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 I was playing around with a tag line for the Community Commons project while I was stuck on the bus (3hr trip from Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay) and came up with the following.

Community Commons; Open Space for Translating Ideas into Action

I was looking for a short phrase that would explain what the community commons concept is to people who hear it for the first time. I also wanted to situate the practice of open space into the concept. One could interpret �open space� in the tag line as either an action or a place.

The idea is to identify Community Commons as the space (physical and virtual) where we come together to explore ideas and pathways for moving forward as a community. This could be the space in which we situate consultation processes like the Snug Cove Revitalization Plan and Community Energy Plan reviews, and ongoing work of community groups like the Sustainable Community Advisory Committee, Lifelong Learning Society, Ashoka Institute and others. Thoughts?


Penny Scott wrote:

  looks great m - this is getting more impressive by the minute! anne and i
  are going to hear a lecture and meet with john forrester from mit's centre
  for reflective community practice tomorrow - hopefully we'll have some good
  notes and observations to post.

yep. post away. trying to figure how this works in the middle of urban jungle here. soooo many people. so many interests. can chicago be a community or is it stuck, at least for now, as a collection of communities. are communities rightly defined by boundaries, assets, infrastructure or by stories and connections. are the within city limits or around individuals. if the latter, then the work would be to invite individuals to invite individuals into communities and also to invite their communites of individuals into communities of communities... the phrase i used earlier this year was about creating "leading communities of community leaders" so could say the same about "inviting communities of community inviters." --MichaelHerman

anne and i had this discussion today with our university partners. there is a comparative study underway between bowen island & a big suberb-type city on outskirts of vancouver. the comparison is of how communities move through changes toward susainability. the tricky part is when our partners go into group meetings telling wonderful stories about projects taking off, potlucks, open space, invitation, pints in the pub etc. at this point, the big city research folk dismiss interesting signs of progress and connectivity with comments such as..'bowen is a small unique community, that could never happen with a large population etc.

inviting communities of community inviters...big or small...could be our next conversation. Penny

We're certainly not the only ones who do open space events and drink at the pub. My friend Jeff Aiken down in Sonoma County has a site that Murray is interested in called http://www.sustainablesonoma.org that outlines how they do it down there. And I wonder Micheal if we couldn't tie in some of the work from Imagine Chicago here too?

Funny that the university researchers dismiss those experiences, becasue that is exactly where the passion for community arises. Conversations in coffee shops and pubs lead to notices in the newspaper, lead to sandwich board on the street corner, lead to gathers, events and things happening. And not just on Bowen either.

So the first question is maybe, is the practice of invitation in community different in a big place than it is in a small place?


..the country mice and the city mice need to get together and talk about this! (the childrens book)

another great reason to do an open space at ashoka house has found us. i've been thinking alot about how universities and communities can work together in interactive research..mostly because of the partnership we have have with the sustainable development research initiative at ubc. anne and i had a conversation yesterday where she reframed it as a question: how can we 'build a house together'? issues of unequal access, colonialism, and unclear interest can easily creep in. it has nothing to do with intent but seems more to do with entrenched ways of how things get done.

i'm interested in these kind of partnerships in a community because they have the potential to give the research real 'legs'. not only are there opportunities to learn from one another but i think the research can more easily be shared with other communities through the combined communication channels of each.

a lesson we could learn from the center for reflective community practice at mit is to build-in structured times of extended reflection; they schedule retreats where community practitioners and university researchers get together to reflect on the work of the partnership. so, one option would be to try convince sdri to build this in to our work. today, murray suggested rather, that we could invite them and other folks doing this kind of work in research partnerships to come to an open space and share stories, best work and lessons learned. i think we'd have a good shot at getting funding and we could then turn that into a paper. tada! PennyScott

here are some of john foresters notes. he's speaking from the perspective of mediators in a planning process. some of this is probably not new thinking for open space wizards. he sums up with:

We might close by considering how skillful mediators manage to snatch possibility from the jaws of impossibility, how they raid the impossible, when others think the game�s up. How do they seem to do it, and what lessons do they suggest that planners and other citizens too need to learn in situations of complex public disputes? Consider six points:

1. Skillful mediators seem to know that in public disputes there�s always more going on than meets the eye, that parties always care about even more, sometimes much more, than they say as a matter of public posture�so that as planners and citizens we should be very careful about tying our own hands with the political rhetoric of those who seem to be adversaries.

2. These mediators have their presumptions too, but they presume that in times of conflict, stereotypes and fears can focus parties� attention in limiting ways, so that parties need to, and can in fact, learn. As parties to complex disputes, facing differences, we need to know that we don�t yet know all we might, so we can come to learn first and only act strategically to achieve our ends secondly;

3. These mediators presume that parties can surprise one another, with new information, gestures, offers, disclosures of self, and more that can enable them (us!) singly and together to act in new ways as they and we learn from, and respond to, one another. So the mediators presume that in the first place, conversation matters more than agreement.

