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Why I Support FIC and Why You Should, Too

Laird's Blog -

Today I'm making a $1000 year-end donation to the Fellowship for Intentional Community and I want to tell you why—in the hope that it may inspire you to write a check of your own.

FIC has been around since 1987, when a group of dedicated individuals with fire in their bellies came together from across the continent to explore a common dream: to promote a more cooperative world. Out of that modest beginning—perhaps 20 people with high enthusiasm and no bank account—over the course of three decades the Fellowship gradually built a viable network, founded on the premise that the intentional community experience can be a beacon of light in dark times.

Though only a small fraction of the population will ever live in intentional community, where property is jointly owned by a group that has coalesced around common values, I am convinced that there is a broad-based societal hunger for a greater sense of community and belonging in our lives—something that we used to have in greater abundance and that has been degraded over the course of our lifetimes. (If you question that conclusion, just reflect on the enmity and lack of civility that characterized our recent Presidential election. We are a seriously fractured society.)

Thus, FIC operates at two levels: a) serving in the trenches, making available the hard-earned lessons about what distilled from those who have gone before, and helping groups find prospective members who are a good fit; and b) repackaging those lessons so that they can be exported and usable wherever people want more community in their lives.

While FIC estimates that there are perhaps 100,000 people living in some form of intentional community in the US today, there are easily 100 million who are the audience for the larger mission. Because FIC makes do on annual budget of around $150,000, they've gotten exceptionally clever at stretching dollars. Their budget has no fat.

o  Though I retired from front line work with FIC a year ago (my only remaining task is a pleasant one—convening the Award Committee that organizes nominations for the annual Kozeny Award for lifetime achievement) my heart remains solidly behind its efforts to promote cooperative culture based on the cutting edge work of intentional communities to puzzle out what it means to be socially sustainable. Is this work crucial today? Do we need a better response to society's challenges than Donald Trump?

o  My work as a group dynamics instructor and consultant is rooted in over 40 years of community living. Just as soldiers refer to battlefield experience as "on the job training" there is no more grounded way to understand group dynamics than total immersion—it's not a hobby for me, it's been my life. And I know of no richer or more complex classroom in which to learn my craft than membership in a secular income-sharing intentional community (in my case, Sandhill Farm)—where everything is on the table and you have to work it out with everyone you live with. If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere.

o  If you are an individual, FIC makes available the resources needed to better understand the options available in group living: why people do it, what challenges they face, and what the rewards are. Their Communities Directory can be an invaluable aid in helping you find out who's doing what and where.

o  If you are an intentional community, FIC's Directory provides lifeblood support—both through its free listings, telling the wide world that you're out there (the online Directory supplies information to over 100 different people every hour around the clock), and by helping you locate those who are on the same path as you—groups who may have already weathered similar challenges. (In today's world you no longer have to go it alone.)

o  If you are part of a cooperative group, the Fellowship is pleased to supply you with in-depth information about how your organization can function better, based on workable solutions pioneered in intentional communities. (Though my 30-year-old consulting practice has been centered around helping communities, I field an increasing number of calls to assist nonprofits, churches, schools, and workplaces, where there's burgeoning interest in the nuts and bolts of how to develop and sustain cooperative culture.)

Communities magazine was launched in 1972 (FIC took over as publisher in 1992) as the accreted pre-internet vision of seven cooperatives scattered across the US who saw the need for chronicling what's happening in the protean world of community living. Though this periodical has operated at a deficit almost every year, it has survived on a shoestring circulation of around 1000 paid subscribers and the rock-solid dedication of an underpaid staff and a publisher who thoroughly believes in its mission.

o  I almost died of cancer last winter, and paying for my extraordinary medical care almost killed my bank account (even after the substantial cushions of Medicare, supplemental insurance, and the generous support of friends were brought to bear on my situation). While my cancer is currently in remission (knock on wood) it can come back at any time and there is no crystal ball that can tell me with any certainty what kind of savings is prudent to accumulate against that possibility. Though it's awkward knowing what amount of money I can reasonably afford to free up from my limited supply without jeopardizing my health, I know that FIC needs my support now, so I'm writing that check.

