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Walkable West Asheville: A creative, affordable urban village - Black Mountain News

Cohousing News - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 17:45

Walkable West Asheville: A creative, affordable urban village
Black Mountain News
Today we offer an expanded West Edition of the Home & Garden section, looking at vibrant West Asheville and the nearby Biltmore Lake and Leicester communities. Walk on over. Bring your guitar, your dog, your kids. Hang out and chat at a neighborhood ...

Categories: News

Shared housing: The sharing economy gives roommates a new image - Alaska Dispatch

Cohousing News - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 13:39

Shared housing: The sharing economy gives roommates a new image
Alaska Dispatch
The Hanna-Myricks bought a share of the 4,000-square-foot home in the Songaia cohousing development with the Raglands and three other families in 2010 after selling their own house in the same community. (The house is occupied by two of the investor ...

and more »
Categories: News

The sharing economy: terms for shared housing - Alaska Dispatch

Cohousing News - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 13:39

The sharing economy: terms for shared housing
Alaska Dispatch
Group living – by any name – is a growing trend in the US. Here are some terms for different types of shared housing. CoHousing – A decades-old model in which residents buy modest-sized, separate homes in small, planned communities designed to have a ...

and more »
Categories: News

Shared housing: The sharing economy gives roommates a new image - Alaska Dispatch

Cohousing News - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 13:39

Shared housing: The sharing economy gives roommates a new image
Alaska Dispatch
The Hanna-Myricks bought a share of the 4,000-square-foot home in the Songaia cohousing development with the Raglands and three other families in 2010 after selling their own house in the same community. (The house is occupied by two of the investor ...

and more »
Categories: News

Facilitating Conflict

Laird's blog - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 12:57
I recently worked with Heartwood, a cohousing community in Bayfield CO, where I was asked to reach them skills for working with conflict. In addition to presenting theory and a demonstration, they were keenly interested in learning how to facilitate conflict (after all, I was leaving on Monday). Liking what they saw me do Saturday, they asked me to break it down for them Sunday morning—which was a perfectly reasonable request. Here are a dozen concepts to keep in mind:

1. Contact Statements 
This is the ability to offer a Cliff's Notes version of what the person just said, to establish that you have understood the essence of it. Repetition is mostly motivated by people not being sure they've been heard, and effective contact statements can drastically reduce repetition. That said, they're not needed all the time. Here are four reasons it might be the thing to do:

a) The speaker has an unusual way of putting information together or expressing themselves and either you are unsure that you got the meaning right, or that others are. A contact statement can nip misunderstandings in the bud.

b) The speaker went on at length and people may have trouble holding all the points that were made or distilling them from a rambling presentation.

c) The speaker is in distress. To the extent that they feel isolated, a contact statement helps establish that you heard them accurately, thereby contradicting the isolation and helping the person deescalate.

d) The speaker is known to be prone to repetition. A contact statement can be a preemptive strike, undercutting the basis for repletion before it occurs.

2. Free Attention
For most of us it's hard to keep one's focus on what others are saying. There is a tendency to space out, or to have your attention drift to something else, which might be tangentially related to the conversation (but not the current topic) or something of interest to you yet not necessarily related to anyone or anything else in the room. The concept of free attention is being able to discipline yourself to track well what's happening in current conversation. This includes the meaning of the spoken words, the tone of the words, the body language, how the communication is landing with others, what the undercurrents are that have not yet been named, where this conversation seems to be headed and whether you're going to want to go there, etc. There's a lot going on, and you need as much free attention as possible track well.

The bad news is that most of us are weak at this. The good news is that you can train yourself to get better at it.
3. Walk in the Speaker's Moccasins
To the extent possible, when working conflict try to be the speaker and experience what they experienced. This is not parroting or mimicking so much as dreaming into their experience; picturing yourself as them and what that feels like. This is particularly helpful when trying to Get the affect right [see #5 below].

Caution: Are you at risk of losing your sense of self when you empathize? While I don't have this issue, Ma'ikwe (my wife and process partner) does, and is therefore cautious about taking this step very far.

4. Concise Summaries
When giving contact statements or summaries of where we are in the conversation, it's important that you be accurate, yet spare of words. The less air time taken up by the facilitator the better (it is, after all, not about you). The danger is losing momentum or the tenderness of the moment. Even though no one is particularly inspired by long-winded facilitators, concision is often the last skill learned (if learned at all).
5. Get the Affect Right
When trying to connect to people in distress it's essential that your reflection capture the feeling of their experience, not just get the "facts" right. Even when facilitators understand the importance of this step, there is a common tendency to be cautious about leaning into the feelings for fear of: a) triggering escalation in a person already upset; or b) coming across as taking one person's side over another. With respect to the first point, the reverse is true: if you get the affect right—showing up fully in expressing the emotional experience—distressed people feel less isolated and start to deescalate. On the second point, you will not get in trouble (by which I mean compromise your neutrality) if you extend the same strength of connection to other players as well.

