Rainforest Lab for Cultural Transformation
Transformational Learning Community Constitution
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents
- Vision Statement
- Mission Statement
- Purpose & Principles
- Membership & On-Boarding Process
- Process for guest
- Process for Prospective Membership
- Process for Core Membership
- Governance System
- Decision-making process layout
- Advice Process
- Community Decision-Making Process
- Restorative System
- Resources/Networking System
- Commons Organization Space (COS)
- Economic System
We strive to create a culture which acknowledges our interdependence, and that empowers all to live their deepest truth and stand up for our collective well-being. We long to hold one another accountable in embracing the challenge of living with integrity and nonviolence in the world. Our hope is to deepen our courage to transform patriarchy, capitalism, racism, and imperialism. We recognize the immensity of this work and seek to sustain one another in nourishing community and empower a worldview which honors the sacredness of all life.
We are a hub on the West End that is co-creating an egalitarian, peacemaking, and sustainable nonviolent way of life. We seek to explore and practice this way of life through restorative justice, Nonviolent Communication, permaculture, trauma work, gift-economy, and the common holding of income, land, and resources. Besides engaging in community, we want to act for global systemic change. We seek to accomplish this by stewarding a larger culture of nonviolence around us to empower this possibility. We acknowledge this work will not be accomplished until every system on this planet is designed to fulfill and respond to the needs of All.
Purpose & Principles
- To vitalize and cultivate our passion for life
- To support each other in restoring and manifesting our authenticity in the world
- To co-create spaces to help each person fulfill their life purpose
- To explore the edge of possibility as individuals and a species through nonviolence
- To cultivate interdependence
(Bolded terms: refer to definitions sheet at end of Principles section for more description/clarity.)
- Accessible & Radical : Entry into this TLC is accessible to all, yet people are supported to practice increasing degrees of integrity with life-serving systems
- We strive for transparency, so information is available to all
- We aspire to fiercely hold the essential consciousness and principles of this TLC, and are open, flexible, and evolutionary in terms of the specific strategies
- Wholeness: This TLC addresses its members and the world from a whole-system perspective. A TLC is a whole being in itself with a living, evolving, integral ecology
- We aim to create environments which support people to live authentically
- We honor all parts of us: the cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual; the rational and the intuitive
- All community members contribute in their distinctive ways, which are aligned to their unique gifts, appreciating the differences in roles, education, backgrounds, interests, skills, characters, and points of view
- Growth: Every challenge is an invitation to learn and grow
- We recognize that failure is always possible when we strive boldly for our purpose. We discuss our failures openly and learn from them. We seek to continually re-evaluate ourselves on an ongoing basis
- We see feedback and confrontation as gifts we share to help one another grow. We focus on strengths more than weaknesses, on opportunities more than problems
- Responsibility: This TLC acknowledges that each member has full responsibility towards the community.
- We aim to empower our practice of responding to unmet needs and bringing them to the forefront of our interactions with one another
- Community members hold each other accountable to their commitments through feedback and respectful confrontation
- We aspire to trust in the essential goodness in human beings, and in the richness which can come from people being self-motivated and empowered to make their own choices. We aim to create the conditions where people are supported in connecting to their sense of choice and power from moment to moment.
- We practice the art of self-responsibility, seeing it is only possible to change ourselves. We take ownership for our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, words, and actions. We seek to understand how we each play a part of problems or solutions, without blaming
- Interdependence: This TLC recognizes that we are all deeply interconnected, part of a bigger whole that includes nature and all forms of life
- We strive to put our trust in one another, and relate to everyone with an assumption of positive intent
- We want to approach life with an orientation of love and connection, rather than fear and separation
- We aspire to the awareness that our collective well-being is integrally related to the well-being of nature, and seek choices and perspectives that embody distinct ecological solidarity
- Mattering: Realizing all people are of worth, each person’s voice and perspective is held with intrinsic value
- We see all of us as potential leaders in this community and world, and want to create relationships and systems which encourage shared leadership, for everyone’s growth and empowerment.
