Vision and Values with Dave Henson

Posted on January 28, 2022 by

Vision and Values with Dave Henson

Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 002

This episode explores the topic of Mission, Vision, and Values in community. These guiding principles and founding documents help communities determine who they are and what they do.  In many ways, this is the “intention” part of intentional community. Joining me on a deep dive into this topic is Dave Henson. 

Dave Henson is a co-founder and current member of the 27-year old Sowing Circle intentional community, as well as a co-founder and the Executive Director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Sowing Circle and OAEC share living and working at an 80-acre organic farm and social movement training and retreat center in Sonoma County, Northern California.

An ecologist, educator and facilitator for 40 years, Dave has served as a strategy and organizational design consultant to hundreds of environmental and social justice organizations, movement networks, foundations, and land-based projects in the US and around the world. Within the intentional communities’ movement, over the past 25 years Dave has led more than 50 weekend or week-long “Starting and Sustaining Intentional Communities” workshops at OAEC for more than 1000 participants, and has consulted with over 100 projects around the U.S. seeking to develop shared living farms, centers and Communities.

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— Rebecca, your podcast host

Espisode Transcript

Rebecca Mesritz 0:06
Hello friends and welcome back to the inside community podcast. I’m your host, Rebecca Mesritz. And this podcast I bring you along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. Today we are going to explore the topic of mission, vision and values and community. I wanted to start this season here because these are the guiding principles and founding documents that really helped communities to determine who they are and what they’re doing in the world. In many ways, this is the intention part of intentional community. To dive deep into this topic today I have with me Dave Henson. Dave Hanson is a co founder and current member of the 27 year old sewing circle intentional community, as well as a co founder and the executive director of the occidental arts and Ecology Center, sewing circle and oh AEC share living and working at an 80 acre organic farm and social movement training and retreat center in Sonoma County, Northern California. an ecologist educator and facilitator for 40 years, Dave has served as a strategy and organizational design consultant to hundreds of environmental and social justice organizations, foundations and land based projects in the US and around the world. Dave has also led over 1000 participants through the starting and sustaining intentional communities workshops at OAC. And has consulted for numerous projects around the US seeking to develop shared living farms, centers and communities.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:51
My husband, Yona Mesritz took this starting and sustaining intentional communities course at OA EC, with Dave back in 2012. And he came back with a binder full of priceless information that we have referred to many times since then. But I’m sure that in the nine years since that course was offered, Dave could probably fill a whole other binder full of priceless information. So I’m so excited to have you here today to talk about mission and vision and values. Dave Henson, welcome to the show.

Dave Henson 2:24
Thank you, Rebecca. It’s really great to be with you. I look forward to this.

Rebecca Mesritz 2:28
Me too. Me too. So I just want to start by asking you if you wouldn’t mind to give us a snapshot of your community and what brought you to community living just to give our our listeners some context.

Dave Henson 2:40
Sure. The community I live in it, we go by sewing circle. So wi N G circle, in part because the place we live at is a seed saving center. So it took us a long time to come up with that name, sewing circle. We’re an LLC, Limited Liability Company, which is to the question of legal structures for communities. But we’re living on an 80 acre parcel of land up in Sonoma County, California, but hour and a half north of San Francisco. Its traditional, shared homelands of the coast Miwok and southern Pomo people who are both still robustly here and together as the federated Indians of Graydon Renteria, with whom we collaborate for over 20 years now on all kinds of traditional ecological knowledge workshops, and all kinds of stuff together. And the community, we’re about 30 people living here full time, there’s a group of us who are the owning group, or 10, in the LLC, 10 adults, and we have a bunch of kids amongst us over the years. And then there’s various staff, and other interns who are part of the occidental arts and Ecology Center, which is a 501 C three nonprofit. And it leases the use of the property from the sewing circle for no money. That’s our common project. So we have a community as an LLC, and we have a nonprofit, social justice, environmental and arts and cultural center called Arts and Ecology Center. That’s the quick of it. And what brought me to that is, you know, I grew up in a big family, I was one of six kids, my mom had eight or six kids in eight years, which I just cannot imagine having one kid now. It’s like kicking my butt. So respect to my folks and anybody’s bunch of kids. And I’ve always really enjoyed communal life, you know, family life. And when I was in college at UC Santa Barbara, in California, I came was very much part of an activist community and I was studying ecology and into cultural projects and a whole bunch of us ended up being quite good friends and from then on, we we sought the idea of living together and working together doing cultural projects together and all activists. And so it was years in the making. But we a bunch of us kept the dream alive for well over a decade until we found the spot and some of us ready to do it.

