Summary of Process & Content
Montesuenos | Vilcabamba, Ecuador
June 8 - 14, 2008
Prepared by DeAnna Martin and Jean Rough, our facilitators
26 participants and 2 facilitators gathered in the afternoon to begin our week together. Richard and Brian welcomed people to the gathering, then we held an opening circle. Participants were asked to introduce themselves - to share their personal story. As the circle progressed, it was clear that people's work was not separate from who they are and their personal stories. We finished the circle in time for dinner and an unscheduled evening that followed.
In the morning, participants gathered as a large group. We experienced an indigenous ritual that helped signify our beginning led by participant, Tania. We introduced the process of Dynamic Facilitation, then facilitated a session on people's desired outcomes for the gathering. The content of the session is captured in the following summary reflected to the group after returning back together after lunch to resume the conversation.
How can we address the world situation?
• Create a plan/manifesto/MOU
• Provide support and continuity for each other
• Leverage change already happening for the best use ("sleep with the enemy")
• Act and think locally and globally
Shift to new Problem Statements:
• How much time do we really have?
• Who is this "we"?
• What needs to be "fixed"?
• The earth will take care of itself
• The "we" is all life - as partners
• Language matters
• Requires a willingness to go out of the box and embrace solutions not thought of before
• Explore our assumptions
• Plan and language needs to be something "we" all can say "yes" to
• Break down the "secret society" and create something new that works for and empowers all
• Learn from past and current situation - what we create new needs to not replicate the same problems
• Connect with the ancestors and nature... Maybe do a field trip while we're here
• Explore fear
• We need a collective truth telling, then a reconciliation
New Data Points:
• Takes courage and risk to do what we are doing
• Fear is powerful
• We are what we eat
• Pain is the issue not poverty
After lunch the group identified three breakout groups to divide into. They were: free energy, sustainability, and fear. The free energy and sustainability groups met with a facilitator. The fear group dialogued on their own. We gathered before dinner to hear reports from each group. We had time to hear from the free energy and sustainability groups, but waited to hear from the fear group until after dinner. When we reassembled, the fear group presented and we had a chance to reflect on their sharing in the large group until we closed the session late in the evening.
The following reflect the reports from the breakout groups:
• Free Energy
Media, government, education, environmentalists, and corporations suppress the existence and possibilities of free energy.
• Many advocates have suffered, been abused, or murdered for speaking outWe are ready:
• Free energy has been demonstrated successfully
• Mostly individuals working on it
• We have the technologyPossibilities:
• Books have been written
• Free energy can run a city, cars, etc.
• Transform a community with free energy
• Involve indigenous peoples as support
• Develop a strong support group
• Have ongoing gatherings (like this one)
• Develop and distribute history of free energy
• Bring more information into the world about connection of spirituality and free energy
• Create a plan for implementation of free energy
Issues that need to be addressed to live sustainably:
• Food - localize food production, ending unsustainable agriculture
• Energy - figure out where it should come from and make changes
• Organizations of Society - governance and education
• Water & Sanitation
• Ecological System Services
• Transparent Banking/Monetary System - sustainable finance
• Public Health
We began by wanting to talk about each issue separately, but as the conversation continued it was clear they were connected. The problem statements reflect how our view of the issue evolved through the conversation.
1. What are the changes necessary to be sustainable?
2. How would the new society operate?
3. How do we match food need with food production?
4. How to produce food/increase capacity in places where it's difficult to produce food?
5. What does it take to be sustainable?
6. How do we change the way we interact with each other?
7. How to design a monetary system that enhances the local and is regional and global?
8. How do we structure the way we exchange things to work for all?
9. How to assure/nourish our capacity to create?
10. How to balance the "number" of us/humans with what the earth can sustain?
Our collective insights and places of resonance looked something like this...
• We want humans to be around
• We support the creation of a feedback mechanism with alga rhythms that include ecological health and human health. This feedback mechanism would provide a barometer for us.
• A map of the complexity of our situation - the structures of social cohesion, continuity and change; economy, health, and education; politics, religion/belief systems, economics
Envisioning what we want:
• Better use the land and resources we have
• Localized communities: local production and living within what the bioregion can support
• Economy that keeps value local and a monetary system that links globally
• To educate differently
• No oil for energy
What are we afraid of?
• Insecurity - resulting from separation
• Founded and unfounded fear
• No control over money or resources
• Feeling helpless
• The unknown
• Lacking what we have
• Losing attachments
• Freedom? Mobs?
• Systems collapse
• Basic needs not met/starvation
Solutions to overcome our fear:
• Love as unity
• Less separation
• Survival skills - knowledge and preparedness
• Self responsibility
• We should include in our manifesto or create a manual something on "how to thrive in uncertain times?"
We began the morning hearing from anyone who wanted to check in or share dreams or insights they'd had overnight. Some expressed concern that the fear breakout group had a lot of time for sharing and discussion, but the large group hadn't had a chance to respond to the other two group's reports. We heard from each of those groups again with a chance to respond to each. After brief presentations by both, the response was facilitated. Below is a reflection of the large group conversation that followed from the breakout group reports:
What is our ideal outcome for this gathering?
