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Inherited Collaboration

It’s all my mother’s fault. Seriously. Who else should I blame but her? She’s the one who drilled it in us [me], especially as we grew up and participated in sports. Yes, my desire for ground up planning; my desire for collaboration; my desire for fair teams — I blame this all on my mother.

I find myself, often in a few of the circles I travel, advocating for collaboration. I feel like I’m often asking people to slow down, consider other view points, seeking out the dissenters in order to move a process and hear their concerns. I often find myself planning for things where it doesn’t include a “star” of the team because I understand life happens and the team is nothing if it can’t function without a member.

I’m leery of sounding arrogant here. I’m leery of sounding like I’m always a team player. I’m leery of sounding like I don’t fight to get my way. Because, I do these things. I’m not always a team player, and sometimes I do fight to get my way. Sometimes, depending on the situation, I even close myself off to the other opinions I crave in other situations!

Seeing the trouble my arrogant methods sometimes yield, and seeing the solidification of consensus based decisions proves to me the preferred way to make decisions. I also grew up in a big family. A family that, when brought together, talks over one another and sometimes you have to shout to get your voice heard. I’ve been the one waiting and waiting to be heard, and I hate that. Something about looking in from the outside, I have the ability to see when other people may feel the same way. I know that when I’m watching other people talk, I have sometimes a million thoughts going through my head. I suspect that they do to. I want to hear what they are saying. I want the others to stop talking and give space for the quiet ones.

And, I’m going to blame my mother on this. She’s the one who insisted we “walk in another’s shoes for a mile” before judging. She’s the one who insisted we think of others. She’s the one who made sure we were thoughtful in our actions. She’s the one who ensured I listened to others.

So, yes, I blame my mother that I prefer consensus. Consensus, as described when it runs well, insists that we put our whole bodies into a process. We recognize our logic, our ration, and our emotion. We acknowledge these pieces to our brain (our bodies) as a whole. We are called to hold these pieces and give space for them, to allow for better decisions all around. We are called to think outside of ourselves, using our knowledge and experience, and consider choices that are best for the group. We are called to let self-interest rest and bring our self-less selves into the process.

Instead of blame, Mother dear, I thank you.

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Consensus Validation

We're Makin' Bread!
We're Makin' Bread! Image by Michelle Lasley via flickr.

Today, we had our consensus training with Tree Bressen. Rather, it was a consensus workshop. Dynamic, fun, interactive, and incredibly informative – this was our day. From 10am – 5pm, hosted by Daybreak Co-Housing, we participated in exercises, asked questions, and learned about the consensus process. And, above everything – today was empowering in the decision we made to be in this process.

I think most people have an  idea of what consensus is, we learn about the concept when we learn about language. But, hearing it as a decision making tool didn’t happen for me until I started to learn more about coops. I started to learn more about coops when I wanted to learn more about food. There are a lot of things in life important to me, but the top three or four “passions” would be housing, food, and spirituality (no, friend, not religion).

Growing up, I happened to encounter a lot of people who wanted to tell me what to do and what was the best right way for me to live. True to my “know-it-all” nature (as dubbed by my sweet Sister), I found this contrary. If they are so smart, thought I, why do I feel differently about this decision? When I had the opportunity to Be the Boss at a  young age, telling others what to do never really felt right. They are capable, some much older than I, so why am I telling them what to do? It didn’t make sense, and I didn’t have the life experience or language skills to name the problem I was noticing.

Tom Atlee, however, has a name for it. He calls it “Co-Intelligence.” It figures that this vocabulary was gifted to me when I moved to the west coast. In fact, a fellow food clubber said the same thing tonight! (We both have family in the mid-west). This idea, this process, that we are all better together. But, more than that, when we let our ideas blend, when we have room for openness and change, we will participate in this thing called group wisdom. The whole is better than the sum of its parts.

A few times during our steering committee meetings, someone would ask after my post-giddiness, if it was some sort of “love fest.” No. It was just me, really enjoying this group wisdom. It’s such a joy to watch these changes. You come in with a stated problem or concern, maybe a few ideas of how it could look – then 13 (in our case women) people come together and say what about this and that and we can do it this other way. One of the participants in today’s training had a name for it: “both/and.” This idea that we don’t have to have one or the other, but we can do both and maybe more. In order to get there, though, you have to have an open heart. Open to change. Open to being changed.

I’m saddened I don’t have time to attend tomorrow’s workshop. Tree, however, will be doing a facilitator’s training in May. I’m very excited to be a part of that one.

 

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Consensus Training

Consensus plain 2
Image via Wikipedia

Our consensus training is finally upon us! I am very excited. Our group has been self-learning consensus for the past 10 months, and I think it will be good to have a seasoned user show us some things to do.

In May, it became clear that majority rule wasn’t a good fit for our group of bottom up thinkers. So, I suggested consensus, and we’ve been trying it on ever since. One of our members made a comment that she lived in community, with consensus, for almost three years. She didn’t feel she even began to understand how consensus works until she was at the end of her stay in community. This was a very telling comment to me, as we hadn’t lived in community, had been doing it for less than 7 months, and it has felt awkward to me. Her comment validated my concerns. For the third time, I was referred to Tree Bressen; so I called her.

I read the Tao of Democracy by Tom Atlee almost 6 years ago. What an eye opener! The belief that in empathic situations, people really are smarter together. Most of our food club meetings have shown this to be true. We state concerns, work through problems, and come up with a much more brilliant answer than any one of us could have come up with on our own. It’s a true consensus process, truly bottom up planning.

I am hoping that tomorrow’s training will kindly show us some tricks and traps and how to navigate through those traps. One of the handouts is “Nurturing Dissent.” I’m a terribly excited.

Stay tuned for more.

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