o  Amazingly, today I have prospects for some period of high-quality time in front of me. As someone who was recently dancing close to death (and who may suddenly find himself again on the brink at any moment) I have given serious thought to how best to use this gift of additional time. I believe I am called on to continue my work to build a more cooperative world, and to give back as much as I can to all who will follow.

o  When done well, donations are a collaboration, matching the donor's dollars, skills, and connections with the recipient's energy and know-how. Everyone benefits. I am not asking for a handout; I'm asking for a partnership. 
o  With 30 years in the field FIC has amply demonstrated that it knows how to build connections, how to be discrete with sensitive information, how to be even-handed when representing the incredible breadth and diversity of the Communities Movement, and how to represent to the media the relevance of the community experience to a culture that is sick with adversarial dynamics and unjust practices.

o  In these extraordinary times the Fellowship needs extraordinary support. I invite you to give like your life depends on it. That's how I'm seeing it. To make an unrestricted donation click here. Donations are tax deductible. To become an FIC member as a show of baseline support (and receive benefits in return), click here

If you're looking for a meaningful last-minute holiday gift—either for yourself or a loved one—consider a gift subscription to Communities magazine. To subscribe or renew to Communities, click here.

Any and all of these steps will help.

Together, we are making a difference.

Developer who proposed 83-home project at Village Hill in Northampton files for bankruptcy - GazetteNET

Cohousing News from Google -


Developer who proposed 83-home project at Village Hill in Northampton files for bankruptcy
Prospective buyers among the cohousing community hope a new developer keeps the plan as is. Kelsey Abbruzzese, a spokesperson for MassDevelopment, said the agency issued another request for proposals last month and that Marty Jones, the agency's ...

The UK's First Senior Cohousing Community: The Older Women's Cohousing Group Moved into Their New Properties - IBB Solicitors (blog)

Cohousing News from Google -

The UK's First Senior Cohousing Community: The Older Women's Cohousing Group Moved into Their New Properties
IBB Solicitors (blog)
In early December 2016, the OWCH (Older Women's Cohousing) group moved into 'New Ground Cohousing', its new home in High Barnet. This project is the first senior cohousing community in the UK and its members have been planning this development ...

Consensus Ritual at the Point of Decision

Laird's Blog -

I've been working seriously with secular consensus since Sandhill started in 1974. Although the bulk of my learning has been distilled from living it (on the job training), I participated in a five-day consensus and facilitation training taught by Caroline Estes at her home community (Alpha Farm) in 1987, and I started my career as a group dynamics consultant later that same year.

As consensus—in one or another of its many guises—is by far the most common form of decision-making in intentional communities, and communities are the foundation of my consultancy, I have necessarily been hip deep in consensus for the last four decades, the last three as a professional.

As someone who believes firmly that meetings should be enjoyable as well as productive, I look for occasions where whimsy can seamlessly be inserted into the flow without sacrificing continuity or efficiency. One such place—and the subject of today's essay—is the specific moment when a group is poised to make a decision.

Much of what happens in a meeting is informal (thank god)—things like where to focus the conversation, what topic to address next, whether a summary is good enough, or when to take a break and for how long. While these questions may have gravitas in the moment, they are procedural matters with a short lifespan and will promptly be covered over by the sands of time. This class of decisions stand in sharp contrast with binding decisions about budget or policy—things you want carefully captured in the minutes and the agreement log, ad which may impact the community for years.

While it's generally not that big deal if you're loosey goosey about procedural decisions, you don't want any sloppiness when it comes to policy agreements. Thus, it tends to be a good idea to have some kind of ritual by which group members indicate whether they're in agreement (green light), standing aside (yellow light) or blocking (red light).

A number of groups employ colored cards for this purpose, both to indicate the nature of their comments during discussion, and to indicate their position when testing for consensus. Essentially, each member raises a card at the key moment instead of their hand. Other groups use thumbs (up=yes; sideways=stand aside; down=block). Some are more nuanced, such as relying on the number of fingers held aloft to indicate their degree of support:
0=Over my dead body
1=Stand aside
2=I can swallow
3=No problem
4=I'm liking it strong
5=Best thing since pockets on shirts

Some more adventurous groups really go for the gusto—I once encountered an art collective where people gave a hearty pirate Argh! to signify affirmation. Opa! (At least in my presence rum was not involved and no planks were walked.)

Really, anything can be done so long as the meaning is clear.

Is Silence Golden… or Iron Pyrite)?
A word of caution. It's such a great idea relying on silence=assent. While it's tempting to reach for this time-tested Quaker standby (after all, the strongest roots of secular consensus are traceable to the worship practices of the Religious Society of Friends, and they like silence=assent) don't be seduced! I counsel against mum's the word, since silence is so easily misunderstood. It can mean any of the following:
o  I heard you and have no problem
o  I'm confused and don't know what you want
o  I'm thinking and not yet ready
o  I didn't hear you; I'm oblivious
o  I'm so angry that I can't speak 

Yikes! Since guessing is a poor strategy, it's better to rely on something proactive and unambiguous. Best is using a symbol that is not used for anything else—so that its employment is crystal clear. (Arghing, for example, is unlikely to be confused with anything else—unless your group is reprising Peter Pan or rehearsing for The Pirates of Penzance).

I figure this is just the kind of opportunity I like: bring out the clowns and the dancing bears! Maybe it could be a perk of facilitating (or a bonus for volunteering to take minutes)—you get to be queen for a day and announce the consensus ritual de jour. It's OK to have fun; just make sure that it's also obvious.

Saturday Night Live

Laird's Blog -

Here's a picture taken last Saturday night, as the New England facilitation training class unwound at The Pizza Stone, just a few doors down from The Karass Inn, where we were gathered in Chester VT for an intensive three-day weekend. Starting on the left is Alyson (my co-trainer), Clinton, Laird, and Steve, followed by Sue, Valerie, Leslie, and Mary continuing around the horn.

You can see the detritus of dinner strewn around the table. Though the food and drink were scrumptious, we were worried about a restaurant where our group was a majority of their customers during the 6:30-8:30 stretch on a Saturday night. That's not a great business model. Of course, having the place more or less to ourselves helped our group hear each other across the table—something we often struggle with—and we got excellent service. (We're hoping that they were just caught between seasons: with leaf peeping behind them and skiing dead ahead.)

I decided to share this image because it saves 1000 words, helping make clear the potency of the class engaging in ways other than in the classroom. Alyson and I endeavor to teach facilitators to work with the whole person (by which we mean the emotional, intuitive, kinesthetic, and perhaps spiritual, as well as the rational) and that means walking our talk—teaching the whole person and purposefully engaging the students at multiple levels. Laughter and singing, for example, are used liberally (who wants to be grim all the time?) and tears are never far from the surface when we dance close to the bone.

Thus, we shut down the classroom around 5 pm each Saturday (after being at it nonstop since 9 am Friday) and step out together. On the occasion of last Saturday the skids were greased by Clinton, who just so happened to bring a bottle of homemade mead from Buffalo—which helped us shuffle off to dinner with smiles all around even before anyone had ordered their first beer.

While drinking is optional during the off-hours of our class, it's advantageous as an accelerant when you want to let your hair down. (Of course, after chemotherapy this past summer I don't particularly have much to let down, but it's slowly growing back, nicely paralleling my body's ability to handle alcohol again. These days I have a drink about once a week instead of the near daily intake of a year ago—and that's plenty.)

While we prefer a larger class (10-12 is ideal, balancing greater income without compromising individual attention and opportunity), from a learning perspective half a dozen is terrific. With smaller numbers there was plenty of breathing room, allowing us to tease out the tangled threads of personal distress whenever we encountered tender knots—which is a difficult thing to schedule.