Note #1: In the interest of concision and getting the affect right, don't be afraid to use different words than the speaker to get to the essence. If you're off the mark, they'll tell you.

Note #2: In order to reach people accurately on the emotional plane you need to develop sufficient range of expression. In broad terms you have to get big to meet rage, and need to get tender and soft to hold tears. Typically one end of the range is easier for people to access than the other, so you may need to work at developing your weaker end.
6. Be Curious
In general, when dynamics get stuck it follows a sequence something like this:
a) Person X did (or did not) or said (or didn't say) something and Person Y had a negative reaction.
b) Person Y lets Person X know about their reaction and Person X has a reaction to that.
c) Neither felt heard by the other, and feeling heard is a precondition for deescalating.
d) Since each has a story about being aggrieved, each is waiting for the other to make the first conciliatory gesture; when that doesn't happen the dynamic is stalemated (with each convinced it's mainly the other person's fault).

Curiosity is the way out. Thus, in the example above, you can go back to the moment when Person Y had their initial reaction and walk them through it ("OK, you noticed you had a bad reaction to what Person X did, and you couldn't understand why they made that choice. Rather than assuming it was because they were out to get you or didn't give a shit about you, let's find out how they saw it." That is, you can showcase how to get more information before dumping a reaction on someone.

Going the other way, you can walk Person X through their options when Person Y gives them critical feedback. Instead of defending their action, they could start by making sure that they understand why their action landed poorly for Person Y.
7. Be Willing to Follow a Vein
When you're in productive territory it's a good idea to mine all the ore. Here are the things that characterize such moments: 
o  People are sharing crucial things they haven't shared before (at least not with that person)
o  People are getting softer rather than more rigid
o  People are reporting insight, or accepting responsibility for what didn't work
o  People are expressing genuine caring for others
o  The emergence of tears

The flip side of this is knowing when you have a dry hole and it's time to shift the focus elsewhere.
8. Go Where Needed
That may mean staying on topic, or shifting the focus to something more profound. This guidance is about following the juice, and does not mean exploring every instance of awkwardness. Your object is turning a corner, not resolving all instances of unresolved difficult moments.
9. Develop One's Intuition
In addition to developing free attention, good facilitators develop an instinct for where the conversation should go, or what should be named. While instincts are not always insightful or productive (any more than thoughts are), you need courage to facilitate conflict and to be willing to trust your instinct.
Caution: That said, don't fight for your viewpoints. No matter how brilliant you believe your analysis or summary to be, if there isn't buy in from the protagonists, you should back out gracefully.
10. Look for Parallels
In conflict the protagonists almost always feel poorly understood by the other protagonists. If you find ways that the players had similar experiences, similar stories, or care about similar things, then pointing this out is often helpful in deescalating the dynamics—it has the potential to establish a bridge between them that was not visible before.

Hint: Parallels are actually common, and if you're alert to the possibility of their existence you'll be more likely to see them.

11. Keep the Examination Specific and Contained
Quite often, the relationship history between protagonists is complicated, especially if things have been allowed to fester for a while. The examination can easily snowball into something unworkable if you allow the protagonists to expand the consideration to include every incident that has ever gone badly between them.

With this in mind you want to invite the protagonists to select a single dynamic that is representative of what hasn't been working well, with the idea that if we can resolve tensions in conjunction with one incident, then we can subsequently do another and another until no more need to be addressed. Thus, you generally want to keep the players focused on the selected incident and not diffuse the focus by allowing them to introduce the complications of other hurts from other situations.

The one caveat here is that sometimes the protagonists select the wrong incident and the examination makes clear that there is another, deeper incident that is a better focus. In that case it may be wiser to switch to that (a la the point made above in Go Where Needed).
12. Deflect Analysis of Others
While you want a full statement of each person's story and their feelings, you are not interested in their analysis of why the other person did what they did, which is highly likely to be inflammatory and unhelpful. Often, when working conflict your strategy is to honor completely each protagonist's story and their emotional experience, while offering a plausible, alternative explanation that is not damning of the other person(s).
Categories: Long Form Blogs

The sharing economy: terms for shared housing - Christian Science Monitor

Cohousing News - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 12:20

Christian Science Monitor

The sharing economy: terms for shared housing
Christian Science Monitor
CoHousing – A decades-old model in which residents buy modest-sized, separate homes in small, planned communities designed to have a light environmental footprint and emphasize community interaction. Communities usually include a separate building ...

and more »
Categories: News

A Siena il primo co-working per professionisti ed imprese - SienaFree.it

Cohousing News - Sat, 03/29/2014 - 22:15


A Siena il primo co-working per professionisti ed imprese
A cominciare dal welfare: penso al lavoro e penso anche alle famiglie, per esempio e di qui il legame nasce tra concetto di coworking e di cohousing, per esempio. Il sostegno alle aziende e ai professionisti va visto come sostegno a persone e famiglie ...

