Sunday, May 23, 2010

Insight Like the Weather

I'm in Portland OR for the Fellowship for Intentional Community's spring organizational meetings, and this is my fourth day immersed in the crucible of our deliberations. Board members have gathered from all over the country and there are about a dozen non-regulars who have joined the party, both to renew connections and to find out what FIC is up to these days. Some come with memories (Tree, Bindi, Jeff); some come with curiosity (Terry, Wayne, Lincoln); some come with burning questions (Bob, Deborah, Craig). All are welcome.

The rhythm of the meetings is a lot like the weather, where there's a sense that time has accelerated. While Portland is famous for its precipitation, I don't think I've ever experienced so many cycles of rain squall, alternating with bursts of sunshine—we've gone through more than a dozen in 72 hours. It feels like we've had a month of weather in three days. As I reflect on it this morning, the mercurial skies have supplied an analogous backdrop for our networking deliberations, where there are frequent surges of insight and intense focus on issues, interspersed with meals, coffee breaks, and the easy laughter of friends reconnecting.

Brainstorms in the room have mirrored the pace of the rain storms outside the room. Progress is not always linear, yet we trust the process—that bringing passionate and purposeful people to parlay will produce potent plans and possibilities (not to mention alliteration).

Each meeting has its own flavor, as the exact mix of people is never the same. Often, people we were expecting don't arrive (this time Caroline Estes and Parke Burgess), and others we weren't expecting to, do. Regardless, we dance with whoever comes to the party, and meetings, unlike baseball games, never get rained out.

While there's considerable expense in time and money to getting everyone into one place every six months, we've found that it's precious to have regular face-to-face meetings where we can synchronize our electrons. It's important both to bring everyone up to speed on what's happening in FIC's far-flung enterprises (our bones), and to invigorate our personal connections (our blood). In the past few days we've tackled the following:
—What can the Communities magazine Production Team do to boost ad revenues and subscriptions?
—The Event Team's proposal to host an Art of Community weekend in northern California next spring.
—Supporting the Personnel Committee in its search for fresh blood to manage our family of websites.
—Hearing what the Development Team is doing to enhance the long-term prospects for the Fellowship's financial health.
—How settled in the job is our new manager for Community Bookshelf?
—How can we better support the formation and success of regional community networks?
—How can FIC reach out to the myriad folks who live in informal shared housing and may not be aware of how the experience of intentional communities may be an excellent resource and inspiration to what they're doing?

While we don't always have brilliant responses to our issues, we always have engagement, and we come away from our meetings with a rejuvenated sense of being in it together.

While the skies are cloudy as I write, we understand that the predictions are for warmy, sunnier weather just ahead—which seems the perfect forecast for concluding our organizational meetings.

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