How's Your Process Committee?
From: Mary Rose (
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2001 21:10:03 -0600 (MDT)

Rod Sandelin asked this question some time ago.
Since then I have written a draft or two, asked members and ex-members 
to read it, and used their responses to shape this story.
The answer to Rod's question from this corner of the globe is 'Not 
at all well. 
The process team at Earthsong,Aotearoa/New Zealand was sacked.'
It happened several months ago among high feelings that included
outrage, hurt, confusion, fear and helplessness.
I was in the midst of all that. It was excrutiatingly painful and
Answering Rod's question has been a chance for me to
tease out some of the painful knots that occurred , begin to make sense
of what happened, talk with others about it and maybe offer something to
the discussion on the role of process committees.
This is my view  and my perception may change as I listen to others.
The process team at Earthsong was a small group that arranged rituals
celebrations, a workshop on facilitation,  fireside conversations,
breakfast meetings to talk about power, a healing process after the
architect selection, venues and rosters of roles for meetings,
delightful dinners, asked questions about the financial process of the
project and about the leadership style that was evolving.
The process team also loved to talk about the dynamics of power: the way
decisions were being made in the full group:  who got heard and who
didn't: about what gets said and what doesn't - and what stops people
speaking out: about what it feels like to be in this  cohousing project.
Some of  the process team were in painful places in the power structure.
The process team talked about patterns in the big group that seemed to
contribute to this. Our discussions were minuted: observations and
comments about the dynamics were sent out to the full group.
The few responses to these  observations and suggestions were quite
difficult and did not lead to understanding among those in the process
team and those not. 
Except for one time when a member was so incensed
when she read a piece in our minutes about 'power' that she accused the
people in the process team of insanity. That in turn, so touched the
outrage of a process team member that we invited the incensed woman to
meet with us. Out of that meeting came an understanding of her concern
that our focus on the dynamics of power would have the effect of
undermining the task:  ie, it would stop people putting energy into
getting the houses built.
All this is hardly surprising. 
In any group, one of the most difficult issues is the dynamics of power
(try asking "Who's boss around here?" and "What happens when anyone
disagrees with the boss?"). And with the wisdom of hindsight, some of
the inadequacies we saw and named in the whole group were present -
mostly unnamed- in the process team.
What happened in Earthsong is about normal. 
However, in my view,Earthsong is not about 'normal'. It is about finding
ways for sustainable relating and working co-operatively as well as
houses. The vision statement says so.
Major confrontations happened in the full group and a proposal was
brought to sack the process team. I was faced with what seemed to me to
be the choice between loyalty to the process team  and commitment to
building the houses, including mine. I chose the latter and did not
block the decision to sack the team. Some members left. I stayed:
It was a weird process. I was terrified!
And it released the whole group of the need to deal with the conflict
that was among us and freed  energy to continue with the building.
So --- the houses of Earthsong are rising. 
And lovely they are!
 Slowly - ever so slowly - the issues that the process team were
noticing and talking about are being named and ways of dealing with them
are being found:  the difficulty of saying/hearing hard things,
scapegoating, fear, hurt, suspicion, what happens to those who disagree,
sacking, expulsion, how to deal with conflict in the whole group.
These aspects of being in a group lie in the dark of our being. They are
easily noticed: hard to talk about.  It is even harder to find ways of
talking about them together so that learnings can be made and better
ways found.
I think it must be done!
I do not know how - yet.
Now there is no process team in Earthsong. Some aspects of process are
being picked up by other focus groups or individuals. 
Reading back over the process team minutes I found these words. As I
read them now, I think they have a wisdom I did not fully understand at
the time they were written. "
"This group (the process team) is a vessel. It holds the processes of
the full group. We know and understand these processes - many of them
difficult. We do not have answers, nor should we be required to. At some
time all or part of this knowledge and holding will be offered to the
group by one, other or all of us. Others are welcome to join us at any

Building a neighbourhood cooperatively must be the ultimate challenge in
balancing task and process.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to find a way of doing this task and attending
to the process, including an understanding of the dynamics of power.
Has anyone done  it?

Mary Rose
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