Category Archives: EDE2011

Ecovillage Design Education 2011 in Sieben Linden

Dragon Dreaming pt four: Walking through the Quadrates

See earlier posts on topic here

As the circle is a fractal, every quadrate holds all 4 stages within itself. There are 12 steps through the circle and four guardians of the edge that make sure you’re ready to pass on to the next stage.

  • 1. New awareness is the dreaming of the dream phase where the dream comes into being in the self.
  • 2. The motivation or the sharing of information is where the dream is put out to others to become others’ dream. It is the planning phase of the dreaming.
  • 3. Gathering information is the doing phase of the dreaming and is a phase where feasibility will be checked and considered and planning material will be gathered.

Here, before the project moves into the second stage, the planning, there is a time for reflection. It’s the centre of the circle, a time for reflection, quiet, like the centre of a candle or a storm. It’s the first guardian of the edge, if the project doesn’t work or hasn’t been successful to hear it goes back to the first step.

  • 4. Considering alternatives is the time to find different or other helpful options; the dreaming in the planning.
  • 5. Designing strategies is the point where the group will look at what needs to be doe and design ways of doing it, an action/implementation plan will be worked out.
  • 6. Test and trial is the stage to try out the design and readjust, develop it.

The second guardian comes in to reflect the planning stage.

  • 7. The implementation will be started here, first foot in the water, the doing is dreamed into being.
  • 8. The management and administration is organised, the location of resources identified, checking incomes and outcomes, tracking time and keeping the deadline in mind.
  • 9. Installing monitoring helps to change the doing, readjust, learn from previous experiences.

The third guardian comes in to reflect the doing stage.

  • 10. Evaluating outcomes allows us to learn from our processes, and acquire new skills, see where we need to develop to be more effective.
  • 11. Personal growth will be the benefits acquired by the individual in the project.
  • 12. Inner reflection time is there to find deeper wisdom within the individual and new meaning, further direction to start the cycle again.

The fourth guardian comes in to reflect the celebration stage to move on to the cycle.

This wheel is a model: the menu, not the meal. A model is trying to be close to reality, but is never perfect in that imitation.

You can imagine one project that you’ve done in their lifetime and walk over the 12 steps, evaluating how much effort/time you have put into each one of them on a scale from one to 10; one being little time and 10 being a lot of time. It is easy to draw up a circular diagram from here that shows which stages you seem to prefer. The diagram has circles around the core, the closest being one, the furthest 10.

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Dragon Dreaming pt. three: Narrowing down the Dream

For earlier posts see Dragon Dreaming pt. one: an introduction and Dragon Dreaming pt. two: the Dreaming Circle.

The meeting facilitator will write down the results from the Dreaming Circle without getting rid of the original document (which is good to keep). Things that turned up a few times in the Circle as well as relating ideas can be put together or grouped so that the outcomes are more easily visible. He/she reads out the dream to the group and ask whether everyone feel like their contribution has been considered (which should be the case as he/she doesn’t want to take anything away from the initial document).

The Dreaming Circle gave the project a broad layout. At this stage, as the group moves towards the planning phase, the dream needs to be narrowed down and find more focus and strength. Like a stream of water that flows through a narrower bed becomes stronger so do our thought, ideas and visions as they become focused. Thats why the outcomes from the Dreaming Circle need to be formulated in 3 to 5 specific goals, the vision of the project. From here the group can concentrate on giving the newly designed project a subtitle which describes the core of it and finally a title or name. This should make the meaning deeper while still enabling people to identify with it.

This process will be done in the groups, or in one big group all together, facilitated by the main facilitator of the session. If there is no time for that an example can be given.

Following is a draft (which explains having text in brackets) example from the EDE that will clarify what is described on top. Because of the high number of African participants on the EDE we designed a project to support the African Network of change makers and Ecovillages.

Goals:

  • develop capacity building (strategies) to empower communities
  • identify and strengthen (relevant) networks (of sustainability) in Africa
  • establish sustainable agriculture for food sovereignty
  • promote holistically sustainable communities and design
  • enhance and celebrate African traditions and best practices (for sustainability) 

Subtitle: Growing Resilient Communities

Name: African Abundance

More posts on Dragon Dreaming are following.

