Tag Archives: Sustainability

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.

From Decentralised to Polycentralised Systems

The theory of decentralisation has recently, especially in developing countries, been considered as THE solution to all problems. The question however is, what is actually real decentralisation? Is it a mere shifting of central power to smaller, still central authorities?

This is how it is mostly practised and that is why it was not able to deliver the expected results. We are still moving in the same lines of top-down governance; we are shifting the power vertically, instead of horizontally.

The actual process of decentralisation was not able to devolve the power of decision, the planning and implementation into the hands of the people. The community who owns the resources is not empowered to manage them. As long as outsiders tell me what they think is best for me, what crop I should grow and what food I should eat, you will not be happy with it and will probably not do it in the proper way.

The question that remains is: How do people manage to organise themselves in such a way that they can create systems and institutions that enable them to manage their resources and concern sustainably? How can they move from their individual interests and their limited individual knowledge to community interests and enhanced group knowledge?

If somebody has been preparing your food for many years, you may not be able to get it done yourself when this person is gone. That is why a lot of villages and a lot of individuals are in desperate situations. They are not able to rely on themselves when it comes to the most substantial things. Proper communication and cooperation within the communities has been interrupted – while everybody is complaining about why the government is not getting anything done.

Two years back, Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economics, gave a speech on her theory of governing the commons at the University of Technology in Berlin: “Why are we waiting for governments to come up with solutions. We, the people, know what to do, let s get together and change the situations we re in.” Elinor Ostrom has a clear idea of what the organisation of communities will look like. There is not one solution for a hundred situations, there is a complex combination of a variety of solutions to every situation; which in larger systems will be called polycentric systems.

Following is a part of my diploma thesis, which you can fully download here, explaining the idea of polycentric systems.

Central to Elinor Ostrom’s understanding of organising larger groups of individuals using the same resource is the concept of polycentric systems. It is based on the idea of a downward directed accountability, shifting administrative as well as production power from a small number of individuals over to the communities. These communities will have to be organised, or find means to organise themselves in order to build and strengthen institutions and organisations on differing scales, boosting the flow of information and creating a high number of units with a considerable amount of authority. The organisations shall be able to make and enforce rules in their particular domain of activity. While the highly acclaimed decentralisation mostly remains characterised by a hierarchical organisation of decision-making, with national governments remaining the centre of authority, polycentric systems promote an allocation of responsibilities and as a result enhance mutual monitoring within a community. (Ostrom 1993) This in turn, properly performed, will strengthen confidence, self-determination and trust within a mobilised group of individuals who take on their own matters of concern.

Ostrom (2005) notes that community-based or participatory development, increasingly practised by NGOs in developing countries and promoted by governments, is mostly aiming at the organisation of a great number of groups at the same level. If, after implementation is completed, the NGO that provided staff assistance and external resources is about to leave, these organisations are in many cases not able to cope with major comprehensive conflicts. Complex polycentric systems organised on differing levels of governance can more easily adapt to external changes while the risk of total failure for an entire region is drastically reduced. Failing small systems can call upon larger systems and vice versa. The organisations operating in these systems are a mixture of voluntary agencies, NGOs, private associations, governmental departments and cooperatives, compromising overlapping units, so that information about local conditions, policy experiments and activities can easily be exchanged. In such a situation, major conflicts between the multiple interdependent units may arise. These conflicts may, on the one hand, lead to coordination problems and negative processes, on the other hand, however, generate more information enabling participants to solve challenging problems and further the community’s development. (Ostrom 2005)

Autonomous communities organising themselves in order to sustainably manage their natural resources have the advantage that they can more effectively learn from experimentation than a central authority. They have the local knowledge about the biophysical system that they are living in and know the culture and norms of behaviour common to their region. Creating their own rules, they can build up trustworthy relationships based on reciprocity and notably decrease the monitoring costs through mutual understanding and monitoring. The users of the common resource themselves know best what changes occur in their environment and when they have to adopt their rules. (Ostrom 2005)