RE: Group vision/goals
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 94 09:50 CDT
Nancy Wight  wrote:

>In a conversation with one of our members last night, the topic came
>up about people pushing for their own political agenda when that agenda
>was never one of the stated primary goals of the group.  This person
>said to me, "I don't care what the founders intended.  Our group is
>different now".  I did not know how to respond.  Being one of the founders,
>I found this very unsettling.

When I was first investigating Sharingwood, I had an hour long talk 
with one of the founders of the community.  She painted a vision of 
cooperation that I totally agreed with and immeadiately we put in our 
money and became members.  Several months later I came to realize that 
the vision talk I had heard, was not given to everyone, and as a matter 
of fact there were some people who didn't see that vision at all.

This caused me to put leadership into getting us to define our 
community vision, clearly and in writing, so there was no more 
confusion. This was not easy, nor has it reamained constant, and I am 
sure that some of the founders found our new vision somewhat unsettling.

I think what made this work out for us was the general tolerance and 
patience that seems to be a virtue of my tribe.  I know I have pushed 
some peoples tolerance limits with some of the ways I have promoted my 
ideals, and to their credit and my benefit, they told me honestly and 
openly how they felt, and from that I grew and learned how to be a 
better member.

When we have a values dispute, which happens at least a couple times a 
year, one of the things we do is a tolerance framing, where we openly 
ask what each other can live with.  This just occured last weekend when 
we did a eclectic sort of tree falling ritual in our commonhouse site.  
There was a wierd "vibe" and so afterwards we all got together and 
talked about how we felt and there were some members who felt very 
uncomfortable with the pagan nature of the ritual.  Rather than get 
locked into conflict we talked about how each of us could meet our 
needs without infringing upon the tolerance level of another.  It was a 
great discusssion and we came away from it with a new understanding of 
each other and our needs for ritual.

It is very easy to get blinded by values, the notion that "this is the 
ONLY way" is hammered into us, especially by western religions.  I 
think the first step  is for the individual to define what are your 
needs and how can you meet them, within the context of cooperative 
endeavor.  The next step is to work to understand what the others needs 
are and how far you can go to meet their needs.  The key process in all 
of this is open, honest communicaiton in a non-business meeting format. 
 Too often we want to apply solutions when what we really need to do is 
listen to each other, fully and with our hearts.  In my experience, 
Sharing Circles work really well for this.

I have seen situations in community where the group values were very 
broad and collections of members formed subgroups to support a more 
specific set of values.  This can work if the small groups keep good 
relationships with the whole, and there is not exclusivity, us and 
them, sort of dialog or mentality.  For example at Sharingwood there is 
a subset of the membership who has a very strong service value. They 
are active in a local prison literacy program, a youth outreach program 
and some other things. Occasionally Sharingwood as whole contributes 
energy to one of their projects and sometimes our facilities are used.  
Public service could easily have been a group value but instead it was 
realized that as noble as that value may be, it is a shoe that doesn't 
fit everyone, and so it was left to the individuals to carry out their 
service value and it is not any obligation on anyone else.  As a result 
of this service leadership some people have the impression that what 
these individuals do is a part of the community, when it is something 
which the community enables and supports but does not mandate.

I would encourage groups to support values of the membership in 
whatever ways are reasonable, but to tread cautiously when assigning 
mandates of what you must or must not beleive. I think a good test to 
ask yourself when creating group values is what will the affect be if 
someone doesn't beleive this way? If that affect would seriously 
destroy the fabric of the community, it is a good candidate for 
inclusion as a core value.  For example just about every cohousing 
values statement I have seen has the concept of Cooperation in it.  
This would be a core value. If someone came in who really did not want 
to cooperate in any way and ust wanted to live completely independently 
it would really damage the community.

The tolerance of people who have radically opposing values is a very 
difficult thing to work through and is a major stress.   If the core 
group has strong environmental values and wants to express that value 
in its materials and design, as well as recycling, car pooling etc. and 
a new person comes in who thinks that environmental values are stupid 
and a waste of time there is going to be great potential for conflicts. 
That is why having core values stated in writing and signed by 
prospective members is important. It saves you that stress and 
conflict.  By having a membership which is willing at a minimum to 
tolerate the values of the group make progress forward much easier.  A 
Rush Limbaugh at Sharingwood would seriously derail our progress and 
cause enourmous conflicts.  However, Rush Limbaugh would never sign our 
principles and agreements and so hopefully we will never have such a 
viewpoint within our community.

This points out the diversity in values is proportional to  your 
tolerance, communication and cooperation level.  In an ideal world, 
Rush Limbaugh could live at Sharingwood and we could somehow learn to 
work through our conflicts.  In practically terms, I am glad we don't 
have that stress and time wasting conflict to deal with, even if that 
means I don't live in "true" diversity.  I am content to let Rush live 
in his own community where I would not fit in.

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