Categories: News

Date Book: Community events in Chilliwack - Chilliwack Progress

Cohousing News - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 15:02

Date Book: Community events in Chilliwack
Chilliwack Progress
Elderberry Commons is a seniors' cohousing and is part of the vision for the continuing development at the Yarrow Ecovillage (www.yarrowecovillage.ca) and will be the main topic of discussion, but anyone interested in cohousing in general is more than ...

Categories: News

IO House is The Real World: Capitol Hill. For nerds. - CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

Cohousing News - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 10:11

IO House is The Real World: Capitol Hill. For nerds.
CHS Capitol Hill Seattle
The house is also just a couple of blocks from Metrix Create:Space and the Capitol Hill Urban CoHousing project, which is slated to break ground in April. Rebele said the IO House is also intended to meet the high housing demand during Seattle's ...

Categories: News

Group Works: Celebrate

Laird's blog - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 14:39
This entry continues a series in which I'm exploring concepts encapsulated in a set of 91 cards called Group Works, developed by Tree Bressen, Dave Pollard, and Sue Woehrlin. The deck represents "A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and Other Gatherings."

In each blog, I'll examine a single card and what that elicits in me as a professional who works in the field of cooperative group dynamics. My intention in this series is to share what each pattern means to me. I am not suggesting a different ordering or different patterns—I will simply reflect on what the Group Works folks have put together.

The cards have been organized into nine groupings, and I'll tackle them in the order presented in the manual that accompanies the deck:

1. Intention
2. Context
3. Relationship
4. Flow
5. Creativity
6. Perspective
7. Modeling
8. Inquiry & Synthesis
9. Faith

In the Relationship segment there are 10 cards. The fourth pattern in this segment is labeled Celebrate. Here is the image and text from that card: 
With joy and zest, publicly celebrate milestones and recurring events. Affirming shared history, we nourish community, crystallize a sense of accomplishment, and build group identity by unifying our stories and common goals. Can be planned and ritualized, or as spontaneous as a group cheer.

There's an old joke about why fundamentalist Christians don't make love standing up—because it might lead to dancing. 
The humor in this runs deeper than lampooning moral rectitude in the Bible Belt; it's rooted in the knowledge that we, as a culture, are embarrassingly subdued and afraid of passion. Not certain that we can safely distinguish between aggression and ebullience, we put the lid on both.

To be fair, it's not hard to understand how this happens. We all have first-hand experiences of feeling beaten up by someone lashing out in fear or anger, and it makes perfect sense how people (and by extension, groups) could be highly motivated to protect themselves from being subjected to repeat performances. That said, disapproving—or worse, pathologizing—emotional expression of all stripes ("Please, show some respect and control") is a spectacularly poor response to the challenge of understanding and working effectively with distress. 

Wait (you may be saying). How did we start with a pattern about celebration and get into a conversation about emotional distress? Answer: because the two are inextricably linked.

While the image above is in the range of balloons and whistles, there is a darker side of emotional response and you can't reasonably open up to the sunshine without expecting rain clouds from time to time. One of the reasons that groups tend to be a little stilted about celebration is because they're so tentative and unsure of their footing when it comes to distress. It rings hollow asking groups to cheer when there's an unwritten rule against crying or yelling.

There's a famous quip from Emma Goldman that applies here:
If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.

The essence of this speaks to my point. Revolution is serious business, which Emma knew. She also knew that you need to bring your whole self to the attempt. Revolution is not just a state of mind ("Today, I think I'll care more about the environment."). It's an all-in commitment. Yet passion that's all channeled into anger and grim determination is exhausting, out of balance, and unsustainable.

There also needs to be some fun and goofiness, which brings us back to today's pattern. Sometimes you need to jump for joy, and sing hallelujah! This is not about pretending that bad things don't happen; it's about genuinely recognizing the good things that do, and not letting the pain and suffering of the world—which are very real things—stop you from being fully human and connecting with others in our effort to make a positive difference.

So if you want the baby (celebration) be aware that they can get messy from time to time and the bath water of emotions, in their full range of expression, comes with the deal.

Care to dance?
Categories: Long Form Blogs


Cohousing News - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 16:05


Arriva anche in Italia la moda del cohousing, ovvero del "coabitare". E' stato interpellato in merito, il dinamico imprenditore immobiliare Giovanni Gelmetti, l'ideatore della Giax Tower, l'avanguardistico grattacielo eco-friendly che spicca nello ...

and more »
Categories: News

Il brillante imprenditore Giovanni Gelmetti parla dell'innovazione abitativa del ... - informazione.it (Comunicati Stampa)

Cohousing News - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 06:05

Il brillante imprenditore Giovanni Gelmetti parla dell'innovazione abitativa del ...
informazione.it (Comunicati Stampa)
Arriva anche in Italia la moda del cohousing, ovvero del "coabitare". E' stato interpellato in merito, il dinamico imprenditore immobiliare Giovanni Gelmetti, l'ideatore della Giax Tower, l'avanguardistico grattacielo eco-friendly che spicca nello ...

and more »
Categories: News

I primi risultati della sperimentazione di «cohousing» alla Vela - ladigetto.it

Cohousing News - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 20:50

I primi risultati della sperimentazione di «cohousing» alla Vela
Grande emozione stamattina per l'inaugurazione della casa anziani della Vela gestita dalla cooperativa sociale Sad. Si tratta del frutto di un progetto innovativo unico in Italia, che riunisce sotto lo stesso tetto (in una casa singola composta da 3 ...

and more »
Categories: News


Laird's blog - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 15:15
I'm in the City of Angels, visiting my son and grandkids for four days (as the last leg of a five-week odyssey). On my first night in town we watched Frozen (would it surprise you that Taivyn is five and Connor is two?), Disney's blockbuster animated musical about the power of sisterly love.

