Friday, February 17, 2012

Stepping Back to Look Farther Ahead

Today is the opening day of Dancing Rabbit's annual retreat. Residents will meet Friday through Monday this weekend, followed by Friday-Sunday next weekend. Not counting check-ins, and other social opportunities (last night was Validation Day, where members shared handwritten appreciation on each other's cards—an alternative Hallmark tradition on or near Feb 14), by the time it's all over the community will have been in the same room together conducting business for 34.5 hours, shoehorned into seven days of a 10-day stretch. It's gonna be a meeting fest!

Of course, when you're trying to create a model ecovillage, there's a lot to talk about. The topics queued up include:
o Budgets (for both the land trust that owns the property and community buildings, and for the nonprofit that's the educational and outreach arm of the community)
o Goals & priorities for the coming year
o Decision making (the community is in the midst of trying to figure out what governance system makes most sense as it goes through the metamorphosis from whole group consensus to village council)
o Wage rates in the community (taking into account the desire for everyone to be able to earn a living wage, yet some skills are more valuable than others; to what extent should market rates enter the equation?)
o Hiring and firing in the community (how much can volunteers and your fellow community members be held accountable for job performance, and what constitutes due process in giving people a fair chance to get their shit together?)
o Issues in the community economy (how much does DR want to encourage entrepreneurial initiative; what kinds of jobs are people seeking and with what degree of flexibility about hours; how weird is it to have a neighbor be your boss?)
o Review and adjustment of manager and committee assignment (kind of like a giant game of musical chairs)
o Membership questions (how many folks are people open to accepting as new members in the coming year; how much housing is available for new folks; how good a job are we doing integrating new members?)
o Restorative Circles (does the community want to embrace this approach to conflict resolution?)
o Review of agricultural policy (what can/should the community do to encourage internal food production; to what extent is food production on the land compatible with ecological covenants?)
o Registered sex offenders (how does the community want to handle this hot potato, balancing the need to provide safety while at the same time not abrogating civil liberties?)

Do these folks know how to have fun, or what?

I'll get the chance to sit in on selected conversations, for the most part my job this weekend is to make sure that the wood stove is stoked, the dishes are cleaned, and Ma'ikwe has a warm lunch waiting for her on the noon break.

In particular, I'm interested in the conversations about the DR economy because I'll be the lead teacher for the economic segment of the 37-day Ecovillage Education program that Ma'ikwe is the head hoopenpooper for this summer (June 30-Aug 5). I have in mind asking students to survey community members about what they're looking for in the way of business support and job opportunities, and then developing —either singly or in teams—a business plan that they think would be viable in the community. My hope is that this exercise will simultaneously ground the students learning about sustainable economics in a practical example, and produce data and ideas that will be valuable for the community after the students go home.

I'm also interested in the issues being brought forward by the Human Resources Committee because the second weekend of the retreat will be facilitated by students of Ma'ikwe's and my facilitation training, and one of those sessions will be a follow up on HR issues. By watching the front end of those talks, I'll have a much better handle on what will be needed a week from now.

One of the reasons that Ma'ikwe appreciates the fortnight of retreat is because her email traffic drops off (she's sitting next to me as I type this and was shocked that when she checked for new messages a few minutes ago—after being in meetings for five hours—that there were none. How could that be?!

Well, half of her normal communication load is internal traffic from fellow Rabbits. Once retreat starts, no one at DR is sending emails because they're all in meetings!

No comments: