Diana Leafe Christian

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Recent posts by Diana Leafe Christian

Jan 31-Feb 2, 2015, Saturday-Monday. Windsong Cohousing Common House, 20543 96th Avenue, Langley, British Colombia
(45 minute drive from Vancouver) 9 am-5:30 pm each day.
Workshop presenter, Diana Leafe Christian. Second presenter, Sheella Mierson. (Sheella will describe how Sociocracy is applied
in businesses and nonprofits.) Diana is an internationally known speaker, workshop leader, and consultant for ecovillages and
other kinds of intentional communities, and author of Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and
Intentional Communities
and Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community.

Sociocracy (also called Dynamic Governance in the US) is an increasingly popular governance and decision-making method
based on the principles of transparency, equivalency, and effectiveness. In my experience, when a community uses Sociocracy correctly,
their governance process tends to become far more effective than when using consensus. “We’ve made more decisions
in the past two months than we have in the past two years!”
—Davis Hawkowl, Pioneer Valley Cohousing, Massachusetts, US .
“A visitor said she’d never seen a community meeting be so effective, efficient, and fun!” —Hope Horton, Hart's Mill Ecovillage,
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, US.

$295 Early-Bird Registration through December 31. $335 beginning January 1. Bring your lunch or sign up for
a catered lunch for $15.00. Shuttle service to Windsong Cohousing from King George SkyTrain station.

More information about workshop: http://dianaleafechristian.org/sociocracy_for_cohousing_businesses_and_nonprofits.html

To register for the workshop: http://surveys.ccmis.ca/s3/SociocracySignup

Some benefits to Aldeafeliz Ecovillage in Colombia in the first six months after mySociocracy for Cohousing, Businesses, and Nonprofits - Jan 31-Feb 2, 2015 workshop for them,
as reported by ecovillage co-founder Anamaria Ariztizabal. * More effective management. * Better follow-up to our decisions,
which no longer fall into a ‘black hole’ of exhaustion. * A clearer sense of responsibility about who does what in our community.
* Information flows better, creating greater transparency. * A stronger cohesion. Our meetings are faster and lighter,
with a rhythm that feels satisfying. * At the end of our last meeting we started dancing for joy!
9 years ago
Thanks for your nice words about my book, Paolo, and congratulations Robert, for winning it.

Paolo, you are so right that the ills of mainstream culture follow us right through the community gate. Do they ever! This is my main focus these days -- how to help newly forming communities know this in advance and take preemptive actions to reduce the dysfunction that can occur, and to help already existing communities deal with these issues too. One thing I'm focusing on is consensus decision-making. Please take a look at my article, "Busting the Myth that Consensus-with-Unanimity is Good for Communities, Part I," the lead article in last month's Ecovillages newsletter (which I publish). I

It's here: http:/www.EcovillageNews.org

This month and the next I'll continue theseries, which already started running in Communities magazine last June. I'm getting lots of positive comments about the series. I actually believe this kind of consensus is a Type One Error, in Permaculture terms, and I say so in the 2nd article in the series, out in Ecovillages newsletter this month.

If you're interested, I'd be happy to send you, and anyone else who'd like it, a copy of my 15-page workshop handout, "The 19 Steps: How People Typically Form Successful New Ecovillages." It's got new/better information (though short!) than when I wrote Creating a Life Together. Just email me at diana~at~ic.org.

All good wishes,

11 years ago
Re, ahem, Paul's overalls and judgment in fashion. I like to use the phrase, "ecovillage chic" when I refer to how we all dress at Earthaven, and in many other ecovillages I've visited.

This is basically dressing with clothes from thrift stores and the "free store" place in the community where people take the clothes they don't want anymore and pick up other clothes others have donated. That's where I get clothes, and I consider myself quite an ecovillage-chic fashionista. My ensembles — shoes, pants, skirts, shirts, dresses, sweaters, and jackets — are comfortable, attractive, made of natural fabrics, fit well, and are exceptionally color-coordinated (upon which I insist!). The only bought-new things are underwear, socks, and scarves (which I have a thing for), but these don't stay new for too long and I wear them, um, till they wear out and I wouldn't want to be caught disrobed. Only then do I get new ones. I must add that my shoes often carry bits of gravel or mulch, and my shirt has a few stray bits of straw and what you might call efluvia of compost. Oh, and fingernails. Hardly ever clean, mostly carrying around minute particles of the rich soil we're attempting to build out in our garden here. So, if there's ecovillage-chic, there must also be Permaculture-chic. And I guess I know who our poster boy for Permaculture-chic is, right?

