The Visioning Process
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
This article about “The Visioning Process” came about from studying the book: “Creating A Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.”
Creating a Life Together is the only resource available that provides step-by-step practical information distilled from numerous firsthand sources on how to establish an intentional community. It deals in depth with structural, interpersonal and leadership issues, decision-making methods, vision statements, and the development of a legal structure, as well as profiling well-established model communities. This exhaustive guide includes excellent sample documents among its wealth of resources.
THE VISIONING PROCESS
The aim of the visioning process is to “sound a clear note” about: why are we here, what we want to happen and how will we do it. A vision process is like a quality of energy that grabs you and leads a group with a beam of light and pathway to its desired future now. Out of the visioning process – you get a Vision Statement and Vision Document.
“Vision Documents describe in inspiration terms the shared future they hope to create together. Other groups may have various documents that give a sense of their vision, often conveyed through a vision statement, possibly a brief description of their purpose or mission, inspirational or factual paragraphs about their community and what they hope for it, and sometimes a list of values and goals…”
“Vision Statement is your vision articulated – a condensed in a few sentences. ‘it’s like a notice posted at the gate to all who would like to enter’, says Stephen Brown, co-founder of the former Shenoa Retreat and Conference Center in California. ‘it says, in effect, this is what we are about; this is what we hope to accomplish; this is what guides us.”
A great group forms because of a shared purpose and limitation in expressing and fulfilling our dreams. We all have passion about the arts and culture in Oshawa, big ideas to operate some kind of artist community living workshop, expanding the knowledge base for everyone to be a success artist, organic entrepreneur, and community leaders – working together in transforming Oshawa’s creative economy and growing community wealth — that mirrors some kind of New Bohemia and Combine Generation, but sure, what will we experience and how do we get there?
We will have various expectations and assumptions about the activities, share resources, accomplishments and meals together, the way we’ll cooperate on decision making. Others will bring diverse cultural backgrounds, baggage, painful experiences from past community endeavours. The key concept is discovering the “community glue”, the collective care and desire to work together to see our dreams fulfilled.
Its best to start small, 5-6 co-founders or decision making members that are homogenous in values and interests; have burning souls, sharing the same purpose and limitation, can be brutally honest with each other in discussing, storming and allowing for the vision to unfold organically, than evolving to include all desires from that strong and firm nucleus or master mind.
Pick a location, date and time. Prepare a cozy environment with tea and snacks. This will be the moment when the co-founders and decision making member speak from the hearts about what really matters to forming the ‘ideal’ community. We will be unearthing – birthing the dream here. Listening for that deep sense of purpose and overcoming the limitations of our desired suppressed dream, and discussing honestly about the group entity that wants to be born. The visioning process is a time for exploring and revealing the vision statement, values, expectations, strategies to get to a desired future now. Plus listening to what may seem “off” or unrelated or something only a personal growth or therapy can provide. This is the time to ask, “Are these expectations realistic?”
Everyone has to contribute to the vision. It won’t work if a few influential people articulate that vision and the rest go along with it. This can create structural conflict down the road due to suppressed pains and hidden expectation. The co-founders and decision making members need to vote on the vision or they will vote through their behaviours. Simply, those who align with vision vote “Yes” and those that don’t agree with vision will vote “No.” Furthermore, don’t try to “be all things to all people”, because if vision is too broad or comprehensive, tries to please too many people all the time, it will fail on its “awkward expansion”, trying to be into many places at once. So try to keep a narrow focus and sharply defined objectives, otherwise it will spread you to thin.
“The fantasy of creating an ideal community tends to transform a simple discussion into a magical blend of fact and fiction…Visions of community are fertile grounds for the expression and growth of long-suppressed dreams. And the opportunity to express these feelings can have an urgent quality in the early discussion stages.” – Zev Paiss in Cohousing Magazine.
Hammering out a vision takes time and patience. Sometimes the visioning process is too flowery with our visions like something “magical” that will change the world or reclaiming a paradise lost. Other times, there are too many visions competing with each other, and this would mean that some members would have to leave because they don’t align with the groups vision. That is fine, the members are better off focusing on their vision, but we all can still be friends and be open to collaborating on projects. It’s an important task to identifying hidden expectation and structural conflicts, before members over commit and make heavy financial investments, and later having to deal with “wildly pain driven expectations” popping-up like time bombs, wrecking friendships and risking the community endeavour falling apart.
In conclusion, forging a great group takes like mind individuals, sharing the same purpose and limitation values and goals, than going through the visioning process to exploring and revealing a common vision in a platform which can offers our “group an excellent opportunity to flush out hidden expectations to the surface and examine them rationally.” Writing down the vision, mission, values, expectation – assists in “knowing what everyone wants (and really wants) with help your group see where you may be on the same page and where you may not be. And the best time to examine this is now, in your visioning meeting, before you” are financially invested and finding “wildly pain driven expectations” causing a crisis and structural conflicts.