[As an aside, I was amazed that Taivyn, who will be six next month, could sing along with all the tunes, even though she was seeing the movie for the first time. Whoa. Talk about market penetration. It made me think of the Mel Brooks character, Yogurt, in his 1987 science fiction spoof, Space Balls, who revealed that the secret of the Force is merchandising. He was only partly kidding. Disney's promotion team was clearly not frozen when executing their full court press to hype this movie.]

While Frozen wouldn't have been the DVD I would have selected at Red Box, it was an evocative one to see, in a life-imitates-art kind of way…

—Frozen, as in the winter we just left behind
It's now officially spring, and seeing my kids (Jo in Las Vegas and Ceilee in Los Angeles) has meant highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s—which stands in sharp contrast to the (ma)lingering snow that held the Midwest in thrall when I departed on this road trip Feb 22.

This has been a throwback winter with a reluctant spring. I was thrilled to spot crocuses poking through the snow on an overnight in Maryland Feb 26, followed by full-bloom daffodils and sunshine (bona fide spring) when the calendar flipped to March while I was in North Carolina.

Still, southern California is not northeast Missouri, and I'm wondering what weather I'll return to next Saturday. When I skyped with Ma'ikwe five days ago she was wearing a wool cap and fleece jacket indoors next to the woodstove—an image that did not evoke spring—and the weather channel is predicting the dreaded "wintery mix" for Missouri today. Ufda. I really don't care to see another snowflake until November.

—Frozen, as in the unproductive dynamics that had crystallized in my marriage
Unlike in the movie, sometimes the phase change from liquid (as in flowing) to solid (as in stuck) happens so gradually that you don't notice, which is not a bad way to characterize where I found myself 15 months ago. Ma'ikwe was coming out of a bad year battling Lyme symptoms and was simultaneously thinking about stepping away from our relationship, where she was battling my reactivity and limited availability.

Fortunately we were able (with the help of couples counseling) to access love and our commitment to personal growth to thaw the parts that were frozen in unproductive responses, thereby saving our marriage—right on the brink of losing it forever. It was every bit as dramatic as the movie.

—Frozen, as in the dynamics that occasion groups to hire me
One of the ways to describe what I do as a process consultant is to help groups get unstuck (who would hire outside help when everything is going fine?). Sometimes that means people who are not hearing each other, and are stuck in their stories about how the other person has been a jerk, provocative, and self-absorbed. (It is especially poignant when this story goes both ways.)

Sometimes that means helping the group understand what it can do to blow warm air on frozen dynamics (rather than put on a sweater, hide behind the curtains, and hope for the best).

Sometimes that means offering ideas about how to better organize things so that they're less likely to freeze when encountering a cold snap in relationships among members.

Sometimes it's helping people find the courage to try, when they're frozen with fear, afraid that they're more likely to botch a difficult conversation than experience a breakthrough.

—Frozen, as in my passion for stories about humans testing the limits of cold
Every since I was eight, I've had an abiding fascination for tales of endurance and perseverance amidst ice and snow. This ranges from fiction (witness Ursula Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness) to accounts of polar exploration. I can't tell you how many books I read about the ill-fated Franklin expedition of 1845-47, that was lost with all hands while searching of the Northwest Passage, ultimately resorting to cannibalism. In the instance of Dan Simmons' 2007 offering, The Terror, I got to lick both scoops: it's a fictional treatment of life aboard one of Franklin's two ships, the HMS Terror.

My dear friend Annie refers to this portion of my personal library as my "freezing and starving books."

—Frozen, as in connections with ex-partners
This is a tender spot for me. Sometimes I'm able to resurrect conections after recovering from the pain and awkwardnes of a failed intimate partnership, and sometimes not. There are women with whom I am very close (even closer than I was when we were lovers); women with whom I am still tender and am able to easily share in depth when we're together (even though that happens only occasionally); women with whom I am socially at ease, yet the door to depth is guarded; and there are women with whom I no longer have any contact. 

