Celebrating Our First Official VUE Mission Circle Meeting

Sky Masters, Rob O’Neil, Cliff Mikkelson and I met last night for two hours to have a combination of deepening our connection and getting projects planned. The time sped by and we all experienced hope and deepened commitment to the project as we flowed together so beautifully. I will be publishing the minutes for the meeting soon, but for now I would like to share with you a letter I sent to the members of the Mission Circle. We are the guiding group for the community.
We call it mission circle because we are adopting Sociocracy 3.0 as our governing system, and this is a term that refers to the group that helps an organization make sure that we are staying true to the mission. Similar to a board of directors, this circle is doing a lot of move VUE forward.
Here is the letter I felt inspired to send.
Good morning. How grateful I am feeling for your presence in my life, and in our mission circle. Each of your contributions are invaluable! I am in awe of how the Universe has supplied our vision with you, the people who are perfectly suited to complement each other, and to help me heal, and feel safe.
I can safely say “our vision”, for at last I feel confident that we are all taking ownership for this project. Tears come to my eyes as I think about our meeting last night, and all that has lead up to this. A total of 50 years of friendship with you all is part of why we can do this:
Cliff: 44 years
Sky: 5 years (almost)
Rob: 1 year (almost)
And we had our meeting on the Spring Equinox. And a full moon. And a super moon. We did not plan it so, but it is significant that we did have our first official Mission Circle meeting on a date that was so significant. It will be easy to celebrate our anniversary!
I feel inspired to start planting a seed of another purpose for our community: we will have a thriving healing practice where people (especially vegans, but not limited to them) who need healing — body, mind and soul–can come and immerse themselves in both the powerfully positive, loving community and receive services that can address their specific needs.
I believe that living in vegan communities is the healthiest way to live, and will be our key to survival as a species. We want to make this accessible to everyone. I am so glad that we as a group can nurture our connection to each other, and demonstrate the essence of what VUE is about.
I look forward to hearing about each of you taking the time to get to know each other. I know we all are busy–yet when something is important, we will take the time. I can guarantee that you will all be enriched by developing friendships with each other. I have the blessing of connection with all of you–practically on a daily basis, and I want you all to be blessed! And as the fabric of our friendships are woven even more tightly with trust and mutual support building, that will enrich the quality of our meetings.
I am committed to focusing the next few days on doing all the things I said I would do. I have been working for money for the past week or so, and I am eager to move forward on the beautiful projects that we have on our plate.
Thank you, each of you, for being part of this beautiful endeavor. I will end with a harmony story:
“We are celebrating our year anniversary ​on the spring equinox in 2020. We are so glad that through a series of unplanned (by us) circumstances we had our first official Mission Circle meeting on March 20, the spring equinox, because we can now add to the meaning of this beautiful time of year–the celebration of the official beginning of VUE becoming a community of 4 people. 
Now that we have 50 people living on the land, with many more ​participating from a distance, we are thriving! Our Learning Center, and healing center have been wildly successful endeavors, each complementing the other. People from all over the world come to visit and immerse themselves in the positive, loving environment consisting of the animals in the small Farm Animal Sanctuary (located on Barbara’s land that she purchased which is adjacent to the VUE land), the natural setting, and the people.
They experience not only teaching and healing practices, but the pure love of people who celebrate oneness with each other and with all who come.
​After the first class that was offered, we were able to host many talented teachers who became part of our long distance and on the land staff.
We easily raised the $500 for legal fees and then $50,000 for finishing the infrastructure. Everything flowed, even though there were so many details to attend to. We were guided by the Universe and felt supported and loved in the process. and of course, our mutual support was invaluable.
Our first year celebration is the first of many, I’m sure–and soon very soon we will be hosting a class in how to create a Vegan community from scratch. We have the best model available, proved by our 1 year growth, and we are training mentors to go to help people to start communities because having someone on hand in person is so valuable. We are able to do all this on a donation basis since we have found a vegan billionaire to fund us. We even are able to buy land for people so responsible people who align with our values can start communities! They are like franchises–so that if you go to one community, you can feel confident that it will have the attributes of the original  Vegan Utopia Ecovillage–even if it doesn’t have that name.
What is really exciting is that we are able to support animal rights activists who have previously struggled because of mental illness, lack of support, and feeling isolated. We have helped activists create healthy community circles which have then lead to their desire to live together, and so we are buying houses so we can set up activist houses which also serve as neighborhood resources centers. We are teaching people how to grow gardens, prepare healthy vegan food, and set up Time Banks so that the gift economy can thrive.
Wow! What a feeling of accomplishment we have. It was all because 4 people committed to one vision–Vegan Utopia Ecovillage. And they were willing to use their gifts, talents, resources to make this vision happen!
Thank you, good and loving Universe.”
I love writing harmony stories–they help me get in touch with deeper dreams. I hope to hear your responses,  my friends.
love, peace, joy!
If you have any comments about this, I would love to hear them!

