big change (letting go of Sandhill after 40 years) it felt right at the time and I have no regrets choosing love over home. And then it all unraveled. Ma’ikwe decided this February that ending our marriage was the right thing after all, and Sandhill decided it would be better for all concerned if I didn’t return.

So on this May Day I am reflecting on all that I have left behind in Rutledge, and find it somewhat amusing that while everyone else is celebrating, I’ll be alone in a hotel room in Chicago, courtesy of Amtrak because of the botched connection to my second train. Last evening, in West Virginia (somewhere between Thurmond and Montgomery, alongside the banks of the New River) our engine hit a tree that had fallen on the tracks and managed to burst an air hose. That meant no brakes, which, in turn, meant no movement. It took many hours to manifest a replacement freight engine to effect our rescue, with the result that everyone’s connections in Chicago had no chance today.

Once out of our designated time corridor, we were subject to additional delays to let freight trains pass, and we even had a stop at a crossroads for a medical emergency, where a passenger having trouble breathing was met by an ambulance. It’s been quite a trip so far and I’ve still got an 18-hour sojourn to Denver awaiting tomorrow.

For as far back as I can remember, on the night of Sandhill’s May Day Party it would be my job to tend the fire for the sweet lodge. But not this year. Instead, I’m sweating how to make it up to Betty, whose time with me will be almost cut in half by my missed connection.

I tell people they shouldn’t take the train if they’re in a hurry, and today I get to learn that lesson one more time. Tonight, at my hotel, at least I’ll have the time to raise a glass to toast Sandhill in absentia. I wish them well.


Laird's Blog -

When I was in high school, I took German as a foreign language. Though I've never lived in Germany I've gotten to visit it twice over the years and I've always had a fondness for German culture as the dominant cultural element of my parental lineage.

Being a foodie, I also have an affinity for German cuisine. Think sauerbraten, wienerschnitzel, sausage and sauerkraut, spätzle, and spätlese—not to mention beer. I also grew up in the '50s, and that meant untold hours in front of the television set watching Saturday morning cartoons. In addition to the Road Runner and Tom & Jerry, there was plenty of Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd.

If you'll recall, Elmer was always trying to protect his garden and Bugs was invariably successful in finding a way to extract the carrots despite Elmer's best efforts on defense. In some episodes a big deal was made of recipes for hasenpfeffer, which is a German dish featuring rabbit (hasen=hare + pfeffer=pepper; essentially rabbit stew). Of course, Elmer was thinking of featuring Bugs as the main course. Though that never happened, "hasenpfeffer" entered my working vocabulary at an early age.

Tonight, for the first time, I'm actually going to eat it. I'm visiting my good friend, Annie Shrader in Floyd VA this week and she pulled a rabbit out of the hat freezer for the occasion. It was my job to figure out how to cook it. We quickly agreed that the crock pot was the way to go, and the rabbit is stewing even as I type.

As I understand it, any dish comprised of rabbit, onions, spices, and a marinade qualifies as hasenpfeffer. Tonight's culinary concoction relies on tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, tarragon, pinot grigio, and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Yum!

It's fun pioneering a new recipe, and I can't wait for Annie's next rabbit, when I can try a hasenpfeffer variation that incorporates, cabernet sauvignon, currant jelly, and bacon. (How can you go wrong?)

Bon appétit!

Renting in Community

Laird's Blog -

I recently worked with a community that wanted to tackle the issue of renting. Did they want to leave the matter solely up to owners, or did the community want to have say in how that went? 

It occurred to me that this was an excellent example of a topic that was both complex and potentially volatile, so the group and I put some effort into thinking through the kinds of questions that the group might usefully address in order to have a comprehensive policy. Following is what we came up with. While each question may not be potent, or necessarily challenging to answer, our aim was to generate a list that would cover the waterfront.