Participation and communication pt. two: the stages of community building

The main reason for communities to break apart is conflict; conflict mostly caused through a lack of communication. When people get together and discover their freedom, they feel like there is new meaning in their collective but also individual lives. They mostly experience some kind of deep harmony. Scott Peck in his book ‘A different drum’ names this the first stage of community building, where we discover and live our similarities and common interests and goals. He calls this stage however ‘pseudo-harmony’ because during the phase of discovering new individual and collective meaning we tend to oversee each other’s vices.

Therefore the stage of ‘pseudo-harmony’ is mostly followed by the second stage, the stage of chaos and conflict. Most of us probably know this from relationships that seem so perfect in the beginning; often only until we start discovering each other’s differences. When conflict arises however, community often falls apart, because peaceful communication based on understanding and compassion is not something we’ve learnt or are acquainted with and therefore fails. This ends up in disappointment, defensive talking, assumptions, accusations which in turn end up in a lot of the early ideals losing their meaning.

So what is it that makes communities succeed when others fail?

According to Peck, the second stage should be followed by a third one: the stage of emptiness, introspection and self-reflection, trying to understand the other side as well as looking for the fault within ourselves. It is here that we realise the dimensions and the depth of the levels on which we have to work together. In conflict resolution, communication and self-observation are put to the test. If self-reflection is not achieved in a way that encourages participation, social sustainability is not achieved. Often parts of a community fall into a false acceptance, letting decisions just happen, not complaining to avoid further conflict; however with parts of the group staying emotionally unsatisfied.

The ideal of equality and the potential of collective wisdom are both lost through a lack of communication. Little communities that were looking to make a change in society end up mirroring that society that they wanted to change; structural hierarchy, authoritarian organisation, majority vote – structures that put one on top of the other and create winners and losers in a system of inequality.

If a couple, group or community reaches over that third stage of emptiness and goes towards an integrated harmony as a forth stage, they have completed the cycle, effectively dealing with conflict and setting up an organisational structure that is free and dynamic enough to be successful, sustainable while engaging every member in participation and fulfilling its up to highest potential. Any day, it might start the cycle anew.

Deep Listening and Action Learning

Splitting up into pairs for exercises on deep listening is one thing we’ve gone through a lot during the Ecovillage Design Education in Sieben Linden. Also as a Permaculture apprentice we go with people through this valuable process again and again when we do our action learning guilds. What does it mean deep listening and why do we do it?

The answer can be given through a little exercise that you can do with a friend or anyone who is up for it. Two people sit together when the First of them asks the Other “How are you today?” While the Other takes two full minutes to express his or her feelings or what he/she has done on that particular day, the First person does everything possible to show he/she is not listening: drawing or writing on a piece of paper, playing with the mobile or a dog that’s around, tying up the shoelaces, etc. After two minutes they change sides. After both sides had their turn, they can reflect on their experiences before going through the same question again, this time listening to each other with their full being.

Listening with one’s full being is deep listening. It is important in the second part of the exercise to look in the other person’s eyes and being fully present, empathic, listening without judging. This is a process of mutual giving.

It helps to reflect on what you experience in the process of listening and being listened to. This act of reflection is an important step for connecting with an experience and clarifying it for oneself, bringing it into being within oneself and learning from it. The concept of Action Learning draws the circle of Thinking or Learning, then Planning, Acting, Reflecting and back to Thinking and Learning anew. It is a circle of progressive learning. In the action learning guild we come together to answer four questions to someone who listens deeply to us:

1) What is going well, as a …. (permaculture apprentice, living being, wife, parent,…)

2) What is challenging as a …

3) What is my long term vision or goal?

4) What are my next achievable steps?

In doing so and being listed to while sharing our thoughts we create that connection between our internal processes and the outside world, the world of action. This connection is essential in learning that is directed towards action.

You have a set time in which you talk, normally a bit longer for the third question (ex. 5, 5, 7 and 5 minutes or 10, 10, 15 and 10 minutes). If you don’t have anything to say for most of the time you just sit with it and wait for things to emerge. The listener also sits quietly, fully present, not trying to judge or giving advice.

You can be aware of the qualities in this process. The listener is present, patient; the talker is reflecting and open for things to emerge from inside. Both are giving and receiving at the same time.

Dragon Dreaming pt. two: the Dreaming Circle

You let your project go through its Easter – let it die for yourself and be reborn for the group – when you entre the Dreaming Circle: the Dragon Dreaming instrument to share and extend your vision during the dreaming phase (see an earlier post Dragong Dreaming pt. one).

