“Moving beyond discussion and into decisions and action can be daunting…”

Post by Molly Shea – cross-posted from her great blog.  As Molly says below, “moving beyond discussion and into decisions and action can be daunting” and I am always so interested to see how different facilitators work with groups to get things done!

First things first: I happen to know some seriously amazing people. Some of whom have been getting a Community Land Trust off the ground in the bottoms: a neighborhood in Columbus which is being set up for major gentrification. The baseline idea here is that by creating a land trust, folks who currently live there and want to live there, can keep living there rather then be forced out by higher rents, over policing (with potential ‘programs’ like Eliminate the Elements, which we have here in Weinland Park, for example), and cultural white washing.

I recently had the opportunity to help facilitate a short weekend retreat to help this group move towards decision making and planning. I’m really excited I had an opportunity to contribute to the work they are doing and to use my skill set to create social change.

As with many consensus oriented groups, moving beyond discussion and into decisions and action can be daunting. My biggest role was sitting back and waiting for when discussion had moved us to where we needed to be, and where making proposals was the next step. It’s easier to see this dynamic from the outside (rather then by a member of an organization), and I think I helped add clarity to what needs to happen next.

On a meta level, many folks in the group were feeling anxiety about the CLT as a project that would fight gentrification. It seemed people were having a hard time sorting out if and how this will prevent displacement for folks in that neighborhood and what ways it could contribute to it.

Sitting in a circle in a nice open grassy field, we started mapping out the fears and excitement folks had around the project, and ways it would reach the goals of the group. Relying on their mission statement and stated goals as a background for understanding, we built a fairly loose mind map (a go to in my book) that plotted out where folks were at. This provided structure for folks to say the things they have had on their mind and allowed for new ideas to pop up as things were said.

{Community Land Trust Mission}

To meet the basic need and combat displacement in the Bottoms through resident-controlled, permanently affordable housing.

This did not get the group to a place to make a decision, but it did help lay the foundation for folks to realize they were on the same page and that the group does know what its doing and why its doing it. The many hours of meeting, sharing, and thinking that came next (which, was delightfully broken up by meals, campfires, and some hiking) were stronger and more cohesive then they would have been if we started with ‘logistical’ agenda items from the get go.

After the retreat was over, many folks asked how I thought it went. My answer was more or less the same every time, How did you think it went? If it went well for folks in the CLT, then it went well for me. If folks make proposals based on our discussion and follow up on the lists and ideas we developed, then it went even better.

{ps: mattie particularly encouraged me to write about this as a way to reflect. I’m glad he suggested it, and glad i followed through. You can see his blog about life, facilitation, and more here}


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