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Firma del protocollo d'intesa tra Comune e associazione Cohousing Solidaria - CronacaComune

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Firma del protocollo d'intesa tra Comune e associazione Cohousing Solidaria
CronacaComune
Sabato 27 settembre alle 10 alla sala Vigor (via Previati 18) si terrà la firma del protocollo d'intesa tra Comune di Ferrara e associazione Cohousing Solidaria, relativo al riconoscimento della funzione sociale che svolge il cohousing e all'impegno ...

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Group Works: Hosting

Laird's Blog -

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 seventh pattern in this segment is labeled Hosting. Here is the image and thumbnail text from that card: 
Help the session feel like home. Making a place and arrangements comfortable for everyone supports accomplishment of the group's work. Attend to the well-being of each person and the whole.

This is about the container and ambiance of the meeting: the room, the seating, the lighting, the nourishment, the air quality, the formality (or casualness) of dress, the ritual that marks the opening and ending of each session... Much of what's comfortable or off-putting about this operates below the level of consciousness—yet is no less powerful, as possibilities ride in the channels of context.

Of course, this gets complicated when the participants come from multiple cultures, as each has its own familiarity and rhythm, and what is easeful for one may be awkward or even irritating for another.

Some of this is rather straight forward: you don't serve Orthodox Jews barbecued pork, and it wouldn't be a good idea to open the annual meeting of the Atheists Association with five minutes of prayer. Yet some of this is more subtle.

Consider, for example, how family of origin influences what's comfortable. The default mode for meeting culture in North America follows what I label Northern European culture (think German, English, Scandinavian). This style is characterized by one person talking at a time in well modulated voices; there is space between statements. 

Contrast this with Southern European culture (Italians, Spanish, Jewish, African American) where there is much more passion and the pace is quicker. People talk on top of each other and use more hand gestures. "Normal" engagement in Southern European culture translates to out of control upset in Northern European culture. Asking Southern Europeans to conduct themselves according to Northern European etiquette is excruciatingly stilted and flat.

It's not that anyone is striving to make participants uncomfortable; it's that we're often unmindful of what makes others comfortable or uncomfortable. Worse, there's a tendency to be oblivious to things when things are going smoothly for us, and we may miss clues about discomfort in others. (Thus, if you find the room too cool, you're much more apt to be sensitive to whether others are doing OK with the temperature. If you're doing fine yourself, you may not notice the room temperature at all.)

Let me give you a poignant example. Several years ago I began a two-year facilitation training and the host for the first weekend was an intentional community—which is almost always the case because they can economically absorb the out-of-town housing with spare bedrooms and couches. 

As it happened there were about 15 students in the class and all were from intentional communities except one woman. She was facing the double whammy of trying to acclimate to the intensity of the training (just like many other students) and at the same time make sense of her first experience in an intentional community. She was overwhelmed, but everyone else was focusing on the training—the community part was just the water they swam in. Thus, we all missed this woman's signs of distress until they boiled over in a rant on the last day, when she lashed out about how terribly she'd been treated (by which she meant neglected). Ouch! I had not being sufficiently mindful of what she needed to be comfortable. I had been a poor host. It's a lesson I'll not forget.

Ironically, the goal in this pattern is putting people at ease, yet it turns out to not be so easy to accomplish. Nonetheless, learning to be a gracious host is a worthwhile objective.

Struttura in affitto, ideale per cohousing e comunità intenzionali con gruppo già ... - Il Cambiamento

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Struttura in affitto, ideale per cohousing e comunità intenzionali con gruppo già ...
Il Cambiamento
struttura in affitto,ideale per cohousing e comunità intenzionali con gruppo già formato- In Toscana(zona Lunigiana),affittiamo grande struttura sul fiume,abitabile da subito con aia e possibilità di terreno,composta da 6/8 appartamenti belli e ...

Managing Naysayers from the Sideline

Laird's Blog -

In all groups beyond a certain size (eight?) you expect to see a gradient of involvement in the work of the group. While you expect some people to move in and out of involvement over time (varying by project, or by room in the their life to devote to group needs), there will naturally be some segment of the membership that's rarely involved to any significant degree. I'm not saying that's what you want; I'm saying that's what you'll get.

They don't show up to most Work Days, they skip out on committee assignments, and they rarely attend community meetings. If they kept to themselves and seldom contributed to community conversations it wouldn't be that big a deal—and some of the less involved are like that, more or less ghosts. But the more challenging version of the chronically less involved are those who want their viewpoints taken into account, even though they're often late in sharing them and seldom put their hand in the air when the call goes out for volunteers willing to help make things better.