It's a humbling range from free flowing, to a precious trickle, to sluggishly flowing (choked with ice floes), to frozen solid.
• • •Although it didn't occur to me until last night's DVD, when I was sitting on the couch next to Taivyn and Connor, my life can be substantially defined by my realtionship to Frozen.
Categories: Long Form Blogs

Lectures and the literary scene in Marin County, March 23 through 30, 2014 - Marin Independent Journal

Cohousing News - Sat, 03/22/2014 - 19:04

Lectures and the literary scene in Marin County, March 23 through 30, 2014
Marin Independent Journal
1 p.m. March 23: Charles Durrett discusses "The Senior Cohousing Handbook." 4 p.m. March 23: Bill Amatneek discusses "Acoustic Stories." 7 p.m. March 23: Rivvy Neshama discusses "Recipes for a Sacred Life." 7 p.m. March 24: Josie Iselin discusses "An ...

Categories: News

Personal Growth & Facilitation 2.0

Laird's blog - Sat, 03/22/2014 - 16:05
Nine days ago I published a blog called Personal Growth & Facilitation. Today I want to drill a little deeper, focusing expressly on what I mean by personal growth in relation to skilled facilitation.

A. Examining Motivation
When I spotlighted personal growth in the previous blog, my main point was that high-end facilitators will need, on occasion, to ask meeting participants to reflect on why they said or took the action that they did. That will land as a hollow request if the facilitator themselves is not willing to do the same. Not only will the facilitator come across as a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrite, but blind spots will remain invisible to the facilitator (though not necessarily to others), which undercuts effectiveness.

The deeper purpose here is trying to get a handle on what it means that you see things the way you do, and why you respond as you do. This is important both so that you know you're tendencies, which will invariably result in some degree of distortion (which you very much need to be aware of), and because this gives you the opportunity to consider changing what you're doing if it doesn't serve you. 

Much of what we have in the way of patterns was laid down in childhood. Even if those responses and viewpoints served us well at the time (which is not a guarantee—sometimes childhood responses are all about coping, and may not have been all that effective right out of the gate), it's worthwhile to consider whether they serve you as the adult you are, or mean to be. 

Unexamined, old patterns will rarely change, which will color what you see and how you're received. It should be fairly easy to connect the dots about how that gets in the way of developing into a skilled facilitator.

B. Working Constructively with Critical Feedback
This is a big one. First of all, what do you actually let in? Not just can you parrot the words back, I'm talking about whether you consciously consider what might be valid in criticism that comes your way. Most of us have developed (consciously or unconsciously) screens that limit what feedback gets through to our brain and it can be serious work to keep those filters unclogged and as open-mesh as possible.

The vast majority of us have learned to perceive critical feedback as an attack, and respond with denial, defensiveness, or counterattack—all of which get in the way of accessing the information.  The biological equivalent is pain: while no one enjoys pain, it's a damn good thing that your foot hurts when you step on a nail. I'm not suggesting that you look forward to pain; I'm suggesting that you be as open as possible to information about how others have experienced pain in relation to something you said or did. I am not trying to tie your hands in any way regarding what weight you give someone's feedback or whether it makes sense to change your behavior as a consequence—I'm only talking about the wisdom of being open to hearing it as dispassionately as possible.

That said, even if you get it how beneficial feedback can be, there are four dynamics relative to critical feedback that are especially hard to handle well:

—Unbalanced Feedback
Most of us find it easier to hear feedback from someone who is open to hearing it the other way as well (you give me yours and I'll give you mine). While that's fine when it occurs, that's not always available, and it's still in your best interest to receive their input, even if the giver is completely shut down to what you have to say about them. 

While there's no doubt that a balanced exchange will tend to be better for the health of the relationship, it's a big mistake to insist on a quid pro quo as a condition of listening, because the information is good for you regardless (of whether the other person has read my blog or not).

—Raw Feedback
A number of books about communication skills are aimed at learning how to genuinely convey hard things in ways that are minimally triggering. While that's good work (and I encourage everyone to look into it) you cannot count on others to have read the same books. If you insist on pretty envelopes as a precondition for reading the message, you're confusing packaging from content.

Just because someone is rude and aggressive doesn't mean they don't have a point.

—Embarrassing Circumstances
Sometimes the feedback is given kindly and the person is willing to hear your critical reflections in return, yet their comments are delivered in a setting that's challenging—perhaps in front of the whole group, on stage, or witnessed by your children or mother. To the extent that image and public persona are important, this can be excruciating.

I once knew a fellow community networker who simply couldn't abide critical comments stated in front of peers. Privately, offered one-on-one, he was quite open, but anything in front of a wider audience meant war and it took me several years of frustration to sort that out.

—Drive-by Feedback
When critical feedback comes from people who don't know you well, there's a tendency to dismiss what they have to say because it can't possibly be based on sufficient data—how can they know context after so little first-hand observation?

While there's unquestionably a relationship between breadth of connection and accuracy, that does not necessarily mean that observations offered on minimal data are off base. In fact, sometimes it's fresh eyes that see what the familiar miss.

C. Working to Diminish Reactivity
Embarrassingly enough, this is an aspect of personal work that I have devoted serious attention to in just the last year. (It was either that or my wife was going to divorce me—which she may do yet, but at least she's feeling met in this regard and we're on much better footing these days.)

