RE: Dogs, clotheslines and other related matters
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Sat, 6 Feb 1999 20:46:41 -0600
There are dozens and dozens of things that will arise which have potential
to "keep the pot stirred" in the venacular of a friend of mine. The issue of
the week will change and have different people aligned on it. One week it
may be how to deal with slugs in the garden, another may be cats killing
birds, then kids behavior at dinner will raise to the forefront and perhaps
renters will come up next.  Living in a community setting means learning how
to deal with all these things. This sometimes catches people by surprise,
and also can cause some dismay.

Rather than try to set up solutions for problems you may not have, you might
be better served to create a culture of paying attention to problems,
working in small groups, and deciding on HOW to deal with differing levels
of issues. Trust me, involving the whole group in everything will burn out
even the most hardcore members eventually. You will want a process to define
what are problems the whole group should grapple with vs. those which a
subset can run with a solve. The garden issue you mention is a classic small
group issue. Typically only  a handful of people will actually be interested
in the garden and those people should decide. Gardens are like woodworking
shops. Lots of people SAY they are interested, but you will notice that only
a few really put time and energy into it.

The greatest difficulty will be setting up a system so that issues do NOT
get ignored. This is the most common group dynamic problem I see, and it is
very easy to ignore things, in some cases it is what people want to do. They
will avoid talking about or looking at issues because it can be messy or
require a lot of time to deal with so its easier just to pretend it does not
exist. I worked with a group on their pet issues which had escalated to the
point where people had left the group. They were all in denial about it, I
forced them to confront the issue, they did not like it at all, had been
avoiding it for months, and finally the dam broke and it was really a gut
wringer. If they had worked on it when it first became an issue it would
have been SO much less intense. Instead, all this polarization happened and
incidence built up like a pressure cooker until it exploded. We handled the
explosion in that case pretty well and found once it was over, that people
were very releaved.

When I examine groups and their problems I find there are often no processes
in place for people to deal with their issues. Often these issues don't fit
in the business meeting agenda, and people may be unwilling to bring certain
things in front of everybody anyway. In my opinion, your best work might be
to design a meeting or communication structure where people can bring up
their issues in a comfortable and non-threatening way.

I have lots of examples of how to do this. E-mail me for ideas if this is
something you want to explore.

Rob Sandelin
Floriferous [at]
Northwest Intentional Communties Association
Building a better society, one neighborhood at a time

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