Rebecca Mesritz 5:12
Fantastic. That’s a great story. So as the sewing circle and the occidental arts and ecology, I mean, I want to talk to you today about mission and vision. So how did you determine what the mission and vision was and where the missions and visions and the values of those two organizations kind of overlap and diverge?

Dave Henson 5:36
Yeah, the, you know, you mentioned this in your welcome to me that I’ve had the privilege of teaching co teaching a starting and sustaining intentional communities course for over 20 years, five day course, sometimes we do weekends, with my land partner, Adam Walpert, and others. And this question of vision, and, and lining up with values and intentions is so interesting, and everybody’s got a story. And I think they’re really diverse. Ours is to what I said a minute ago, it really, our vision came out of a big group of people, not blood relatives, but But you know, family, small family, people that have been traveling together and living together in common homes, in Santa Barbara, in our case, and then in San Francisco, a bunch of us moved to San Francisco and lived in, we just rent the biggest house, we could find and pack everybody in there and do intentional community, we own it together, but all the elements of cooking together, cleaning together, governing together, you know, the stuff of daily life. And the vision of what we wanted to do that eventually came the arts and Ecology Center and the sewing circle intentional community was really emergent, but it also has had a flow through since its beginning for me. And that is that we can be better off have a happier life by sharing resources, and returning to some sort of ancestral lifestyle of being in clan or group or tribe or depending on where you are, there might be appropriately a more appropriate word. Because that’s where we’re evolved. We’re not evolved to live individual lives that’s like a capitalist monotheistic notion and the EBI yet we’re not trained very well to, to, to live in groups like we used to do. So our vision was to practice, return to living in a more cooperative and resource sharing manner, all towards our own benefit that we think and this and I know this to be true over all the years, live better, more fecund lives, using less resources, and costing less on the one hand, and on the other hand, externally, being able to be a mini model for whomever, and then to aggregate our our passions and skills to be a helpful force in the world. And that’s the outward facing part of our community vision. So there’s all kinds of practicalities, I won’t speak right now about what that meant for us and, and means for us in terms of being on land and doing projects together, but really, it’s about sharing life together, and being letter on the earth.

Rebecca Mesritz 8:25
So so how does the that LA EC, in terms of its scope and vision, like how did that vision develop out of what you were doing as families who wanted to live together and conserve and build resilience, just, you know, the community aspect versus the sort of service oriented 501 C three, kind of seems almost more mission driven, in some ways. I mean, not that not that living. I mean, here at the Emerald village, we’ve had our mission for a long time has been to create a home for our families. And that felt like a pretty, pretty big undertaking. So I’m imagining it was sort of similar for you in the sewing circle, that that was the initial mission, but then there was this other kinds of service oriented, is that what I’m understanding that sort of was born out of that?

Dave Henson 9:17
Well, I think you’re really close to it. But in our case, they really are. We’re one in the same like the because our community of folks emerged out of really activist projects, that the our passion for social change, positive social change, and right action, and in all things, is one in the same for why we wanted to keep living together. And as opposed to I know for many, many groups, they might, they might be family, or they might be friends first and they don’t even have a public facing social mission. And that’s fine. I don’t think most people do. But they might be get active in their community. I hope so. But they’re starting More as wanting to share life together. And that’s great. Ours was more we were sharing projects together and social change efforts, and then in which included agricultural projects, and cultural projects, arts and, and events. And it just seemed like why don’t we do this full time together? We could, we could like actually live together. And we’re always together anyway doing these projects, how about we merge these aspirations of living together, and continuing our, our work in the world. So for us, the sewing circle founding vision is to create the arts and Ecology Center, and vice versa, that and in our case, they one wouldn’t be without the other, they actually are merged at the hip, beyond just intention in very legal and other ways that have to do with county code, like what gives us the right to have so many homes on this land? Well, in part, it’s because we have a nonprofit Research and Education Center. And that gets into the weeds of our particular project. But that’s often the case that the nonprofit or public facing mission based entity, part of a community’s aspiration is kind of a founding and almost unseparable, part of The Big Vision.

Rebecca Mesritz 11:19
Yeah, I think that with what we’re doing what we’re endeavoring to do, as several of us are leaving that emerald village and moving up to Oregon and getting ready to start a new community up there, we’re finding that we definitely have a very public mission driven vision. And we also recognize that that will be separate but parallel and inseparable from the community. So I’m feeling really inspired by what you’re sharing right now about how you guys have have done it, because you’ve had some so much success. So let me ask you in terms of the vision that you initially had as you came together, and it sounds like you were a group of young, peppy upstarts coming together with this big vision, so how has that initial vision? First of all, how is it formed? What are you still? Are you still doing that initial thing? How has it changed? How has it shifted over the years? And is it something that you feel like even now 27 years later, you’re still coming back to and engaging with as I don’t know, a guidepost or a compass of sorts?

