I found this article to be most helpful in explaining why it is that it is so hard for intentional communities or any group efforts to succeed. I am glad to be learning all about Sociocracy, a system of governance which helps us to transform our self-centered inclinations and focus on helping everyone get their needs me.
I make this pledge. Please comment if you do also.
A PLEDGE TO ALL ANIMALS
To all dear animal brothers and sisters
Wherever you are on our precious Planet Earth
To the extent possible within my capabilities, I pledge,
To advocate for your rights and welfare
To protect your safety, health and well-being
To be your voice in all matters affecting you
Not to consume or use any part of your body or products from your body
Not to participate in activities using you for entertainment, experimentation or any other form of exploitation
This is a lifelong commitment I pledge to you
May you be well, happy and peaceful
Free from harm, cruelty, torture or confinement
May you always have access to fresh air, clean water, clean soil, appropriate food and protection from the elements
May you have the patience, courage and determination to meet and overcome all problems and difficulties in your life
May my love for you touch and comfort your heart wherever you are
May the day come when you attain the status and rights of sentient beings instead of commodities
Till then I shall carry on this mission with all my strength, fortitude and determination.
I feel so joyful because so many things are suddenly coming into place that I have wanted ever since I started Vegan Utopia Ecovillage.
- Cliff Mikkelson, my former husband and friend, wants to be co-founder. Now I have someone to work with who lives on the Ecovillage land, and who adds such a beautiful energy and focus of his passion–teaching people about the oneness of all.
- Kyle Luzynski, Rob McNeil, and Scott Masters are happy to be part of our board of directors and they are helping Cliff and I refine our Mission, Vision and Aims as well as figuring out what their roles will be, and sphere of decision making. Cliff and I are part of the board, of course.
- I am working with Kyle and Rob to create the international organization, Project Animal Freedom, which will be very connected to Vegan Utopia Ecovillage and has a similar vision and mission.
- I am taking an advanced class where I am learning through practice and study how to implement Sociocracy, AKA Dynamic Governance in Vegan Utopia Ecovillage and Project Animal Freedom.
- I’m working on a team to write and edit the Vegan Intentional Communities Handbook for the US political party, Humane Party.
- We are continuing to receive coaching from Diana Leafe Christian, one of the leading coaches of the best practices of intentional communities.
For once in my life, I am really trying to focus because I am supporting this wonderful group of people–4 separate teams–in being successful. Working with a team that is passionate about what we are working on, and in alignment with my vision and values, is what I have wanted to do for my entire life!
Now, I have 4 different teams to work with, and I love it! My roles vary in each team–but my duties include facilitating, creating agendas, taking and publishing minutes, tracking action items, writing proposals for the big picture and for policies. Whew! This is a full time job!
Fortunately, I am trading rent and getting most of my food expenses paid for through a trade so I don’t have to work very much, and I am living super frugally! I am doing my best to take care of myself–exercising, meditating, journaling, praying, connecting with friends and family, doing emotional release work, and other things that help me stay peaceful and joyful. All of the teams I am working with have big visions for helping to create a world where all of life thrives and this is a big job!
Here are a few specific things Cliff and I as cofounders who are setting the direction of the Ecovillage are working on:
- Fine-tuning our new focus of being a training center for people who want to transition to veganism, be part of the animal rights movement, and learn the skills needed for optimally healthy community.
- Developing all the things that are needed that Diana Leafe Christian recommends for healthy community to have in place.
- Creating a plan for making the land a secure place that is owned by the community and has clear covenants which will insure that the community will live on through the next 7 generations at least.
- Figuring out the roles of the board and our structure as a sociocratic organization.
- Fine-tuning the membership and screening process so we can start welcoming people to live on the land by spring time.
- Go over the website together and make sure that we are in alignment with everything on it and make it easier to navigate.
I have SO much to share, but I am way behind on my commitments, so I will leave you with this story from this article by Matt Morris.
“Like any plant, growth of the Chinese Bamboo Tree requires nurturing – water, fertile soil, sunshine. In its first year, we see no visible signs of activity. In the second year, again, no growth above the soil. The third, the fourth, still nothing. Our patience is tested and we begin to wonder if our efforts (caring, water, etc.) will ever be rewarded.
And finally in the fifth year – behold, a miracle! We experience growth. And what growth it is! The Chinese Bamboo Tree grows 80 feet in just six weeks!”
My sense is that all my dreams are going to shoot up this year. Why has this has taken so long? That’s another story!
I felt drawn to most of these principles in this article. I might even be able to embrace them all! I want to share them with you and see what you think. Of course I would add the principle of treating all of life with kindness and nonviolence, including animals.
This principle was helpful to me:
“LIVE YOUR TRUTH
You’d be surprised how many lies I told myself and how many times I suffered because of them. Indeed, the lies I told myself fed into the lies I told other people and left me isolated when all I ever craved was connection. Can you believe that? My cure for loneliness was isolation. But I changed all of that when I started to speak my own truth and gave the people around me the opportunity to truly know who I was and what I stood for. We live in fear of what other people will think or say about us, but do you really want those kinds of people in your life today? Tell your truth; embrace who you are and let the naysayers know that, if it’s going to make a difference as to whether they love you or not, then it should start making a difference now.”
I will be re-writing our values and principles along with co-founder Cliff and our Mission Circle based on the thoughts in this article.
This paragraph was particularly helpful:
What are the universal, unchanging principles that you can clearly identify? What are the values that you now hold? Do your current habits reflect those values and, ultimately, do your habits and values reflect the principles that transcend current circumstances and can provide a purpose and mission for your life?
This is how I want our community to respond to violence.
Excerpted from this chapter. Thanks to Steve Wineman for generously sharing this book online for free.
Nonviolence and the Health of Social Change Organizations
Imagine progressive social change organizations in which:
- There are no personal attacks.
- There are no opposing camps.
- No one is treated as an enemy.
- In the face of disagreements, we maintain full respect for each other as valued human beings.
- People listen well to each other and actively consider the possible validity and value of other perspectives – particularly the perspectives of those with whom we disagree.
- People have effective conflict resolution skills.
- There is a robust capacity to deal with differences based on class, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other kinds of life experiences.
- Even when confronted with behavior we believe to be oppressive, dominating, or in other ways unacceptable, we maintain full respect and resist that behavior nonviolently and with compassion.
This of course is an ideal description of a healthy social change organization – one that realistically is not entirely achievable. The practical question is how close we can come to achieving it, and what kinds of resources can enable us to come close enough to have robust, well-functioning organizations and movements.
To develop useful resources along these lines, we need to identify the sources of organizational dysfunction. Trauma – particularly in its expression as power-under – is one of the major obstacles to the healthy functioning of social change organizations (as I have tried to show in Chapter Four). I am thinking specifically of the ability of our organizations and movements to weather crises, to resolve in-fighting, to forge wider alliances and coalitions, and to humanize our adversaries.
We all have unhealed past trauma. Science is proving that we even have trauma from our ancestors. Even with an ideal childhood, family and community life, just knowing about or witnessing all the suffering in the world can cause trauma. We who are vegans for the animals and animal rights activists, yearn to alleviate the pain of animals.
I have not read this book thoroughly, but it was recommended by Melanie G., a person who has generously contributed her time to give very helpful feedback to me about the website. Jerry Koch-Gonzales, one of my sociocracy class teachers and a person I respect very much–has recommended this book as well.
I look forward to reading more of it soon, and hope to hear your feedback as well.