Perhaps you didn't realize how important fashion is when creating an intentional community? Oh lemme tell ya . . .

11 years ago
Hola, Xicsa and Tyler, I think Xicsa's list of differences is accurate, and I would add that people in traditional villages and indigenous tribal cultures also have a shared worldview and creation story, and traditional gender roles (men do these things, women do those things). These additional two aspects of shared cultural things, plus all the others you mentioned, means, I believe, they create community together rather effortlessly, without having to think about it.

This is in sharp contract with people in industrialized nations nowadays trying to create successful new ecovillages and intentional communities.

And I'm not implying you're saying that, Xisca, but because many people do believe this, I'd like to talk about it.

Present-day community founders are from all over, didn't grow up together, don't necessarily all value or intend the same things in community (they have to talk about this first and find out and agree upon some shared values, a shared purpose, and some agreed-upon strategies). They come from different geographical areas/social classes/cultures/religions/races/you-name-it. They haven't been trained all their lives in cooperative, collaborative culture, but trained in materialistic consumerist, dog-eat-dog, win/lose culture, yet want to create something beautiful, balanced, and harmonious (or so it's believed) that their great-great-grandparents in the old country experienced every day.

In my experience, trying to fit the specific characteristics of a tribe or traditional village onto a modern-day hoped-for intentional community or ecovillage -- which many people assume they can do -- doesn't work at all. I can't tell you how crazy I feel when a well-meaning good-hearted community hopeful reminds, admonishes, or even reprimands their fellow group members with advice about how the Sami do this or the Lakota do that or the Samoans do thus or the Kikuyu do such-and-such, and why aren't WE doing and feeling the same!!?!. We should! What's wrong with us (fill in the blank) Americans, Western Europeans, white people, WASPs, city dwellers, First World people, etc. -- why can't we live with the (fill in the blank) values, harmony, connection to the Earth, vision quests, initiation rites, fire circles of traditional people (fill in the blank) who are wiser/smarter/older/more spiritual/more authentic than us!?

And while we can adopt -- and adapt -- these fine practices (and many communities do, to their benefit), to expect an intentional community to not be "a real community" unless it's just like one of these cultures is just plain crazy. And it drives its members crazy too if they expect this of themselves.

I advocate honoring and respecting great-great-grandad and grandma and the village and tribal cultures we're descended from, visited while trekking the Himalayas, or read about in anthropology books. But I sure don't advocate guilt-tripping ourselves or others that we can't just step into their boots or sandals or moccasins and voila! — instant indigenous culture traditional harmonious perfect community.

I advocate instead that we study what worked well for those 10% of current-day communities that moved through their founding stages to become successful settlements that are up and running and doing fine. What did they do? What did they avoid? What mistakes did they make and how did they resolve them? What did they do about harmonious, empathetic communication, or effective conflict-resolution? What did they do about making decisions effectively and harmoniously, and keeping records of their decisions and policies? What did they do about which legal entity(s) they chose and how they financed their property purchase and development. How have their arranged their internal community finances and members' labor requirements? THIS is what will inform us how to create successful communities, not what those wonderful shamans in the Korean mountains, the coral atolls, or the plains of the Transvaal are doing.

OK, off my soapbox now. Thanks for introducing this juicy topic, Xicsa.

11 years ago
Oh my gosh, Stefan, I've been to Schloss Templehof! I was there in July of 2011 with my friend Ronny Müller, a co-founder of the Lebensdorf project out of Freiburg. Two Aussies, Paul and Anne, who live in Gulawah Community in New South Wales, were with us too.
We were hosted by Clinton and Marion Callahan, who were two early members, but they've left since then. I'm so glad to hear that things are going well there. What a beautiful place, too! It's rare to find what we call in the States a "turn-key" community, meaning, you just buy the land and buildings and move right in.