Dave Henson 12:28
Yeah, great question. And I’m really excited for you and your, your family and friends that do this Oregon project, I think that you have been living in a really robust community, with all the tremens and complications for a bunch of yours sets you up to start afresh in a way with a whole lot of wisdom and knowing what questions to ask before they hit you, you know, is, is great. I’m excited to see this to your question. You know, it’s it, I should have sent this to you in advance. And I’m happy to share we have a really simple sewing circle mission, vision rather vision statement that we wrote, like two pages that we wrote 28 years ago. And when we were seeking to purchase this, this land, we are probably 1314 of us that were doing a visioning process. And we each went off and wrote a little on our own we can we went into small groups and shared them and ask questions of each other. And we wanted it we didn’t want to start with like one person’s vision and then edit it, we wanted to sort of collaboratively create all the possible elements of what we intended. And it was a remarkably easy for us and that that’s interesting, as a sociologist of or an anthropologist of intentional communities, both of us the like, what makes groups work or not? And what are the triggers that that are most challenging? For us, we were really aligned, turned out and we knew that but in this exercise, we wrote a vision statement. And we took our time, we actually had time. So we turned to it every couple of weeks for some weeks, to then say this is okay. This is what we think we think. And when I look at that, now, it’s spot on. It could be we could write it today. It’s remarkably accurate, both in terms of what we realized, but also it has the question, it has the staying power in a way of being division that we would say now, although there are certain cultural phrases that I think we’ve learned to better speak through experience and through changes in the real world. And I appreciate that. That’s one of the interesting things about getting older. Yes, I used to be a young upstart. Now I’m just an old lips there are older. So that’s a it’s it’s really wonderful to as a group, read that and just nod our heads and be like, Wow, we nail it and somehow With the grace of guy and a hard work, we, we, we did this we actually are living the vision we intended. And I think that’s kind of rare and doesn’t mean more so fantastic. It’s just things aligned. Well,

Rebecca Mesritz 15:14
yeah, it. It’s interesting to me how similar. I mean, what your story is, especially, I mean, even down to the having 10 founders, and the Emerald village has 10 founders, and we had a similar experience of, you know, when we initially came together, and we did our visioning exercises, and we, you know, started to build this thing. It was so easy, and we didn’t have an we didn’t really have any, we were always aligned, we were almost always aligned. And even before we had a governance model, like a defined governance model, which now we use sociocracy. But even before that, we used what we were calling sort of consenso resonance, which was not true consensus, it was more like just sort of this deep, responsible way of finding agreement and finding the best solution that was going to work for everyone. And it was amazing to me that we always were able to do that, through being in our hearts are whatever that that thing was. And then, you know, as we sort of went along, we had our original mission statement, and maybe five or six years, and several years ago, we actually went back and kind of revisited it and ended up rewriting it because we felt like we achieved what we had initially set out to do, which was to build a home home for our families. And so we felt like there was kind of a need at that time to reassess and, and allow our, our mission and our vision to evolve as we had evolved, because we were all pretty, I mean, not that old now. But, you know, in our late 20s, early 30s, so in 10 years time, who we are as people and how we are as a community, it kind of evolved. So just I’m wondering, my question in all of that is, you know, for communities who might be shifting away from their original vision, or who are seeing their vision evolve, or their mission evolve? Do you have recommendations for them for how to sort of navigate those waters? I mean, you’re also, you’ve also worked with a lot of other organizations aside from your own community. So I’m sure over the years, you’ve seen other entities have this kind of, oh, we had this initial idea, and then we kind of now we’re finding ourselves being pulled in this direction.

