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:

[download id=”495″ template=”button”]

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

Report on NICA East West Panel, Sept 1, 2011

On Thursday, September 1, 2011, NICA hosted its 3rd panel presentation at the East West Bookshop at 6500 Rossevelt Way NE Seattle. About 30 people attended. The topic was

Intentional Communities: Models for Sustainable Living. Our goal was to share with people some of the many benefits of community living, and how examples of a saner, more sustainable lifestyle are now being developed in communities, and that many of these developments hold the promise of benefits that can spread in the wider community as well.

The panel consisted of :

  • Phil Noterman and Helen Gabel from New Earth Song in Bothell;
  • Larry Rider from the Ananda Community of Lynnwood;
  • Jonathan Betz-Zall from Bright Morningstarin Seattle, and
  • Francis Parks from Duwamish Co-Housing in Seattle.

In addition to briefly describing their communities, panelists shared examples from their life in community on such topics as simple living and shared resources; sharing food growing and meals; a sense of belonging and creative participation; and more satisfying models of leadership and decision-making.

There was a wide range of questions from the audience, sharing their own stories and asking questions of the panelists. From these questions there was a sense among the panelists that the interest in intentional community is growing as people become more concerned about the need for more sustainable lifestyles.

Videos available from Hope for a Better World Panel Discussion

Video segments from the Hope for a Better World panel discussion, hosted by NICA at East West Bookshop, October 13, 2010, are now available on the nwcommunities Youtube site.

Communities represented on this panel included Bright Morning Star, Ananda Community Lynnwood, Jackson Park Co-housing, and Sherwood Co-op.

Each community provided an introduction as well as a reflection on specific benefits of living in intentional community, such as Satisfying Relationships, Harmonious Living, Shared Resources, and Cooperation.

Here are a few samples:



The entire playlist can be viewed here.

And the playlist from the previous Panel Discussion (Models for Sustainable Living) can be viewed here.

Thanks to all who participated.

Five communities and sustainable living: Video selections from recent panel discussion

Here are the community introductions by panel members at the recent “Intentional Communities: Models of Sustainable Living” event, hosted by East West Bookshop, March 10, 2010.  Additional selections, as well as a the complete video of the entire event, will be released soon.

Visit the Ravenna Kibbutz Web site.

Visit the Songaia Web site.

Visit the Ananda of Seattle Community Web site.

Visit the Sherwood Co-op Web site.

Visit the Twin Oaks Web site.

Nearly 60 people attend East West Bookshop Panel on Intentional Communities, Models for Sustainable Living

Terrific event last night, graciously hosted by East West Bookshop, with nearly 60 in attendance, including representatives from several intentional communities, including the Port Townsend EcoVillage and Clearwater Commons. If you attended on behalf of a community and I missed naming it, add it below in comments–we were so glad to have you there!

This is a very brief overview of what happened–the event was videotaped and we will post excerpts as soon as they become available.

Panelists, including Neal Schindler (Ravenna Kibbutz), Nancy Lanphear (Songaia Cohousing Community), Syd Fredrickson (speaking about her experience at Twin Oaks), Larry Ryder (Ananda Community), and Helen Bennett (Sherwood Co-op), shared their reflections on the material, emotional and spiritual benefits of living in intentional communities, and added their own personal thoughts on how they decided to join one.

The Q&A session following the formal presentations included key questions like economic support, the impact of the recession, how communities deal with difficult residents, whether pets are allowed, decision making processes, and opportunities for people to explore living in an intentional community before actually making the leap.

Susan Gleason of YES Magazine was present and “live-tweeted” the discussion. You can get a flavor of the discussion on her Twitter profile (scan to her entries for March 10).

Thanks to all who made this event possible, particularly new NICA Board member Larry Ryder for helping set up the event at East West Bookstore, bookstore staff, our panelists (including another new NICA Board member, Neal Schindler), and Syd Fredrickson for skillfully moderating the discussion.

NICA Fall Gathering Report

About 25 people representing five northwest intentional communities from as far as Olympia attended the NICA Fall Gathering, hosted by the Ananda Community. You might recognize a few of the attendees in the slideshow above.

While the theme of the event was, “What makes your community hum?”, the overall experience was celebrating the harvest of our lives together through song, a terrific vegetarian chili prepared by Ananda residents, Dances of Universal Peace, and sharing focused on the distinctive journeys of each community.

Thanks to our panelists for opening the pathway to deeper conversations:

  • Odysseus Levy for Winslow Cohousing Community
  • Susan McGinnis for Ananda
  • Neal Schindler for Ravenna Kibbutz
  • Phil Notermann for New Earth Song Cohousing
  • Nartano for Songaia (and for the fantastic photos he managed to capture for the above slideshow)

And special thanks to these folks who helped create a safe and joyous environment:

  • Larry Rider and the members of the Ananda Community for graciously hosting the event, sharing the gift of their songs, and providing an outstanding lunch of vegetarian chili, corn bread, salad and pie!
  • Phil Notermann for leading Universal Dances of Peace

Here’s a slightly more detailed report: NICA Fall Gathering 2009.

If you participated in the event, please feel free to add your own observations and reflections as comments to this post. And if you weren’t able to join us, please add your own reflections in response to the question, What makes your community hum? as well as any other thoughts you would like to share in response to the notes from the gathering.

The next gathering will be in spring, so watch for more information!