Game of the day
Game playing /exercise is a key teaching method in this EDE (Ecovillage Design Education) class. We play games in both morning and afternoon sessions, often in 2-people groups or the whole class together. Here is my favorite game of the day.
Phase 1: secretly choose two team members. And decide one of them, say A, will be your shield from the other, say B. Move yourself so that A always blocks you seeing B in line of sight. (You have to move quickly as A and B move. Everyone else does the same thing as you do!)
Phase 2: secretly choose two team members, say A and B. Move yourself so that you are always in same distance to A and B.
Phase 3: move whenever you notice someone in the class moves. Stop whenever you notice someone stops.
Phase 4: move whenever you feel the whole class wanting to move, stop whenever you feel the group wanting to stop.
As we played, phase 1&2 see a lot of energetic but chaotic movements. Individuals were seemingly playing for fun and dispersed all over the place. Starting from Phase 3, the whole class naturally stayed closer to center of the room, so they can closely observe others’ moves. It’s still a bit chaotic because you may see one person just start to move this moment then the next second you see another just stop. It’s up to you which one to follow. Everyone is doing similar decision making all the time. But in Phase 4, all of us noticeably slowed down to sense the momentum/feeling of the rest of the group. Individual actions were very much aligned. Amazing shift from individual-oriented to group-oriented behavior!
Highlight of the class
Quickly, it makes lots of sense that we spend time first looking at communication among people. To build an ecovillage that’s based on conscious design through local and participatory decisions making, it’s a constant existential challenge to bring all stakeholders to the table and collaborate on main goals.
The space of relationship may be closed. When you are talking to someone whom you are familiar with or close to, that person is not listening though physically being there. Doesn’t it sound familiar? Ourselves could be the very “absent” person. Transparent communication teaches us to recognize that the other person has a whole inner world of experience and comes from a long long lineage of people. Sometime, there is as if a space between you and that person. This space may happen to be open or closed when you talk to them. In communication, it makes a difference to be able to perceive the subtle energy on the other party and response authentically in the moment.
We were divided into groups of 2. Sit quietly facing each other for a couple minutes, to concentrate on oneself first then feel the energy of the partner. Then we gave our partner our observation on their unexpressed potential. We played this game 3 rounds, with a different partner each time. I found my observation of my partner was evidently influenced by what I already know about that person before the exercise. The feedback I got was surprisingly, and painfully, true: 1) the rational part in your personality seems to restrict your innate gentle and emotional part too much. 2) Your strong self-discipline and belief in high purposes can appear demanding to people who live or work close with you. (What can I say? I have paid too much for the cost.)
Something we don’t see is at work. (Process work, Wikipedia) Liberal people may take pride in thinking rationally. But that’s not enough, according to the theory of process work. Your emotional experience, like dream (night or daydreams), trauma, imagery and random ideas in mind, are often invisible cooks in the kitchen, when you make up your mind on something. (Deep democracy awareness, Wikipedia) Such a thought process of recognizing all underlying factors is used in EDE framework to help us understand other parties and conflicts.
What’s under the carpet? – Rank. You can hardly avoid stepping on the foot of incumbents, whether you transform an existing rural village to an ecovillage, or you change a urban neighborhood. Even when you team up with a group of people who share your views and build a village from scratch in the wild, the same question exists, whom do we listen to when there is conflicting interest? In conventional organizations, rack is used to allocate resources and rights. What does it come from? Possible sources are society, context, personal psychology status, and spiturial awareness.
But an ecovillage is meant to be “consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes in all four dimensions of sustainability (social, culture, ecology and economy) to regenerate their social and natural environments.” (GEN Glossary) So participatory leadership, instead of dominative leadership, is the acceptable choice. While rank exists anyway, the point here is to put in use for common good. We did an exercise in a group of 2. Each partner uses this framework to analyze the other’s rank over the partner and in general. Then we discussed how we could deal with perception of the other person’s rank if we work on a project together.
