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Podcast 309 - More Intentional Community with Diana Leafe Christian Part 1  RSS feed

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Credit: Kevin Murphy

Paul interviews Diane over a land line due to some technical difficulties. Paul has four items to go over and then a bunch of questions from Diane will be a speaker at PV2 this year. Paul thinks that PV2 is going to be a big hit again this year. Diane plans to talk about what works well when designing an intentional community or eco-village and how many of the principles of permaculture can be applied to good community design. Point for point intentional community design is similar to permaculture. Paul wants to expand zone 1 where plants require the most attention.

Diane talks about how community design with good will and harmony are important. Paul brings up his PV1 talk and how he lightly touched on community last year in PV1. Diane reviews some aspects of her workshops on community design and how ideals scale over time. Diane speaks about her timeline and how she graphs the ideal community versus the cynical outlook of community. Diane talks about the ideals that some people come to an intentional community with. Some people come with magical thinking and the hope that no one needs to keep track of community hours or screening of people entering the community. Always say yes is their ideal vision. The idealists are sometimes shocked at what Diane says needs to be done. Diane explains how over time and with experience, communities learn they need to track labor and other things. Paul explains how when he lived in a community they split up chores between twenty people. Diane explains how by luck of the draw all of Paul's people were willing to all pitch in but if some people did not contribute it would have been a different experience. Paul thinks that planning the systems helps people understand what is expected. Diane points out that the people who want structure ultimately help free the group up but will be vilified by those who do not want structure. With no structure, the community will not be successful for very long. Diane explains how some people claim that something is not community just to manipulate others in the community.

Diane discusses the shared group household. Twenty or so people under one roof similar to what Paul hopes to accomplish at Wheaton Labs. Paul discusses his variant for helping when people fall short of putting in their community time. Paul asks about Earth Haven where Diane lives in North Carolina. In a well designed systems people can pay money in place of their labor. Diane talks about the diversity within a community and how you want people to have similar goals and values and let the diversity lay in the how people accomplish the community goals. Paul goes off on a tangent about experiences with Disney and hiring people to write code. Paul brings it back around to how a community looks at people coming into a community. Paul feels that dysfunction is the norm when bringing people into a community. Paul brings up Sanghia in New York and how nice it is. Diane explains how federal fair housing laws prevent people from saying who can and can not join a community. Diane thinks that if you use what works well you can get good members. First you need criteria which includes the cost and the labor requirements are. Next you explain the test period and what the agreements are for that community including governance and decision making. Provisional membership is another good idea. Clarity up front makes life much easier. Paul discusses how he used to interview people with a dual score system. One set of questions tested their knowledge and another set tested their engineering ability. Paul discusses how sometimes at code ranch the people who wanted to make things better with good communication skills are better than people with great knowledge but who can not work well with others.

Diane explains how people who do not bullshit are better than people who are not as honest. Getting along with people and having good communication skills is critical to having a successful community. A community should not sacrifice if they need a skill. Paul explains how some people will never change and Diane explains how people change for many different reasons. Paul and Diane agree how people never change and people change a lot. Having a good community incorporates a good communication system. Building trust and camaraderie is important too. This forms a glue for the community. Paul returns to a discussion of Diane's chart to explain his feelings on certain ideas and how good it might be living in a simple dreamy world. Paul feels that there is value in simplicity. Paul discusses how BE NICE is applied at and Code Ranch. Diane feels that simple works well with a one person leader but that when you have more people you need rules and guidelines on how to resolve conflict and build consensus. Paul feels that rules give bad guys traction and Diane feels that good design has rules and does not give bad guys traction. Diane explains that with a well designed community you have a dynamic system that has governance rules. Paul feels that too many rules make life to complex. Diane explains how in her community their rules are fluid and are used everyday. Paul's idea is that there is value in having less rules. Diane explains how a good community has checks and balances.

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As I listened to this pod cast, it sounded like you, Paul, and Diana Leafe Christian were disagreeing but it seems to me as an outsider listening that you two were talking about the same goal. You were intent on establishing a simple vision (less is more, simple is dependable, etc) and Diana discussed complete structures to support that. So Paul has an established vision in which to gather like minded people and can effectively govern that structure because he is the one that has established Wheaten Labs in collaboration with those folks that share his vision. What's also happening is that the system allows for a flexible use of reflection to modify the structure as your group sees fit. So, you're not using an agreement to align your actions to, you're using the vision to guide your reflection and need for structure change. Being "dreamy" is the vision that should govern your group's direction, Paul, and will work as long as you are there to lead the structure. It's all good! You want organic, holistic, messy, growth and that is completely supported through your reflective practice.
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I'm loving the podcast series.  For those who might listen in, it may seem a little slow at first, but I think there is a LOT of value to pick up in this series for people interested in figuring out how to build healthy communities, and even relationships in general.

At one point Diana Leaf Christian talks about her previous views on consensus, and how that has changed.  That reminded me of this article series in the Communities magazine, I believe this is the start of it - Diana is the author of this article:
Busting the Myth that Consensus-with-Unaminity is Good for Communities

I learned so much about the issues surrounding consensus as a decision making process in that article series.  Many sides end up being presented; a very good read.

I also really like how Diana likens a decision-making process to permaculture design, that you can have well designed systems or poorly designed systems.  I totally relate to Paul's desire for less rules, for sure, as having to enforce rules is really frustrating.  I certainly like seeing designs where the rules are made more foolproof; it's neat to realize that it is possible, or at least that there are groups that are learning ways to improve rule design.
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