Welcome: Our Newest “Mission Circle” Member: Rob McNeil

Now that we are using Sociocracy 3.0 as our governing system, we call our board of directors our Mission Circle. Thank you, Rob McNeil, for your wonderful support. I met Rob almost a year ago when Rob lead the LIVE tour and stopped in our neck of the woods. LIVE stands for Love-based Intentional Vegan Experience. I am so glad that Rob initiated this wonderful tour!

Sky, Cliff and I, who have been on the mission circle for the past 2 years, are very grateful to have Rob on board.

Here is his bio:

I went vegan 2+ years ago after visiting a farm sanctuary and making the connection that ‘we are who we eat’, and spending a summer with an already vegan daughter. A Financial Controller by trade, I plan to apply 3 decades of business experience to help forge the VUE into a strong, stable institution.

A New Zealander by birth, I have  lived in Canada for 30 years now. I am an organizer or supporter of several animal rights organizations, including Save, Anonymous For the Voiceless and DxE.

I am intimately involved with a group working on reframing the AR movement to a clearer abolitionist stance, as well as helping lead the fight against a new massive slaughterhouse in his hometown in Canada.

I lead a tour of midwestern USA mega slaughterhouse towns in 2018 and I  look forward to touring more in the future.

My other interests include astronomy, anti-capitalism, NVC, guitar and travel.

I am committed to social justice initiatives in general, and activism for animals in particular. These agendas are best advanced by being in community with like-minded people. I think it’s very important for ventures like VUE to succeed. In particular, VUE has the potential to blend Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and Healthy Community practices in a new way and rewrite the book on vegan intentional communities. I am excited to help in any way possible.


