Navigating Conflict and Restoring Connection with Alyson Ewald

Posted on May 20, 2022 by

Navigating Conflict and Restoring Connection with Alyson Ewald

Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 010

Conflict is inevitable. Alyson Ewald shares how to have a good fight and transform harm into connection, through personal and effective conflict systems.

In this episode

  • Set up a conflict system (8 minutes)
  • How to have a ‘good fight’ (15 minutes)
  • Mulch the ground for conflict with connecting activities (19 minutes)
  • Express how we feel harm to show courage, trust and care for our relationships (38 minutes)
  • Practice with smaller conflicts, as part of the system design (42 minutes)
  • Explore needs and impacts, when agreements are not upheld (44 minutes)
  • Five pre-conditions for Restorative Circles (57 minutes)
  • Restoring connection (1 hour and 10 minutes)

About Alyson Ewald

Alyson Ewald works with individuals and groups to design systems and practices that support learning, connection, creative conflict engagement, and collaborative decision making. She also facilitates the social dimension of Gaia Education’s online course in sustainable design. She’s a Missouri certified teacher, certified Permaculture designer, and an avid student of governance, conflict, and justice. In 2005 she co-founded Red Earth Farms, a homesteading community in northeast Missouri, U.S., where she continues to practice permaculture and social transformation.

Learn more about Alyson and her work at Learn more about the work of Dominic Barter and Restorative Circles at

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Thanks from Rebecca, your podcast host

Episode Transcript

Rebecca Mesritz 0:01
Hey there communitarians Did you know that the inside community podcast is made possible by people just like you, people who listen to these episodes, learn something every time and take those lessons into their lives and their communities, and then decide to visit and make a donation. Your financial sponsorship of the show helps us to create useful and inspiring content. But beyond that, it helps me to do things like pay for childcare. So I can spend time editing and doing the interviews. This is really a grassroots endeavour and your support is what makes it possible. So thank you so much for contributing what you can to keep the show going. Welcome back to the inside community Podcast. I’m Rebecca merits. If you are one of my listeners, who is not yet living in community, I’m wondering if one of the stumbling points for you is that you know that when you live with people, you’re going to have fights. And the idea of being in conflict and having to deal with that, or deal with other people or have other people have to deal with you. Puts up a bit of a roadblock. Well, I was curious about this, because conflict in life is inevitable. But I was wondering, how do you have a good fight? How do you have a healing and reconnecting interaction, not just in spite of but through a trauma or a harm that has occurred? My guest today, Allison E. Wald works with individuals and groups to design systems and practices that support learning connection, creative conflict, engagement, and collaborative decision making. And she also facilitates the social dimension of Gaia education online courses. And she’s also going to be leading an upcoming course on communication through the fic that launches on June 25. But the reason I’m having her come and talk with me today is because she is a real proponent of restorative circle process, and has a way of looking at and engaging with conflict that is really beautiful, and really transformational. And I think you guys are gonna get a lot out of it. I know I did. I always like to start my interviews by asking my guest to just tell us a little bit about their community. It just a little snapshot would be great of what your life is like.

Alyson Ewald 2:37
Yeah. So I’m Allison Ewald and I live here in Missouri, my community is called Red Earth farms. And it’s a 76 acre land trust in rural Northeast Missouri. We have about six homesteads on the land, ranging from single people to families. And we have an overarching land trust that we all are members of with a board of directors. So red earth farms here in Missouri is where I am. And I’m talking to you actually today from the neighbouring eco village called Dancing rabbit ecovillage, which is just a 15 minute walk over Hillandale from my home. And we got started next to the Eco village. In order to be the Eco farms around the Eco Village. Our idea was to be a mutually supportive community where they’re the Village and we’re the outlying farms, you know, providing more community and food and other resources for everyone here.

Rebecca Mesritz 3:34
I really am excited to talk to you today because you are an expert and have been holding a lot of wisdom around navigating conflict, and the idea of restoring connection and community. And I feel like this is one of those topics like many of the topics I’d like to bring on to this show, which really transcend community really transcends just living together. When you are in relationship with people, whether it’s in work or in family, there’s gonna be conflict at some point or another. But for some reason, in this magic cauldron of community, we feel compelled, driven, deeply motivated to really use conflict as a tool for growth, as opposed to feeling the aversion to it. And so I would love just to jump off today with asking you is there a benefit to conflict?

Alyson Ewald 4:38
Oh, it’s funny when you said um, you know, when we come to community we we see it as this opportunity for personal growth. I’m that’s not exactly what you said. But it certainly is an opportunity for personal growth. I don’t know that moving to community automatically makes people want to explore their conflicts. I think many people come to community and expect that now that they’re here in the Promised Land. and have milk and honey, everything is going to be peaceful forever, and no one will ever argue with each other or have conflict. But the opposite is often true that when we’re living closely with each other, we tend to notice the ways that we impact each other. And it’s not that we impact each other more living in community, we just see it more because we have closer connections with people when we’re in an intentional community, just by definition, than most people do in their, in their community, wherever they live. And, and so naturally, we noticed these things. And because we’re in community, we might have, we might have a sense that, oh, this is gonna go well, because I’m in community now. And we’re gonna be able to talk it out, and everything’s gonna be fine. And I think it doesn’t always go that way, which can be really disappointing for people. And so right up front, I just want to say like, I hope that if you are in community and in conflict, that you have some compassion for yourself, just just relax and know, you’re okay. It’s a messy journey, it’s always messy, even in community. The thing is that in community, our ideal is that we can support each other to do this hard work, that we can design support systems, to feed into our conflict systems and governance systems that walk hand in hand with our complex systems. So that all of these things that we’re doing to build a better way of being humans on Earth, can support each other. And, and so that’s all by way of preface to say that, yeah, conflict can be really beneficial. If we have created systems and structures to support its, its flowering and manifestation as a way of showing us what’s not working very well. So conflict points to places where our society, our community, our family, our school, is not meeting people’s needs. So when conflict arises, we notice Oh, somebody’s needs are not getting met, harm is being caused. And if we can listen to the conflict, and what it wants to teach us, then we can keep it from becoming violent and more and more painful and harmful. And so to do that, we need to get support to listen to conflict when it’s still small before people are yelling and throwing crockery, and lawyers and bullets at each other. Yeah, so when we do listen, often we find that conflict is showing us places where there is something in our community that’s not working well for somebody in the community or for some group of people. And it can be a pointer to point directly at those things that are not working well. It’s sort of like when we get feedback. So we get feedback from people, ideally, as a gift toward something that we both care about working better. And if we want to make a contribution to other people’s lives, and not cause harm to other people, which I think is true of humans in general, then we want to learn, oh, what are the ways I’m causing harm, because we don’t want to cause harm, we want to cause benefit. And when we live close to each other, and community, we share, we share the risk of harm, we share the opportunity for benefit. And so we have all of these chances to notice ways that we can get more chances to benefit people and not cause harm. So I think that’s what conflict can show us is those places where our community can work better for everyone.