Even though I'm 64, have lived in community for 40 years, and have been a professional facilitator for the last 27 years, I still have personal work to do, and my ongoing attention to it has a direct bearing on my skill as a facilitator. On the specific of my reactivity, there's a double benefit of being more aware of my tendencies: I'm less likely to be triggered, and I'm less likely to respond with fierceness when I am, which is a pretty good deal all around.

[A close friend recently observed me laboring with someone who didn't like the choices I made as a facilitation trainer after witnessing them do something I found awkward in the class context. The student experienced me as reactive and harsh, to which my friend remarked, "Hah, you think that was reactive. You should have seen him two years ago." At least I'm making progress.]

D. Playing with a Full Deck
Humans are complex animals that work with information and "knowing" in a rich variety of ways. While the default mode for engagement in meetings (remember, the context for this essay is how personal growth relates to facilitation) is through rationality, there are many other modalities possible and a savvy facilitator will intentionally cultivate a wider palette:

—Emotional Knowing
While this is a rich topic, there are three things I want especially want to underline:
a)  Ability to know and fully articulate one's feelings without aggression. This can be crucial in terms of coming across to your audience as human.
b)  Minimal tension in the presence of tension in others (at least when you are not the trigger). Ironically, this skill often shows up as an ability to mirror tension in others without taking it on personally. The essential skill is developing a heightened sensitivity to distress in others without going into distress yourself when it manifests.
c) I don't believe you can be a full service facilitator unless you can work authentically and accurately with conflict, and that necessarily means developing a facility with feelings. If you haven't done your own work on distress, you'll be dead in the water attempting to work with others in distress.

—Intuitive Knowing
Over the years I've come to have an increasing respect for intuition, which I think of as the ability to access inner knowing that operates below the level of consciousness. I believe a skilled facilitator needs to develop a sense of what to do in a given a situation. This is not so much about what the answer is, as about what the key question or observation is.

While I want to see facilitators with an openness to intuitive insight, and confidence in acting on it when it bubbles up, this needs to be tempered by an understanding that every offering will not be perceived as brilliant. The skilled facilitator will work, at times, intuitively, yet needs to be able to gracefully abandon a line of inquiry that opens no doors for others.

—Kinesthetic Knowing
There are people for whom physical movement is a powerful entrée into grounding information and integrating experiences. While this learning style is not rare, it tends to be grossly under-served in meeting settings and a sophisticated facilitator will develop a range of formats for long meetings (anything more than 90 minutes) that include movement—both to oxygenate the brain and to stimulate body knowing.

In order to be sensitive to this dynamic, facilitators do well to experiment with how physical movement can enhance their understanding of what's happening, both internally and around them.

E. Understanding That a Golden Path Is Not the Golden Path
The world is full of different personal growth modalities and disciplines, for example: Zazen Meditation, Landmark Forum, Avatar, Co-counseling, EST, and Vipassana. Some of them also offer specific ideas for how to engage effectively in groups, a sampling of which includes ZEGG Forum, Heart of Now, Worldwork, Nonviolent Communication, Restorative Circles, and Sociocracy.

All of the above practices have their advocates who will swear by the efficacy of its life-changing orientation, tools, and techniques. At the same time, every modality also has its detractors, who complain (sometimes bitterly) that the offerings have not worked for them, have been oversold, or are led by people with unhealthy egos who are more interested in generating fees and adoration than in helping people improve their lives. Whew!

When people have a profound experience with a particular teacher or a specific modality, there's a natural tendency to want to share the joy with others (there's no enthusiasm that compares with the rapture of the newly converted). The danger is relating to the modality as a religion that works profoundly for everyone every time. To the extent that facilitators fall in love with a practice they are susceptible to blindness about its weaknesses or the ways in which some will not find nirvana through its application.

I believe the sweet spot is sampling different approaches with an eye toward understanding the genius of each, the conditions under which it will flourish, and the kinds of people most likely to benefit from that approach, without closing one's mind to the potential benefits of alternate approaches.

It is a plus to be able to work sensitively with multiple techniques and approaches; it is a liability to continually rely on a single approach independent of circumstances (if you are enthralled with your hammer, pretty soon everything starts looking like a nail).

From the perspective of what will help develop facilitative muscles (which includes sensitivity to what's happening for others and the ways in which people can authentically bridge different viewpoints and disparate realities), I suggest that people look for ways to interpret the quest for Inner Peace as a search for Inner Pieces—of the puzzle of how to get along with each other, without anyone selling out or changing personalities.

F. Managing Ego
Good facilitators need to have done their work about their value in relation to events. In a meeting—the baseline arena in which facilitators operate—the goal should always be a great meeting; not one in which you stand out for your brilliance. Your mantra should be: "It's not about me" and there will be times when the very best thing you can do is to shut up and stay out of the way.