Weekly Updates–March 16, 2019

I write a weekly email to the Mission Circle members, Sky, Rob, and Cliff. This is an edited version and I hope this gives you a sense of what we are doing so that you might more easily see how you fit in if you are interested.
Let me know what you think in the comments section.
I feel so encouraged! here is why:
Today was the final 1- hour session that Rob committed to do with me. We met a total of 6  times over the past two weeks because Rob wanted to help me gain momentum. And he really did! Our final work was to get the list of all the things that are needed to finish getting VUE finished–in one place. On Trello. We both felt a deep sense of satisfaction. I’m glad that Rob is really getting the big picture of what needs to be done. Of course he is willing to help more, but not an hour every day at this point at least! Thank you Rob!
Diana Leafe Christiansen had sent me a bunch of pdfs which I made into google docs. And I did research on the Federation of Egalitarian communities website, which has a ton of documents on their site. With Rob’s help, now those resources are all on one place, in Trello. My plan is to take one full day and just dive into the list and see if I can knock it out! I feel more motivated knowing it is all organized.
Cliff and I continue to talk almost every night–with the exception of when we meet during the day–like we did last Thursday. We had a productive meeting at the library. It is amazing how much there is to discuss! The more we all talk about community, the more real it feels! Thank you, Cliff, for being my friend all these years, and for being a part of this project which we actually have dreamed of for 43 years!
On a side note. I remember how Cliff and I wrote Dennis Weaver, who was a famous actor at the time. He also was a Self Realization Fellowship member.  We asked him if he would buy some land so we could start an intentional community. We got a polite note from his secretary–no go. We tried! That was 42 years ago! I was 22, Cliff was 32.
Sky and I had a good talk last night and he is really committed to making the upcoming community skills class a success. I also found out that he is good at making banners for Facebook events and pages–which is a very strong need we have. He has a lot of marketing and promotional skills which I he will have lots of opportunities to use.
Kim Broniman and I got together to talk about the upcoming online course for developing healthy community skills. We have some very concrete ideas as to how to proceed. I really appreciate how we work together, and how willing she is to put in the time to do this. Sky, Kim and I will meet fairly soon to get all details finalized. We are so encouraged by how our friendship circle with Sky has evolved and helped each of us grow-and we want to share that with others.
I will be presenting about how to facilitate a healthy community circle. I still need to finalize my ideas–but it is something that is very important to me. It will be a tool we will use in VUE-possibly a daily practice. I have heard now that two very successful ecovillages do daily processing to make sure all accounts are clear.
I’m glad that Robert, my former husband and partial owner of the VUE land is so helpful. When I stayed up at the VUE land, I forgot my keys, and got my car stuck–he came right over to help. I’m glad we are moving forward on the official sale of his land to VUE.
While I was at VUE land, I planted the garden, hauled off a car load of trash that was really looking ugly, and made good headway on cleaning up the land around the garden. I also got a lot of cardboard put on the garden to stifle the invasive weeds and feed the worms. I am envisioning a super productive garden this year. The reason we have trash is–well, it is a long story to be told later!
I have been working for money as much as I can so I can pay the mortgage on April 1. I’ve done my best to keep my life free of bills for the past  year since our funding ran out.  At first, having this mortgage burden seemed overwhelming. But I believe that we as a team are going to come up with some creative ideas as to how to get the land paid for ASAP including doing a Kickstarter.
Cliff, Rob and I talked about doing a small Kickstarter to help pay for lawyers fees for the deed transfer and the LLC and Cliff is willing to host the Kickstarter. he already has an account with GoFundMe. I hope that this project can flow–I have so much on my plate. I feel a bit nervous–what if no one wants to donate? But what if people do!
My home situation where I trade for my room and most of my food, continues to go well. Debi pays me for doing work over 8 hours (which is my weekly trade for the room)–and there is a lot to do. So I can work at home.
I have been thinking about the idea of some people paying to stay on the land. I can’t wait to write down my ideas–but I appreciate the encouragement that Cliff and Rob gave me. I am not sure if I told Sky. But I want to write a quick harmony story about that right now:
“I am so happy that we have 5 people who want to pay to participate in community building camp that we are hosting at VUE. We decided to have a special 1 week at a time course–with different themes–but also if people have something they really want to do, we consider their needs. I am so happy I came up with all the details, learning from the camps that I found out about through sociocracy for all. We did a great promotional campaign and the best people possible applied to come. Now I don’t have to go to town to work, and people are actually helping to do things like the big Kickstarter to raise the $50k to finish the Ecovillage infrastructure and buy the land.
This is so joyful for me–people can come and see if they like the land, Cliff and I, and the project. We can get to know them, also. They are yearning to learn about how to build community–and we are all learning together! Some have decided to apply for provisional membership, and want to build tree houses! I feel so satisfied and happy. The end”
Thanks for listening to all of this!
I’ve been listening to a bunch of videos on sociocracy and I continue to feel very inspired about this method–especially sociocracy 3.0. I
Here is a resource to look over about feedback for sociocracy: http://www.sociocracyforall.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/on-feedback_ELC.pdf
Here is a video I found interesting about consent decision making and sociocracy in community: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkXOXeD50wQ&t=447s
I feel grateful to each one of you who are in the mission circle, and those who are supporting us. Thank you for being the community we want to see happen!
And thank you folks who chose to read this. I hope you feel inspired! Leave your comments below!

Power, Governance and Decision Making in Community: Diana Leaf Christian

This is a revised Chapter 6, in the book, “Creating a Life Together” (Diana Leafe Christian. She re-wrote this chapter based on her own experience and the experiences of others. Diana has coached our team and we are continuing to use her services. You can learn more about her at her website https://dianaleafechristian.org

We are adopting Sociocracy 3.0 as our governing system which will hopefully alleviate the problems described in this chapter. Diana recommends Sociocracy as the ideal governing system.  My research and experience has guided me to recommend this to our Mission Circle (similar to a board of directors) and we are trying this out. Here is an article that describes the difference between Sociocracy and Sociocracy 3.0

Here is a google doc with the entire chapter.


Outline For “Practices for Building Community ” Course

This is the beginning of working on our our first course. I am so excited! Cliff and Scott are going to be working on this with me, and I’m sure the other members of our mission circle, plus our Resource Person, Amrit, will be weighing in on this. 

Practices for building healthy Community

Learn skills that are invaluable for creating and sustaining nurturing friendships which lead to healthy communities. This 3 hour workshop will help anyone cultivate healthy friendships, and bring those friends together into a healthy community–both residential, in person, and long distance.

Most of these practices and structures will include a short introduction, an exercise to practice, and resources on line which can help you deepen the skills. Making the habit of using these practices can lead to having a greater degree of emotional intelligence.