Dave Henson 17:35
Right. Yeah, I think that’s all good. It’s where you started, I think is interesting to that. 10 is an interesting number, not just because, you know, it’s a magic number, they’re all magic, eight, 712, even 11. But there’s some actual real good sociology on the, the right numbers, or range of numbers to make more consensus based, consensual decisions. And you can, I think people know this, instinctively. But I’ve known this by facilitating, like, literally 1000s of meetings in my life, my main job is facilitating strategic planning and campaign strategies for social change organizations around the world. And I’ve worked with groups of 500, and lots of groups of 15, and five and 30. And anything in between. And the same goes true there in terms of decision making. But back to communities, having 10 people or eight people is sweet, that’s possible. Every after a dozen or so goes a lot of the sociology, every additional person is another 20, or 30%, mathematical complication, and you get up to 1789 20. And the idea that you’re all going to be on the same page for something as essential as What is food to us, like, what are we going to eat? Is meat food? Or is that violence? Is is dairy, okay, or not? is, you know, ours is so toxic? Or is it the salvation, you know, and everything in between, like anybody who’s in a community would be laughing now, because food is one of the things that’s many times a day if you’re lucky, and you got to be in alignment on it to some degree. And other there’s a list of things, and none of them are the big things, but they’re the things that you kind of have to have a common sense of agreement. And we do a version of consensus, that consensus is widely misunderstood, to mean everybody’s in agreement. And it’s like all process hell, and I’ve never do that. When really it the intention of consensus is to find the best decision for the group in that time with that question, given the resources and the time in hand. And so that almost always looks like not everybody agreeing that the decision is the best is the one they wanted mostly. But it’s it’s like Yeah, I can live with this. This is I after being in this discussion for, you know, an hour or 10 minutes or three days, I see that everybody heard me, I still don’t agree with the way this is going. But I’m not going to block this because it’s immoral, or it’s going to wreck us financially, I’m going to go ahead and say, Yeah, I’ve always heard and sometimes the group goes the other direction. So I consent to the decision moving forward. I don’t consent that I agree on every term of here, but I consent with it going forward. And so that’s like, the relaxed, like, that’s what we’re doing. And that’s, that’s what we do in our private lives with our sweetie and our family all the time. We don’t call it consensus, we just build consent, and we move forward the best decision possible. And the so two groups that are, might have started with a particular vision, I think the elements that that challenged the founding vision or cause for a reenvisioning are people change, people come and go, people sleep with each other people break up people die, people find love over the other side of the planet and leave in the morning, because that’s a better thing. And all for all the good and sad reasons. It’s an inevitable and we tried to we have tried to build a model of governance and economy and decision making that expects change, that if it doesn’t change, in fact, that’s also a problem. So change in the people at the table are going to bring change in perspectives. And but does that mean you should reevaluate your vision with every new person? I, you know, I’ve talked, as you mentioned, you have literally hundreds of groups of people on community. And, you know, vision to me is something to do now and again, but not to get stuck with and, and yeah, revisit it. But if the whole project was founded on a certain vision, there’s got to be some sort of deference to that arc. And if somebody comes in with such a different idea, that contest the foundation, the whole thing, maybe it’s best to go do another community, like sometimes the best thing to do when people are not getting along well, is to actually split up. And that’s, that’s positive for everybody. And that’s so hard to say, or imagine that the best solution to, to, to building disagreement or, or different visions is to just like, hug each other and wish each other well become sister communities and not try to force each other in your own changing vision.

Rebecca Mesritz 22:30
Oh, my gosh, there’s so many good things that you just said right now. I’m just like, loving it. I’m loving it, I love the peace around expecting change. And having that as as just a part of what what you’re gonna do. And I feel like it’s so vital if you’re going to live with people and build a life with people that you do sort of build in this sort of the the idea of the dance and the interplay and that it’s always going to be evolving and people and that’s what you want. That’s actually what you’re striving for is for people in the community to be evolving. I just love that. Yeah, I think, you know, when we revisited our mission and vision, it didn’t change. We didn’t actually, I won’t, I won’t even say that we changed it, it was more of an evolution of that thing. It was like, Okay, well, actually, we’ve done the thing that we said we were going to do now, how are we going to like reimagine ourselves even bigger, and the 10 of us who’ve been together for the last 10 years, have felt a real deep commitment to our role as the vision keepers, and that the other residents and people who have come and gone or, I mean, some of them have been amazing. And they’ve all added to what we’ve done here. But we’ve sort of had this idea that the buck stops with us in terms of preserving the vision and holding the, the, you know, the MaHA whatever the thing is we’re doing I just wonder, you know.

Dave Henson 23:55
Well, let me throw something in there that Yeah, I think you hit that some of the elements that I heard you teasing out were that that change over time and that are worth being aware of at the beginning and just welcoming in like welcome change are, you know, resilience and resilience is an outcome or it’s a design imperative that we design our systems of, of land use, decision making, governance, economy, all towards resilience, but the conditions that enable or disable resilience are actually fluid, their ecological their climate, and weather, their, their age, we, you know, people age and they, their physiology changes, like I used to be able to do a lot of construction that I don’t, I’m not able to do as much anymore. It’s just, I’m just bouldering my backside is good. And, you know, there’s stages of life like there’s, and there’s wisdom game, there’s there’s, in there’s growth, there’s like actual cost, change of consciousness in mind, that would be all those elements are, are part of, and now we spread that out over time. 15 or 30 people, and it’s an ecosystem and in diversity as health, that’s one of the things that ecology teaches us. And so to design a vision, that’s why I said I visions helpful, because planning is best done in advance and visioning might guide planning. But at some point, we’re walking the road, we’re making the road as we walk it, and our visions going to shift over each hill and it’s it, that’s okay, it’s good to go back to the Northstar the touchstone and and check in maybe revise it. But to me the operating instructions for what we ought to do. Maybe best aren’t the document that the founders laid out, but the culture and process and decision making cultural design, we’ve inculcated in our community, because if that’s healthy, if we have a healthy, robust, reciprocal, listening, supportive ecosystem of all the parts, the vision is manifest, it’s not like something we had to check boxes from.

