Community Participation

The Advocates for Sociocracy in Intentional Communities group had its second gathering in 2023, on February 13th. People from about a dozen communities brought their questions and insights.

The Advocates Community of Practice gathers people with wide and deep experiences who are eager to share and support each other, and our size keeps growing. At this gathering 18 people attended and we divided into three break out rooms. One of the groups explored community participation:

COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION, Questions and Responses

Community members may be contributing to the community by doing chores, for instance, but they do not attend Full Circle Meetings. Sometimes important decisions that impact the whole community are being made in these meetings. Is it essential for community members to attend Full Circle meetings?

  • Our community does not expect everyone to attend Full Circle Meetings, but absences do impact relationships. We cannot build connections with the people who are not there.

  • Agreed, our community also has no attendance requirements, but we make very few decisions in our Full Circle.

  • In circles where decisions are being made, the community might establish a quorum; the minimum number of people needed in the meeting to make decisions. This would allow the circle to get things done without everyone attending, and it helps establish the idea that Full Circle decisions are binding for all community members, even for those who were not present (we’re assuming here that everyone knows when important decisions are on the agenda and the absent people have chosen not to attend).

  • Some communities request a minimum attendance - an expectation that people attend 60% of the circle meetings, for example.

What about community participation in general? What if people aren’t contributing?

  • Ask people what they want to do to contribute to/build community.
    Can contributing be framed as an invitation?

  • Make tasks fun: Work parties with food and a celebratory feel can help get things done
    and build community.

  • Accept tradeoffs: people who don’t participate miss opportunities to feel connected and build relationships, but requiring people to do something they are unwilling or unable to do breeds resentment.

  • People differ in capacities and interests, and capacities ebb and flow over time. Time, finances, and health impact what we can do. Changing life situations shape how much attention and energy we have. As community members how do we stay responsive to this while getting our tasks done?

  • Consider what must get done versus what would be good to get done.

  • Are there enough opportunities for feedback in the community? Do people have willingness and/or skills to give feedback to each other (e.g., I felt x when you didn’t show up to work, I felt x when I saw you completing that task)?

  • Be thoughtful about tracking work hours. It can evolve into a complex system that invites monitoring and comparisons. It can work against community cohesiveness.

  • One community used a work tracking system and the meeting member noted, “if you get picky about doing tasks you also need monitoring; tracking, checking, charging… and this shapes quality of culture.”

  • What about community culture: how can we encourage people to take initiative? How can we frame community tasks as an opportunity to share what we love, to build relationships and belonging? What helps create a culture of taking initiative? A culture of community-mindedness?

Please share your thoughts about community participation, and consider joining us for the next Advocates for Sociocracy in Intentional Communities event, March 13th.
For more information, write to Hoping to see you there!

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