A.  How important is it that renting be in compliance with local building code and occupancy laws?
B.  Renters impact parking. To what extent should they have the same access to parking as owners?
C.  Should the formula by which homeowner dues are calculated take into account rental units? If so, how?
D.  In what ways should policy differ if the rental is whole house, or rooms in an owner-occupied house?
E.  To what extent should rental units be allowed because they make living in the community more affordable for the owners?
F.  Rental units in some houses increase the assessed valuation of all homes in the community. To what extent, if any, should the increased tax burden on homes without rentals be supported by those that have rental units?
G.  What say should the community have in who is being rented to?
H.  Do you want renters to be involved in community life? If so, how do you want to accomplish that?
I.  Should there be any limits on renters’ access to common facilities and community activities?
J.  What responsibility should the community have for orienting renters to community life? What portion of this can be expected of owners?
K.  Should renters be introduced to the community? If so, how?
L.  Is there a safety issue with renters? If so, how can that be dealt with?
M.  Should there be an upper limit on renters to protect the viability of the community? If so, what is it and how will rental options be rationed among owners?
N. To what extent does renter policy and expectations change by length of rental (say, less than 90 days)?
O.  Does whole house renting beyond a certain number impact ability to get mortgages?
P.  What are the positives about renters?
Q.  Impact on community resources
R.  How will we handle situations where renters are not compliant with community norms and agreements?
S.  To what extent are landlord/owners responsible for what their renters do?
T.  What is the community's liability with renters?
U.  How to balance community interests and private rights
V.  Do we want/need a community member to be a liaison for each renter?
W.  How to ensure that our renter policy feels good as a package?
X.  What does “renter” mean (as distinct from guest)?
Y.  How do we take into account lovers, guests, pets, etc that often accompany a renter?

Our plan for addressing these was to tackle one strand at a time, developing the best answer we could before moving on to the next. Recognizing that the answer to one strand might depend on the answer to another that has not yet been addressed, we agreed to assume that we have a satisfactory response to unaddressed strands when and then proceeding. 

To the extent that some strands seem more foundational than others, it may make sense to be deliberate about the sequence in which they'll be considered, keeping in mind that eventually they'll all need to be addressed. (Note: the order in which the strands are listed above is arbitrary.) Further, it may make sense to clump a few strands to be considered simultaneously, though I cautioned the group about the dangers of trying to take too large a bite at once—they can be difficult to chew and swallow.

Being Touched in Community

Laird's Blog -

Being touched has many meanings.

1. Heart Connection
as in being affected by someone's plea or pitch

As humans, I believe we are hard-wired to want connection to each other. However, our societal conditioning doesn't necessarily reinforce this. In many ways, the hunger for community is fueled by this unmet need: both to be touched by others and to have others touched by us. I think we all want to be seen and held by those around us, and intentional community is, in part, an attempt to surround ourselves with people who care about the same things—making it easier to in touch.

This is more than others understanding and working respectfully with our ideas; it's about being seen for who we are and known for what matters to us, where meaning is deepest. I want to be clear that the essence of my focus is on being cared about and taken into account—not necessarily that you're agreed with.

2. Slightly Crazy
as in being influenced by wildness or spirit in mysterious or unbalanced ways

For most of us it takes courage to create or join an intentional community. It is far off the beaten path and looked upon as something rather exotic by most in the mainstream. In fact, one of the challenges for people living in community is being taken seriously. Many political activists, for instance, believe that living in intentional community is hiding out—creating a safe enclave out in the boondocks instead of engaging on real issues. (While I don't share that view, I've heard it plenty.)

I am an acorn that has wandered quite far from the tree from which I fell—so much so that my fellow nuts have a hard time conceiving of an oak growing out of my seed. As if the journey to new soil is not perilous in and of itself, I must also bear the stigmata of familial disapprobation or confusion. It is hard leaving the herd.

3. Physical Contact
as in bodies together

I had an experience of this last Sunday, at the end of Men's Group. After sharing that I was planning to take a leave of absence from Dancing Rabbit and try living with friends in NC, the evening concluded with the group giving me a "cinnamon roll." Starting in a circle with everyone holding hands, I dropped my left hand and then spiraled inward while continuing to hold the hand of the person on my right. The results was a spiral with me in the middle. I was acutely aware of both the smells and touch of the other men—and how seldom I feel that.

Because our culture tends to overlay almost all touch with sexual innuendo, there is a strong tendency to discourage touch excepting across the bonds of immediate family or where there is mutual consent to enter into the realm of sexual exploration. The upshot of this taboo is that people are starved for touch. Even where there is scientific evidence that touch is a necessary feature of health, we physically connect with one another seldom and often as carefully as handling porcelain when we do—as if we might break.

Among the many things I miss as a consequence of being estranged from Ma'ikwe is her touch: holding hands on walks, her touching my shoulder lightly when delivering me a cup of coffee at my desk, cuddling as our last act of consciousness at night.

At its best, community is about everyone being in touch.


Laird's Blog -

I'm feeling better.

In fact, well enough to offer up this essay as a triple entendre.

1. The start of a 22-day road trip
I'm typing this on board the Illinois Zephyr, en route to Chicago, where I'll catch the eastbound Capitol Limited for DC this evening. Tomorrow I meet with an FIC donor, and by Wednesday evening I'll be in Blacksburg VA, where I'll be working through the weekend with Shadowlake Village, an established cohousing community with whom I've worked before (though the last time was the weekend right before Katrina hit New Orleans, almost 10 years ago).

