Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Laird's Greatest Hits

This coming July I'm coming out… as a webinar presenter!

After 27 years in the saddle as a process consultant, I've developed a soup to nuts series of workshops covering most aspects of cooperative group dynamics. Think of it as the social side of sustainability. This is my current menu (in no particular order):

1. Consensus Headaches: Rx for meeting moments that are a pain for everyone
What's your worst meeting nightmare? Yelling & screaming? Participants breaking down in sobs? Sarcastic jokes? Nobody saying a word? Everyone talking at once? How about having no idea how to make things better? We'll look at all these and more. Participants are invited to bring their own consensus horror stories; I'll provide the wooden stakes (and answers).

2. Membership: questions you should have asked before joining
This workshop will present a set of basic questions that all groups must face in defining who they are and what it means to be a member: how to handle feedback among members, level of engagement in each other's lives, rights and responsibilities, grounds for involuntary loss of member rights, and the process by which someone joins the group and is asked to leave. We'll discuss why it's a potential disaster to delay answering these questions until they come up, and why most groups do it anyway.

3. The Essentials of Dynamic Facilitation: how to get through the agenda and build energy at the same time
Good meeting facilitation can make the difference between pain and gain. We'll look at the basic qualities needed to become a full-service facilitator, the process agreements needed to spread your wings, and how to recognize those magic moments when passion can be harnessed to transform binding into bonding.

4. But Seriously Folks... a close look at the two-edged sword of humor in meetings; how to encourage the good kind, and put a lid on the bad
All jokes are not created equal. With a light touch at the right time, a joke can relieve tension and buoy group energy. However, if it comes with a sarcastic bite, some may be laughing while others are steaming. And a joke at the wrong time may undercut a precious moment of vulnerability. We'll look at how to sort the good, the bad, and the ugly, and options for damage control if you get either of the last two.

5. Conflict: Fight, Flight, or Opportunity?
Does conflict mean your group is sick, or just paying attention? Starting with the premise that conflict is healthy and normal, we'll explore options for unlocking its potential using the whole person—rational, emotional, and intuitive. Rather than talking about "I" statements or being nice, we'll focus on what happens and what can be done when things get hot, concluding with a four-step plan for constructive engagement. Special attention will be given to the advantages of working in a group and in the dynamic moment, facilitated by those not in the stew.

6. Stump the Chumps
Ask our team of crackerjack consensus facilitators (cleverly disguised as Laird & Ma'ikwe) your tough questions about meeting dynamics, and we'll try to come up with brilliant and entertaining responses, showing how you don't have to be stuck (or stay stuck) after all. The format will be Q&A: you bring the Q and we'll supply all the A you can stand.

7. This is Delegated to the Ones I Love: a focused look at what should be done by the group as a whole and what shouldn't
For large groups working with consensus, it is crucial that they learn to delegate effectively (or the meetings will never end). This workshop will break down what work should/must be done in plenary and what can/should be delegated to a committee or manager. We'll lay out the essentials of a clear mandate, and the proper sequence of consideration that will empower committees and managers, yet keep their work in balance with whole group responsibilities. We'll talk about groups whose work is re-done in plenary and runaway committees who do way more than they were asked (bad, bad, bad.)

8. Consensus 101
Making decisions by consensus is an unnatural act. At least it is for people raised in a hierarchic and competitive culture—which is just about everybody. We'll go over the cooperative roots of consensus and explain why it requires unlearning old adversarial responses in order to succeed. We'll go over the essential ingredients of consensus, explain blocking and standing aside, and make the case for why it's the most efficient form of decision making, once you've learned how to do it well. Really.

9. Power Dynamics and Leadership in Cooperative Groups
While meetings are meant to be equally accessible to all members, the reality is they are not. This workshop will examine why power is unbalanced, and what a group can (should?) do to level the playing field. Not everyone is equally comfortable speaking in front of the whole group; not everyone finds rational discourse their strongest suit; not everyone can sit still for a three-hour meeting. We'll distinguish between "power over" and "power with" and discuss what groups can (must?) do to adopt healthy models of cooperative leadership.

10. Overview of the North American Intentional Communities Movement
In the world of intentional communities, there's kaleidoscopic variety. Find out from a community network veteran (who just earned his 40-year pin) what all is out there. I'll identify the major flavors available and how they're similar, yet unique. It's a big world out there, and the good news is that we all have more allies in our efforts to build a better world than we know.

11. Should You Start a Community or Join One?
For some people hungry for community life, this can be a fundamental fork in the road. While starting your own group may look like the clearest pathway to getting what you want, we'll explore the brambles you'll find along the way, and lay out the pros and cons of joining versus starting. There's more here than you might think!

12. Economic Leveraging Through Income Sharing: living the life you want without chasing so many dollars
Very few people choose to live in income-sharing communities. Yet many wish their lives were more economically sustainable. This workshop will explore the incredible economic leveraging available through sharing income. It's not just for families any more! Not only do you have more control over how you spent your time, you can more easily select work in line with your values and—through the miracle of sharing—you won't need nearly as many dollars to achieve a satisfying quality of life.

13. The Limits of Diversity
Almost all cooperative groups aspire to hold diversity as a core value. But how much diversity can you stand? Sure, you allow pets, but what about alligators—who eat small dogs and cats. How about people who can't stand any garlic in community meals or they'll throw up? More tenderly, how many people suffering from mental health challenges can you realistically accommodate? The key here is figuring out how to have a compassionate and authentic conversation about what's possible when you think you're close to the edge. It's work to stretch to include people who are different from each other and not everyone is inspired to stretch the same amount or in the same directions. Let's talk about how to talk about it! If you wait until you're there it may be too late.

14. Navigating the Swamp of Non-monetary Contributions by Members to the Group
This is the single most commonly requested topic I’m asked to help groups figure out—because it’s messy. While there are many ways to handle this well, in this workshop you’ll learn all the questions that need to be addressed, or the ambiguity will bite you in the butt. We’ll explore why groups want members to volunteer in support of the group, how to handle people’s wide variance in their skill and availability to do so, and understand the Martyrs & Slackers dynamic to which every group is susceptible.

• • •
Starting July 2 (that's a Wednesday if you're keeping score at home) and running for seven consecutive weeks ending Aug 13, I'll be offering through Ecovillage Education US two-hour live webinars on workshops 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 14. Participation will run $30 a pop, and you get $90 off if you sign up for all seven.

In addition, EEUS will be offering a couple of mini-courses this summer:

Starting an Intentional Community • July 26-Aug 1
Faculty: Ma'ikwe Ludwig, Alyson Ewald, Laird Schaub

Seven days of total immersion at Dancing Rabbit, this is a boot camp for would-be community founders. (It turns out that good intentions and a pure heart are not enough!)

Encountering Climate Change • Aug 22-24
Faculty: Ma'ikwe Ludwig, Alyson Ewald, Danielle Williams, Joan Shagbark

This three-day retreat at Dancing Rabbit will be a Joanna Macy-style exploration of the overwhelm many of us experience when trying to cope with global change.

I hope you can join us for one of more of this cornucopia of offerings!

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