Monday, April 27, 2009

An engaging workshop

The first workshop in the Community Facilitator Intensive Series was a heart warming and meaningful experience for me.

It was the first time that I'd participated in an event with members of other intentional communities. In this case there were representatives from six cohousing communities and two ecovillages in Coastal British Columbia. It was wonderful to hear about life in other intentional communities and to witness it first hand in the case of our hospitable host community, Creekside Commons in Courtenay, BC.

The purpose of these workshops is to teach meeting facilitation skills. That, in turn, is intended to build the capacity for consensus decision making within each participating community.

During the three and a half days that we spent with them, our host community had two meetings. In advance of those meetings, members of the host community briefed us trainees. They explained to us what the issues were, how long they'd been wrestling with them, and what they'd done so far in an attempt to resolve them.

We trainees, in turn, chose meeting formats that we thought would be most constructive for each issue, and we created agendas for each meeting. The facilitator, time keeper, vibe watcher, scribe and minute taker for each meeting was one of us external trainees.

In case you don't know what a vibe watcher is, it is someone who monitors the moods of meeting participants and alerts the facilitator to an emerging issue if it escapes the facilitator's attention. A scribe is someone who jots down key points on a flip chart that is visible to meeting participants.

The two community meetings resulted in a rich cross fertilization of ideas. The host community had a chance to try meeting formats that were new to them. There was one in particular that they liked a lot and said they would use again. They also had the benefit of external facilitators and other meeting aids who felt compassionate towards them but who were not personally invested in their issues.

For the trainees, it was a high privilege to witness members of the host community discussing their challenges at an authentic level. It was comforting to hear from the members of established communities that they had grappled with the same issues around the two year mark (which was the age of our host community). Those of us who belonged to forming communities or communities under construction gained insights into what it would be like to live in community. From the point of view of our training, it felt much more relevant to work with real issues being debated by real people in real time than it would have felt if Tree had created hypothetical scenarios.

The drive back to Nanaimo with Roz, my fellow Pacific Gardener who had participated in the workshop, was delightful. She wisely chose to take the slower but more scenic route that hugged the coast, rather than the quicker but more mundane inland highway. On the way home, we unpacked the meaning that the workshop had held for each of us.

I am deeply grateful for this experience.


ms toast burner said...

I'm glad that you defined 'vibe watcher', Judy.

What a contrast in what you describe in your post to my experience watching the circus gathering at our strata meetings for my condo building! I guess I am the vibe watcher in those meetings with the exception that I keep my observations all to myself, shake my head and laugh quietly to myself. ;-)

It sounds like a very interesting few days Judy. I love the old highway too.

Judy Roberts said...

I got a chuckle out of your characterization of yourself as the vibe watcher during your strata meetings, Marnie. I guess, in that sense, we're all vibe watchers. I'll remember that the next time I observe something bizarre in a context in which feedback is not welcome. :-)