Rebecca Mesritz 8:28
There’s a phrase that you use that is actually new to me, or relatively new to me. And it’s this idea of a conflict system. And I’ve never really thought about the way that we manage conflict with a man the way that we manage that as a system. And I don’t I don’t know why. I mean, maybe that’s strange that I haven’t thought of it that way. I mean, we have techniques, we have strategies, but I like the idea of there being a system to to this thing, putting some parameters around it. And can you describe to me what a conflict system is in your view?

Alyson Ewald 9:11
Yeah, great question. I think many of us don’t think of there being a system in place, we just do whatever we do about it. And I learned about systems thinking back when I was doing some deep ecology, reading and workshops and one thing that I learned about systems is that there are there already there’s always a system of some sort in function in action. And we may not be able to see it we may not be like our eyes might not be looking at it correctly. You know, I don’t know if you look for mushrooms ever or go mushroom hunting. But there’s this thing of like if you don’t have your money

Rebecca Mesritz 9:46
every day, you can’t see them every time I leave my house I’m looking for mushrooms ask my husband, right? But if you don’t have

Alyson Ewald 9:51
your mushroom eyes on you don’t see them and then you put your mushroom eyes on and boom. Oh, there’s a mushroom right there. Why did I not see it five seconds ago. And it’s like that if we are looking for the system, then we’ll be better able to see it and see how, how it works. If we’re blind to it, if we’re not opening our eyes to it, then we don’t necessarily see it. And so if you and your colleagues, those you live with those you work with haven’t set up a system intentionally to have conflict, then you inherit the system that was there already that someone else created for you. And so we have systems of, you know, punitive justice systems, and we have jails, and we have lawyers, and we have in our communities, we might have like a process team, or a conflict resolution team, or we might have like nonviolent communication, you know, culture or something. Those are all part of the complex system as I see it. So the system is just what happens when harm is caused, what what do people do? How do they address it? What is the system that’s in place that they follow? Do they call the cops? Do they call, you know, the dog catcher, you know? Or do they do they go and talk to their neighbour one on one, like, what is the system that’s in place already, at once we start seeing the way we’re doing things now, then we can orchestrate our agreements to make it work better for us. And so whenever we start thinking this way, I will speak for myself, often I start noticing that, like, everyone is building systems all the time. And what I mean by that is, whenever someone is complaining about something, their system building, they’re finding what’s not working for them about the system that exists already. Or whenever someone is celebrating something that went really well, they’re often pointing out something that is working well for them about the existing system, whether it’s a financial system, education system, Information System, governance system conflict system, if we’re complaining about something, we’re noticing an aspect of it that we don’t like, that we’re not enjoying, that’s not satisfying for us. And, and similarly, when we notice things that that we love, that are that are great in our lives, and those are probably related to ways that the system is supportive for us thriving with our community. And so setting up a complex system just requires tuning in to those things and noticing what’s working really well. What’s not working really well. And what’s our dream of how it could be? How would it look? If it were the way we dream? It could be ideally, in those three questions, what’s working, what’s not working? And what’s our dream of how it could be? Yield answers that help us design a better system for having conflict in our community. And we can ask them iteratively every year, every month, every day, we can be like, Oh, that the way that that went? Didn’t go great. How do I want to do that better next time. And you can see as I speak that like it is intimately connected to how you do feedback in your community. That’s a whole separate system. But it’s really connected to how your complex system works. Yeah, so that so that’s what I mean, when I say system. I mean, the way that we have orchestrated things, if we’ve done it intentionally, or the way other people have set it up for us, whether we like it or not, that indicate what people do in this family, in this society, in this culture, when harm has occurred.

Rebecca Mesritz 13:31
When is a good time to start to put those systems in place? Because it sounds like in order to assess what’s working, what’s not working, you might need to have some, I don’t know, some, some time with people. But for a forming group or something like that. I mean, and maybe they could sort of base it off of their experience in regular society. But how do you start? Where do you start from, I guess,

Alyson Ewald 13:58
I mean, we all have experience, we all grew up in some kind of home, you know, we survived some kind of upbringing, there was a conflict system in our family of origin of some sort. And we’ve all learned something from that. We loved it, we hated it. You know, the things that we bring to our community come from our experiences in the past. And so we have a wealth of wisdom already from our lived experience to say like, Hey, when I lived in this group house when I was in college, we had this meeting once a week about who was going to do the dishes and who was going to, you know, vacuum and all that stuff. And we always started with roses and thorns or goods and griefs, you know, like, what, what has worked well in the past week and what hasn’t worked? Well, basically, that’s a system building question, right? And it’s also a way of giving feedback and receiving feedback at a time in place when we’ve agreed to do that. So it’s it’s seen as an acceptable thing to do, like, oh, when you didn’t clean up after dinner, like I was surprised and a little disappointed because the kitchen was a mess the next morning, like your system building, you’re looking at what didn’t work about your current agreements. And um, So I think there’s no, you don’t have to wait to get started, you know, like, until you’re until you like, already have a bunch of other agreements or something or have been living together for a year, like the moment that you are forming a group with others is a great moment to say like, alright, what are we going to do when we fight? How are we going to have a really good fight? Where we get the war connected, and we learn more about each other, and and we get better and better at being a human community?

Rebecca Mesritz 15:34
How do you have a good fight?

Alyson Ewald 15:39
Have you Have a good night? Yeah, I mean, I think it’s

Rebecca Mesritz 15:45
funny. It’s funny that you, that’s kind of a funny question, because my husband and I are in our kitchen this morning. And his younger brother, who’s about 20 years younger is coming to stay with us for a bit. And he and I were, like, air quotes fighting this morning, we were kind of sort of lovingly, like, poking each other and kind of it was a Yeah. Jonas Jonas says to his brother’s like, this is what a good fight sounds like, oh, like reflecting on Yeah, this is a good fight. Like we’re not really fighting because we’re not we’re not angry, we’re not yelling, are just kind of laughing and giving each other a little bit of shit. But then also, yeah, talk also, at the same time kind of talking about something like, Oh, hey, that didn’t really work for me when you do that. But this, this works for me. And yeah, I don’t know. It’s kind of a fun question to think about, like, what does it? What does a good fight look like?

Alyson Ewald 16:43
Sounds like for you and your partner, it worked well, that there was humour involved. And it sounds like maybe some physical touch. I don’t know. And it also sounds like you were able to hear what wasn’t working for each other without getting too worked up. So yeah. And I don’t know what caused that. Like, maybe it was partly that the other family member was there observing, so you’re on your best behaviour, I don’t know. So you had a third person there, often people do find that that supports them to be the way they want to be in the world, even if that third person doesn’t have like an official role. So right there, you just told me three things that worked for you about how to have a good fight. And system building just means noticing that maybe keeping track of it somewhere, maybe you want to write it down, or I don’t know how formal you want to get it depends on you and your culture, as a community or as a family. But that’s the way you get a system is you talk about what works and what doesn’t work, and you do more of things that work. And the things that don’t work, turn into compost, to grow something that works better.

