Revitalizing NICA

A few weeks ago, a handful of former and newer NICA board members gathered to discern the direction of Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA) in the Pacific Northwest. During our time together, we honored Rob Sandelin for his contribution to NICA and the Communities movement. Rob was one of the founding members of the organization and recently died after a long illness.
The dream for a regional network was birthed in West Seattle’s Camp Long back in 1992, and NICA incorporated in 1993. The same year, we watched the interest in communities growing, as the FIC’s International Celebration of Community conference was held in August ’93 at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. This large 5 day event spurred new cooperative ventures. There were potlucks and community fairs being held in the Seattle area. It was a lively time for dreaming, gathering like minded folks, working diligently and building communities.

The organization’s role over the years changed. The last few have been rather quiet. However, GATHERINGS have been the constant thread, with various topics of interest to current community members as well as folks who were looking for a community to join. We held day-long and some multi-day events, offering different modes for exchange, and our locations most often were community sites an/or camp grounds for weekend activities. Early on, when many of the area’s cohousing communities were being established, they were looking for members. As communities were settling in and filling their homes or rooms, the need for the gatherings changed.

By 2000, there was another wave of enthusiasm, and NICA’s focus was on having a larger multi-day event to focus on the relevance of cooperative culture and the concept of living sustainably, which was markedly enhanced by shared effort, rather than as an individual. That culminated with the 4-day “Co-Opportunities Northwest: A Sustainable Communities Conference” at Seattle Center, in October 2001.

A decade later, activities quieted down a bit, at least among those who attended our events, and our gatherings were often more focused on how to live together well in community. We explored what patterns work, how to network with others related to community activities, values re-clarification and revisioning, the concepts of Enough and our Interdependence.

Now we have a smaller set of board members and we admit we’re pretty Seattle-centric. We haven’t hosted many events outside of the Seattle area for a couple of years. We did do 2 public panel events last year however, and we have helped spread the word about IC events in BC, CA, MT, OR, and other parts of WA.

We’d like to know from you if you are still interested in participating in NICA events, getting our newsletter, utilizing the website, or sharing stories in the newsletter, or via our social media accounts. Write to us with your ideas!

Summary Notes from Diana Leaf Christian’s August 2013 Presentation at East West Bookshop

Thanks to the 25 folks who joined members of the NICA Board at East West Bookshop on August 21  for a presentation and discussion with Diana Leaf Christian on “Three Aspects of a Healthy, Thriving Community.”

The three aspects are:

  1. Community Glue: taking time to do shared enjoyable activities that tend to generate feelings of gratitude and trust
  2. Good Process and Communication Skills: the ways members gather together specifically to get to know each other better, consider ideas, understand each others’ emotions or upsets, or discuss and resolve conflicts and the ways people talk with each other, both in groups and meetings and one on one
  3. Effective Project Management: the ways a community creates and maintains its legal entity(s); the ways it finances, purchases, and physically develops its property; organizes and tracks its internal community finances and member labor requirements; attracts, processes, and orients new members; and maintains the community’s documents, policies, and decisions

Effective community governance, according to Diana, is at the center of all three aspects of healthy community — and benefits and enhances all three.

She was also kind enough to provide a printed summary of her talk (excerpted above), which can be downloaded from the following  link:

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Diana is writing a series of articles in Communities Magazine on sociocracy and will be returning to British Columbia in February. Watch for future updates; we may be able to catch her on her way through again.

Photo Slideshow from NICA Fall Gathering 2012

Right around 50 folks attended at least part of the NICA Fall Gathering 2012.

Thanks to everyone who participated, particularly David Mcleod, who offered a presentation on Transition Whatcom, and Jamie Jedinak and other members of the  Wooley Mammoth who so graciously hosted this year’s event.

Here are a few glimpses of the event. Notes from the afternoon Open Space sessions will be posted soon.

Report on Tree Bressen Facilitation Workshop

Submitted by Larry Rider

On October 15. 2011, NICA hosted Tree Bressen, a facilitation trainer from Eugene OR (http://www, who gave a daylong workshop entitled, Facilitating a Meeting with Care and Skill.

The event was held at the Ravenna Eckstein Community Center in the Ravenna district of Seattle. About 30 people attended, of whom about half were residents of intentional communities, and about half were not. It was a lively and informative workshop, with a variety of activities and role-playing to help understand and develop skills to help groups achieve their goals.