In short, these are folks who insist on their rights, yet seldom show up for the responsibilities with which those rights are paired. It's a problem. 

To be clear, people are not stupid by virtue of being less involved. People who do little work can often be brilliant (or at least cogent and valuable) in their contributions to group issues and it would be foolish for groups to automatically close their ears in proportion to the speaker's level of contribution to the group's work. Nonetheless it can be galling when people feel directed (or hamstrung) by the demands of the less involved—especially when those contributions come across as ill-conceived, misinformed, selfishly motivated, or stridently delivered—and that's where I want to shine the spotlight today.

In this essay I'll offer a list of ways that there can be confusion about what's going on and remedies for it. If you intend to pull the tough love card and uncouple the obligation of the group to incorporate member input when that input comes from those not meeting their responsibilities to the group, it behooves you to be scrupulous about making sure you've done all within your power to clear up misunderstandings about what those responsibilities are.

A. Making sure prospective members understand the deal
Not all groups are diligent about explaining up front that the right to have your input taken into account is joined at the hip with the responsibility to extend that same courtesy to the viewpoints of others. If you come across as strident about what you want yet are not perceived to be working constructively what others have to say, it won't be long before you're deficit spending out of your social capital account. 

To be fair, it can get tricky in that being heard can be a prerequisite for some people's willingness to listen, and if people on opposite sides take that same attitude a stalemate is inevitable. Who gets listened to first? 

In any event, it's important to lay this understanding out clearly in the beginning. If you spring it on people for the first time when you want to hold their feet to the fire, it will not go well.

B. Making sure everyone knows when topics are being discussed and the appropriate window in which to offer input
This is about having and following a standard for announcing meetings ahead of time and making clear what topics will be discussed, so that interested parties can reasonably make plans to attend, or otherwise see that their input is delivered in a timely way. Complaining about people giving late input rings hollow when information about when the conversation is going to take place is obscure.

Further, when you take into account how common it is for people to miss meetings, you'd be well advised to regularly offer a defined opportunity for reflected input before closing the door on when it's OK to comment. 

Note: In order for this to work well you need good minutes (that go beyond recording decisions to include the rationale behind them) and a solid understanding of how minutes will be posted so that everyone knows where to look.

C. Making clear the difference between personal preferences and what's best for the group
Groups may want to hear personal preferences, yet are not obliged to accommodate them. On the other hand, they are obliged to take into account factors that everyone agrees are best for the whole.

It often makes a big difference if the group commits to training new people in the culture of cooperation, which teaches us to move away from survival of the fittest and toward what's best for the whole. If you're not careful about membership selection or don't invest in training the new folks, you're sowing the whirlwind and at risk of having things gummed up with a plethora of personal preferences.

Hint: Group-level concerns can be tied to group values and mission. Look for those linkages to validate the appropriateness of input.

D. Understanding the difference between identifying factors that need to be taken into account, and problem solving
One of the common ways that groups can get bogged down is when they're ill-disciplined about distinguishing between identifying what factors need to be taken into account, and figuring out how best to balance them. The first phase is expansive, during which advocacy is fine (even encouraged). The second phase is entirely different. It's contractive, and you're wanting participants to lay aside stump speeches and focus instead on the best way to bridge among the various group interests in play.

When groups fail to develop a culture where this distinction is understood, the plenary tends to vacillate between identifying factors and problem solving, with the inadvertent result that members can be inappropriately shrill (because they're speaking from advocacy) when others in the room have already moved on to the more creative and conciliatory phase of problem solving. Thus, participants deemed inappropriate may simply be confused about where the group is in the conversation and contributing where they can, as best they know how.

Strong, skillful facilitation can make a big difference here, making clearer where the conversation is at and what kinds of input are welcome.

E. Being clean when delegating authority
Sometimes late reactions to proposals expose problems with delegation. People may not be happy with who's been given a managership (or assigned to a committee), may feel that people are exceeding their authority (or attempting to), or may simply misunderstand that delegation has happened because there's sloppiness in minutes or the way they're distributed.

Thus, the person objecting to proposals or actions from the manager (or committee) may be complaining after the train has left the station, when the root of the concern is not that the train is in motion, but that the complainant believes they should have been given a schedule or had a say in who was on the crew, what the train's route would be, and whether it was a nonstop or a local.

These ambiguities can be cleaned up with sufficient care in how delegation happens and holding high standards for transparency, yet a lot of groups stumble over getting this right.
• • •The overarching theme in the points I've enumerated above is that it's essential to conduct business with impeccable process before considering the serious step of disallowing someone's input on the grounds of late arrival, or because it's coming from someone demonstrably out of account in insisting that their views be respected when there's no evidence of their having extended to others what they're outraged about not receiving themselves.