4.It matters too that when disputes take win-lose or zero-sum complexions, complications can help. We look stuck, but more information, more concerns, new relationships, fresh recognition can get us unstuck, as the role of the veterans played in the second case. Additional complexity can save us from our own �rush to interpretation,� our pre-emptive, poorly informed realism that blinds us to possibilities we really have.

5. These mediators assume that dispute resolution involves not only knowledge and value claims and commitments, not only differences over epistemological and ethical claims, but practically embodied performances, small offers, reciprocal gestures, the sharing of information and the building of trust, as we saw in the first case�s interview process. More precisely, these mediators� practice tells us to focus less on conflicting arguments, less on general and abstract knowledge and value claims, and more on the specific tone, style and conditions of conversation, dialogue, or argumentation, the practical, embodied character of others� and our own speaking and listening.

6. They presume that when parties care about more than they say, they too have to manage multiple, conflicting, and ambiguous goals, responsibilities and obligations�and that, as practical actors, �others� can and will improvise, innovate, and cooperate practically to solve problems and build new working relationships, in unforeseen, unimagined ways.


just got off the phone with chris, calling in from whitehorse. had a chance to talk through some of what's been percolating here and been showing up in conversations with others lately.

boundaries seem to matter. city. corporation. industry. region. species. profession. we draw our circles and live inside of them. corporation seems small when considered as shelter from the larger world. self-employment and small business seem closer to the economic edge. metropolis seems small when it blocks our connection to water, air, seasons, food, family. island is large, if it leads us into the vastness of inner space. and yet everywhere there is the surface, the glamour, the spin, the mystique... and it always enfolds the depth that transcends everything.

the north wall of my office is 64 square feet of glass, inviting the city, the lake and the neighborhood into the 11th floor. when i read our earlier bits here and looked out, i saw so many little tiny, circles, silent wells in a busy city, each one made up of some relatively small number of people who care deeply about something. so many different somethings. all overlapping, interconnecting, crosspollinating and crosspolluting... holding the city together, and any one of them, enough.

it all seems to hinge on the world of the moment. MH

and speaking of hinging... this came by email from one of my favorite ferryriders the other day:

 the universal door manifests itself 
 in the voice of the rolling tide
 hearing and practicing it we become a child, 
 born from the heart of a lotus 
 fresh, pure and happy,
 capable of speaking and listening
 in accord with the universal door.
 with only one drop of the water of compassion
 from the branch of a willow,
 spring returns to the great earth.


it's snowing. and the only person on bowen dressed for this weather was chris, back from whitehorse with cariboo in his back pack. in fact, barely recognized him, head to the wind, bundled up in toque and scarf, walking off the ferry.

'island is large, if it leads us into the vastness of inner space'. michael, this discussion about 'large and small' and the edges of expansion is a fascinating one. reminds me of what a friend said once about children growing up in places with lots of space and freedoms...that these kinds of places will allow personalities more room to expand and make connections and that we ought to be cautious about the growing constraints creeping into their lives.


This is the interesting point isn't it? Not that it's snowing on Bowen, weird as that is this winter, but that the growing constraints on our lives somehow restrict our freedoms. Do we need more outer room to make connections? Or is the process of connection somehow a thing that begins with a realization that inner room is BIGGER and thus full of more potential for connection, inspired by intention and manifest by invitation.

Like the stuff by John Forrester, we can always surprise each other. But only if we realize that the greater depth embodied by evolution leads us to connect on levels that are untouched by the primitive constraints that others try to impose on us.

On an island the external boundaries at the level of the body only serve to drive us to those greater and bigger worlds inside, at the level of mind and soul and spirit. We are forced to turn inward and confront the universe, because that is where it is.

This is not to say that constraints on our bodies are not important, especially if those contraints are the chains of slavery and injustice. But even in that case, and here I think of Nelson Mandela, and Aun Sung Suu Kyi and others who spent long periods of time in prison, the shackled body can collapse inward and somehow from the pain of physical constraint, the tiniest invitation bubbles up. The invitation to find freedom on another level altogether.

Implications for community? Obviously we form communities at a deeper level. Communities are not simply aggregations of houses and infrastructure. Those are towns. Communities are not physical at all. They are collectives of brains hearts and souls. And as we try to find communities and we realize that they exist in the deeper levels, we realize that, as Wilber puts it, greater depth means less span. So in terms of a "number" whether we are in large cities or small islands, I suspect that the notion of community scales by gathering together a fairly similar number of people into groups and then gathering together that number of groups again into larger holons. This is how community can evolve in all kinds of settings, cities, towns, countries, worlds.



i spent the weekend - two days of lecture and meditation - learning about manifestion of what we really want in our lives. intentionally removing barriers at an easy pace. embracing the right to pursue our highest good. not backing down from any dream or blessing. so, the 'depth, the vastness,' holds all this and holds the powers of wish fulfillment for this group soul. i've learned alot from the people here at Ashoka about invoking 'right faculties' for giving power to what we want to see in this community and in the other communities where we work and live. we've already seen this intention take on some pretty wonderful forms!


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Edited May 22, 2003 10:11 pm USA Pacific Time (diff)