Tree made the point that her background in intentional community, and specifically in a commune where everything is shared, is about the best training for learning facilitation skills, because people in community live closely together. 247. and must learn to deal with the inevitable problems and conflicts.

First Tree presented her 5 basic principles of facilitation:

  1. You are the servant of the group. You are not an authority figure. you should not be involved with the content of the meeting, and you should be willing to admit mistakes, or bias, and ask for help when you don’t know the answer.
  2. Plan ahead — work outside the meeting for better preparation. This includes a practice such as meditation to ground and prepare yourself
  3. Help each person feel heard. A facilitator should seek the full contribution of everyone. Speak back to them what someone is saying. and summarize their remarks for the group (this is quite a skill in itself)
  4. Work with all of that’s in the room – not only the rational, verbal contributions, but open wider to allow the emotional, spiritual, and intuitive into the discussion. Name that emotion.
  5. Listen for the common ground and reflect it back to the group as often as necessary . Bring out more depth of opinion. Break a larger issue into parts. Seek a balance between alternating times of divergence, when different opinions need to come out and convergence, where coming together in agreement is needed.

Next, Tree covered some guidelines for Reflective Listening. These included keeping your concentration on the other person. hearing their story. It’s not about you. Avoid being judgmental. Listen with your heart to get the essence of what they are trying to say, especially the emotional experience. The practices being developed in “NVC” or Non-Violent Communication are helpful. NVC emphasizes naming the emotion — “sounds like that was frustrating for you.”  Then we paired off and did some exercises to practice this.

Some of the other areas covered by Tree were Stacking, Intervention. and Formats. Stacking includes various techniques to recognize speaking order. Intervention is how to interrupt and guide speakers going on too long or repeating. hi format Tree introduced a variety of alternatives to the large group format, including continuums, fishbowls, go arounds, talking sticks, and small groups. I won’t describe these, but she conveyed the sense that there are a lot of tools for getting people up and rearranged, for more effectively involving people.

Finally Tree talked about Facilitating Tough Situations, and we did some roleplaving. with several people volunteering to practice facilitating a meeting of the hypothetical Harmony Co-Housing community on the subject of a work-sharing proposal. This also was lively and revealing. We also made use of some “pattern-language” cards that site and others have created to focus on different elements of facilitation.

Overall the day was over too soon, with lots to digest. Tree emphasized that she has lots of work as a facilitator, and that these is an increasing need for people with facilitation skills. One woman present was participating in the Occupy Seattle movement in Westlake Park and said that there was a great need there for people with facilitation experience, as the people there were trying to self-organize in an organic and leaderless way, with a daily general assembly and a number of smaller work groups dealing with food, medical, media, and other issues.

Tree has a lot of information on her website. These include resources and links, exercises, services. and how to contact her.

Report from the Art of Community Conference

From Sept 23-25, 2011, FIC (Federation for Intentional Community) presented a weekend conference in Occidental, CA, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.

About 250 people attended. 20-30 communities were represented, mostly from the Bay Area and the West coast.

The keynote speaker was Kevin Danaher, founder of the Green Festivals and Global Exchange. He gave a lively and inspiring talk about some of the many success of individuals and organizations in building a sustainable economic system. Some companies, for example, are finding financial success in making useful products out of free “used” or recycled materials. Mr. Danaher is also involved with bringing together “green” investors with “green” companies, with considerable financial success. You can hear a similar talk of his here.

There were a great many workshop choices, on such subjects as consensus, power and leadership in IC’s (intentional communities), meeting facilitation skills, history of IC’s, spirituality, legal and financial structures for IC’s, CoHousing IC’s, Ecovillages, songs and games for community building, and many more.

The main event Saturday night was the premier showing of a 2-hour movie, Within reach, by Mandy and Ryan, two young people who bicycled over 6,000 miles around the country. They visited 100 IC’s, and the movie is filled with many voices enthusiastically talking about their communities all over the nation. Here is a 3-minute trailer.

There was dancing, lots of music, gentle yoga, laughing yoga, great food, and lots of great connections with new and old friends. I came away with a renewed optimism that despite the obvious problems so often covered in the media, there are in fact a great many small and local successes as people of all kinds are finding ways to join together to build a more sustainable future. There is indeed hope for a better world.

Larry Rider, President, NICA