It is the dreamer, the one who comes up with the project idea or vision who calls in a Dreaming Circle. He/She takes the talking stick and tells his/her dream. It is helpful to be grounded and clear in this moment in order to impress the listeners. From here, the talking stick moves around and everybody is invited to speak and express what the project should include for them to involve in it. A scribe writes doen the main points and ideas. To keep a postive energy flow in the circle and let the group take momentum and be creative, there are a few rules to be followed by the participants of a Dreaming Circle:

– The initiator keeps his/her description of the dream short and inspiring and is open for it to change and for other people to take ownership in the dream or the project idea (after all, that’s what it is all about);

– all participants talk only when holding the talking stick;

– sentences are short, expressing what they want, not what they don’t want; they are affirmative, supporting rather than diverting while allowing the original dream to guide them;

– participants don’t discuss with other participants about their contributions.

The people in the Dreaming Circle give ideas for any form of contribution and are willing to take at least a part of the responsibility for their ideas/contributions/dreams. At the end, a group (ideally consisting of 7 to ten people) creates a living document of the new dream/project and can start gathering information for moving into the planning phase.

Dragon Dreaming pt. one: an introduction

One of the most interesting sessions on the EDE in Sieben Linden was the one on Dragon Dreaming. Following is a small introduction.

Dragon Dreaming is an instrument for project design and group building developed by the Australian John Croft. If you break the word project into two you’ll find ‘pro’ and ‘ject’, ‘pro’ meaning ‘in front’ and ‘ject’ having the meaning of ‘throw, thrown’: it’s about a vision or a dream thrown in front of yourself. That is where the idea of John Croft is derived from, seeing that there are many visions and dreams alive in all of us, but only little realisations, actual projects. In this sense Dragon Dreaming is building the bridge between vision and project, dream and reality.

In today’s world, we grow up being told that we’re ridiculous when we’re sharing our dreams – “wishful thinking, illusions, impossible”. In aboriginal culture fromAustralia, it is common belief that next to the linear time that we create ourselves everyday, where people meet in separation, disconnected from their dreams, there is the dreamtime, the time in which everything is one. The first empowerment that we’ll need to help us reconnect to that dreamtime is the reconnection to our dreams. This reconnection is taking place in that moment where we share our dreams and where people openly listen to what we say.Australia’s indigenous people believe, like many other spiritual groups, that when we’re born we are one with the universe. Once we realise our selves, our individuality we become separated and we’ll spend our whole lives healing this separation. Knowing and accepting our dreams, we actually know what will happen in the future; in telling our dreams we’re creating our future.

That’s a little bit of background according to which the realisation of our dreams starts with the Self, and so does Dragon Dreaming. The process of Dragon Dreaming starts with the Self and his/her dream, which is the first phase. First, he/she puts in a lot of energy, telling the dream to others and developing it in theory with the group. As the process goes on, people start to dream together and the planning starts in the second phase (‘Projects never plan to fail, they fail to plan’). So the group starts feeding into the project/dream and the project feeds back into the individual, the Self. A healing process for both sides is already happening.

From there the process moves into the third phase, the doing. The theory developed feeds into practice. A lot of projects, especially in our modern culture tend to spend all of their time in planning and doing, never really feeding back into the dreams of the individuals involved, therefore not really being satisfying to anybody and unsustainable.

Research has shown that 90 % of all our dreams, never become theory; 90 % of the theory is never really planned; 90 % of the plans are never put into practice; and 90 % of our projects never get older than 3 years.

To make the cycle complete, we therefore find a forth stage: the celebration. The celebration is the phase where the project feeds back into the individual, where there is time for reflection, adjustments, reconsideration of wants and needs, new dreams and visions to start the cycle anew and let it expend like a spiral, starting small and adding experience as it’s moving forward.

The circle of Dragon Dreaming is a fractal: it is a process in which the big circle is repeating itself in the smaller circles which I’ll write about in one of the coming posts. We can look at how the circle fits on every individual, on all of our life projects and situations: are we dreamers, planners, do we spend most of the time doing and forget the celebration? There are different instruments used in Dragon Dreaming, like the Dreaming Circle or the Game Board that facilitate the process of design. I’ll try to write about all of that later.

The Ecovillage Sieben Linden

I started off my ‘Wanderjahr’ in the Ecovillage Sieben Linden in Germany, taking part in the Ecovillage Design Education by the Global Ecovillage Network and Gaia Education. Following is some information about the village that we got on our first day. As I ll find time to work myself through my notes I ll post more information about the stuff we’ve learnt.