I realize that I'm focusing on a situation groups would rather not be in. Unfortunately, it's a lead pipe certainty that you will be (providing only that the group is large enough and lasts long enough). I offer this with the idea that it's a better strategy to have a map through the swamp then to keep searching for ways to avoid it, or to sit on a rock and wring your hands.

Weeding the Garden of Dissent

Laird's Blog -

As a process consultant I regularly field requests to help groups liberate themselves from the swamp of unresolved conflict. While this can be tough stuff and worthy of skilled assistance, it has recently occurred to me that there are many points of "proto-conflict" that occur prior to the blooming of full-blown distress, when the first sprouts of dissent emerge in the group dynamic. If these are handled well, I believe it can avert a world of hurt later on. If not, fasten your seat belt. 

This blog is about recognizing and managing those early moments—it's about weeding the Garden of Dissent.

To be clear, the key problem is not dissent itself (if you endeavor to eliminate that, you'll have another problem; disagreement is the lifeblood of stimulation and growth); it’s the response to dissent that I'm focusing on. There are two points of leverage, both of which are worth cultivating with an eye toward limiting an unwanted harvest of conflict (in the unfortunate case where you let the weeds flourish unchecked).

Let's hold in the spotlight the moment when someone expresses disagreement with another person's idea or viewpoint. For the sake of this examination, let's say that Kelly is disagreeing with something that Jesse has said or written.

Part I: How Dissent is Expressed
There are a number of factors that bear on how this unfolds. As I walk through them, let's suppose that the group has decided to start a car co-op and Jesse favors buying a new Prius, while Kelly thinks it would be better to buy a used Jetta that can run on biodiesel. The new Prius will cost $25,000 and the used Jetta has 50,000 miles on it, is four years old, and costs $10,000. For the sake of simplicity, let's say those are the only two cars under consideration.

A. Kelly's mindfulness as a speaker
The more someone is aware of their audience and the ways that others in the group are open (or closed) to certain ideas and expressions, the better they'll be able to steer clear of known hazards in expressing their views. After all, the point is an exchange of ideas and information; not "winning," or breaking down someone's resistance.

Thus, Kelly might say, "I think it's way better to buy a used Jetta first, because it will save us $15,000 and we're much more likely to be able to recover our money if the car co-op idea fails and we have to sell assets." 

But knowing that Jesse and others in the group have had bad experiences with used cars breaking down and leaving them stranded, Kelly might say instead, "Although the Jetta will be far less money up front, I know that vehicle reliability is a factor in this choice, and Consumer Reports indicates that 2011 Jettas have a great reputation for low maintenance." [Disclaimer: I'm making this up for the sake of my example; I am neither endorsing nor deriding 2011 Jettas!]

B. Kelly's facility in expressing themselves accurately and cleanly (without provocative phrasing)
It's one thing to know what pitfalls to avoid (see the previous point); it's another to be good at stating something concisely, in a way that's easily understood, and with minimal risk of encountering an emotional trip wire for one or more members of the audience.

Thus, Kelly might say, "My household has been running Jettas for 10 years and we love them. I think the Prius fad is overblown and it irks me on principle to lose money to depreciation as soon as you drive a new car off the lot."

Prudence, however, suggests that Kelly might be better off with, "There are a number of things we have to balance in making this decision:
—The Jetta is $15,000 less to buy.
—The Prius can be expected to last longer.
—The Prius will be under warranty for three years; there will be no warranty with the Jetta.
—We expect the Prius to be more trouble-free because it's new.
—A car running on biodiesel is more eco-friendly than a hybrid, because most of the fuel can be produced from renewable resources.
—At 50 mpg and gasoline costing $3.40/gallon, it will take 200,000 miles before we've saved enough on fuel to cover the difference in purchase price, assuming the Jetta gets 28 mpg and biodiesel costs $3.98/gallon. So our decision, in part, depends on how many miles we think we'll drive co-op cars.

I prefer the Jetta both because I think it's more in line with our commitment to being ecologically progressive, and because I don't think we'll run our cars for 200,000 miles."

C. Kelly's understanding of how their input tends to land in the group
Beyond what is said (the actual point that Kelly intends to make), how things land also depends, in part, and what the group expects to happen. Thus, if the group is used to Kelly saying provocative things (or has a reputation as a Devil's Advocate), their loins may be girded as soon as Kelly has been called on to speak.