For others reading this post, the founders of Schloss Templehof looked for land for years. Then they got the idea to google (in German of course) "village for sale." And voila! one popped up, and they bought it. They bought a whole tiny village, with apartment buildings, a few homes, a kitchen and dining room & meeting room building, and, of course, a schloss (castle!). I was going crazy with history/architecture excitement as I took trains around Germany with Ronny. I learned the difference between a schloss (mansion-style castle) and berg (fortress-style castle). As we tootled around Germany on its fabulous train system, I kept exclaiming "Schloss!" or "Berg!" as I'd spy one out the train window up on mountain crag. I was in architecture-history heaven in Germany. And then there were all these hundreds of square meters of bright blue rushing by just outside the train windows. My jaw dropped. Not lakes, not houses with blue roofs. Whole huge rows upon rows of solar panels. And up on the hills, enormous white slowly turning wind generators three stories high, I swear. I was so impressed with Germany's commitment to off-grid power and ecological sustainability. Light years ahead of us in North America, folks.

Well, at Templehof did a talk and slide show about ecovillages, and then an informal afternoon workshop. It centered on some basic issues which I thought of as "structural conflict" there, which many of the members were concerned with. We did some role-playing and pretending to respond effectively to certain other folks, away from the community at the time, who tended to offer their ideas of what the community should do in authoritarian, ways. I also encouraged people to put more folks on the finance committee, instead of just one person who figured out what to pay and a second signer of checks. I suggested that these important decisions be shared by several different people on a finance committee, and the notes of their decisions be shared with everyone else. So there would be lots of transparency and equivalence, as well as efficiency. Clinton later wrote me and said people were discussing these ideas, and whether or not to implement them. I hope my time there was helpful!

And I'd love to come back to Templehof and do a seminar this summer, as I'll be in Europe from April through July. Thank you so much for asking! Ronny is free to translate for me in workshops we could do on the weekends of July 6-7 and again on July 13-14 (both sides of the GEN-Europe annual conference in Switzerland). (By the way, Ronny is a Permaculture teacher and he teaches and organizes all over Germany and other parts of Europe too.) I'm also free in the first three weeks of June and the last part of July.

Thanks so much again for your post, Stefan.

11 years ago
Re the question, how am I figuring 10% success and 90% failure, egads, I don't have much precision on this. This is my rough, armchair statistician guess, based on what I saw back in the 90s, and . .. based on what others in the US and newer friends in Europe also noticed when they looked at this too, here and in Europe.

So roughly, it includes small groups who've met for a few weeks or months in each other's living rooms, groups who buy land, groups who buy land and move onto it. More of the former than the latter. I do know of at least two groups, one in VT and one in SC, that were on their land for three-plus years and then decided to disband. The longer they've been living there, the more traumatic it can be.

11 years ago
Thanks for the questions, Dale and Adrien. Yes, I've seen examples that worked fine when someone or a group bought land first. What they need is to not think they're "done" at that point, but keep on doing all the crucial steps of forming a community. It's much better to make certain important agreements before people move to the land. Because often people are so simultaneously excited and naive that they just move to the land, thinking that's what creates community, now we're living in community. They're so glad to be "in community" at long last! They have wonderful congenial shared meals and work parties. Everyone gets along so well! They're all living in joy and delight . . . for awhile.

Then the things they forgot to discuss and and agree on or postponed till later come up, as they run into these unclear, undecided issues, one by one, as they live on the land. Ooops! And there's no conflict like desperate, money-based, basic-survival-level fears and projections, than folks who put their life savings into a project and have certain assumptions, expectations, and damn-straight certainties . . . that aren't shared by other people living there. "You thought what . .. ?!" "You assumed we'd all do what. . . ?!" Civil War, 21st-century style. And only because things weren't crystal clear and thorough.

