by Raven Glomus
I’m into systems theory, which I see as related to community since I see communities as systems. One way I introduce systems is by asking the questions: What is the difference between a pile of rocks and the solar system? What is the difference between a random group of people on an office skyscraper elevator and an intentional community? The answer is basically about relationships and connections.
The planets in the solar system affect one another by means of gravity–literally pulling on one another. A couple of the planets were found by astronomers because their gravity was affecting the orbit of another planet. They are literally in relationship to each other.
Communities are truly all about relationships. There is no community without relationships. I will repeat that. There is no community without relationships. It’s surprising but many people don’t seem to know that. You can have lots of lovely buildings, all sorts of eco-friendly technology, and plenty of people, you can design what might seem to be the perfect community, but without working on building and maintaining relationships, there will be no lasting community.
Unfortunately, building and maintaining relationships is hard work. It takes time and commitment and lots of effort. There is no easy answer about how to do it, but probably the most important thing that you can do is to commit to staying with the relationships and staying with people.
Getting lots of support for yourself is also very important. Find people outside the community that you can talk with about what’s going on. Thinking with someone outside of the community who will just listen to you, who will help you when you need to have difficult conversations with community members. You don’t need advice, you just need a neutral person to think with.
The next most important skill is being able to listen. Stephen Covey states it as “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. Learn all that you can about consensus decision making ( or sociocracy or some other decision making process) and conflict resolution. Finally, don’t be afraid to bring in outside mediators if things get stuck.
The point isn’t to win all the arguments or make sure that the community goes in one direction or another, the point is to make everyone in the community feel heard and taken care of. More than anything else in community (and there is a lot else) relationships matter. If you can keep all the relationships in the community strong and healthy, the community will, most likely, be strong and happy.
I am not saying that you don’t need to worry about finances or the goals of the community or your infrastructure, but I am saying that these are things that the community needs to deal with together, and the better the relationships are in the community, the easier it will be to deal with all the problems that you encounter.