Rebecca Mesritz 17:45
I like that. Yeah, I think there’s also something about, you know, we have a lot of, of love. I mean, my husband and I have a lot of love and respect for each other, we build a lot of glue pretty regularly. So and we don’t we don’t let a lot of things fester. There’s not really time or space for festering, yeah. Which I think is something that maybe when you’re, you know, outside of your, I mean, obviously that could happen in a, you know, a partnership like what we have, but I have seen in community, sometimes you just kind of might sit on something and not want to, like make a big deal about it, even though it kind of bothers you. And then then, I mean, that’s one of these things where I’m kind of wondering about how do you create systems to deal with those things that, particularly for people that don’t have as much of a voice, or don’t express their voice as freely, I shouldn’t say they don’t have a voice. They don’t express their voices freely, especially when there’s something wrong. You know, how do you build systems that encourage people to say, hey, this doesn’t work for me, if they have more of a pleaser, kind of or more easygoing, personality, but it actually does really bother them.

Alyson Ewald 19:01
Sure, sure. Yeah. Yeah. Great. I noticed one thing you said was that you all don’t let things fester, like you have a pretty good practice of like bringing things up as they come up. Like when they’re still pretty small before they kind of get big and start to feel like they’re going to explode. And the other thing I heard you say was that you have a lot of glue, you do a lot of fun, enjoyable activities together that build connection. And I think those two things are really important for any group to have, as part of their culture, as a way of reducing the amount of painful conflict. So, you know, planting the seeds that you want to grow, so that you know, unlike mulching the garden beds so that the Weeds don’t take over right. And so I think that you know you nailed it in terms of what what can lay the ground for, for conflict. and it is discussed to be less painful. And that’s having good strong connecting activities that you do together that are enjoyable, that build connection. Whether it’s potlucks or song circle, or like music jams or game night, you know, a women’s circle of men circle, like whatever you do in your community for fun and connect the activities and, and personal growth work like those are going to make conflict less painful when it happens. And and then as far as supporting people who hesitate to come forward, I think it’s very natural to hesitate to come forward. Because we often have seen conflict go poorly, we’ve seen it become violent and even more painful when it’s not handled respectfully. We also want to be a good neighbour, a good friend, a good colleague, and many people think that good equals never, you know, complaining about anything, never mentioning something that we don’t like being easygoing. And. And so I think that’s where it’s really important to have opportunities where that’s actually invited, where people are actually saying, especially people who might have more structural power, or are more verbal, or are white, or are you no more educated to say like, Okay, this is a moment when we really need to hear what’s not working for people. Because we’re setting up a food Co Op, and we want it to go really well. And so if there’s something that’s bothering you, the earlier we hear about it, the better. Right so please don’t be afraid to say something if something’s bugging you even a little bit and and going back to my example of the student coop or something, if you have a weekly meeting, maybe just to schedule you know, your food coop cooking or your your facilitator rotation for your community or something. Anytime that you’re gathering regularly could be a great time to just check in, go around and check in how you doing, and then have a round of what’s been what’s worked well for me in the past week, what hasn’t worked well for me in the past week, about the way that we do food, the way that we do meetings, the way that we do, you know, conflict or whatever, whatever, wherever the people are interacting in that space. When there are welcomed opportunities where it’s expected to bring these little annoyances, these little niggly things. And where people are, are saying out loud, like, we really want this because we don’t want to cause harm to each other, we want it to go better. And so for it to go better, we need to find out the ways that we’ve caused other people to be frustrated or late for work or whatever. So I think it does help to like, out loud, you know, establish that culture as early as you can seem like, Yeah, we really do need to hear these things. You’re not causing a problem by bringing it up, you’re you’re taking part in, in building a better world by bringing it up. Because people will apologise. They’ll be like, I’m sorry to say this. It’s really small, you know, they preface it with all these things like I’m sorry to even bring it up. I wouldn’t say it except that you asked, you know, that’s a great time to just interrupt and say like, no, please, we want to hear it. Great. Thank you very much. Please say it, you know, like really encourage people to bring those things.

Rebecca Mesritz 23:11
And then what’s the next step from there? Is there like an accountability piece? Or, like, what is the next step in in the system? I guess if, as you’re collecting this information of what works and doesn’t work, how does that start to translate into action? Or change of action?

Alyson Ewald 23:33
Yeah, great. So so far, we’ve kind of been talking about, like, how can we put our mushroom eyes on, you know, how can we start seeing systems and tweaking systems so that they work better? How can we encourage people to give us that feedback? And then how we get to a system that’s really fruitful for us, is by continuing to ask those questions. And then to take care of all of the different aspects of, of a restorative system, by which I mean, a system that restores connection restores community, a system that repairs harm. So it’s not focused on punishing, like figuring out who did something wrong and then punishing them, you know, like, that’s what we all think Justice is right? Because who did something wrong and then give them appropriate punishment. So if we’re changing from punitive justice to restorative, what we’re trying to do is not focus on like, guilt or shame or blame. Instead, we’re focusing on what harm occurred, how did it happen? And how can we repair that harm, and restore the connection if possible. And so to do that, we need to take care of things like well, what do we want, you know, say like, I’m upset with with, you know, Frank and Joe and my friend saw what happened and so she has some idea about it and and we all Were meeting in this place that had a certain atmosphere because of something someone else did. So we recognise like, oh, this conflict might feel like it’s just between me and Frank. But actually, the conditions for that conflict to happen were created by others in the community, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And so what a restorative system will do typically is it’ll bring together all three parties to any conflict. So someone who did an act that caused harm a person who received that act, or felt the harm, and then anyone else who participated in creating the conditions for that harm to occur. And then those are often the same people that can create different conditions going forward, so that that harm is like less likely to happen in the future. And when we, when we come together as a community to look at these things, we often find that we want people to have a system that they own, like, we want to own our own system, we don’t want to plug in some system from somewhere else we want to mean that’s our culture, that we know how it works, we know why we set it up the way we did, because then we’re empowered to tweak it and make it work better for us when we notice things that we don’t like about it. Often people are like, what’s a restorative circle, tell me exactly how to do it. And they expect me to be like step one, step two, step three. But a restorative circle isn’t like that, it’s not a thing that you know, that you can buy in a box off the shelf and unpack and plug in, and then it’ll run, it’s always works better if it comes from the community, if it’s endogenous, or arising from the culture, that is that is using that system. So there’s other principles like bringing those three parties to the conflict. So the person who acted or the people who acted, those who were impacted by the action and the wider community, the system will bring them together in some kind of dialogue. So So restorative systems always seem to have this, this through through line of dialogue as equals. So by which I mean that we set aside at the door, if to the extent possible, any structural power differences, and we’re all there to follow the same. To follow the same format. So sort of everyone answers the same questions, everyone is treated the same way by any facilitators or hosts. So So we come to this dialogue, not knowing how it’s going to end, and everyone being equally having equal access to the process. Often, it’s voluntary, often participants invite each other. And, and crucially, the processes that are used are shared openly with all participants. So the community designs its own process. And then that information about how it works is made available to any incoming members, any new people, and, and how to initiate the process is clearly posted somewhere like 911, like really easy, something that everyone knows, oh, if you’re in conflict, you put a little note in the three by five slot in the back hallway for the complex celebration team. And everyone knows that that’s how it works. And there’s a phone number posted in the common house in case you lose track of the process and need to understand it or something like that. So there’s some way that everyone knows how it works. And there’s some way that everyone has equal access to initiate the process. And then generate these