... A document we can take back to our communities, implement locally and bring others in, with support from one another
In relation to:
• We need a plan to bring this into the world
• Safe havens where research and development can happen
• Figure out how to fund it... capitalist transformation, other?
• Parallel importance of getting rid of the elite - to do this requires localized efforts; ground-up transformation; bioregional/global connection to address global issues; an information technology connection
• Moving to some new model/paradigm - what to call it and how to get there?
• Learn from other models... India, Leon Dormido, sustainable resiliency
What to change?
See notes from above...
• We need to acknowledge, accept, and anticipate fear and what we are afraid of
• We can help each other through it
• Fear can empower /motivate us to take action
• Information is required to overcome ignorance - we can provide that information for us and others
• We need to have fun, too!
• This is all important to getting people on board
Tuesday after lunch participants were put in groups of three at random and asked to do a listening exercise. In each group, there were three roles: the speaker, the listener, and the observer. Each speaker had 10 minutes to share his or her answer to the question, "What can we create together that we cannot create alone?" The listener was asked to do one of the following: reflect back what they heard the speaker saying, be silent, and/or the only question they were allowed to say was, "Tell me more..." Then the group would rotate roles so that each person had the chance to be a speaker, listener, and observer.
When the triads returned to the large group later in the afternoon, participants shared how the experience was for them in each of the roles. Some people chose not to participate in the process. A few expressed they were annoyed by it at first, but, then, when they were in the process, it really came together for them. Others felt like it was a turning point in their experience of the week thus far.
We continued until dinner in a dynamically facilitated large group gathering. The following summarizes three key themes that came out of this conversation:
1. We want to continue as a group... could mean meeting again, supporting one another on different projects, and ongoing communication - website, email, knowledge-base of some sort. Unresolved solution strategies were the idea of expanding the group and the possibility of forming an organization of some kind.
2. We want to create a product - a "Declaration of Interdependence" or manifesto, or memo of understanding... something in writing and a DVD.
3. We have to know what the "egg" is before we can make the "omelet." Someone suggested using a paragraph writing process to discover what the egg is for this group.
Tuesday night was spent hearing from local Ecuadorians about local issues. Two residents of Vilcabamba came to talk about how they are trying to preserve public water rights for townspeople. Three of our local participants shared a bit about Ecuador's political history and what's happening at the national level regarding the re-writing of the country's constitution and the Yasuni rainforest preservation project.
Wednesday found the two facilitators very sick. Richard proposed following a process suggestion a participant had a day earlier. Participants spent time by themselves in the morning writing their own one-paragraph statements about what the problem is as they see it and what their solution(s) are. Then, each participant shared his or her statement in front of the group. Richard took notes in the background to capture their main concerns and ideas so that when they were done hearing from everyone, we could begin to group around shared concerns and solutions. Individual sharing took the morning and some of the afternoon. Then, Richard had them form into groups of three again to dialogue about how their individual passions relate to one another. This took most of the afternoon. Just before dinner, each group of three reported to the large group what had come up in their dialogue. Notes were captured, but are not reproduced here.
The facilitators began the morning by reflecting back some of the "of courses" that had emerged thus far. These were based on patterns that had emerged in what people had been saying and the energy of where the group was. The "of courses" follow:
Some of our thoughts about the Phoenix Gathering
1. This Phoenix Gathering is important for us and for ALL.
2. We want to continue with ongoing Phoenix Gatherings.
3. The Phoenix Gathering can serve as a network for our individual work and our group work.
4. The Phoenix Gathering can serve as a gathering of information through a website and database, and "hold" ongoing activities.
5. The Phoenix Gathering can serve as a link for funding sources for future innovations.
6. A network website that could help us is www.friendlyfavors.org.
1. We gained a deeper understanding and awareness of the crisis, our situation and the numerous workable solutions.
2. We broadened our individual perspectives and gained respect and interest in learning and listening to others.
3. We discovered and experienced a sense of "we" and that each of our contributions and experiences weave together within our shared themes.
4. Our experience here will expand to others as we return to our individual work.
After resonating with these statements, several participants offered some next steps for the group's process. They suggested the group continued from where they had left off the day before by grouping individual contributions around shared themes, then meeting in those groups to see what convergence they could come up with around that topic. The group chose to pursue this approach. A participant, who had volunteered to type up everyone's personal statement, handed back to each person his or her one page summary. Richard had come up with several themes based on what each individual had shared, which he had written on separate flipchart pages. The group made some edits, but basically accepted the following themes in no order of importance:
• Free Energy/Innovation
For much of the afternoon people met in these groups according to their self-identified interests. (The conclusions of these breakout groups can be found in the story of the gathering.) Then, the large group reassembled to report out the convergences they arrived at. A dynamically facilitated conversation followed, two main results were the insight by one participant how these themes could be mapped together and the chartering of a sub-team of participants to draft a statement that would reflect this map and the convergences each small group had come up with.
The map is pictured here:
The group determined that each theme team would have the homework assignment of drafting a one-page or shorter, typed statement about what they had come up with. The sub-team of writers would take these pages and put them together in a statement for the whole group to review and endorse.