Rebecca Mesritz 26:09
I love that. I love that. So inside of that, like, you know, you touched on something earlier about, you know, if it’s not aligned, how to, you know, say, Okay, we’re going to go our separate ways. And, you know, selfishly, I want to have, I want to talk to you as an expert, because as we’re starting this new process, this new process, and this new community, you know, this early kind of gestational moment of visioning feels very sacred and very precious to me. And we’ve had, we have a small group of four of us who have been in community and I mean, literally added the burdens of each other’s children over a long period of time now, and we’re extremely aligned in what what we’re doing and what we feel like we’re calling in and in how we actually call things and how we pray, how we listen, how we share how we conflict, resolve, all of that is extremely aligned. And we’re realizing that, you know, we need other people to be a part of this at this inception phase. And I can imagine for other people who are out there who may be they have a partner, or they have a couple of friends, but they’re recognizing that okay, we get along really good. But how are we going to invite other people in and vision with them in a in a trusting way? And how do we navigate when maybe, I guess there’s two parts of the question. One is how to navigate when, when you’re not aligned. And the other is, you know, how to be inclusive and emergent. When you’re not aligned, you know, when someone brings in an aspect of the vision that you’re like, Oh, I didn’t really think about that, or maybe a little uncomfortable for me, or that’s actually not something that I’m interested in at all. Like, how do you recommend making space for that, so that all of the people who are coming in, at least at the foundational level can feel like they’re all contributing equally?

Dave Henson 28:13
Yeah, that’s just great. And I, I do have a head and heart full of experiences on this exact question. So let me throw out my my, my offering or best here to lots of groups that I’ve gotten to work with in these starting and sustaining intentional communities workshop we did there for over 20 years. The something that I ended up saying to every group, and often when consulting with groups is your five now like, you are so happy, your five gets a golden small group. And the story you just told me, Rebecca about the four of you witnessing your each other’s children’s births and being together is like, that’s so excellent. I mean, there’s, there’s you and your partner, then there’s the next best deal. And, you know, it’s like, stop there and do a certain level of bottom lining. And if you for a can come up with me, here’s what I recommend you, you should come up with, what are the core elements of your vision, that are actually not negotiable? And it’s like, oh, I don’t want to be that way. That’s not right. It’s like, no, no, no, this is the not the time to say that. That’s a good thing to do. When you’re cooking dinner with a friend like yeah, I can be flexible, even though I don’t like Indian food. Like, I’ll love it tonight. You know, like life should be full of flexibility. But this is the one time where the four of you are busting out. There’s the lands already there. You you’re moving. It’s like this isn’t the time to over invite, but without clarity. So if you four came up with what are actually the the bottom lines, the tenants that you know about yourselves, and they could be things like, we want to be more than 30 people because that’s what we aspire for or the that we’re going to be ecological restoration focus place, we’re going to be spiritually oriented towards this tradition, or it’s going to be a vegan community or it’s going to be a roadkill eating community because that’s the way to help the earth out the other direction or whatever whatever it is. We’re going to be polyamorous, we’re, we’re monotheistic, whatever it is

Rebecca Mesritz 30:20
about having like a roadside roadkill barbecue.