Rebecca Mesritz 28:41
I love this. Yeah, conflict celebration team. I’m just saying that it’s just, it’s so powerful. It’s so powerful, just to say, you know, it just takes it out of our, you know, this culture that we live in this patriarchal coloniser culture that just wants to say, you’ve been bad, and now you’re gonna get punished, or now you’re gonna get cancelled, which is, you know, the latest, the latest, great punishment that you can receive. And there’s something really potent about this idea of, okay, there’s been a conflict. And we’re going to we’re actually going to celebrate this conflict and kind of bring light to it as opposed to now someone’s going to really get their ass handed to them.

Alyson Ewald 29:25
Right, right. Because it is a it’s a totally different mindset. You’re absolutely right, Rebecca and and it’s an it’s crucial, because when we don’t have that mindset, then and I still hear this even even here, I hear people say, someone called a circle on me. It’s like no, someone invited you to like experience the flowering of this conflict together and find out how to meet your needs. Like, someone really wants to hear how that harm happened, so that they can figure out what needs to happen going forward to repair it and get close to you like if they’d, if they were really mad at you, they would just never talk to you again, or they leave the community, like inviting someone into dialogue about something that happened that is causing them pain is a way of expressing how important the relationship is with you. And so it’s not calling a circle on you, or like making you come to a circle. Often these are optional processes. It’s inviting you to participate in something that we’re hoping will bring benefit to everyone who participates. And that’s the other very common, you know, aspect of a restorative system and the restorative circle is that the goal is not just to say nice words or something, the goal is to find meaningful action that we can do, as a result of learning where the harm is happening, what what the needs are that are not getting met in our group. So once we have that information about how the axe impacted the people, and in what those who acted were actually wanting, what their needs were, what they were trying to get what they were aiming for, once we learn that, then together, we can figure out what a different way of of getting that need met, while maybe that’s that’s less harmful. So when we’re actually in our dialogue circle, those are the pieces of information that we’re trying to tease apart is understanding each other understanding how this impacted everyone. And then taking self responsibility. Here’s why I did what I did. Well, here’s why I did what I did. And well, here’s why I did what I did. And everyone gets to hear what everyone’s goals were, what needs everyone was trying to meet, or what they were looking for when they did whatever they did. And then we figure out those actions of what can we agree on that will repair the harm that will restore relationship and recreate re integrate community? And so when you ask, you know, what are the aspects of the of the process? There are any that I can tell you, every group comes up with its own details of like, oh, we always start with meditation because we’re meditating community? Or will we start with a snack because we love to gather around food, like, however you do it in your community is going to arise from your culture and your history and the wisdom that you’ve got from your experience. And, and then you’ll be empowered to change it, adapt it as you learn and grow. And as you keep asking the system building questions of what’s working, what’s not working? I know we’re getting close to that dream that we were talking about, how can we get even closer to it?

Rebecca Mesritz 32:37
The inside community podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for intentional community. As I mentioned earlier in the show, Allison has an upcoming course through the fic. And I’m going to have a discount code for you in our show notes. So you can go check that out. But in addition to all the amazing courses that the fic hosts, I’m wondering if you’ve heard about their communities directory. If you’re interested in starting a community or joining a community, one of the best things you can do is go visit as many communities as you can and see what you like what you don’t like see how people are innovating in all kinds of incredible ways. And through the communities directory, you can find communities that match your exact search criteria. And you can search for things like where they are, how much food they produce on site, what kind of ownership structure they use, even what kind of energy sources they employ. It’s pretty detailed and totally amazing. Check it out now at I also want to recommend to you an amazing resource for cooperative Culture Communities magazine. hot off the presses is their summer 2022 publication, and it’s all about place and planet. This issue looks at how individuals and communities relate to their local places and to the larger world. Stories explore back to the land experiments, restoring fire to local landscapes, returning land to its indigenous inhabitants and so much more. You can subscribe to their full digital catalogue. Or if you get their print version, you’ll get access included to all of their digital back issues which span 50 years. You can check out communities magazine now online at Gen dash I will have a link in my show notes. And let’s get back to the show

I’m imagining this, this view this world that you’re putting forth and just seeing how much I mean even in in that naming I have I got a circle called on me. And like how much shame and trauma is baked into us as people? And oh, gosh, I’m gonna try not to cry. I’m feeling very emotional today. So sorry. I’m just like feeling that so deeply, like, we can’t even escape, we can’t even escape that. And so how do you recommend? I mean, it seems like even before you could create this conflict system and use a restorative circle, there’s just got to be some kind of core reprogramming how we engage with with each other around around even the idea of harm and like, what is harm and what is pain? And I can see even in a circle with the best intentions, there being a place where it could feel like a bunch of excuses. Well, this is why I did what I did this what I did when I you know what I mean? Because we’re all just trying to get out of getting in trouble. I mean, I can say that for me, I’m, I’ve got a real shame trigger. So like, I just don’t want to be in trouble. You know, so how do how do people start to do that? How do people start to, to soften into that? We don’t, no one has to actually be in trouble. Yeah, in order for this harm to be repaired?

