We are going to mix things up here a little bit while George is walking back over to the Blind and figuring out what he’s going to do next.
You might we starting to think that he is a separate character from you and that the reality he is experiencing is an imaginary place called Culver Way, somewhere in the not too distant future. So we are asking you to anchor yourself firmly in George’s mind as he imagines himself while he is walking as a foreign exchange student at the Metro Classical Academy that he just got a glimpse of when he was picking up a few provisions at the open air market along Culver Way. And since you are him, your reality now morphs into that of a petite 15 year old, precocious French girl named Monica who is participating with her host family in a weekend long, full immersion Integral Urban Ecovillage training program as part of what the Manresa Center, a half block from Culver Way, calls their Saint Bonaventure Adventures.
It is the morning of Thursday, November 27, 2014, which by now you have realized is a big deal holiday in the US called Thanksgiving. Your host family, the Johnsons, and most of their forming cohousing community core group, which at this stage consists of eight other families and a few single people, have just gathered in the dining hall of the Manresa Center, which you learned upon arriving last night is where the Friars from Saint Bonaventure Friary took most of their meals from almost a hundred years before this whole complex was converted to a retreat center and even more recently to an Integral Urban Ecovillage Training Center.
Three other forming cohousing core groups and a few as yet unaffiliated families and individuals are participating in this weekend’s training program. One of the trainers is explaining that the idea is for one long weekend to have this be as much like ecovillage living as possible. So you are being asked to imagine that you are a newly established ecovillage made up of four cohousing communities and that you are about to celebrate your first Thanksgiving together.
In actuality, you are told, you all will be celebrating the holiday with members and friends of the Culver Way Ecovillage, a block from here where most of your trainers live and work. Jill, the trainer who is speaking now, is saying that we are going to start with a General Assembly, which is something that Culver Way picked up from the Occupy movement when they were getting started back in 2011 and has since been adopted as the standard form of governance by most of the forming Integral Urban Ecovillages and even some home rule oriented neighborhood group and cooperatively owned businesses.
You know that Shawn’s mom, Betty, and some other members of the Tree Huggers, which is what your host family calls their group, has been attending some evening workshops, and Jill and some of the other trainers have assisted at meetings and events in your neighborhood. So you are not surprised when Jill says that Betty from the Tree Huggers community is going to facilitate this GA.
Betty saunters to the front and, cupping her hands, says, “Mic check!”
The Tree Huggers and a few others respond with the familiar, “Mic check.”
Betty laughs and says in her familiar southern drawl, “I just want to see if you all were awake.”
Somebody repeats, “I just wanted to see if you were all were awake.”
More laughter and then Betty, holding up her hand to signal quiet, says, “Seriously, you all.” More giggles, as Betty with her hand still up says, “Okay. Ted is going to review the ground rules for a GA,” pointing to one of the other trainers who is stepping forward with a chart on consensus decision making. It is clear that at least a few people from each of the forming groups are familiar with this approach, but there is one loud heavyset fellow who is suspicious of the whole approach and objects to how things are going.
Jill intervenes and asks him if he is willing to just trust the process for a while and raise his objection again later if he still has some concerns once things are a little more underway. He reluctantly agrees but continues to have a scowl on his face.
With that the process of completing the agenda for the meeting continues. You were told in advance about a workday for this morning to put the outdoor growing beds to bed for the winter, paint the kids playroom, turn the compost in the community garden at the Manresa Center and feed the fish, collect eggs and winterize the beehives at the Culver Way Ecovillage, as well as to prepare some of the items for the 1:00 pm feast in the Manresa Center and Culver Way common house kitchens. Other items on the agenda include resolving issues of potential conflict around differences in the pet policies of the four different core groups represented at the forward.
Betty explains in response to a clarifying question that the agenda committee, made up of members of the four communities, had specifically chosen coming up with a unified pet policy, knowing that this would be a contentious issue.
“We understand that you are not all planning on being part of the same ecovillage, but sometimes disparate groups do choose to work together because they soon see that they can accomplish more, rather than pursuing solo dreams. Even groups that are committed to sharing the same ecovillage often bump up against irreconcilable differences.
Carl then raises his hand and when recognized says, “What if you don’t agree with any of these pet policies?”
Betty says, “For purposes of this exercise, align yourself with the one that is the closest to your position.” Carl scowls again and grumbles to himself.
The agenda is then set and the meeting starts. The first item is filling the work teams for the morning, which is accomplished with relative ease. Carl then proposes that the pet policy for the community that he has affiliated himself with, which is the least restrictive, be adopted as the policy of the forming Integral Urban Ecovillage. Several hands quickly go up. Dick, who is taking care of stacking, lists the order that the five requesting to speak are in.
Two turn out to be clarifying questions and are resolved quickly. One is a counter to Carl’s, suggesting that the motion be amended to have the most restrictive policy be the norm for the ecovillage. Someone else proposes that each cohousing community keep its own policy and another suggests that a committee be formed to research the matter.
Jill asks Betty if she can intervene for a moment. After she is given the go-ahead, she says, “This is perfect. This is exactly how issues like this go, and in real life they often take weeks or even months to resolve, but we don’t have that luxury here, so my suggestion is that someone representing each of the four positions has an opportunity to express them for 5 minutes each if they wish and then we take a vote. If we don’t have consensus, I then suggest that the same people form a committee to meet and report back a proposal at tomorrow’s GA.”
Betty then says, “Can we take a vote on Jill’s proposal?”
It passes unanimously. A few people raise their fists and chant, “Solidarity!” and all laugh.
Stay tuned for the next Chapter of the story soon!
Yours in Community,