After that I get to enjoy four days with my dear friend, Ann Shrader, in nearby Floyd VA. Departing Virginia May 9, I'll get to Denver by Sunday morning, where I'll visit for two days with another long-term friend, followed by five days of FIC meetings at Wild Sage, a cohousing community in Boulder. Then I head for the barn.

This is a fairly typical trip, combining a little of all the things I like to do out in the world: professional facilitating/consulting, network organizing, and visiting with friends. 

So I'm outbound from home.

2. I'm moving to NC
While my going on a trip is not remarkable and neither is the mix of how I'll be spending my time, I realized only yesterday that I will miss the entire morel season without a single walk in the woods, and I'll also not be in state when Sandhill celebrates Land Day, May 9. These are significant omissions because it represents an unmooring of my connection to place—my home of 41 years. I used to schedule trips around morel season and Land Day, and now I'm scheduling through them.

As I reported earlier as a possibility, I've made up my mind to join Maria, Joe, and Mia (Maria's 13-year-old daughter) in early June, occupying their third-floor apartment. I'll be renting month to month and exploring a household scale community with close friends.

To frame this properly, I've taken leaves of absence and stayed for extended periods away from Sandhill a number of times before, so I'm not exactly plowing any new ground here. It's an experiment. If it works out I may move to the Tar Heel State permanently and start a new chapter to my life in community. If not, I can return to Dancing Rabbit, where no bridges have been burned.

Notably, this represents my taking a pro-active step to define what's next for me, after 10 weeks characterized mainly by my grieving the loss of my marriage and allowing for the dust to settle. I've realized in the handful of days that Ma'ikwe and I have both been in residence at Moon Lodge (our house at Dancing Rabbit) that it's awkward trying to figure out how to relate to my estranged wife. I still love her, but she no longer wants me that close and I don't know where the line is between between intimate and interesting. I was walking on eggshells and I need more oxygen.

So even if my NC adventure does not bear community, it will be an emotional respite from the tenderness of my loss. In time, I'm confident that Ma'ikwe and I can find a new balance point that will work for us in a meaningful way—but not just yet.

So in about six weeks I'll be outbound from Missouri.

3. Pain in my torso is finally easing 
After almost seven months of fairly constant debility in one part or another of my ribs and back, I can feel the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw a doctor last week who explained that my most recent malaise— very tender ribs at the point where they meet the sternum (that's costochondritis if you're diagnosing at home)—will eventually get better without my doing anything more prudent than avoiding heavy lifting and getting adequate rest. 

That was welcome news, changing my frame of reference. I no longer think of myself as broken, or maladjusted; just sore. I'm now turning my attention more toward deeper breathing and holding less tension in my back—essentially breaking the reinforcing cycle of tension and exhaustion.

It's interesting to think about how much my ongoing physical pain may be mirroring (or even foreshadowing!) my emotional pain and that I may not be able to heal the one without the other. The intersection of spirit, health, and energy is a very compelling focus for me right now, and I like to think I'm finally pulling in the same direction—toward health—on all fronts.

So I'm outbound from pain.

It should be an interesting trip.

Facilitator Prep

Laird's Blog -

One of the features of the Integrative Facilitation Training programs that I offer (see Facilitation Trainings on Tap for news about what trainings are available now) is teaching how to prepare for a facilitation assignment. Because training weekends are always compacted (we get a lot done in a short time, making maximum use of the three days we have together), the students don't get their assignments (for a one-hour chunk of live facilitation time) until Friday afternoon and sometimes have to be on stage as soon as that evening. (Yikes!)

While in normal life (whatever that is) it's far more common to have a week, or at least several days, to prepare for a meeting, we don't have that luxury in the training program, and thus, students need to learn how to get ready quickly.

In this essay I'm going to lay out a checklist for accomplishing that. The order is not so important as that each of these things needs to be covered:

1. Mind Set
This is about doing whatever personal work is necessary to set aside other things in your life to give yourself over as completely as possible to the task at hand (you're going for maximum free attention), and being as clear a channel as possible once the meeting starts. This is analogous to what athletes do in preparing for a game or an event, excepting that the work is generally not aerobic.

To the extent possible you're aiming for heightened awareness and an egoless state. In my experience this is not about vanquishing nervousness, so much as it's coming to peace with it, so that it's not distracting. As the facilitator, you are there to help midwife a great meeting, not to be the hero or the center of attention. While you should unquestionably prepare for the meeting and what you expect to encounter, you have to be fluid enough that you can adapt plans to fit emerging needs. Meetings are not scripted, and surprises go with the territory.

If you're worried about some aspects of your capacity to perform well, sometimes it helps to simply admit that at the start of the session: As a facilitator, I'm still learning my craft and the skill I want to focus on today is excellent summaries. If you think I'm missing something or am off base in my summaries, please feel free to suggest adjustments. It won't bother me a bit.

By owning this as a weak spot, it will be less scary and you will have enlisted the group as your ally (after all, they want a great meeting, too).

Getting your game on can look like a lot of things: meditating; lying down and closing your eyes for 15 minutes; going for a walk; making a cup of tea; journaling; taking a shower; sitting in a dark room; standing alone in the meeting space before anyone arrives, to feel into the space. Do what works for you.

2. Objectives
You need to know what's wanted on the topics that will be examined on your watch. Is this just a discussion, or is a decision expected? Will there be new data or research results presented in this session, or is all of that already on the table? What questions are we trying to answer? How clearly have the issues been articulated? Is this the first meeting on this topic or is this a follow-up meeting (if the latter, where were things left at the end of the prior meeting and what remains to be done)?

3. Background
Is there any prior work that the group has done on the topics that are on the agenda? This could be either recent or old. Are there any existing agreements that bear on the topics, so that everyone is clear what's already in place. You don't want to be scrambling in the meeting looking for old minutes. That should have been done ahead of time. Are there any relevant precedents in play?

4. Land Mines
Are there any known friction points relating to the topics to be discussed? I'm not talking about plain old vanilla disagreements; I'm talking about non-trivial distress or upset. If so, you want to know who has it, what those feelings are, what they represent, and whether they've been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Nothing sinks a meeting as dramatically as bumping into an iceberg, where you suddenly discover a reservoir of intractable frozen feelings, ready to flood the floor once surfaced.

Of course, even good reconnaissance will miss some subterranean boulders. So you need to be prepared for field upset if it pops up, even if it wasn't on your radar at the start of the meeting. Although weather forecasting is imperfect, it's better than no-casting.

5. Formats
Now that you have the information you need about the topics (as a result of steps 2-4 above), it's your job to think about how to work them productively and efficiently in the meeting. Among other things, this means making choices about what formats to use to gather viewpoints. The default is open discussion, and that may work well some of the time. Yet you need to have in mind that no format works well all of the time, and you need to mix things up—both for the energetic boost that the group will get simply from making a change, and because different formats allow you to access different strengths in the group.

For example, Go Rounds are wonderful for equalizing air time and protecting entrée into the conversation, but they tend to be slow and repetitive, so you don't want to overuse them. If the meeting is long (three hours?), you may want to think about how you can incorporate physical movement into your format choices (so that people can get off their butts other than during bio breaks or to refill their coffee cup).

6. Time Estimates
Although the time needed to deal reasonably with the topics chosen should have already been taken into account by whoever drafted the agenda, in the meeting it will be up to the facilitator to manage time. In service to that need, you generally want to map out (at least roughly) how much time each segment will take so that you have a running sense of whether you're on target, ahead, or behind.

Your job is to bring the train into the station on time (end the meeting at its allotted end point) and you should think through ahead of time what adjustments you might make mid-course to help ensure that result. What could you cut short or delete from your plan without sacrificing quality? If you're running ahead, is there an extra step that would enhance the consideration, or is it better to end early?

7. Coordination of Support Roles
There are many roles that support a good meeting. While that of facilitator is likely the most visible, there is typically also a notetaker (who should not be the facilitator), and there may be others, including:
o  time keeper
o  vibes watcher (person alert for ruffled energy and stepping in when they find it)
o  door keeper (person bringing late arrivals up to speed on what's happening)
o  scribe (person writing notes on a flip chart or whiteboard)
o  back-up facilitator

All together, this collection of players is an orchestra performing in service to the meeting, with the facilitator as conductor. With this in mind, it's up to the facilitator to take responsibility for discussing with each person filling a support role how they'll coordinate during the meeting. For example, it is relatively common that a well-intentioned scribe will do their best to capture the highlights of a conversation, yet not organize their work in such a way that the facilitator can use it easily. Ugh! This awkwardness can be avoided if the facilitator and scribe discuss this ahead of time.

Some facilitators choose to handle many of these support roles themselves, in part to avoid the challenges of complex choreography, but you have to know your capacity—it's a mistake to try juggling more balls than you can keep in the air.

8. Visual Aids
In a typical group there will be a number of people whose primary information intake is visual and you can help make everything easier for those folks by offering visual reinforcement of what you'll be saying. I'm thinking of things like:
o  schedule
o  agenda
o  ground rules for meeting behavior & the facilitator's authority
o  key questions
o  themes from a discussion
o  factors to keep in mind when developing a proposal
o  draft proposals
o  end-of-meeting evaluations

When you know you'll want these, write them up on flip chart paper ahead of time to the extent possible.