Thus, Kelly might say, "How do we know that the new model Prius won't be a lemon? At least with the Jetta we have a known quantity. Further, I don't trust oil company projections that gas prices will only rise gradually; if we're locked into a vehicle that depends on nonrenewable gasoline we'll be susceptible to being fucked in a few years."

If Kelly is aware that this swashbuckling style won't go well, they might say instead, "I think there's risk of mechanical trouble with either a new car or a used car; we'll have to decide which seems less risky. Also, I'd like to look at which vehicle we'd prefer in the event that fuels costs spiral up sharply. Does that change our thinking at all?"

D. Kelly's reactivity in the moment
If Kelly has a non-trivial emotional reaction to Jesse, that's likely to leak into what Kelly says about Jesse's idea. Depending on the group's sophistication in working with reactivity, Kelly could proceed in a couple of ways: a) owning their reaction at the front end of their statement; or b) figuring out some way to work through the reaction before expressing their dissent (this could be going for a walk outside, meditating, talking with a friend—there are many possibilities).

If Kelly plows ahead and speaks from reactivity you might get, "I'm totally opposed to buying the Prius. I think people are seeing it more as a status symbol (it's what hip Green people drive), than as a statement of ecological sustainability. I know the Jetta will cost more to run, but that's OK with me. I want to discourage people from driving so much and eliminate frivolous town trips." [Background: Jesse has two kids who engage in a lot of extracurricular activities at public school, requiring special trips to pick them up after the bus has left.]

If Kelly is aware of the reactivity, the statement might come out this way, "First I want to own that I'm having a reaction to the suggestion that we buy a Prius and it has nothing to do with our group. When I visited my parents last Christmas—in the McMansion suburbs of Chicago—I was shocked to see how many people were driving Priuses. When I asked Mom about it she said it had become trendy in the neighborhood as a painless way for people to show they care about the environment without loss of comfort or performance. 

"Holy shit, I thought, operating a hybrid car is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the lifestyle choices that are truly sustainable, and I want no part of being lumped with suburban greenwashing.

"I care passionately about our car co-op being part of the solution to the challenge of being sustainable, and it's odious to me if all we achieve is being chic. Thus, I want vehicles that are economical to operate, that run on renewable fuel, and that are reliable. Beyond that I want us to be trying hard to make do with fewer trips and doing more multitasking whenever we drive somewhere. Hopefully, having a car co-op will lead to our owning and operating fewer vehicles."

E. The quality of the relationship (resilient or brittle; casual or strong) between Kelly and Jesse
The better connected Kelly is with Jesse, the more likely it is that Kelly's dissent will be heard accurately and responded to constructively, wiht no residual animus. The reverse is also true. If there's a history of charged exchanges between Kelly & Jesse, then it's that much more likely that this exchange will go poorly as well—even to the point where Kelly might think twice about expressing their dissent (is it worth the possibility of a blow-up?).

If Kelly proceeds without taking this into account, they might say, "I am not persuaded by Jesse's advocacy for a Prius. Not enough weight is being given to using renewable fuel, and I don't think we'll ever get our money back from shelling out $15,000 more up front. I think the Prius is being supported mainly because it's seen as sexier than a Jetta."

However, if Kelly were sensitive to the fact that their relationship is not strong, that statement of dissent might be transformed into, "I get it that Jesse prefers the Prius, and understand the viewpoint that there may be a public relations benefit in choosing a vehicle that blatantly contradicts the mistaken idea that sustainable choices are always grim and result in an impoverished life, with people limping along.

"Nonetheless, it's hard for me to choose a car that uses nonrenewable fuel over one that doesn't, and I worry that the much higher sticker price for the Prius is money we'll never get back through fuel efficiency. Isn't conserving dollars part of being a model of sustainability also?"
• • • If speakers are interested in their opinions being received with an open mind, they'll be motivated to learn how to express them in ways that are minimally triggering. Hint: there's considerable value in first establishing that you've accurately heard the person you're disagreeing with—including why it matters to them—and then expressing your divergent views. People tend to be far more flexible in response to being challenged if they feel they've been fully heard. 

Part II: How Dissent is Received
Now let's take the other side: how Jesse responds to Kelly's dissent. The factors here include:

F. How well Jesse feels their viewpoint was understood by Kelly
It's not unusual for someone's first thought when encountering resistance to be that the dissenter didn't fully understand their idea, or the reasoning that undergirds it. And sometimes that's the case! So it's important to sort misunderstanding from disagreement. If this happens in the context of a group meeting, the facilitator can often lend a hand in sorting this out.

