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Saturday, 30 May 2009, Group Process Session

Time: 1:30-3:30 pm (meeting began late at 1:40 pm and went overtime by agreement until nearly 4:10 pm)

Place: Yellow House

Facilitator: Shannon Cowan

  • The session began with Shannon sharing the agenda she planned, including two major topics: a) Consensus agreement-making and b) Stewardship. The minutes of this session are recorded in full here below as transcribed from the flipchart used in-session. Please comment on accuracy and interpretation of what was shared by using the "Discussion" tab. Group Process Team will integrate this hearstorm information and use it to help determine the next step in this conversation leading to action, as well as the next relevant Group Process Session format and topics.
  • Shannon explained the format of the meeting: part a) was dialogue-style with facilitated contributions and practising reflective, deep listening. The purpose was to "heart storm" some ideas around focus questions posed by the facilitator on topic after her background opener.

Background: Consensus-decision making model was drawn on the whiteboard. The Tree Bressen model was used, as it was the model we trained in as a group. There was concern expressed by one member with regard to the validity of presenting Tree's version of the consensus process rather than the agreement Ecoreality currently has recorded -see Consensus.

Focus Question 1

What do you see happening when EcoReality meets to make agreements?

  • The culture of the way it is done now can be a workable model
  • Typically practice achieving group consensus on an issue in entirety before proposal is put forth
  • 90% of the time, doing a “good job” (twinkles)
  • pleased that consensus is being used compared to other groups
  • bylaws seem exactly the same as Tree’s model
  • impression we are following Tree’s model of consensus decision-making
  • one-on-one conversations before proposal put forth are not being well translated in full group meeting time (members who have not learned about the topic well enough in advance of discussion time are not getting needs met for clarity and understanding of an issue before they are called to come to agreement)
  • culture we practice is not “long form” – tend to informally flesh out issues (one-on-one or residents only) so that full group time can be “shorter” – this leaves some members “in the dark” or feeling “not fully ready to give opinions”
  • lack of clarity on which issues go to consensus with full group and which go to consensus of residents only or teams/committees/stewardships
  • lack of consistency on when/how a formal call for consensus occurs (formatting/procedural) within a meeting
  • is the “test for consensus” language of Tree’s model a formal call for consensus or is it a “pre”-test that is simply finding the feeling in the group before the group is asked to formally come to agreement?
  • Is it the facilitator who “must” call for consensus or can any member do so?

Focus Question 2

What might be more effective for EcoReality to consider when making agreements/seeking consensus?

  • regarding the residents/non-rez, need to acknowledge the distinct differences of these two groups and build a window/doors to make it work for the larger whole and the mission of EcoReality
  • self-involvement (working between meetings, commitment, inspiration, enthusiasm)
  • more information presented by the person bringing the issue forward
  • cover the basics outside of formal meetings, presenter and facilitator to ensure that group gets the background information 7 days before meetings so that questions to presenters can be asked outside of precious group time
  • each member show more commitment, awareness and accountability for getting information they need before meetings to understand what the agenda items for discussion actually are
  • use “reports” back to group if an issue is carried between meetings (those who take action items regarding the issue are to report to group what they found eg. What Dennis did week of June 1st to follow through on action of researching other community membership procedures)
  • use Talk: Discussion pages on wiki more frequently…(how does one determine what is important to share with full group from one-on-one communications about an issue?)
  • implement a “How are you feeling and what did you do today?” status space on the wiki (serves to connect onsite and offsite for improvement of feelings of group trust, knowing one another, being part of it all)
  • have some teleconferences on one issue at a time
  • forecasting issues more effectively is desirable
  • not necessary for each member to have all the nuts and bolts of every decision (need to streamline the stewardships and practice planning together so stewards are following through on the larger overall “plan” and each member feels more comfortable with their role in the whole “plan”, without needing to hold on so tightly to decisions outside of their stewardship area)
  • combine rez and members email lists so we are more connected
  • understand and review consensus model (graphic and steps) regularly (meeting protocol, recording practice for agreements, recording of actions out of agreements)

How to make it work…

  • get clear on stewardship (determine what kinds of issues are for the full group to discuss and agree on, and what kinds of issues are within the realm of the steward’s control (with group input, team input, etc.)
  • have more blocking (provocative)
  • have more down time together….vision it and create it…will be more “hands on deck” and bring about more trust and ease with one another
  • clarify the “ways” that different types of agreements will be practiced. (editor’s note: Look at the group process from a meta-perspective and think about our group discussions to see what kinds of things we discuss and create a time and method for each agreement to best be made)
  • presenters and facilitators need to be willing to take responsibility for “bringing group to speed” and not expect all members to fully understand, until they do fully understand and are ready to be called to agree
  • create a mechanism for the facilitator to “put issue on hold” for agreement or next step at another meeting, and to actively engage members to take on and report on action items between meetings so group is at place of taking “next step” in an issue together (more full understanding of proposal)
  • opportunity to try out giving time to what takes time (to actually see out a “long form” full group procedure…just not for every single issue )
  • may need to adjust / reframe issues for full understanding of nonrez
  • practice curious deep listening, not criticism, when concerns arise (especially from nonrez)
  • stewards to show more leadership/teaching outside of meetings, with each other, so whole group has opportunity to learn and question
  • rez seeking more simplicity and faster process from “issue” to “agreement” while nonrez seeking more time, slowing. Need to reconcile the two – possible through clear full group participation in making a “plan” and distinguishing what kinds of agreements are made by full group and why



  • A person with most knowledge about a resource/situation should be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the group

speaking on behalf of a resource/elementof the whole (also for the group?)

  • steward is agreed to by consensus
  • steward may not have most knowledge to begin with – yet holds the space and energy/commitment to a resource/topic and “holds all the loose ends together…tracks the actions and questions to completion”
  • where is the threshold or guideline between stewardship decision and full group decision?
    • Budgeted items that are part of operational budget can distinguish those decisions made within a cost center by the steward alone (yet should be guided by some sort of group input on the plan that steward will follow in the spending of money and managing of the resource)
  • Steward’s council could be more effective at reporting to group what the steward PLANS to actually accomplish and how it relates to our mission
  • Accountability: there is no accountability in place or system to hold steward accountable for his/her actions
  • Some stewards may not fulfill the definition (ie may not have most knowledge and may not act with integrity when the “plan” is unknown and simply decided by that steward as a single person without group input)
  • Need to ask more clarifying questions during council
  • Have another members meeting (heartstorming/process session)
  • Appreciate willingness, expansion, action and responsibility of the stewards, that is how the mission of the group does/will manifest…yet accommodation of nonrez and simply all rez in the “planning” within stewardships can go a long way to feeling the trust of the person holding that role
  • Steward could be more willing to “check in” when making choices that adjust the plan significantly (what is significant?)

Feedback on this session:

  • unclear whether “what has come up” is really going to be addressed by these sessions, lack of trust in this process about our process (!)
  • review areas of governance regularly is very important
  • appreciate meeting format – putting the ideas in the middle (less ownership or individual ideas in debate and more sense of the whole)

Shan 06:24, 6 June 2009 (UTC)

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