Alyson Ewald 36:24
Yeah, no, they don’t. And in fact, I’m one way that I found my way into. The question you’re asking is, when I thought about how, like, if a really close friend says to me, I’m really mad at you about something, I immediately want to know what they’re mad at me about. And if they say like, and I just can’t talk about it to you yet, I’m going to not sleep until I hear what it is. And in fact, recently, a teen that I know, told me that she was so angry at me about something that I had done that she felt she would never forgive me. And I was like, oh, heartbroken. And she didn’t want to tell me what it was. And I kept saying, like, I really want to know, I really want to know what she finally told me. And I, you know, I wept and wept over it later, because I, I feel really sad that I made those choices that that she felt so hurt by. It just breaks my heart. But I wouldn’t not want to know, like, if you’re walking around, and people might be really mad at you about something like I feel safer if I know who’s mad at me and why. I think they might be mad at me. And I don’t know. And so that was my entry point into that culture of like, Oh, it is. It’s not that I’m in trouble. It’s that someone cares enough about our connection, that they’re going to have the courage to tell me how I it’s almost like a power that I have to cause harm in their life. And they’re acknowledging that I have this power to cause harm in their life. It’s a way it’s a kind of intimacy, I think because, again, like if, if if this teen and I didn’t have the close relationship we have, I would never have found that out. And and so it was an expression of her trust in Me and her courage that she was willing to tell me that. So yeah, it’s it is a different mindset, for sure. And I think it can also really help to practice with little things. To remind ourselves that nobody’s in trouble here. Like in our really safe relationships, like in your partnership, or, you know, with someone in your family, we pretty much all seem to have conflicts abundantly in our families. And so that can be a great place of remembering like, Okay, nope, my brother’s not in trouble, just because I’m a little annoyed with him about this thing. And so how would it go? If I said to him, I’m a little annoyed about this thing. It’s not a big deal. But I want to tell you, because this might happen again, and I thought you didn’t want to know that it didn’t go that well, for me this last time. You know, like, Can you feel the way I’m saying it? How, like, I don’t feel like he’s in trouble. I’m taking care of something that we both want to be better, which is our relationship. You know, and so when we’re in conflict, something matters. The relationship matters. And the thing that happened matters and we and we ideally, we both care about it, and we want to make it go better. And we can’t unless we know how, what went wrong last time.

Rebecca Mesritz 39:43
Yeah. Yeah, I think the other side of the of the shame piece, at least for an in Rebecca, in my opinion, and how I carry it, is it’s very easy for me to make Other people feel like they’ve been bad or that they’re wrong. And just hearing how you say that? You know, I think it has to do I mean, bless my parents, I love my parents, but the ways that we’re acculturated as we’re raised and how we hold things, and I mean, I’m not I’m certainly not blaming them, I’m just saying, there might have been some piece of my upbringing that has created this, this aspect in me that that that does have that does kind of rely on that, you know, for control in some ways. And so just to hear you say it in that way, of kind of just gentle gentleness and softness, and no one’s in trouble.

Alyson Ewald 40:46
Yeah, no one’s in trouble. This just

Rebecca Mesritz 40:48
didn’t really work for me, you’re not in trouble. This just didn’t work for me.

Alyson Ewald 40:54
And it can also be useful to say up front, like, hey, are relationships really important to me. Just to take away that fear that the other person might have that you think that they’re bad, or you’re analysing or judging them as wrong, it can really help up front to say like, there’s something I want to talk to you about, because because I care about you, and I care about our relationship. And I felt that something was kind of in the way of our connection from my side. And so I think if I tell you about it, this thing that annoyed me a little bit, then I’ll, you know, feel that connection stronger, or something, you know.

Rebecca Mesritz 41:29
I just need you to be like on my shoulder. Just try it out. You know, what does that play Cyrano de Bergerac or whatever? Yeah, right. What do I see now?

Alyson Ewald 41:45
In your little earbuds all day long? Well, I mean, I think prove that it just takes practice. It just takes like experimenting, noticing what’s working, doing more of that. And practice. I think what’s really helped in the past, for me is setting up ways of practising in sort of, not 100%, hot, really hard, big conflicts, but but smaller complex. And we might even want to practice a system that we’re designing with something really small. Just to just to get our minds wrapped around. Oh, like and then at this stage is where we asked each other, what we could do going forward, right. Okay, it sounds like we’re ready to do that. Let’s try that. Now. You know, like, when you’re practising, I don’t know what to do. I play ultimate frisbee, and it took me a long time to learn to throw a forehand, and I had to slow it down and watch videos and watch my, you know, friends who could do it really well. And I had to practice like, really slowly, what do I do with my elbow, my wrist. And I think with these are conversations or conversations that could be hard, can help to have grace with ourselves, have ease with ourselves, have compassion for ourselves, I’m just practising, I’m just learning, I’m gonna make mistakes, I’m going to slow down, and it’s going to feel really awkward. And I’m going to tell the other person, look, I’m trying something new. I don’t know how this is gonna go. But I’m gonna just practice because I heard this podcast and this lady was saying that, like, there is a way to have conflict where you’re actually trying to meet people’s needs instead of punish people. So I want to try that. And I don’t really know what I’m doing. But can we do that right now, because I have a little thing I’m annoyed about and I want to just try out telling you about it. And I’m not judging you or making you wrong in my head, I just want to see if I can talk about it with you in a way where we’re not gonna hate each other. Yeah, you know, just just be open about how we’re on a learning process process. And it’s messy. And as we go, we’re gonna make things up and try them and some are gonna go well, and some are not. Well,

Rebecca Mesritz 43:52
I mean, let’s go, let’s go into the ones that that are not because, I mean, I think having experienced conflict that I’ve both been a part of, and not been a part of, I’m aware of their, you know, I’m thinking of a time in particular when it was a conflict that had nothing to do with me. And I like that you brought up the example of dishes earlier. Just because I think that that’s such an easy one when you’re sharing space with people. And, you know, there’s obviously there’s conflict and harm that we’re that happens when it’s, you know, things that are more you know, soulful and and hit something deeper, but there’s also just like the daily respect or disrespect perceptions of sharing space with people. And I’m wondering how restorative circles address issues when they when the conflict system hasn’t worked to help shift behaviour, you know, when you’ve met with someone, and you’ve met with someone and you’ve talked about it and asked and worked to try and get a behaviour to change and get them to do their dishes, get them to clean up after themselves. And it just, it just isn’t happening, like, what do you then what? You know,

Alyson Ewald 45:13
right? Well, two things, one I want, I want to just say Hi, Rebecca, as parents, if you’re listening, he’s here with us today. So you did a good enough job. And I’m sure that you were doing your best given what you learned about conflict growing up. And, and as to your question about when it doesn’t work, I’m curious what you mean, when you say doesn’t work, because the example you gave is, the person’s not doing what I want them to do. And that, to me, doesn’t necessarily mean that the system didn’t work, as long as people stayed nonviolent and didn’t, you know, injure each other. Maybe it did work, you know, maybe that is working better than punishment, sending people to their room, finding them, you know, stuff like that.

Rebecca Mesritz 46:16
I’ll just clarify and say there’s, you know, and we never had, I’m thinking about times in at the Emerald village, we definitely had feedback, opportunities and things like that, but I wouldn’t, I don’t think we ever really had what I would call conflict system. We had procedures and ways of, of holding things. But we definitely had agreements that we had made as a community for certain types of action, or certain things that ways that we would hold thing or things are tried to do things together. And I was not a part of this particular shared kitchen, but I know that there was a lot of distress over certain persons not like just having a mess and leaving, yeah, not cleaning up. And so you know, when when the agreement field is created, and then not upheld, you know, that’s kind of we’re sure. I mean, it is like you’re not doing what I said to do, but you’re also not doing what we agreed on, agreed on.