Theme teams spent the first part of the morning finishing their statements and getting them to the writers. Then, while the writers worked, the rest of the group met in a dynamically facilitated conversation about how to take things forward.
The outcomes of this conversation were:
• A clarity about what is okay to share with the public about the Phoenix Gathering and what is not okay to share - our co-created statement is okay to share; create a specific "not to share" list; the creation of any Phoenix Gathering "products," such as a DVD, must be approved by all before going public and any profit generated from these things will go to fund future Phoenix Gatherings; we may need further guidelines about all this developed as the group expands.
• Individual commitments - Bob, Leonardo, Pondo, and others shared their personal list of commitments they plan to take forward from the gathering.
• Energy and commitment to create a process beyond the gathering to surface our needs and have them supported by the group - might lead to collaboration, funding, bartering/exchanges.
• Energy around picking a location(s) to support localization/self-governance and innovation with our collective skills to see what works. For example, focus our collaboration in Boulder, CO and somewhere in Ecuador.
• We need to outreach to other people, groups, networks, movements, and the media. We're not quite sure what this looks like yet.
• We have an intention to create something together. This is still in an incubation stage. We will not use the Phoenix Gathering name or backing for our individual efforts that might bring risk to each other. We will use our own names to publicize our linkages, not Phoenix Gathering.
At lunch, one of the participants left abruptly. When the large group reconvened a note was shared and we spent some time processing people's reactions. One participant felt moved to go find this participant so two people left to do so. We attempted to keep going with the "what's next" and beginning to bring closure conversation, but people's energy was diffused with a mixture of emotions from the loss of a fellow participant. The group elected to hear some presentations by people who had offered to give them for the remainder of the afternoon. The writers resumed their activities away from the group so they could present something for all to see later than night. Brief presentations were made about the Wisdom Council process, Trusteeship and the Global Freedom Movement, and presenting and talking about movies in our local communities.
The writers worked late into the evening during which time the participant who had gone to find the other participant who had left returned. Around 9:30 PM a draft statement was printed and distributed for all to review overnight and during breakfast.
We spent the morning in a dynamically facilitated conversation aimed at bringing closure and preparing for a presentation to the local community planned for after lunch. The day before, the group had imagined they would make a few edits and work out any major issues with the document, finish it up, then have the presentation include a signing of it by all participants at the afternoon presentation. However, it was clear as the conversation began that many were not feeling content with the statement and one person expressed that he never had any intention of signing a document. There were concerns with some of language, e.g. use of the word Gaia to refer to the biosphere; things that were included that some didn't feel comfortable with; and things that people really wanted included that weren't there.
As concerns were voiced, a shift began to occur. The group discovered that the spirit of the document, the reason for doing the document in the first place, was to invite people into this work that had just begun. While the specific action plan hadn't emerged yet, the experience of exploring together had revealed a framework for that action. There was dissatisfaction with the idea that this document would be just another manifesto out there, one among many, but not having any meaning to those who read it. It became clear that the story of the participant's coming to be together and what happened when they met, would be a powerful invitation to continue the work. The major outcome of the morning was piecing together the contents of the story, which were:
• Richard's website introduction of P.G. - intention, who, what, where, when
• Chart - in new form, reflecting different language and structure that everyone was supportive of
• The different themes and the unanimous conclusions each group came to (statement sheets)
• The "Of Courses"
• Summary pages from the charts - look at and draw story from
• Commitments - individual and collective
• Richard will draft this story in written form and circulate it for us to affirm and share in our own communities.
There was still a strong desire to address the issue of commitments and the identity of the Phoenix Gathering group for the purpose of figuring out how and in what form to move forward, but time did not permit working these issues through to closure. The story, above, became the outline for a presentation made to the community in the afternoon. Finally, the group met in a closing circle to share closing thoughts. We ended by experiencing an indigenous ritual, delivered by Tania again, that allowed us to celebrate and honor each other's presence.
• We are in partnership with the earth and all life.
• Our species' presence on the earth is hurting it, us, and all other life.
• There is great urgency to act and complex choices to be made if we are to survive as a species - we need both short-term and long-term strategies.
• The current system (economic, political, elite rule, education, food production, etc.) isn't working we need to totally change our infrastructure in terms of how we survive and thrive together.
• We can transform our current system from the grassroots up by localizing our communities and weaving them together in a global self-organized, decision-making network. This means things like:- making our communities self-sufficient within the realities of our bioregion,• We've learned a lot from each other and we want to keep doing so, but we haven't figured out yet what form that should take.
- innovating free energy solutions that make our communities independent from oil,
- getting together to work on community issues and resolving them at the local level, choosing our own forms of self-governance, and linking these forms of self-governance across regions to the global level
- re-designing our monetary/exchange mechanisms so they ensure sustainable resiliency
- acknowledging and connecting in community with each other, other life, and the biosphere.
• Another collective commitment that is emerging includes focusing on a location (or 2 or 3) and implementing a collaboration of the solutions we've talked about to see what works and make an impact.
NOTE: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings were spent in "open space" sessions. Participants offered their own presentations, shared movies, went to town, etc. Details from these sessions are not included here.