- Attunement: Life is bigger than ourselves, and we want to see the way life flows clearly in everything we do
- We view the community as having a soul and purpose of its own, which is cultivated from our collective purpose
- We have a commitment to ourselves and to the community to inquire into our personal calling to see if and how it resonates with the collective purpose
- The consciousness and culture of how we live in a TLC is the primary “product” we are offering to the world
List of Terms
o Life-serving systems: communally held systems are a scaffolding designed to support us in the challenge of embracing interdependence by connecting to our individual and collective power. Examples include: restorative peacemaking system, generosity based economic system, participatory and shared governance system
o Essential consciousness: the story we choose to believe about life that supports us in maximizing our connection to life inside and outside ourselves
o Unique gifts: the individual set of competencies, capabilities, and availabilities that every being brings to our community
o Feedback: sharing specific observations of behavior (what was said or perceived to have been done) with description of emotional impact and needs met or unmet for the person receiving the impact. The purposes of giving feedback in this community are to enhance connection between individuals and to create clear, mutually chosen requests through dialogue
o Needs: an expression of our deepest shared humanity; our core values
o Self- responsibility: the awareness that we are at choice in how we respond to life, no matter what
o Solidarity: the intention and confirmed impact of balancing systemic power inequalities when acting from a place of power
o Shared leadership: group dynamics that support shared power, rather than power over or under
o Personal calling: purpose on an individual level; the "why" of any being engaging in the world with their particular set of strategies
Membership & On-Boarding Process
- To gauge community attunement and alignment around values and systems
- To hold each person exploring their relationship with this community in deep care
- To cultivate an intimate community experience and engage with our edges and discomforts
- To build personal and collective leadership
Process for guest
- Any guest is asked to first submit an inquiry to visit through the Rainforest Lab e-mail. The guest is asked to explore the following questions in their initial e-mail to the community:
- What draws you to be a part of this community?
- How do you embody your values in the world?
- What is your focus in life? What do you hope to bring into your life by joining our community?
Over e-mail correspondence community will decide if they want guest to join us. If community decides “yes” a plan is created for specific for particular time when guest will join us.
- Guest Orientation when joining community-
Buddy/Guest Accompaniment - Core community moves through a self-selection process with each incoming guest; one person is selected to be a buddy for the guest during their stay
Guest with selected buddy is:
- Oriented towards layout of land, structures, and community- see “Orientation Blueprint, Buddy/Guest Accompaniment”
- Supported in exploring their attunement towards current purpose of TLC
- Oriented towards TLC Constitution
- Asked to join in exploring conflict facilitation with community member(s), collaborative decision-making, Nonviolent Communication Basics
- Supported in exploring passions/gifts with the Vision into Action document
- Checked-in with daily from mentor, weekly check-in supporting fulfillment in key intentions for being here, request check-in, tracking growth and changes
- If leaving, exit Interview: sacred ritual (self-explored); with mutual feedback
Process for Prospective Membership
Trial Period: 1 month
- After staying with the community for 3 weeks as a guest, person may apply for Prospective Membership. Application can be requested of any core community member. Candidate is supported in being recognized by the membership team as an applicant and candidate is assigned a mentor (who likely was previously their “buddy”).
- Candidate is asked to partake in more training modules, focused on building collaboration and leadership (see Training Modules at end of Process for Core Membership.
- Candidate is asked and supported in creating their unique design for exploring the on-boarding process. The candidate, with support from their mentor or the core community, creates a unique path of joining the community, perhaps in a way that explores their edges, or particular gifts and passions.
- Once the candidate has gone through all the training modules, they are then asked to write an open letter to the TLC. There are no instructions on what the letter should be about so candidates people can dig deep in their selfhood to find something worthwhile to say.
- Candidate then submits their open letter to the core membership team. Once those with the core membership team read the open letter, a meeting is initiated exploring the possibility of core membership with the candidate (without the candidate’s presence). The membership team will decide if they would like to explore core membership status with candidate. If the membership team decides “yes”, the candidate is now a prospective community member and is then brought into exploring the last phase referred to as “Process for Core Membership” (below). If the membership team decides “No”, candidate is informed of the decision and the reasons behind that decision. Any prospective member can reapply in the future.
Process for Core Membership
Trial Period: 3 months (with mentor still assigned)
During this time, the whole community will explore their relationship with prospective member especially around the below components:
- Prospective member is asked to explore fulfilling these community requests:
- Actively play a part of the “Commons Organization Space”
- Engage in self and peer assessment circles using frameworks such as Pathway to Liberation Matrix; focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, opportunities rather than problems
- Asked to partake in regular sharing circles
- Asked to seek outside support for learning and growth. Asked to explore creating a specific program for themselves around being coached, mentored, and assessed from at least 2+ people beyond this community
- Asked to engage regularly in the governance system and community meetings
- Asked to offer and participate in community offerings/trainings around collaboration and leadership, in particular:
- Relational skills
- Offering/Receiving Feedback
- Restorative Circles
- Participatory Leadership models
- Appreciative/humble inquiry
- Immersive conflict resolution
- Healthy and efficient group decision-making processes
- Shadow work
- Anti-oppression work
If at any time the candidate is struggling to find joy in fulfilling any of these requests, a circle will be held with the candidate and some core members to dialogue about the concern so we can find mutually agreeable strategies for fulfilling the purpose of the above listed strategies.