The class here is a live community building experience. The founder of Sunshine Ecovillage Network threw us a suggestion on Day 1: elect a class facilitator to represent students. That person will liaison organizers and volunteers to voice the demand of students and follow up on resolutions.
Not everyone saw the necessity immediately. I didn’t. Certainly, I am all for experimenting different ways of community governance. But will it be turer to participatory leadership, if whoever has an initiative takes ownership of their idea and go out to collect support in the community. If there is enough support, assuming the initiative represents a significantly wide interest, go do it with authorization. When the work is done, you take off the temporary leader’s hat. I voiced such idea the first night. A couple other outspoken members also shared a similar thought to minimize middle layer management. Less than half of the class voted yes. As we were all very tired after a full Day 1 classes, we decided to discuss again on Day 2.
On Day 2, we voted in two rounds. 1st round, the decision is actually if we should discuss right after the end of afternoon class and just before dinner (Food wasn’t ready yet). It seems more time efficient. But two people gave thumbs-down. (We literally using thumb-up, thumb-down, thumb-left/right. So everyone sees everyone else’s vote. ) Basically they needed a bio-break and wanted to discuss the vote after a break. Another two volunteers said something along the line that “I think we are all tired and need a break now.” Then it became more complicated. 1) If there only a very small minority (2/28) disagreed, should we still pass the decision? 2)If someone voted No, should that person propose a change for the group to consider? 3) Do you have right to speak for other people, like “I think WE ARE ALL … ” On 1&2), Haichao, the founder of Sunshine Ecovillage Network suggested we let the two people who voted no explained their reason. Once you left out one person, you are going to lose more people soon. We agreed and heard the two people’s thoughts. We also decided we don’t take the majority vote as a pass. On 3), though it’s a common euphemistic expression to invite consensus, when it comes to vote, you should only speak for yourself!
What we thought a 3-minutes quick vote lasted for 20 minutes and still didn’t see a consensus. Just then, dinner was ready. Everyone was happy to have dinner first and discuss again at the end of evening session 🙂
2nd round. In the evening, Haichao first explained again why he suggested to have a facilitator to represent students. There is a point in that students as a group sometimes have different interest compared to volunteers/organizers. Not sure if this last explanation helped or if people have thought to themselves, but most voted yes this time. I was the only one who still voted No. I explained to the group that I still didn’t see enough necessity and so there is no reason to change my vote. Then they asked me if I would accept the majority vote. I agreed. After all I am not against experimenting community self-organizing. Also like many others, I am mindful about the balance between collective efficiency and individual demand.
People of the Day
Dr. Jin. We were matched for a “date” over lunch, when we were using Ecovillage cards on Day 1 to identify areas that you need help or information. I wanted to find someone to discuss “engage all stakeholders in designs for the future”. Jin, a former lawyer and college teacher, was diagnosed with two serious diseases about 6 years ago. He didn’t rely on conventional medical treatments but cured himself gradually in two years by adjusting diet and regular meditation. Since then, he devoted himself to researching traditional Chinese philosophy. He has been giving workshops on such subjects in China as well as in Germany and Potague. He is now in the process of moving from Beijing to his hometown in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, a city with strong local economy and a history of oversea trade. There he planned to develop an ecovillage in an urban neighborhood where seamen built showy western style houses only for their older relatives to dwell nowadays.
Ziding: media professional, former landscape designer by training. We sit at the same table for lunch. Among the class members, I know Ziding is probably the only other person who has a similar experience to mine, i.e. studied and worked in US and eventually returned to China. She is now working for yogeev.com, a private media platform that advocats organic farming, organizes industry events and sells organic products. I read a couple of her articles and was very impressed. My first curious question is what made her decide to come back to China. A call. She thought a few seconds and said. There is much more to do regarding environment and sustainability, which means more opportunities for her to put her education and experience into use. The media platform is still young and she is helping with everything.
Today, everyone got an identity number.