Communication Covenant

Communications Covenant: Vegan Utopia Ecovillage

 

This is adapted from the Compersia Community document by Trish Mikkelson

https://compersia.community

I feel so grateful to Compersia for supplying this document, and for permission to change it according to our community’s needs

Thanks to Joanna Blad for being the first person to go through this covenant, helping me tweak it, and affirming that she agrees with it.

This applies to members of Vegan Utopia Ecovillage, residents, non-member residents, provisional members and the steering group of Vegan Utopia Ecovillage.  

Purpose: To support us in preventing and resolving conflicts and thus promoting harmony and loving kindness through listening and speaking in a way that is honest, vulnerable, transparent, and constructive (communicate)

  • To help us move away from marginalizing ways of responding to other people (include)

  • To help us embrace and constructively respond to conflict (engage)

  • These intentions and actions are also ways to center relationships in our lives (focus)

We ask ourselves to hold these intentions

  • To really listen to one another (receive)

  • To give feedback that is constructive even when it may be difficult to say or to hear (respond)

  • To think of conflict as a natural and often positive effect of intimacy, to be open to engaging with conflict, and

  • to work hard to see the best in each other and avoid buying into uncompassionate stories about each other (accept)

  • To continue to improve our emotional, communication, and anti-oppression awareness and skills (grow)

  • To assist each other in continuously practicing these intentions (support)

  • When someone feels hurt or upset, to emphasize less how we want them to communicate, and more how we can listen regardless of how they are expressing themselves (understand)

  • Likewise, to strive to hold positive assumptions when hearing and responding to concerns; to assume the charitable intentions of the person raising concerns and view them not as a personal attack that requires defense, but as the voicing of a legitimate experience that can help define the consensus in which we can all thrive (hope)

In order to support those intentions, we ask ourselves to act in the following ways (observable

behaviors):

  • To ask for support (conversation buddies, mediation, facilitation) ahead of or in conversations we find difficult (prepare)

  • When one perceives one’s emotional heat as too high to navigate a conversation, we may use the option to defer a conflict resolution conversation (wait)

  • We won’t defer a conversation if it will inhibit other conversations, decisions, or work that are important to the community (prioritize)

  • We won’t defer a conversation longer than a week without explanation and consent of the others involved (motivate)

  • When approached with gossip or harmful communication from another member, we are obligated to help that member engage in constructive dialogue regarding their concern (accountability)

  • When anticipating or actively involved in a conflict with another person, we agree to first seek to resolve the conflict through communication with the other person. That communication could be a direct conversation or a letter.

  • If this fails to resolve our conflict then we can ask a mutually trusted third party to mediate for us.

  • If that fails to resolve the conflict then we can bring our conflict to the whole membership to work on at a meeting.

  • If that fails then we can bring in some outside facilitator to help us. (directness, respecting group resources)

  • We agree that posting about the conflict in social media, large group emails, or other public venues is usually disrespectful and hurtful, and is unlikely to resolve the conflict (respect)

  • In community process, a person must always have a chance to respond to any concerns that are being considered about them.

  • In the case of processes like membership decisions where a discussion is had and decision made about a person without their participation this means that only concerns they have had a chance to respond to may be considered in that process. (respect)

  • This covenant may be changed by consensus of the members of Vegan Utopia Ecovillage. Notice of the conversation about changing the covenant and any changes made to it shall be communicated to all others with 3 weeks notice.

What to do if someone feels that we are out of alignment with this covenant:

Initial effort to check in and/or restore alignment to be done by direct conversation with or without conversation support. If that does not succeed in restoring alignment, then the issue will be discussed in a meeting where all community members and residents are invited. If neither of those is sufficient, anyone in the covenant may call a mini or a full restorative circles process. 

Severe and prolonged breach of this covenant without successful restoration may be considered by the community as a reason to begin the expulsion process.

Tools

A list of specific tools to use during a conflict, etc. This list is not exhaustive, merely a resource for those looking for inspiration.

 

  • Check-ins - regular check-ins or sharing circles that give everyone a chance to express what’s going on for them personally. This builds trust and the understanding that everyone is coming into the room/situation with some pre-loaded emotions.

  • Transparency Tools - group processes that build intimacy and encourage people to be transparent and vulnerable.

  • Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - a set of tools for deep and empathetic listening  Clean talk communication

  • Clean Talk (see below)

  • Liberating Structures: These facilitative processes offer creative ways of making decisions, finding solutions, solving problems and bonding with each other. They can help both prevent conflicts and resolve them. 

 

This article outlines some of the shortcomings of NVC and we can learn from NVC and Clean Talk: http://www.shadowwork.com/cleantalk-nvc.html

 

  • Reflective listening - when talking with a person rephrase and repeat everything that they share with you to both make sure that you’ve understood what they’re trying to communicate and to show them that you have understood what they’re trying to communicate.

 

  • Seek outside help - individuals can seek counsel from people whose opinions and perspective they respect a therapist or coach or a friend who has some objectivity and will keep confidentiality

 

*Do a daily process starting with: Prayer, Check-in, Appreciation, and clearing up Incompletions.   Conflicts can be nipped in the bud because most conflicts start with small incompletions. If you want to come, you can, or if you don’t want to you don’t have to. There are times when people are in solitude, or having an experience that they don’t want to have interrupted, so we don’t want to make this mandatory. Yet at the same time, we want to make this morning ritual so beautiful and life-sustaining that people are eager to come!

 

*Provide the opportunity for daily spiritual practices that encourage bonding on a spiritual level including laughter yoga, meditation and interactive meditations such as Sufi Dancing. This Facebook page gives examples of the kinds of things we can do. Here is an article also.

 

*Have lots of fun activities especially cooperative games which help us to connect in play and laughter

 

*Have a healthy vegan whole foods mostly raw diet that helps us to keep our energy high, health at optimum levels, and thus preventing conflicts

 

*Encourage each other to be healthy on all levels--body, mind, and soul. This will prevent conflicts and promote clear-headedness

 

*Express gratitude and appreciation at every opportunity to people







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