Here's how I relate to that: when I'm at my best, my ego ceases to exist—I'm all attention and energy. While I don't think that's the only path to facilitative excellence, it's the image that works for me. When I'm completely in the flow, I can work with anything, I "see" everything, and nothing sticks to me. (To be sure, this is easier to access if I'm an outside facilitator with no personal stake in the dynamics, but that's always my ideal.)
• • • How do I relate to all this personally? I don't think there has ever been a time in my life where I haven't looked back with some degree of embarrassment with what I thought was sophisticated, mature, and insightful at the time... which means, of course, that in a few years I may reread this blog and wince. 

Oh well, we're all works in progress, and I'm choosing to embrace the work because I'm desirous of the progress, and that's the only way to get there.
Categories: Long Form Blogs


Cohousing News - Fri, 03/21/2014 - 18:30


Charles Durrett. "The Senior Cohousing Handbook." 1 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. (415) 927-0960. www.bookpassage.com. Rivvy Neshama. "Recipes for a Sacred Life." 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera.

Categories: News

Personal Growth & Facilitation

Laird's blog - Fri, 03/21/2014 - 11:33
I've been offering a two-year facilitation training course for 11 years now, and it's the most fun thing I do. There are three main reasons why:

1. As a cooperative group process consultant, I figure any chance we have of manifesting sustainable culture rests on our ability to successfully make the transition from a competitive, adversarial overculture to a relational, cooperative culture. While this is not that difficult to envision, it can be the very devil to put into practice.

For decades I've witnessed groups struggle to act cooperatively in the heat of the moment. When the stakes are high and people disagree, they'll fall back into reptilian brain combat mode, clawing and scratching in order to "win." It's not pretty.

Fortunately, there's hope. Experience has taught me that under the guidance of a skilled facilitator, groups can effectively be reminded of the cooperative principles they meant to be operating by, and bring their actions into alignment. (It's not about twisting arms; it's about invoking our higher selves.) While the impact of the facilitator tends to diminish as a group matures and its members become more accomplished in the art of cooperation, having a good one present to midwife the transition can make a night and day difference in outcomes. All too often, well-intentioned groups don't appreciate the importance of investing in facilitative skill and fail to survive their infancy because of the inadvertent damage to relationships sustained in meetings run by amateur-hour facilitators.

Given how important cooperative culture is to our future and how valuable good facilitators are in manifesting cooperation, I figure I can't train facilitators fast enough. The way I see it, it's my greatest point of leverage as a social change agent—and what can be more fun than doing the work you know in your heart you're meant to be doing?

2. My training model is slanted heavily toward having students facilitate live meetings. There is minimal time spent in the classroom talking about the theory of swimming, and maximal time preparing for, delivering, and debriefing performance in front of real groups wrestling with real issues. I figure you'll learn faster if I throw you in the deep end—promising to pull you out if you start to drown.

Since all the live meetings are unscripted and the best teaching moments occur in the context of how principles are applied to real-world dynamics, I never know ahead what I'll teach or when the opportunity will arise. Thus, I have to be on my toes the whole weekend. I think of it as teaching improv, which keeps the material fresh and as three-dimensional as possible. Each weekend is a three-day swim meet, where you never know in advance how long you'll be in the pool or what strokes you'll need to use.

3. Unlike consulting jobs, where I can devote all of my attention to the client and make decisions about what to do at any given moment based on my sense of what's best for the group, training weekends are more nuanced. In addition to tracking the live meetings for the host group (where real work is happening and I have bottom line responsibility for it going well), I am also tracking what's happening for the student facilitator, and there are times when what I think is best for the student—about whether, or how, to step in to redirect what they're doing—is different than what I think is best for the meeting. It can get tricky, yet I love the challenge of being stretched to access the full breadth of my attention and skill.
• • • While it's more or less a miracle that my training course today still looks substantially like what I started with in 2003, the program has definitely evolved. Having just completed Weekend V of the training underway currently in North Carolina, it's a good time to reflect on how the course has morphed over the years.

A. Leadership Training
My original concept was simply facilitation training, where the focus was on how to understand and manage the dynamics of plenaries. My thought—which I still hold—was that if you can handle large groups well then smaller groups (down to two people) are that much simpler.

However, one of the teaching modules is a segment on Power & Leadership and a former student (now my wife) helped me connect the dots about how the skills needed to be an effective facilitator in cooperative groups maps well onto the essential elements of servant leadership. Duh.

To be sure, you can aspire to be a group leader and/or have an aptitude for it without being drawn to the role of plenary facilitator (and vice versa), but I've come to realize that my training is a two-for-the-price-one deal, and I now market it that way.

B. Personal Growth 
Taking this one step further, it's hard to be an effective facilitator (or leader) if you're not walking your talk. In particular, facilitators sometimes need to ask people to look at their motivation for a statement or action, to reflect on how their choices might be misconstrued, or to see things through another person's eyes—rather than insisting on their viewpoint and the righteousness of their behavior. Thus, I've slowly come to realize the primacy of wanting students who are willing to do personal work and inner reflection when they encounter rough patches in the training. I need students who are willing to own their part of what's hard and to try to work through tensions when they arise in the class.

Rigid boundaries and flexible facilitation don't tend to play well together.