After a 3 month trial period, membership team with the mentor gathers to see if there is agreement for candidate to be granted core membership status. If “No”,candidate is informed of the decision, and the reasons behind that decision. If “Yes”, candidate is then invited to organize for a Final Threshold Circle.
The Final Threshold Circle is:
- An opportunity for the prospective member to invite the entire community into exploring their journey as a candidate for core membership in this community.
- Self-designed by the candidate
- Principally an opportunity for feedback, celebrations, and mourning from all in relation to the candidate.
Near the end of the circle, the entire community explores the willingness and joy for candidate to join as a core member. If someone voices a “No” the reason behind the “No” is explored. Anyone’s “No” is not ground to deny candidate core membership status. It is seen as feedback (or another form of the advice process) in the circle, and an opportunity for the candidate and the community to grow together. After all voices are heard, community celebrates candidates entry into core membership status.
- Dynamic Steering: Circles evolve dynamically as needed. Any circle can be created or dissolved at any time, or members can join or leave circles as new information arises. Present needs or tensions are what matter.
- Responsibility to the Whole: Circles are accountable for decisions made that impact the larger community or other circles. If need be, they can request a meeting of the whole community or a meeting with another circle.
- Collective Wellness: People are capable of honoring the wellbeing of the group and can intuitively sense and respond to the needs of the group. If empowered to care for the group, we are all likely to be positively impacted.
- Self-Management: People can operate effectively with a system based on peer relationships, without the need for either hierarchy or consensus.
- All core members start in the Rainforest Lab Super-Circle. This is the primary way in which the community is organized. Members may join or create sub-circles based on needs and motivations
- Within the Rainforest Lab Super-Circle there are sub-circles. These circles are divisions of core members who have created a smaller container to explore a particular purpose or function within the community. Sub-circles are microcosms of community engagement and collaboration
- Sub-circle meetings are planned ad hoc when a topic demands attention, with the relevant people around the table. All upcoming meetings are listed publicly so anybody can invite themselves into any meeting to share a concern or idea
Decision-making process layout
- When making a decision, ask:
- How is this choice connected to my personal and our collective purposes?
- Who or what might be impacted by my decision?
- What level of impact might this decision have?
- If I assess the decision might have a low to medium impact, some options I can take are:
- Engage with others using the “Advice Process”
- Find consent among impacted individuals/groups
- If I assess the decision might have a medium to high level impact, some options I can take are:
- Engage with the community using the “Advice Process”
- Obtain consent from community
- Use the “Full Decision-Making Process” found under the “Community Decision-Making Process”
Any person in this community can make a decision. But before making decisions that could have a significant impact on others, we ask that community members seek advice from all affected parties and people with experience or insight on the matter. A modified advice process is always available, meaning that at any point in a decision anyone can call for the decision to require group consent with affected parties.
“The person is under no obligation to integrate every piece of advice; the point is not to achieve a watered-down compromise that accommodates everybody’s wishes. But advice is sought and taken into serious consideration. The bigger the decision, the wider the net is cast. Usually, the decision maker is the person who noticed the issue or the opportunity or the person most affected by it.”
- Reinventing Organizations
Community Decision-Making Process
- Consent: Consent to a decision is shared when all can acknowledge that the proposal is in harmony with the purpose of the community and supports our collective and basic well-being (rather than the individual).
- Dynamic Steering: Decisions evolve dynamically as needed. Any decision can be revisited at any time as new information arises. Present needs or tensions are what matter.
- Flexibility: Other forms of decision-making can be used in situations where the community agrees to another approach.
- Collective Creativity: The capacity for creating community well-being is supported by a commitment to presence from each individual to engage in open genuine dialogue where new possibilities can emerge through a free-flow of meaning.
Short Decision-Making Process (also known as group consent)
(for low impact and more rapid decisions)
- The proposer presents a proposal and asks if there is anyone present who sees the proposal as not workable based on community values/needs.
- If at least one participant voices that the proposal feels unworkable to them, the group then seeks an amended proposal that integrates the needs expressed.
- The decision is approved when no further objections are raised.
Full Decision-Making Process
(for medium to high impact decisions)
Present Proposal: The proposer presents a proposal and the needs or tensions it is intended to address.
Response Round: Each participant provides a quick, feelings based response to the proposal. This round is free of discussion or cross-talk. It is sacred space for each participant to notice, share, and detach from their responses with trust that they will be received without judgement or evaluation by all who are present.
Clarify or Amend: The proposer has a chance to clarify any aspects of the proposal that may need clarifying after listening to the responses or to amend the proposal based on the responses. The participants are given space to ask clarifying questions.