Alyson Ewald 47:18
I mean, it seems like something about the process isn’t giving you the information that you need in order to come up with actions that are going to be satisfying to everyone. So there might be something that the person who’s not doing the dishes is taking care of, instead of doing the dishes, or they’re meeting some need that they have, by not doing the dishes by choosing to do something else instead of the dishes. And there might be something in the process where you’re skipping over that. Typically, people will be just like, badgering each other like this is our agreement. Come on. This is our agreement, follow agreement, follow our agreement, why aren’t you following our agreement? So disrespectful, right? But we’re not finding out? Oh, what do you do at the end of your cook shift that’s important to you, or what need Are you meeting when you go to your room and leave the dishes in the sink. And you might also be skipping the part where that person hears the personal impact on their housemates of not doing the dishes like Oh, I couldn’t actually use the sink to wash the ingredients for my next cook shift. And so I had to spend 10 minutes moving things out of the sink, and then there wasn’t enough room on the counter to chop the vegetables. And so it caused my code shift to take much longer. And that’s why dinner was late. You know, and that’s why I had to not even eat because I had a zoom call after dinner that I had to get right on. And I didn’t even have time to eat because I had to do my dishes. And so, you know, like, there might be a part where we’re not hearing their needs, there might also be a part where they’re not hearing the impact on us clearly enough. And so I would examine the process and make sure that it’s not just focused on reminding people of the rule they broke. But on honouring that we all make choices for some reason, we all do whatever we do, because we’re trying to meet needs or trying to take care of something, we’re trying to protect something that’s important to us. And if that person is, you know, just exhausted by the end of cooking, because they’ve never cooked for six people before and it takes everything out of them. Maybe they just don’t have to do the dishes. Maybe someone else does their dishes, and they’re the one and instead of doing dishes, they’re the one who like makes everyone coffee in the morning because they’re up early or they’re the one who waters all the plants or, you know, maybe there’s some other way that they can contribute and someone else does their dishes so that they aren’t miserable. Right? You see what I’m saying? Like? Yeah, switching from like enforcing the rule to finding out what is important to each person and how we can balance that one eating coop I was part of it, we it was really important to us that we had really good food to eat and for dinner that was more important to us than that everyone who was in the coop, do a cook shift, we would rather do to cook shifts that have someone who hated cooking and always just made plain Ansen on flavoured rice and beans for dinner. Like cook like we would rather that they just did extra dishes extra prep, filled the buckets from the back stock bags, you know, but But please, you know, get me firewood or whatever, but don’t cook like I will cook for you. Right, and it was important to find out what they, you know, what they were willing to do what was important to us. And we got clear as a group, like, oh, the quality of our food is more important than exact quality in terms of the time we put into cooking.

Rebecca Mesritz 50:52
Yeah, I’m just really hearing this kind of deeper curiosity, sort of guiding this process, you know, this deeper listening to okay, but what’s going on? Like, but why like, what’s happening? Like, more about unpacking the why not as an excuse, but like, what’s really what, and maybe it kind of comes a little bit from I know, NVC nonviolent communication talks a lot uses a lot about like, what is the unmet need? Or what is the need that’s trying to be met? And maybe there’s a way that that kind of overlaps in the system a little bit.

Alyson Ewald 51:30
It doesn’t have, yeah, it doesn’t have to at all, and in fact, the word need can be not quite right for some people, because they might see a need as something that like absolutely has to happen, or you will die. Whereas often we decide not to get certain needs met, because we’re prioritising other means that needs at that time. So you can use language of needs, you can use language of wants, wishes, desires, things that are important to you values, things you want to take care of, or protect. what’s meaningful to you what’s important to you, you know, these are all ways of like asking questions inside of ourselves to stimulate that curiosity you’re talking about, so that we can, like listen to understand instead of the way we often listen, the way I often listen to people when I’m not focusing on it, is listening in order to figure out what my response is listening in order to figure out how my argument is better than their argument and listening in order to tell my story after their story is done. And I’m just waiting for them to wrap up. So I can tell my story like, these are very common ways of listening, analysing, judging, thinking of advice we might give, and it can take, it can take effort to switch into like, Okay, I’m gonna drop into listening to understand now and turn on my curiosity, my mushroom eyes, like get in that frame of mind where I’m really trying to understand what’s at stake for this other person. Why are they so happy right now? What’s going really well for them? Oh, okay. Their family is really important to them and their families coming to visit great, I know something new about this person? Or why do they look at a dejected Oh, sounds like the weather really impacts their mood, okay, that’s good to know, like on a sunny day, they’re more likely to be in a good mood, and maybe on a rainy day, not so much like, when we listen to understand, we get to know like, how these other humans are different from us. Like it’s hard to get along with the other humans, they’re different from us, they’re not me. And listening to understand helps us see things as the other person can, sees them so that we can find meaningful action later that works better for everyone. It’s all part of consensus culture to me, regardless of how you make your decisions, whether it’s supermajority or you know, sociocracy, or direct consensus. Consensus, culture still means trying to hear the wisdom that everyone brings trying to hear everyone’s experience making the best decision possible for our group. And, and I think this way of doing conflict really plays well with Cooperative Governance, because it’s, it’s, they both require that we really come with curiosity to the conversation, and listen, listen to be changed, listen to be transformed. You know, I like to enter a conversation, feeling like I will never be the same after talking to you. I will see the world in a different way, like reading a great poem are a great novel or something or a great people listening to a great piece of music, like it just transforms you. And I would love all conversations to feel like that with you.

Rebecca Mesritz 54:39
Does that feel great? Yeah, I would, I would, I would love more advice or tips or tricks for how to be in that listening to understand like, what is the process of listening to understand if you are going to break it down? How do I how do I put my brain into that way of being