  • Prevent conflicts: Tell the truth quickly by identifying, celebrating, and sharing incompletions
  • Set healthy boundaries:  Use Nonviolent Communication to share your needs with compassion
  • Avoiding burn out and achieve thriving health:  Self care and nurturing the Vagus Nerve
  • Toxic relationships: How to identify, avoid, and escape
  • Connecting Exercises: Practice “Dyads” to encourage vulnerability and intimacy
  • Friendship Pledge: Set intentions to strengthen relationships
  • A structure for friendship deepening: Learn a structure that is like the banks of a river so that the love between friends can flow abundantly
  • Listening Empathically: A cornerstone of great relationships
  • Oneness: Share the spirituality of connection with all life– without religion
  • Celebration and appreciation: Authentic appreciation to build trust
  • Anger Transformation: Use the “learning letter” to magically change anger into unconditional love
  • Playing/dancing/singing: Bring light into your relationships to nurture the inner child
  • Building Trust: Make deposits into your friends’ emotional bank accounts by keeping the Four Agreements
  • Healing Past Trauma: Create a safe space so people can release those layers of negativity
  • Supporting Equality: Consent Decision making so decisions can be made that are good enough for now, safe enough to try. Intro to Sociocracy 3.0
  • Values identification: Make sure you have solid shared ethical foundation to avoid irreconcilable difference
  • Putting it all together: Come together in healing, nurturing, restorative circles
  • Long distance communities: Use conference calls, zoom, FB messaging to connect
  • Buddy System: Create a network of friends who you can call on for emotional first aid

What do you think of this list of practices? Do you have any others to add? What resources would you like to share to help people develop practices for healthy community.


Exciting News and Updates Mar. 2, 2019

Today we will hold our 3rd “mission circle” meeting. A mission circle is similar to a board of directors. Since we are using Sociocracy 3.0 as our governance system, this is a name often used to describe the circle that performs many of the same functions as a board.

I feel really excited to be sharing updates with this wonderful circle which is made up of Cliff Mikkelson, Scott Masters, Rob McNeil, Kyle Luzynski, and myself.

Here are the announcements that I will be sharing. The first item–I just heard about this morning, so not even they know!

  1. We Are Meeting a Need! Direct Action Everywhere is going to start a campaign similar to the way that Bernie Sanders did his. They will use Slack.com (yay–we are starting to use that!) and a weekly call so that everyone can share knowledge, resources, and strategies. They want to encourage small groups to get together to run with this.

    I feel happy because they are not needing I am going to get the link where we can sign up and be a part of that. I learned this on the monthly donors call that is held every Sat. morning. I asked Wayne if they were going to encourage people to start community circles and he was very happy that I asked this question–and acknowledged that I came to Berkeley and helped get this project off the ground!

    He said they will definitely be encouraging people to connect, build friendships, and be there for each other. And they still haven’t gotten as much training about healthy community circle building as I would like. They need us!

2. Our First Course. I hope to have an outline for the 3 hour course, Skills for Building Healthy Communities (working name).  Cliff has completed his 20 minute section on Oneness, and Sky and I are going to meet tomorrow to talk about moving this project forward. Cliff is going to help with editing and giving feedback–two things he is great at!

3. Cooperation With DxE: When Wayne answered my question about community, he spoke for about 3 minutes about how essential it is for animal rights activists to have a place where they feel a sense of belonging. “50% of activists leave the movement because of burn out and feeling a lack of support,” he said. I am so excited because now we can support the Ban Fur movement, which is truly becoming international, with our healthy community building skills.

I will be joining the weekly calls and getting on the Slack channel. I will also find out who is in charge of this, and see if we can have a channel on healthy community building! I will offer to be in charge of this channel. I am really glad to be reconnecting with DxE.

4. Limited Liability Corporation: I’m 99% sure we will be forming a Limited Liability Corporation for the Vegan Utopia Ecovillage.  The reasons are as follows:

a. It is one of the simplest legal entities to form. Easier than a non-profit
b. This is highly recommended by Diana Leafe Christian, author of Creating Life Together,  one of the leading experts in forming intentional communities. You can find a document she has written about legal stuff and communities here. Plus, she is our coach! She owes me about an hour of time, and she has agreed to look over our final documents and give recommendations and feedback.
c.  Kickstarter campaign check list recommends creating an LLC.

I am going to take this course about how to start an LLC and see what I can do on my own. I might get a lawyer to look at it if necessary.