Consent Round: The facilitator asks the group if anyone is experiencing the proposal as unworkable. Non-consent is stated as a tangible present-tense reason why a proposed decision is seen as not workable right now – why it is outside the limits of tolerance of some aspect of the community. Non-consents are made within the context of our community’s purpose and collective well-being.
Integration: If non-consent is voiced, the group enters open dialog to integrate the underlying needs into an amended proposal. Amendment can either happen within the original circle, in a later circle, or ad hoc depending on the needs and availabilities of the group. When an amended proposal surfaces, the facilitator presents the amended proposal and goes back to consent round or may table the amended proposal for consent at another time.
Agreement/Decision: Once the consent round is completed with no participant voicing that the proposal is not seen as workable to them, the decision is made and the process ends. Feedback around any decision is supported by the Feedback and Restoration systems found in the Feedback document.
- We aspire to engage in dialogue and seek reconnection with other people when we become aware of tension or conflict with them, while also supporting free choice for all regarding when and how to engage in dialogue.
- We aspire to err on the side of expression when we become aware of something blocking the flow of connection, to name what is present even when difficult, and to step into it with messiness as a way to move into more consciousness.
- We aspire to prioritize self-connection when both expressing and listening, not defaulting to care for others at the expense of ourselves.
- We aspire to look and listen for the shared humanity and underlying needs in the expressions or actions of ourselves and others, to practice self-responsibility, and to hold to the wellbeing of all with care.
- We aspire to invite support for challenging dialogue and make ourselves available to support dialogue among others.
The order of these practices is from least to most human resources (time, people, energy, attention, etc.) required.
- Self-Connection: Individuals can develop their capacity for self-connection, self-awareness, and self-empathy, as a ways to find inner clarity, transform their pain, and cultivate self-responsibility when experiencing tension or conflict.
- Empathic Listening: Individuals can support people experiencing tension or conflict by offering empathic listening, helping them find self-connection, inner clarity, and self-responsibility.
- Conscious Dialogue: Two or more people experiencing tension or conflict can have a direct conversation with each other- listening empathically and expressing themselves self-responsibly- seeking to understand each other more fully and to recover connection and trust.
- Mediation: A third person can support conscious dialogue between two or more people. This third person contributes their presence as needed to support reconciliation, from silent witnessing to active mediation. Either of the two persons involved, or a third person, may invite such a conversation.
- Group Process: When a person experiencing or impacted by a conflict sees it as necessary for multiple members of the community to be present to address the conflict, they may initiate a group process, such as a Restorative Circle, a talking circle, or a facilitated group dialogue. Participation in such a process is voluntary for all involved.
- Restorative Circle: When a conflict has more intensity or relevance for multiple people, someone may initiate a Restorative Circle, which is a community-run process for restoring connection and trust. Depending on the intensity of the conflict, and the time and facilitation support available, the Circle may also involve facilitated Pre-Circles and a Post-Circle as well. See materials on Restorative Circles for more information on this practice.
- Emergent Requests: Someone experiencing pain/disconnect may also simply notify the group of their needs and make an in-the-moment request for any specific form of support.
Commons Organization Space (COS)
The COS is maintained in the primary community commons space
Different systems we use in the COS:
- Open Space Technology (AKA Community-Sourced Programming))- an approach to purpose driven leadership organized without a formal agenda.
- We use OST to consciously facilitate the community by scheduling a regular rhythm of offerings
- Community Wellness Matrix- a grid of needs and feelings
- We ask community members and guests to communicate their inner experience by updating their position on the community wellness matrix every day
- Sharing Circle/Assessment Circle Communications Sheet
- Community members are asked to arrange regular sharing/assessment circles for growth, exploration, and empowerment
- Core members hold monetary surplus in a joint account at Umpqua Bank.
- Once a month a meeting is scheduled among core members to explore account expenses and contributions.
- This meeting is primarily set-up to help members explore deeper alignment with how monetary resources are managed, and is an opportunity to give feedback on our economic system or to one another. During this time the community explores any concerns, celebrations or disagreements with how monetary resources were used during the month.
- Agreements for joint bank account:
- All routine expenditure outlined in this doc has no need to be approved by other members of the community, since the community consents to spending monetary resources on those items.
- Any expense under $30 does not need approval by other core members.
- With any other expense not listed in the above document or not under $30, we ask the person responsible for making the expense to first go through the advice process before utilizing account money. We ask the person go through the advice process with a minimum of 2 other core community members.
- If above person is in such a situation where they cannot contact other core community members or communication becomes difficult or ineffective in the given moment, person can proceed with the expense without using the advice process. But we ask that the person, as soon as possible, relay the expense to the rest of the community for feedback and input around the effect of that expense for others.