Creating Community: Critical Skills for Intentional Community Governance

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage’s Online Education Series


This is a set of seven two-hour videos recorded one per week in front of a live audience in the summer of 2014. The series was originally created and produced by Sol Space Consulting. It covers topics of core interest to cooperative groups trying to create and sustain cooperative culture. Each webinar includes lecture, augmented by visuals that hone in on the heart of the topic. The principal presenter is Laird Schaub, who helped start Sandhill Farm in 1974, and the Fellowship for Intentional Community in 1987. He has been a consultant in cooperative group dynamics since 1987 and these presentations represent a distillation of his decades of experience in the field.

In each webinar, Laird Schaub helps you build up your capacity as an effective leader in your community.

Classes are available for $35 each (click the Watch It Now buttons next to each class below)

It’s only $150 for the 6 webinar series PLUS the Stump the Chumps Q & A.

Class 1: Consensus 101

This decision-making process is by far the most common choice among cooperative groups yet many groups struggle to get good results from this Quaker adaptation, mainly because they fail to appreciate the personal work needed to make a successful shift from the competitive culture in which we’ve all been deeply conditioned, to the cooperative culture we are striving to create. This webinar lays out the essential ingredients needed to make consensus work well, a concise explanation of an effective sequence for tackling issues in plenary, and a detailed examination of blocking—a bugaboo for many.

Class 2: Working with conflict

Though all groups experience conflict, most have nothing in place for dealing with it effectively (the most common approach is to avoid it as much as you can and then pray for survival when that no longer works). Laird has a better idea, which includes making room for on-topic emotional expression, decoupled from aggression. When conflict does emerge, he has a simple, yet effective method for working with it that does not require anyone to admit fault, alter their values, or change their personality. The key is focusing on repairing damage to relationship; not on ascertaining the truth.

Class 3: Membership issues for communities

All groups have members, yet many groups fail to ask the right questions when evaluating prospectives. In this webinar you’ll learn about crucial membership aspects that are very expensive if you’re vague about them. While various answers can work; having none will invariably lead to ambiguity that is guaranteed to bite you in the butt. This webinar will look at rights & responsibilities, your commitment to integrating new members, what’s in place to support free-flowing feedback among members, what membership portends about how much members will be in each other’s lives, and how you handle exit dynamics.

Class 4: Participation

This focuses on non-monetary contributions to the well-being and maintenance of a healthy group. Attention will be divided among three categories: physical maintenance (raking leaves, cleaning floors, taking out the compost); governance (serving on committees, attending plenaries); and social (organizing celebrations, bringing chicken soup to sick neighbors). You’ll get a list of 14 questions, the answers to which will go a long way toward lifting the fog on how your group defines this complex element of community life. Example: How do you want to balance fairness (everyone does their fair share) with flexibility (life circumstances vary enormously)?

Class 5: Facilitation

For groups wanting to make the transition to cooperative culture having skilled facilitation can make a night and day difference in how that goes. We will go over the facilitator’s essential skill set: how to screen potential facilitators for a good fit with the agenda; the need to work facilely with both content and energy; how to sequence issue engagement for optimal efficiency and buy-in; the authorization needed to manage meeting dynamics; the skills needed to bridge non–trivial differences in what to value and what’s acceptable risk; when to get help—either from inside the group or outside.

Class 6: Power Dynamics

Power is invariably distributed unevenly in groups and is situation specific. The key question is not so much whether your group will have tensions around how power is distributed—it will—as whether you can discuss it openly, particularly the incendiary situation where someone feels they have used their power for the benefit of all while others think it was used for the benefit of some and at the expense of others. We will also look at why groups need models of healthy leadership yet seldom spell out what they want—setting it up for leaders to get creamed.

Class 7: Stump the chumps – Q&A

Ma’ikwe Ludwig, another experienced consultant, joins Laird for this question-and-answer session about vexing inquiries from the audience about cooperative group dynamics. This recording includes a thorough delineation of Laird’s reservations about sociocracy (aka dynamic governance) as a decision-making system in intentional communities. Sociocracy is an adaptation of consensus from The Netherlands that has been touted as an answer to the tediousness that many groups experience with regular consensus. Laird is concerned that it is essentially a high-structure solution to what is mainly an energetic problem rooted in a poor understanding of what it takes to do consensus well.

Series Package: A deeply-discounted way to get access to the entire series!