C. Different Strokes for Different Folks 
People don't all learn the same way. I got that lesson viscerally in the very first round of the training when I had two women from the same community, each eager to learn facilitation. The first woman watched me facilitate once and was then ready to try it herself. She knew that she was unlikely to get it right the first time, but had learned that (for her) falling down and getting up again was the quickest way to grok the lessons. She had no embarrassment whatsoever about not looking good in public.

The second woman was much more cautious. It wasn't until the fifth or sixth weekend that she was ready to try her hand at facilitating a live meeting (role plays are way easier), by which time I was suspecting that she'd never be ready. But I was wrong. She just had a different pathway by which she learned. She needed to see facilitation modeled many times before she felt secure enough to attempt it in public, where every misstep might be seen by God and everyone. Yet when she finally went—to my amazement—she gave one of the best first-time performances I'd ever seen.

Both women knew how they learned best and the two styles were very different. While that knowledge does not guarantee that I will be a great instructor for all styles of learning, I am at least sensitized to the need to take that into account.

D. Left Brain/Right Brain
Over the years, I've learned to offer greater and greater variety in both what we teach and how we deliver the lessons.

Thus, instead of all lecture or didactic discussion, we mix in role plays, kinesthetic exercises, guided visualization, and ritual. Over the course of the eight weekends, we move increasingly from directive to interactive; from "watch me," to "now you do it"; from "we'll tell you what to pay attention to," to "you figure it out"; from teachers as awesome, to instructors as (fallible) peers.

We pay particular attention to body-centered engagement (in contrast with the aural and visual) and to developing intuitive and emotional sensitivity (to counteract a cultural basis toward the rational). We're tinkering with this all the time.

E. Saturday Night Dinner
When I first cooked up the idea for this training, I envisioned five-day weekends (it was no problem thinking of all the cool pedagogical things I could do with that degree of spaciousness). Then the reality of people's busy lives brought me down to Earth and I scaled back the weekends to a more doable three-day commitment, and each weekend is packed.

After everyone gathers for Thursday dinner on site, the only things we try to cover that first evening are a schedule review and a check-in. Then the pace picks up Friday morning at 9 am. We typically run until 10 pm that night and then are right back at it Saturday morning. By the time the group has debriefed a live meeting Saturday afternoon, most of the class is running on fumes. By design, we all go out to eat together Saturday evening—simultaneously giving our host a break from meal responsibilities and offering the class a complete change of focus. While people are allowed to talk shop at dinner, it's not particularly encouraged. The emphasis is on fun, social engagement, and recharging the battery (which often means a certain amount of discharging from the intensity of the preceding 48 hours).

Not only does this feature of the weekend result in better attention on Sunday, it also creates greater depth of relationship among the class, purposefully commingling the professional with the personal; work with play. Above all else, facilitators need to be human.

F. Advanced Training
At this point there are around 80 students who have gone through the training, and I'm starting to field requests for taking this to the next level. In general, classes contain a mix of people who are: 1) already serious about facilitation (and fairly accomplished at it) and are open to working with groups other than their own; 2) people who aspire only to being competent facilitators at home; and 3) those who aren't really interested in being facilitators themselves yet believe that knowing the role better will help them be better meeting participants (or perhaps better leaders).

The program works for all three and (fortunately) having a wide range of objectives and prior skill has not been a problem. That is, the more advanced are not bored, and the neophytes are not (unreasonably) overwhelmed.

One of the key elements of the training model (that helps contain costs) is that each is held in a relatively tight geographic area, reducing the commute time for students. While the trainers may have to travel across time zones, that's rarely asked of students. If we put together an advanced training program our expected audience would be Group 1) above, which means they'd be dispersed all across the country. That means that travel might cost as much as the participation fees and students may need to take additional time off to get to and from the training site. So we're still scratching our heads about how to structure this.

Logistics aside, I'm excited to think about what the curricula might encompass:
o  Teaching facilitation
o  Self care
o  Teamwork versus solo
o  When to get help
o  Developing process peers
o  Critique of techniques and modalities (what are we collectively learning?)
o  In-depth peer review
o  Preparing for work with outside clients
o  Negotiating compensation

I'm proud to say there appears to be no danger of running out of work.
Categories: Long Form Blogs

Cohousing: una scelta di vita - SienaFree.it

Cohousing News - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 05:17


Cohousing: una scelta di vita
GianoDonati650 Cos'è il cohousing? Quali sono i vantaggi di questo stile di vita sostenibile e orientato alla condivisione di costi, spese e servizi sulla quotidianità e la serenità della famiglie e sull'ambiente? Cosa si intende parlando di ...

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Categories: News

Date Book: Community events in Chilliwack - Chilliwack Progress

Cohousing News - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 19:05

Date Book: Community events in Chilliwack
Chilliwack Progress
Elderberry Commons is a seniors' cohousing and is part of the vision for the continuing development at the Yarrow Ecovillage (www.yarrowecovillage.ca) and will be the main topic of discussion, but anyone interested in cohousing in general is more than ...

Categories: News
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