Dave Henson 30:24
Well, the cool thing say that’s what you are up for. And you’re all like, yes, we actually politically are Gleaners. We dumpster dive. That’s what we do. And that’s what then your friend Dave, who back in the day your best. And it’s like everybody knows Dave. Yeah, he’s great. Right. But I don’t know him that well. But you know, really well. So let’s have him join the committee’s I heard no, actually give Dave the two pager first, right? Like it. Here’s our bottom lines. If, if any of these you can’t nod your head vigorously up and down around, we need to know that because that doesn’t mean we then would be challenged to say, Alright, can we give up the roadkill? Stan? Because he’s a vegan? It’s like, yeah, we can do that for him. Otherwise, but or no. So and so you don’t just because I’m such a good carpenter, and I’m great with the kids that have come in. It’s like, okay, let’s have more tofu. And you’re like, No, no, we don’t eat tofu. Eat roadkill? Didn’t you read? And it’s like, oh, no, we’re in a clash of cultures, it’s gonna wreck us and be this deeply seated pain. And there’s so many of those things that are avoidable by just doing everybody respects this. And if somebody doesn’t respect this, you don’t want them in your community. And that’s that you give somebody and say, we’ve thought this through, we’re actually moving, we actually have the land different than we’re dreaming of this. And here’s our basic bottom lines. Here’s the second rung is things that we are pretty sure we’re solid on. But we’re actually open to conversation around. And then that third is like, and there’s a bunch of questions that we are not in agreement on, but we don’t see any of them as showstoppers for the four of us to continue. But just to get let you know, some of us really want to have a mini farm with cheap we love sheep is so cute. And I was a goat and others, like no farm animals is stupid. It’s like, okay, let’s talk about that later. Right? We’ll work this out. Yeah, we can work that out. So we know that’s gonna be a thing. But our dogs can have dogs like, oh my god, somebody can use break up over dogs and sponges, like, do you leave the sponge on top of the same? That’s the stuff that drives me crazy, right? So

Rebecca Mesritz 32:34
the lifestyle thing that I mean, I agree with you wholeheartedly that like agreeing on on the lifestyle is probably as important as whatever it is that you’re intending to do as an intentional community. Yeah.

Dave Henson 32:45
And so skinny income bottom lines is great, because, and this sounds backwards, but it’s really the right way to do things. If you’re eight people, are you dreaming of a community or 15? You should not say, what do we all love to we all love to garden, we’re gonna dance in the temple together, it’s gonna be so great. We’re gonna eat food. And that’s the easy part. The hard part is, what do we disagree on? And maybe it’s money, maybe it’s decision making, maybe it’s some people who won’t do meetings, I don’t do process I just want to garden it’s like, well, actually, you have to come to the meeting. Because we govern together. And if you don’t govern with us, you’re going to be feel like the victim when we don’t like the decision. So you either are happily part of a governing process, or we you can’t join the community. It’s like personal, it’s like, this is our lives, that we’re not going to be played, we’re not just be uncomfortable, because we’re not going to say something no to somebody, and then have our lives ruined for the rest of time. Like be so being really clear about scanning for disagreement, and we use in a bigger group, you know, good fun exercises like spectrograms, where you can basically say, Okay, we’re going to talk about, let’s stick with food, we’re talking about food, everybody, get up. And if you’re on the vegan end of things go over there. If you’re on the meat eating, go over there. And if you’re somewhere in between, you got a story about chickens is like vegan, stand in the middle, and then let’s talk story and people move as they are. And it’s not, the new question is what’s best for the community, what’s tolerable in the community? And then you can really scan for where are the points of disagreement, and then focus on those to try to fix them. And if they’re not fixable, great time to hug and say, I can’t wait to come to your community.

Rebecca Mesritz 34:28
Yeah. I love that. It actually reminds me of a really interesting conversation we had before we ever found our property before we ever moved here. We were meeting the 10 of us were meeting pretty regularly and we did whole conversations around non negotiables and assets and liabilities. And one of the really great conversations that we had early on was around gun ownership. And whether or not we would allow guns on on the property or people to keep guns or have guns. And, you know, obviously whoever’s listening to this Probably has an opinion about whether or not guns are okay, or guns or not okay, but I happen to be married to a former Navy SEAL sniper who has a very predictable kind of opinion about guns. And we had other people who were here who were like, no guns on the property, we’re going to have children. It’s not It’s, we can’t do that. And then through the process of talking about, well, what is underneath of what is underneath those things and sort of working through we kind of got to hear like, well, you know, I’m concerned about safety. While what if we did this to to meet your need? And how can we make sure that all of the needs are actually being met in such a way that people get to retain their, their liberty, they’re free their own personal freedom, which is something that we really value, and not at the expense of someone else’s sense of safety, or someone else’s sense of, you know, right and wrong. So it’s a really, I see that as being a really beautiful example of what you’re talking about, of, you know, finding what the non negotiables are, and then negotiating the non negotiables a little bit to see if they’re actually non negotiables? Or if they’re negotiables. And what what you can do to sort of meet other people in their needs.