Alyson Ewald 55:03
I think there’s a there’s a stillness that we that I cultivate. Inside of my mind, I, I noticed things. Sometimes I notice things in my body like a shortness of breath, or a tightness or something, when I noticed that I’ve kind of gone on autopilot, I’m not really listening. And, and so the first thing is to just bring awareness to myself, take a deep breath, notice that I am in the light, like, basically get back to the present moment from wherever I went off to. And so meditation can help with that yoga can help with that, just taking a breath can help with that. So cultivating presence. And then once we get aware of how we’re feeling in the present moment, then I then I, I really try to tune into the other person, their body language, their facial expression, their tone of voice, the words they’re saying. And, and, and listen through that or beneath that for like, what really matters to them, or what they’re trying to convey right now. And it might have nothing to do with the actual words they’re saying. But science shows that we listen with all different kinds of spidey senses. Like we can tell when people’s heart rate goes up, we can tell when people’s blood pressure goes up, like we we can feel even on Zoom calls, we can tell things about how another person is doing. And and so when we come from presence and tune into the other person, we can often learn a lot about your experience, you can learn a lot by listening to was that Yogi Berra, you can you can hear a lot by listening, I think. Anyway. So those are, those are some tips and tricks. I mean, I think Rebecca, it really comes down to doing our own work to get grounded to get present to get flexible, all of all of that stuff. And bringing it to to our communication. There’s something you asked me earlier that I think I didn’t come back to. Oh, it was when you were asking me about when people are starting to set up a complex system. You know, what’s a good place to start? And I think there are a couple of pointers that were really useful for me, and that are still useful. And I learned about this from Dominic barter, he is he lives in Brazil, and works with, with people there to design complex systems, restorative circles and restorative systems, in all different arenas of, of life, from the favelas to the government. And his website has a lot of great information about restorative circles, restorative systems, and it’s, it’s restorative And so if you go to restorative, you can see a lot there about, about Dominic Carter’s work and what restorative circles mean, what the principles are that that we follow when we’re designing a restorative system that includes restorative circles. And so when we’re when we’re designing a restorative system, one of the things that I learned from working with Dominic is that it helps to take care of five things and he calls them the preconditions, five preconditions. And that if you meet all of these preconditions, then your system is more likely to work well. And, and so the first one, is your agreement, like, how is the process going to look, what do you agree on as a group, as a community as a family about how you will do conflict? Basically, like, what do people say? What are the steps that people take? When you’re having these dialogues? And what is your agreement about, about trying this, like, most likely, people will not want to be like, I’m always going to use a restorative circle for everything, like they’re still going to want to occasionally, you know, fight at midnight with our partner, you know, over the dishes, or maybe throw crockery sometimes, or yell or swear, stomp outside and slam the door or whatever, but, but the agreement is often like, yes, and if those things are satisfying, we will try a restorative circle. Which and then you will want to design it for yourself as a community. What does the circle look like? What are the steps that your host or facilitator takes to support the people who are part of the conflict? How do people get invited to the circle and so forth? What happens if someone declines to attend? Is that fine? Are you going to find a way to substitute for them? Or what are you going to do in that case, to keep it optional? So those are the agreement. That’s the first precondition. The second one is, and it doesn’t matter necessarily what order these are in this is just the order I think of them in is the people who cause your system to function the way you want it to. So maybe you have a process team or you maybe you have a mediator list or maybe both.

Maybe you have other people who are part of supporting those in conflict? How are those people going to get support, because this is a hard thing to do. It is hard to have people bring you their troubles. I’m really grateful that people bring me their troubles. I love being a person that people bring their troubles to. That’s a huge gift. I’m really grateful to be that person. And I have four times a week that I meet with someone and share time. And we give each other empathy. For a set time on a timer. Like literally, we set a timer and trade time offering each other empathic listening, I have four different people, I do that with every single week, and my women’s circle. And so how are those people in your system going to get supported so that they can show up? And support others who are in conflict as that’s a hard job? Do they need money? Do they need company? Do they need inspiration? Do they need childcare? Do they need chocolate? Like what is going to keep them going to find that out and figure out how to build that in? So people, that’s your second one? Your third one is your place? Where are you going to have these dialogues. And ideally, you know, you agree on a on a certain place, or maybe a couple of different places where people come together. And And ideally, it’s not someone’s turf, it’s not someone’s like, you know, domain, it’s a place that feels equally accessible to everyone in your, in your group, your family, your community, your school. And it’s conducive to private conversations, right? Hopefully, nobody will be interrupting you. It’s private. Maybe it has an atmosphere of peace and comfort to it, everyone feels relaxed there or as much as they can be under the circumstances. So that’s your third thing is the place where you’re going to have your dialogue. And you may think, Oh, that’s not that important to plan in advance. But if you don’t know where you’re actually going to sit down each time, that can be a hard thing to discuss with people once they’re mad at each other already. And then the fourth thing is information. How are you going to share information about how the system works with everyone who’s part of the system, everyone in the community, new new people who join the community, kids, if they’re part of your system? Visitors, how are you going to include in inform all of the people who might experience conflict in your community? Ideally, this is something that is accessible to people on an as needed basis. But it might also involve like oh workshop for all the visitors and you know, a thing on the website that’s only visible to people who live there, you know, there might be three or four different ways that your system is made clear, so that nobody’s ever wondering how it works. You might also want to have regular practice sessions, where you’re kind of making up a conflict, maybe it’s real for one person who’s present but not for anyone else, and everyone else has role playing. And you might invite observers to come and watch because it demystifies it for people if they get to just see oh, that’s how it’s gonna go. And so I really recommend doing some kind of practice sessions with observers to show people how it would go, and to just practice it for the facilitator or the host of the circle to practice their role. So your agreement, your people, your place information, and then the final precondition is access. What is the access point to start in your chosen dialogue process? Where do they raise the flag on the flag? Where do they put the slip of paper? Where do they send the email, make sure this is accessible to everyone. You know, for example, if there are, you know, children in your system that aren’t on email, like then you need to have an access point for a conflict circle that children can access. If you have blind people, it can’t be a visual thing, you know what I mean? So it has to be something that everyone in the community can equally access in order to start the process rolling. And ideally, it’s something that, like I said, just starts the process rolling, they’re just kicking a ball, and then it starts to roll. There’s no gatekeeper, who can say like, oh, this is not a big enough conflict for our system, anything that gets initiated roles, and that way, people don’t second guess themselves. Like I don’t know, I don’t want to use people’s time, is this a big enough thing? I don’t know. You want them to feel comfortable starting the process, knowing that nobody is going to be doubting whether they have the right to do that. So those are the five preconditions. And I like to add a sixth one that’s just continuing to evaluate how the process is going. I think that’s a really important step to include in your system is like, oh, yeah, every you know, summer solstice, we, we look at our complex system, as a community, whoever wants to come to the meeting, or we do a poll online or whatever your culture is to just check in about what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s your dream of how it could be and whether you’re on the way toward that. So I just wanted to make sure that people have those of those those pointers because I think that can be really useful when you’re when you’re designing your system.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:04:54
That’s amazing. That’s so I love that. i It’s very comprehensive and I feel like it really covers all the all the bases. I’m wondering, you know, is this something that people can? Like? What would you pick a few people from your community to get a facilitator training for something like this? Or do you hire someone to come and help you? Or do people take turns? I mean, how does it maybe it just depends on the community and how they want to do it. But it seems like having a really excellent facilitator would make this process much better.