The idea of founding an ecovillage was formed in1989. In1993, aproject centre was bought where the core group stayed for four years before buying land in Sieben Linden. Today the village has around 120 to 130 citizen, of which 40 are children.

The village started off to ideally and experimentally be organised in different neighbourhoods around interests like healing, family, radical community living (Club99 inSieben Linden). People were able to move between the different neighbourhoods if they found themselves more attracted by a different interest groups. The size of 24 to 30 people in a neighbourhood would enable intimate relationships between the people. This concept should give the community a structure of different integrated support circles. This has not fully worked out and even though the concept of neighbourhoods still exist in Sieben Linden, individual places and homes start coming up.

The village Sieben Linden is a settlement cooperative. People that come and live there and want to become members of the community will pay their share, so that the community owns the land together. Ownership makes the people stay and see the land as “theirs”, making them recognise their responsibility. The fee to pay is around 12.300 Euro. The same amount is paid back to the person on departure, even though often it isn’t returned all together. There is a small loss to the one who leaves as the inflation rate is not integrated. A solidarity systems is available to help people that want to join and don’t have the money, so that individual solutions with loans can be found. Houses are built by individuals or groups with individual freedom whenever money is there. This makes the village designs an organic process and for some a bit chaotic.

The decision making in Sieben Linden started out with consensus decision, based on the ideal that the community should listen to all. As the group was small in the early years, having around 20 to 30 members, this was possible. As the community grew, this process became tiring, leading to a lot of “I can go along with that”, lukewarm agreements between the members. The solution that the community found was to combine decision making with building trust and organise the community in different delegations, the five elected councils of Sieben Linden: the landholding cooperative, the educational association, the building cooperative, the self-sufficiency council and the social council. These councils meet to take decisions in their field. This year in September a sixth council shall join them, the visionary council, consisting of elders and being a sort superordinate council to unite the other ones. The vision part represents for the villagers, next to the appropriate decision making process and the trust building, the third leg of a strong forward moving community. Today, decisions need to be fully agreed upon by 2/3 of the community members. Every individual is however able to step into his/her power and call out a veto. He/She has then two weeks to organise meetings and find more people to agree with the veto.

Most projects that break up, in Sieben Linden but also in other communities, do because of personal conflict. Therefore, some of the members of Sieben Linden use the non-violent communication method of Marshall Rosenberg to make themselves transparent.

Of the approximate 80 grown up members of the community, 50 persons are earning most of their money in being involved in the seminars inside of the village. There are approximately 4000 visitors every year. A lot of people earn additional money through giving seminars and consultancy related to community and ecovillage design outside of Sieben Linden. Other income are craft and building, 10 to 15 people working in this field, mostly in the village but also outside. Beside that there are subsistence workers in the village like the gardeners and the firewood collectors. The people from Sieben Linden pay 150 percent of the normal price for food that comes from inside of the village to be able to pay the gardeners higher wages.

In Sieben Linden, there are different gardeners that use different techniques. 70 to 80 percent of the vegetables that are eaten in the village are grown there. Reconsidering that there are 4000 visitors each year that eat from the same foot, 70 to 80 persent self-sufficienci is a lot. However, there are no grains or wheat grown. There are tunnel houses to grow tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants. Some gardeners have started to sell wild herbs and export their produce to restaurants and hotels. Every toilet in the village is a compost toilet, which doesn’t use water, so that the gray water is much less polluted than in most settlements. A reed bed system is cleaning the gray waters back to a drinking quality. This cleansed water is however used for the garden and will charge the groundwater again. The houses in Sieben Linden are mostly built of clay, wood and straw.­

Sieben Linden has a small commercial area where noisy businesses, such as woodcraft and electric engineering, are executed. There is a small household cash that villagers pay everyday for the community food and facilities.

A forest kindergarten exists, with two educators and 15 kids.  It is the wish of the villagers to start a free school for primary education somewhere in bicycle distance to the village to also attract children from the larger region. The kids that go to secondary school go by bus to the nearby town,30 kmaway from Sieben Linden. This gives them the opportunity to get out of the rural area and come in contact with the larger society.

It is the vision of Sieben Linden to become a settlement for 250 to 300 people. However, the villagers are well aware that the moving towards that goal should rather be a slow process so that the community and the resource use can follow in a sustainable way.