Since first launching this two-year facilitation program in 2003, I've delivered the training in its entirety eight times and have three more currently underway (in New England, the Pacific Northwest, and in North Carolina), and two more on the drawing boards (one in the Mid-Atlantic States and another in Colorado). While I've tweaked various aspects of the program over the years, some things worked well right out of the starting gate and have become bedrock features:

o  Whenever possible I work with a co-trainer (preferably a woman for the gender mix).

o  Weekends always begin with a Thursday evening check-in, followed by teaching that starts full bore at 9 am Friday, and continues through a Sunday afternoon closing.

o  The main approach to teaching is to learn through doing. While there is plenty of time for questions, typically two-thirds of each weekend is devoted to preparing for, delivering, and debriefing live meetings that the students facilitate for the host group—with the trainers in the room as a safety net in case the students lose their way or are ineffective.

o  Although we almost always work into the evening on Fridays, we scrupulously take a break after Saturday afternoon. The students tend to be running on fumes by then anyway and need time to recharge their batteries. Instead of accomplishing that by dispersing in solitude, we encourage the class to eat out together (at some inexpensive nearby restaurant with decent acoustics and a liquor license). We eat ravenously—it takes prodigious quantities of carbohydrates both to facilitate and to learn about facilitation—and laugh until our sides ache, followed by an early bedtime. (Hint: if you can't laugh at yourself this training will kill you.)

o  At some point or other everyone goofs up—including the trainers—and that moment invariably becomes grist for the mill: another fucking growth opportunity.

Leslie (the Québécoise sitting second from the right in the photo above) mentioned Sunday that she once met a woman who was able to listen to a discussion and then weave the essence of what she'd heard into a pithy poem. (Wow!) In that spirit I offer this ditty entitled Facilitation Feedback, sung to the tune of Wells Fargo Wagon (from the Broadway hit musical The Music Man):

O-ho facilitation feedback's comin' to our group,
Oh please let it be for me!O-ho facilitation feedback's comin' to our group,I wish, I wish I knew what it could be!
[First Voice]I got a card with sugary comments on my birthday.  [Second Voice]In March I got a lukewarm report.  [Third Voice]Once I got some sour grapes from Tampa.  [Fourth Voice]Laird Schaub sent me a handout and an email retort.
[Chorus]O-ho facilitation feedback is a-comin' nowIs it the same old shit or should I flee?  [Fifth Voice]It could be kudos!  [Sixth Voice]Or death threats!  [Seventh Voice]Or a double entendre!  [Eighth Voice]Or it could be
  [Chorus]Yes, it could beYes, you're right it surely could be
[Eighth Voice]Special feedback  [Chorus] Some very special feedback  [Eighth Voice] Just for me! 
—with apologies to Meredith Willson

'We are making history': UK's first senior cohousing completed by PTE - Architects' Journal

Cohousing News from Google -

'We are making history': UK's first senior cohousing completed by PTE
Architects' Journal
Described by the practice as the 'UK's first senior cohousing scheme', the project features a mix of one, two and three-bedroom homes with shared social spaces arranged around a central courtyard. A social common house includes a meeting room, kitchen, ...

Pushing Versus Inviting

Laird's Blog -

There's a prevalent style of facilitation that's mostly passive—where the person running the meeting isn't doing much more than deciding who'll talk next, punctuated by the occasional need to blow the whistle, perhaps to signal that time has expired or to announce a restart, either to referee moments of fulminating tension or to cut through the fog of creeping chaos.

In the interest of safeguarding their neutrality—necessary to be an effective referee—facilitators will often adopt a style that scrupulously steers clear of offering suggestions about how to handle issues on the table. As a facilitation trainer, however, that's not what I teach. Rather, I prefer that facilitators be open to the possibility of their having insights into good solutions that can accelerate bringing the ship into a safe harbor.

This is my thinking:

o  Mostly facilitators are members of the groups they facilitate. As such they typically have in-depth knowledge of both the players and the circumstances surrounding the issue. Why shut down a potentially valuable voice when it comes to figuring out what's best? I'm not suggesting that the facilitator's input should carry any more weight than anyone else's, only that it not be discounted, or disqualified.

o  On a more subtle level, good facilitators have typically done a considerable amount of personal work to become aware of their competitive conditioning and the ways that we have inadvertently been trained to focus on differences more than similarities. Thus, facilitators can be particularly valuable when searching for common ground.