5. I am getting a notebook together in order to stay more organized. There are three major projects that VUE is working on and I want to be able to put resources and notes in the notebook, as well as create folders in google docs. Here are the three main projects which each have google docs that are serving as check lists for me to work off of.

a. Community Building Checklist: Recently I re-connected with Diana Leafe Christian, and she sent me a whole slew of google docs that I can edit and adopt for our community. This check list was one of them. I have written updates as to how we are doing on the check list.

b. Kickstarter Checklist: Kyle and Rob agreed that they want to help with creating a crowdfunding campaign in order to raise the $16,500 which is owed for the property, and about $20,000 to finish the infrastructure on the land so people can semi-comfortably live there. I am excited that social media presence is important for successful campaigns. With Chris’s help, when he worked for me, we have large followings on Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. Also, since we have been around for almost 3 years, that gives us credibility as well. Did you know we have one video on hugelkultur gardening that has over 80,000 views?

c. Learning Center Description:  This document describes all the things that we can teach at the learning center. Many of these classes are ones that Cliff, Amrit and I can teach. Amrit is not able to be on the Mission Circle as this time, but she wants to be a resource person.  We still need to figure out a name for the Learning Center, especially since in the beginning it will be on line. Also, we want courses to appeal to both vegans and non vegans, and we are figuring that out as well.

Thanks to circle members for helping do research on the best platform. I am leaning towards Teachable. Here is a link to a review by a person I trust. $29 a month is the basic fee for unlimited courses which I think is doable. This is so exciting–to think that we can attract people who are interested in VUE who are teachers and want to do courses even if they don’t live here.

5. Thank You,  Mission Circle Members! I just want to thank all the members of the circle for being so faithful in showing up and being supportive. Their encouragement, presence and advice has motivated me immensely.  I connect with Cliff, Rob, Kyle and Sky throughout the week to get advice and ideas. Amrit has contributed to ideas as well, plus we do an emotional release session every Friday which helps me to stay emotionally healthy.

We are all working together so wonderfully! Building friendships as we work on projects is the way to build healthy community!

6. Co-founders Meetings: Cliff and I have kept our commitment to talk every night unless we have a meeting. Except for one night when his phone didn’t ring, we have met every single day, and this has really helped us feel as if we truly are co-founders–not just me running the show! I am getting better at writing down the things we talk about so that we can be more transparent (a very important aspect of Sociocracy) and organized. The minutes of our meetings can be found here.

7. Sociocracy Class Report:  I was thinking about dropping out of my sociocracy class because I wasn’t learning as much as I wanted, and my time is so precious. But I am sensing that it will be good for me and the group if I finish the class.  However, we will be talking in our next meeting about adopting Sociocracy 3.0 as our governance system. You can find out more about why this is different from basic Sociocracy here. Although in my class I encountered some disappointing dynamics which didn’t seem congruent with sociocratic principles, my experience gave me more confidence to go forward with trying out the various structures and skills.

Plus, I saw first hand what the weaknesses of basic Sociocracy were, so I could more intelligently embrace Sociocracy 3.0. I had been exposed to S-3 first, but because they didn’t have as much training as the Sociocracy for All organization, I thought SoFA was the way to go. Now, S-3 has a lot more videos, the explanations are clearer, and they have revised some stuff.

I see that all of the skills and structures that S-3 offers, and gives away freely, can be used in our Skills for Building Healthy Community course. I also love that they encourage people to improve upon the skills and structures they share in such detail on their website and change them however we like. Maybe they will use our changes! And maybe we will add more skills to the tool box.

8. Today we will go over the Friendship Pledge and have a simple ceremony where we share in our own words what the pledge means to us personally. Today, March 2, 2019, will be the official beginning of the Mission Circle where we make a commitment to each other and to the project to work together for the next 6 months, at which time we will review our commitment and see if we can make a longer commitment.

Our two previous meetings gave us an opportunity to all get to know each other better and get a taste of what it will be like to meet on a conference call every month and stay in contact throughout the month. Our one hour conference calls were so harmonious and uplifting, and we got a lot done in an hour.  A description of what it means to be a Mission Circle member is found here.

9. Weekly Reports: I need to make a checklist of what to include in the weekly reports. I am going to start posting them on a blog, and encouraging everyone to subscribe to the blog so that mission circle members will get notifications about new blog posts, and be up to date on everything. This also will be great for people who are interested in being involved who want to hear updates. I am ready to prioritize my time to keep people posted. Partly this is because it is a foundational part of Sociocracy 3.0, and because I want people to see how we are evolving and how exciting it is to be involved with this.

I would love it if you would write any comments and let me know what you are thinking and how you felt about this blog post.