Dale, re your idea, while most intentional communities have shared ownership and shared ownership, it's not absolutely necessary to have a sense of community and "many hands make light work." You could very well be the sole landowner with various work exchangers or residents who live there for various lengths of time. The key, once again, is clear, thorough agreements in writing, with both parties signing them.
Even more . . . getting the agreements notarized. If you have one family owning the land and the rest work exchangers or tenants, you can have a fine community energy going -- but please don't call it a community or an ecovillage, as it will set people up to expect more rights, and to resent you as the Lord of the Manor. But please do know that you'll have high turnover. High turnover may be just fine, too, as long as you thoroughly screen the people who apply to live there (ask for and call references) and you are crystal clear about their rights and responsibilities, and yours.

When people share ownership & decision-making, they have "bought in" emotionally too, and thus stay longer, or just stay there period. When they have neither, they can emotionally afford to be there for awhile and enjoy it, and then move on when other opportunities or adventures beckon. So you can have a fine community-like atmosphere (remember, don't use the C word, or E word) with a variety of lovely (well-screened, well-oriented) folks who stay for a few months or a few years. And every two years or so, a whole different bunch of folks will be there. But that's absolutely OK if you -- and they -- all know all of this in advance.

Good luck!

11 years ago
Hi Kari, Yes, a document of rights and responsibilities can be either an informal agreement, or a formal contract. Sometimes a simple agreement that both parties sign can be seen as a contract -- hence binding -- later by a Court if there was a dispute that became a lawsuit. Contracts bind people to agreements, but if one party doesn't fulfill their end of it the other party's only recourse is to threaten to sue them, or, to sue them. So having contracts is a good idea because it tells both parties, "This is a serious agreement."

Land-owners have these rights that land residents don't have. These are obvious to the residents but often not visible to the land-owner: to sell the land, mortgage it, sell off a part of it, subdivide it, pay off its mortgage, rent buildings to others, raise the rent, lower the rent, charge no rent. evict people from living there, bring new people to live there, lock buildings, go into locked buildings with their key, buy livestock, slaughter & butcher livestock, sell livestock, forbid there being any livestock there, grow the crops they want and not crops they don't, farm or garden in whatever ways they want, use whatever products they want for crops and livestock, park wherever they want, forbid parking wherever they want, have a dog, two dogs, a pack of dogs, treat the dogs anyway they like, allow the dogs to do things that disturbs or threatens the safety (or sleep) of others, forbid dogs, get married to someone who doesn't want other residents there, have domestic fights with one's spouse or family, have kids who'll do things that disrupt or disturb residents. . . . well, you get the picture.

Land-owners also have responsibilities that residents don't: pay county property taxes, to pay liability insurance payments, pay land payments if there are any, respond to lawsuits if someone sues them, repair and maintain everything. Land-owners know very well they have these responsibilities, but these are often invisible to residents.

A document called a triple net lease can allow residents to share in the owners' costs of taxes, insurance, and repairs & maintenance. It's a legal instrument used in commercial leases. Like any contract, its clauses can be modified, so it can be made to fit exactly what the land owner and residents want to agree to in their living on the land together.

Hope that's helpful! And glad you're going to get my book.


11 years ago
I looked at your project on your thread, Xisca -- looks interesting. I was in Spain last summer teaching a workshop in Barcelona, but nowhere near the Canaries. And lots more rain there in Catalonia. Good luck with your project!

Thank you for the welcome too, Tyler, and I'm so glad you like my book. Let me know if you'd like the, um, extremely short "sequel," which is a 15-page handout for my workshop, "The 19 Steps: How People Typically Start Successful Ecovillages." Just email me It includes some things I learned after I wrote the book. if you want it - diana~at~ic.org

(I'm sorry I misspelled your name, Cindee. )

Just re-read your message Melanie and see that you're coming here. I don't usually say Yes when people want to visit me when they visit Earthaven, as I'm usually working all day. However I'd like to make an exception for a Permies forum person, so do check in when you're here. Do you need overnight lodging? I ask because my mother and I offer indoor lodging for Earthaven visitors, as another option besides Earthaven's campground (which closes in the winter.) Here's the link: http://dianaleafechristian.org/lodging.html
11 years ago
Thank you Cindy, Yolanda, Melanie, Ebediah, and Xisca. (Ebediah, I appreciate your compliments to the good work of the FIC and their website, ic.org. However I'm not part of the organization and can't take any credit. I used to work for them, though, as editor of Communities magazine.)
11 years ago