[It works like this: in mainstream Western culture there is an extreme emphasis on "I" (in contrast with a potential focus on"we"). A consequence of this is an obsession with how we are distinct in any situation—because the "I," a culturally driven imperative, can get lost when wallowing in similarities. Thus, when the glass if half full we learn to quickly hone in on the empty part ahead of the half-full part. Even though both are equally true and solutions are invariably built on common ground, most people have been conditioned to see disagreement ahead of agreement. As such, they can be slow to see potential solutions lying right in front of them. In that dynamic a facilitator who has worked to unlearn their competitive conditioning may see viable connections between positions that others miss—until the facilitator articulates the potential bridge. It's not so much that the facilitator is brilliant (though that's a possibility) as that people tend to find what they're looking for and facilitators often have trained themselves to see common ground. It can be like Magic Eye autostereograms: obvious when you see the underlying three-dimensional image yet totally mysterious when you don't.]

o  At the end of the day, it doesn't matter much where a good idea comes from so long as the energy behind it is solid. (I know that I'm articulating a cooperative ideal and that in reality ego enters the equation more than I'd prefer to admit—where it matters on a personal level if the germ of the prevailing proposal came from you—yet it still behooves us to move in the direction we intend to go.)

o  There are, I think, two keys to this working well. This first is that facilitators do their best to remain neutral about the outcome and restrict their suggestions to ways of putting together elements that have already been articulated by the group. The image I hold is that it's OK to mold the clay, but please only use clay provided by other group members; do not slip your own clay bodies into the mix. The litmus test is that it should be relatively easy for group members to connect the dots—to see how the threads of your proposal were derived from input given by others.

o  The second key is that facilitators present their offerings with grace and humility. Not with a large bow wave that makes it difficult to express reservations. If members of the group feel that the facilitator is pushing, selling, or arm twisting, there is considerable risk of sacrificing their neutrality, which can be very expensive. Keep in mind that this admonition obtains even if the idea is brilliant. What you need to track closely is not so much the quality of your thinking (about which there can easily be divergent views) as the quality of its landing. If there is hesitation in the reception, the facilitator needs to back out of there; not fight for their idea. You should think of your suggestion as a gift. Much as you'd like it to be embraced, if it is spurned, so be it.

o  To be clear, I am not suggesting that the facilitator hide their light under a bushel. It's OK to be excited and enthusiastic about your suggestion; just be sensitive to the response and not bowl anyone over. If the succeeding idea mainly comes from a different direction, try to be equally celebratory (hurray we solved the problem!) and not subdued because your idea didn't turn out to be the stairway to heaven.

Bridport group hunt the hedgerows for dormice - Bridport and Lyme Regis News

Cohousing News from Google -

Bridport and Lyme Regis News

Bridport group hunt the hedgerows for dormice
Bridport and Lyme Regis News
Bridport Cohousing spokesperson Lin Scrannage said: ''We are very keen to develop the site with a view to sustainable living. Creating even more biodiversity around our living spaces is important to us - ponds and native tree planting will create more ...

Community-Based Models Are Popular Alternatives for Aging in Place - Reverse Mortgage Daily

Cohousing News from Google -

Community-Based Models Are Popular Alternatives for Aging in Place
Reverse Mortgage Daily
“Modern cohousing is described as “a form of collaborative housing designed to emphasize social contact among community members while preserving and respecting individual privacy.” In addition to having private homes, there are also shared spaces for ...


New listings on ic.org -

Website: City: Beaverton State: Oregon Zip: 97006 Contact Email: creepybabyhulkhands@gmail.com Content Phone: Contant Name: Ric

Armadillo Cohousing

New listings on ic.org -

Website: http://armadillocohousing.com/ City: Austin State: Texas Zip: 78723 Contact Email: zow@prismnet.com Content Phone: 512-627-4097 Contant Name: Howie "Dillo" Richey

Howie Richey

New listings on ic.org -

Website: http://armadillocohousing.com/ City: Austin State: Texas Zip: 78723 Contact Email: zow@prismnet.com Content Phone: 512-627-4097 Contant Name: Howie "Dillo" Richey


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