Warning: for some people it's hard to allow for the possibility that someone might dislike their idea on its merits, and for them dissent gets translated into one of two distortions: a) you didn't understand what I said; or b) you dislike me and are taking it out on my idea. When you have such a person in the group, it's all the more important that you can establish early on that this is not about mishearing or vendetta; it's about disagreement. 

G. Jesse's emotional state prior to hearing Kelly's dissent
In addition to the possibility that Kelly is in reaction, Jesse might be in reaction also. Perhaps because of what someone else (not Kelly) said; perhaps because of a fight they had with their partner at breakfast; perhaps because the time is getting squeezed to cover this topic in the meeting and that's upsetting—it could be any number of things. 

However, regardless of how they got triggered, if they are, then that becomes a factor in how well they can accurately hear what Kelly says and are able to put a constructive spin on why. As distress levels rise, so does distortion—even to the point where nothing is getting in. While it's rarely that bad, all parties need to be alert to the possibility of distortion and what to do to bring distress down to the point where the distortion is minor and manageable.

This is the mirror image of point D above, and Jesse has the same options that Kelly had.

H. The personal work Jesse has done (if any) to better understand and manage their reactivity
It will help a lot if Jesse is aware of being in distress and can self-disclose. Of course, reactivity will be less likely if Jesse feels confident that they were heard well when expressing their ideas originally, or if Kelly is able to express their dissent in minimally provocative ways.

Warning: there is a trap here in the group dynamic. If the group advocates that members do personal work to be more emotionally aware, then there can be reaction to the lack of having done that work (and spewing in the group), independent of the quality of the speaker's thinking. If emotional maturity is a standard, then there can be a tendency to be irritated whenever people express upset. If this happens, people will quickly learn to suppress upset (to appear more mature and gain group approbation), and that's the road to hell.

I. The degree of connectedness and trust between Jesse and the group in general
If Jesse feels well-connected in the group then disagreement will not be as threatening to their standing in the group, and trust in the connection will create some leeway to explore differences without Jesse feeling that their credibility and social capital depends on their idea prevailing—which is an association you don't want Jesse to be making.

J. The degree of connectedness and trust between Jesse and Kelly
It also matters how well Jesse feels connected to Kelly, whether there are unresolved tensions from past exchanges, and how confident Jesse is that they can work with Kelly productively. If Jesse has respect for Kelly as a group member that helps. If Jesse finds Kelly's contributions to be half-baked or frivolous, it isn't going to go so well. This point is the flip side of E above.
• • • In general, you want the lowest possible barrier to dissent being expressed, and the greatest possible attention to relationship between the speaker and recipient. Often, the assumption of good intent can be lost (or at least mislaid) in the heat of the moment. When dissent lands as a threat, you're off to the races unless you can clear that up on the spot.

My hope in composing this monograph is that a deeper understanding of the pitfalls of dissent may lead to managing misunderstandings and reactivity before it develops into conflict and dysfunctional patterns—where it tends to be much more difficult to root out.

Happy harvesting!

Environmentally safe housing project discussed at meeting - UI The Daily Iowan

Cohousing News from Google -


KCCI Des Moines

Environmentally safe housing project discussed at meeting
UI The Daily Iowan
Five Iowa City residents, who now make up the Board of Managers for Iowa City Cohousing, started meeting in 2009 to discuss the various alternatives to traditional housing and found all the qualities they were looking for in the Danish model of cohousing.
A first-of-its-kind here in Iowa, would you live here?KCCI Des Moines

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IC Considering Co-Housing - KGAN TV

Cohousing News from Google -


KCCI Des Moines

IC Considering Co-Housing
KGAN TV
... Barb Bailey said the group could start construction on the development if it's approved later this year, though next spring is more likely. She also noted another group in Granger is working to establish a co-housing community too.IC Considering Co ...
A first-of-its-kind here in Iowa, would you live here?KCCI Des Moines

all 6 news articles »

A first-of-its-kind here in Iowa, would you live here? - KCCI Des Moines

Cohousing News from Google -


KCCI Des Moines

A first-of-its-kind here in Iowa, would you live here?
KCCI Des Moines
Iowa City officials are considering approving a co-housing development in which privately owned homes would be built around a shared facility for activities including cooking, child care and gardening. Other Stories. Arsonist released after serving 2 of.

and more »

PERSPECtIVE: A radical idea for 'aging in place' arrives in PT - Port Townsend Leader

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PERSPECtIVE: A radical idea for 'aging in place' arrives in PT
Port Townsend Leader
New creative models are emerging, including intentional communities in the form of 55-year-old and older cohousing. All over the country, interested groups of active older adults are beginning to gather, eager to learn more about this exciting and ...

and more »

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