9. Setting up the Meeting Space
While this might be handled by others as one of the support role (step 8 above), the facilitator is the bottom line on this and may want to direct the set up to suit their preferences. If people have to move tables and chairs at the last minute you'll probably start late and be somewhat frazzled. Not good. 

Where do you want the visual aids (hint: not back lit by bright windows)? Will you need wall space for posting flip chart pages? If so, do you have the supplies needed (markers that are not dried out; with ink that's dark enough and broad-stroked enough to be seen readily from across the room; with ink that isn't cloyingly offensive to the scent sensitive)?

Where will the facilitator stand? Is there a good spot for the notetaker, so that they're not blocking other people's sight lines and yet can see the flip chart (or whiteboard) easily? Is it close enough to a power supply if they're taking minutes on a laptop?

10. Wardrobe 
Last, do you have appropriate raiment, so that everyone will be comfortable with how you're dressed and your clothes will not be the center of attention. You can get this wrong either by overdressing (suit and tie for men; skirt, hose, and heels for women) or underdressing (clothes that are dirty or with unmended tears; provocative, skimpy clothing).
• • •If you thought that the facilitator only needed to show up on time and decide who was going to talk next, think again. Good prep often takes as much or more time ahead of the meeting than you'll spend in front of the group in the meeting—especially for neophytes. As a professional I can do this a lot faster, but I've been doing it for 28 years. You have to learn to walk before you can run.

Construction begins at first Anchorage co-housing community - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Cohousing News from Google -

Construction begins at first Anchorage co-housing community
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The first co-housing community in Anchorage broke ground Tuesday on 35 homes that share a kitchen, dining area, gym and community garden. KTVA reports (http://bit.ly/1DdVQEx) 23 families have committed to living in the 6.4-acre ...
Anchorage's first co-housing community breaks groundKTVA.com - Alaska News and Weather

all 5 news articles »

When Sharing Doesn't Build Trust

Laird's Blog -

I regularly tell groups that there's a strong correlation between sharing information and trust (why wasn't I told; don't they trust me?). However, I was recently in a workshop where it bubbled up that there are times when too much information (TMI in process argot) degrades trust and relationships.

While I believe the principle of information=trust still obtains in most situations (see my blog of Sept 20, 2010, Building Trust for more on this), here are exceptions:

1. Outing someone without permission
This applies when you are privy to private or delicate information about others that they prefer (for better or worse) be kept confidential. If you choose to share this information without getting an OK from people about whom you are speaking, all hell can break loose. At the very least, the people you outed are likely to trust you less in the future. At worst, they'll feel betrayed.

2. Swamping the boat
This is when the volume of sharing exceeds the capacity of the listener to hold and understand. While it may not result in a loss of trust, it will not help build it either, and will teach people to be wary of offering to listen to you. Whence the phrase, "talking one's ear off," which is not a pleasant image.

3. Bad timing
This is insisting on sharing at a convenient (even compelling) moment for the speaker, without checking to see if it's a good moment for the listener. This can land as annoying and disrespectful.

4. Too much intimacy too soon
The workshop leader confessed that she used to have this syndrome, especially when dating. She had gotten into the habit of going deep right away as a way to screen people for potential partner material. It was only later that she realized that her pushiness was driving people away, not her positions relative to what she was seeking from an intimate partner.

5. Ability to stretch is exceeded
Sometimes the information is awkward for the listener to receive. If they aren't able to stretch that far, they can rubber band into shut down mode—something they won't thank you for, and which you won't enjoy either.

6. Malicious gossip
Talking trash about someone behind their back. Listeners may be worried that you might do the same about them when talking with others, and thus become more guarded about what they share with you.

Note that all of these instances revolve around the theme of being unmindful—either of your audience, or of the people you are talking about. If you keep in mind that one of the primary goals of good communication is enhancing relationships, you'll probably be less likely to inadvertently damage trust when your mouth is open.

Anchorage's first co-housing community breaks ground - KTVA.com - Alaska News and Weather

Cohousing News from Google -

Anchorage's first co-housing community breaks ground
KTVA.com - Alaska News and Weather
Ravens' Roost Cohousing broke ground Tuesday at the site of its future neighborhood off Abbott Road and Lake Otis Parkway. “Really excited to finally reach this huge milestone,” said Terri Pauls, co-founder of Ravens' Roost Cohousing. Pauls says the ...


Subscribe to The Cohousing Association aggregator