Alyson Ewald 1:05:30
It may seem that way. And if it does seem that way, I would suggest that your process needs to be simpler, or your support needs to be stronger. Because I am currently one of the very few people who’s willing to host circles here. And I think that is because we don’t have enough support for facilitators. And the role has too much power and too much responsibility. So I, I love when I find out about, you know, I know a family where their 12 year old son can facilitate a circle for the family, like he knows all the steps, he knows what he’s supposed to do, what he’s supposed to ask, and when of everyone. I love that example, because we ideally want everyone in the community to be able to be in that role, because then we’re super robust and resilient, we know that we can learn from conflict no matter where it chooses to flower out of our compost pile of past experience. And so yeah, coming back to that support, coming back to that question of what the process is, and making sure everyone knows exactly how it works. So those those are two answers to that question. And the third answer that I have, Rebecca is that ideally, you don’t ever have anyone who comes in from outside and in like, has to My ideal is that you don’t ever need someone to come from outside. Now, we did have an experience here where everyone in the entire community was touched by something that happened. And we asked a friend who was part of a restorative system elsewhere, to come and play a specific role of hosting a dialogue for our entire community. And we told her in advance, like, here’s what we want you to do, here’s the process we want you to follow. So we were very clear on what we were asking of her. And, and that helped us feel comfortable that we knew the role she was going to play. We knew why she was doing what she was doing. And she felt comfortable that she didn’t have too much power or responsibility to step into that role. The place that I think it can be very useful to have someone from not from your community, who’s who’s who’s designed systems like this before, is just to keep asking those questions that I’ve told you so far, the three system building questions and then also the five preconditions? Because often groups are like, wait, what do we do next? Or how, what are we missing, and you call me an expert, I feel a little uncomfortable, because I think of myself maybe as someone with a lot of experience, but I’m no more of an expert than any other person who has a lot of experience with conflict and has paid attention to what’s working about it and what’s not working. And so I would love for everyone to feel like they’re a conflict expert, because they pay attention to people’s complaints and celebrations. And they build on those things to make the system better. So yeah, my ideal is that you design something for your community that you can keep going without needing someone to like get in from outside and fix something every so often. But you may find yourselves really benefiting from being sister organisations with another group that also understands restorative systems, and is willing to play a specific role that you give them to support your community. Now, I do really enjoy a company and groups that want support to design their system. I’ve been doing that with a couple of communities. I really love it. It’s fun for me to

just offer these questions and have people be like, oh, yeah, that’s a question we didn’t think of. Great. Let’s think about that. Oh, yeah, we think of complex as being just two people. But I do hear that. Yeah, it does make more sense to think about, like, having other people there who might be able to figure out how to meet everyone’s needs going forward. You know, I can see how that would be beneficial and just, I think it can be supportive, affirm. For groups when I bring things like information about how other groups have have been invented the wheel so they don’t have to invent it to bring like, a collaborative spirit or like, we’re in this together, you know, like it’s it can be lonely trying to figure out how to how to build a justice system that’s not focused on punishment. It’s It’s hard work, and there’s not a lot of people doing it. And so I really benefit from having company in this work. And so I love accompanying other groups that are working on this. And also, I can just celebrate the successes together with, with the group that’s, that’s doing that sort of provide encouragement and, and the kind of support that we get when someone acknowledges, like, Oh, we’re doing a hard thing. And it’s a really valuable hard thing. So so we can keep going now. So I think there is value in having sort of, you know, accompaniment from someone with experience and attention for these things. But I don’t think it’s necessary. I think groups can do this on their own. Absolutely.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:10:44
And the last thing I really want to ask you is, is about this idea of restoring connection. And, you know, you have, you’ve got your set, and you’re setting for addressing the conflict. And I guess what I’m wondering is, what is that bridge to connection? When it’s really successful? What have you seen groups doing? That seems like it really works. I mean, that might be something very personal as well. But I’m wondering if there’s any patterns that you’ve noticed around? When that connection is restored? What does that look like? Yeah,

Alyson Ewald 1:11:30
yeah, great question. I think it can be very moving, it can be one of the most moving experiences of people’s lives. I’ve seen it happen, you know, when people come to a room just dreading talking to each other. And at the end, they’re crying and hugging. And it’s just amazing to be part of something like that. Often, that doesn’t happen until those action steps are, are many are designed at the end of the dialogue. So once everyone has heard about the harm that was caused, how it happened, what people were looking for, what were the results of, of whatever actions were taken, and what and what needs were not getting met. Once they have all that information, then, and then they’ve co design steps to go forward actions that people have agreed to take to repair the harm and restore connection. It might not even be directly related to the harm that was caused. There was a conflict between two two young boys here many years ago, and the mothers had a circle, it was just the two of them actually. Or no, actually, it was all for parents, I think and

and in the end, one of the action steps that they came up with was

a meal together, or two families having a meal together. Because they realised they wanted more of that glue that you talked about at the beginning, they wanted more to build more connection in a in a fun, casual way where they weren’t talking about something heavy. And so so so when people have done that work, have had that hard conversation, and then they’ve come up with takeaways that are meaningful for each other. There’s often a real palpable like, Ah, you can kind of feel the whole room exhale, and settle down a little bit like the building sort of seems to settle down on its foundation a little bit more comfortably. And, and people may not leave crying and hugging but in my experience, often they leave looking more light looking more expansive, looking like they’re breathing more deeply and often smiling at people that they were dreading talking to just a few hours before. Yeah, so it can be it can be very powerful and transformative to really look at how, how this conflict came about and to work together to figure out how to meaningfully rebuild a connection that was

Rebecca Mesritz 1:14:13
well, Alison II Well, thank you so much for sharing all of that in your beautiful words. So so powerful.

Alyson Ewald 1:14:22
I’m really glad that you invited me to come Rebecca and I hope that everyone listening to this gets some support some inspiration, some encouragement to walk this is rewarding and challenging sometimes path.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:14:38
Thank you for joining me for this conversation with Alison E. Wald. I hope you got some beautiful takeaways to bring back into your life and some ideas about how to transform conflict when it shows up in your world. You can learn more about Allison and her work at Allison e And I’ll have links to her website. I’ll have links to Dominic Barker’s work as well as her course with the fic coming up, all in the show notes. I really appreciate you listening in today. And if you’ve enjoyed the show, please take a minute to like and subscribe to the show on whatever platform you’re listening on. Visit me on Facebook and Instagram at inside community podcast. Or you can now find me on Tik Tok at inside community. And of course, if you want to learn more about the show and our sponsor the fic find me online at It’s been a real pleasure everyone and I look forward to seeing you next time.

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About the Show

The Inside Community Podcast brings folks along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. We provide useful and inspiring content to support people on their quest for resilience, sustainability, and connection.

Meet Your Host

Inside Community Podcast host Rebecca Mesritz is a community builder living in Williams, Oregon.  In 2011, Rebecca co-founded the Emerald Village (EVO) in North County San Diego, California.  During her ten years with EVO, she supported and led numerous programs and initiatives including implementation and training of the community in Sociocracy, establishment of the Animal Husbandry program, leadership of the Land Circle, hosting numerous internal and external community events, and participation in the Human Relations Circle which holds the relational, spiritual and emotional container for their work. 

In June of 2021, with the blessing of EVO, Rebecca and 3 other co-founders relocated to begin a new, mission- driven community and learning center housed on 160 acres of forest and farmland.  Rebecca is passionate about communal living and sees intentional community as a tool for both personal and cultural transformation. In addition to her work in this field, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University and creates functional, public, and interactive art in metal, wood, and pretty much any other material she can get her hands on. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a nurturer of gardens, an epicurean lover of sustainable wholesome food, and a cultivator of compassion and beauty.

The Inside Community Podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC). Reach out if you are interested in sponsorship or advertisement opportunities on the podcast.

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