Dave Henson 36:11
Yeah, that’s beautiful. And, and isn’t it amazing that the the issue and the conversation you just elevated and what good for y’all for doing that? Is one of the 19 big issues in the in the world in the nation, and around which there’s vast division politically in this country, and pick every flag every hot button issue in the country? And it’s gonna at some point land in our homes, homeschool, you’re not getting vaccinated or not. You know, is she is Trump a war criminal or, or the savior of the nation and everything in between? It’s like, wow, that we were gonna have to practice new and it’s hard enough just with you and your partner, right? To come to agreement and, you know, really deeply listening each other and be like, right, I’m changing my view based on your perspective. And I liked what you said, that we’re, how can I meet you at what you’re, what, what’s important to you, and, and at the same time, retain the essence of what’s important to me if I can give one quick example in our community. And if you asked any of the sewing circle members, they’ll tell you this same if you said, What was the hardest thing in your 27 years as a community, everyone would say, the dog issue, like really the issue of after everything, if again, because we worked on it for like six years. And it turns out as you and everybody knows, some people are like dog people, and without their dog with a dog. They’re kind of not fully human. It’s like, and others are like, I hate dogs, or I’m a cat person or dogs. I sneeze, or I’m scared or whatever, right?

Rebecca Mesritz 37:49
It’s piles of crap everywhere. Yeah.

Dave Henson 37:51
Shed stank in the chat. And then they can lick my face. And like, no, no, not my dog. Dogs are like, My dog is my best friend by dogs, my partner, then I’m also married. And that whole thing, right, so it’s like, of course, in our just a couple dozen people. We are. That’s central here. And some people wanted dogs and other people. Like, I don’t want to live with dogs. And we’re a public center with 1000s of people coming here. Lots of urban folks, we focus on communities of color and bipoc communities and their their social justice work. And it’s like, what’s it gonna look like when the dog bites somebody or snarls at somebody? Or somebody scared of dogs like now let’s so that all of those are in play and we were so hard and to what you said earlier and I appreciated the way we landed it after just lots not struggle but just a lot of processing it was not easy there was no easy way out to satisfy everybody was really when it was like a bunch of the folks who didn’t want dogs really got that somebody saying I this is really core to me. I really want this is there any way we can make this happen? And so releasing like no I don’t have to say no on this I don’t have to say no, but they’re going to be conditioned so we have a dog Budman on the properties one of the rare like czar level jobs here who who and a policy that’s ridiculous but specific like breed and yeah penis and in leash easy and all this stuff and it’s like really you’re going to go there like that’s the only way we’re gonna figure this out. We did it now we have four dogs because there’s and it’s fine. I think I didn’t have a dog in this fight. It

Rebecca Mesritz 39:38
was great to be like No, no pun intended.

Dave Henson 39:41
I actually got to help facilitate a lot of it because I was like I don’t either way it would be fine with me personally, but others will. So anyway, that’s an example of your

Rebecca Mesritz 39:51
Oh man. I would love to see your your dog comment. I really want to see that because it is a pet I mean pets for us and the goats. The goats were a big thing, you know, having having shared livestock, you know, which felt like an important piece of, you know, where as a part of our mission and vision, it’s an important piece of our educational goals of our own sustainability goals of our own, you know, sort of closing the loop and all of the ways that animals are beneficial. And also, animals are a pain in the ass. Like, they’re not easy. They, if you don’t, I mean, I, I managed I was this was very personal to me, because I managed the husbandry program, and was a big advocate for bringing it here. And so I was the recipient of a lot of the blame and the heat when things were not awesome. Or when people felt like it was too much work, or that they’d been roped into something that they didn’t understand. And it was like, I, I didn’t know either. I mean, I’m not from the country. Goat seemed like a good idea. You guys said, Yes, I thought we were all in this together. And sort of seeing how, you know, with time, you’re going to start to, you’re going to run into those murky waters. And you need to have that those good conflict resolution strategies and good facilitation and good governance and good agreement, ways of making agreements to help navigate all of that, because it doesn’t matter how good friends you are, if you have two people or 20 people you’re going to run into those times for sure. So, so coming back to my earlier question in all of that, about, you know, when there are disagreements, you know, within an hour, I guess this is kind of, you know, you have your community vision you have what your what you want to do in the world, and you have your, your core people that you’re building this thing with. But what do you do when? Or what advice do you have, I guess, for when, when it’s not lining up? You know, when the vision isn’t lining up? Or I mean, I guess, you know, it’s easy to say, well, you know, you have your non negotiables and someone can leave but what about when you’re when you’re in the thing, you know, when you’re really in the thing, I guess I’m just always looking for more advice and more tips about you know, how do you know when it’s time to fish or cut bait?

Dave Henson 42:14
Yeah. And that to what we were talking about earlier that the vision, it’s rare that vision is so spot on that it’s like, oh, it’s the same vision. today as it was 20 years ago, it’s like my things change, I named a bunch of them. And so, right, the people change, Vision change, and people come and go, so there’s a lot lot moving. I think the my highest level experience and advice is that the process by which someone should be able to come into full agency in a community should be staggered. And that’s if somebody doesn’t understand that, again, they might not be right for the community, because they should say, Oh, this is another reason I want to move in with you. Because you have such a well thought sane and likely to work better process for onboarding. And so for example, if your old friend Dave, was to be the fifth wheel in your, in your new community, and you might, as you’re looking to bring other folks in, you might then say, okay, Dave, first you passed the, the checking the, the 20, bottom line list and saying, I can sit down with all of these, and you met the financial uncomfortable discussion that nobody wants to have, but we have to have them we’re doing community together. And, and other things. So it’s like, yeah, you passed, you passed a named first stage, that and it’s named, and you told me before we even started, that there’s four stages. So I know exactly the pathway. It’s full disclosure, it’s transparency, there’s accountability in there.

Rebecca Mesritz 43:58
It’s so clear, written out membership process that you’re describing right now, which could be a whole episode. And we’ll be we’ll be all episode.

Dave Henson 44:08
Yeah. And because people just make the mistake of being like, Oh, it’ll work out or we got to trust and there’s so many tropes, stereotypical tropes of communitarians just with faith and trust in certain belief systems is like, yes. And I so wish that works for you. But also, I’ve just seen a bunch of examples where it doesn’t and people are people and so the way to not get to rulemaking, it’s just let’s just be really transparent, accountable. And, and the second stage would be okay, so Dave, we’re going to invite you into, to live here live with us for three months, and it’s a trial period. And it you can leave anytime you want. That’s your human right. We can at the end of the three months, without any explanation, say no. And why would that happen? because it’s gonna, it might be really uncomfortable, and we don’t want to be at force, it’s because of the way you laughed it every time. And you’re all driven crazy, and it’s such a good guy, but, but whatever, you know, something that is, you know, or it’s more importantly, I’m, I have a big blinder on, on around gender, or around how I treat how I talk about other people or things like that. It’s like, it’s not your job to fix me. It’s like, I mean, I’m applying to go into a process to come live with you all forever. And you can say no, and so having you letting me know that you have reserved the unilateral, right without explanation to say, No, at three months is essential to me. And then, at six months, and I started after three months, if I get the past, I start paying whatever dues, whatever, I’m starting to be in the economy. And, of course, this is like gets real, because I have to move there. And then it’s like, there’s a building for me or not, or what’s the deal? So it’s gonna be different in every case, but maybe I don’t have full consensus agency with the rest of the group on every question for a certain matter of time. So if we were if this call was about this podcast was about financial models, I might digress and say, well, if two of the seven of you put up all the money to purchase the property, in your decision making structure in you, and yet, you want to live a consensus life, you should be consensus around the dogs and the goats and the food and the sponges, and the vehicles and the temple and everything except on who if the land sold, the two of you who bought it have to have some right to reserve that, or else your asset will be forever held hostage by consensus process by a group of people that might change. And that’s just not reasonable in most cases. So but there’s I don’t want to join a community where two people on let’s say, Well, then don’t join this community. Because this is the basic term that makes the best fair sense, given the situation. So that’s all to say, When I join, and it’s my six month time, I may be fully invited into. It’s like a Venn diagram of overlapping circles of decision making, we call them where I’m in a bunch of the circles of decision making. But I’m not yet a full member for deciding to throw somebody out of the community via consensus minus one, or to add somebody else, or to take a loan, or who knows what the big ones are, that’s after a year one. And so that kind of stuff, this is all to what you said, it’s like this is all about the the document that details the pathway for for joining, and the steps along the way. And the ways out of that if it’s not working, then we get to the point of now I have full agency I am you, Rebecca and Dave are now equal partners at every level, even though you were a founder and you found the land you put a lot more work back in the day for no pay, God made it happen took all the risk. And Ice Ice flowed into year five, and it’s all nice. Now it’s like, or maybe he doesn’t get all decision making. Maybe you have to earn five equity years, where that’s what we do in our property before you have certain certain kinds of decision making agency.

Rebecca Mesritz 48:19
Yeah, so the different membership fee, or I don’t know, that’s one of the things that Diana talks about, that they do at Earth even is, you know, every year there’s another percentage for the the joining fee. So if you come in at your 25, you’re going to pay, you know, percentage more for your membership fee, and then people who were in at the beginning and put all their the early blood sweat and tears in the visioning. And all of that is really good. So in terms of, you know, because I see this vision to me, I mean, obviously, as I said, where we’re at with creating this new community and being in this really special visioning process, and we have our visioning document. I’m just wondering, you know, for people who are listening who maybe haven’t ever created a vision document or haven’t sat down with people and done visioning exercises, what are the things that you really want to have in there to make sure that you’re kind of covering all the bases? Like are there are there topics are there big, like, you know, big elemental things? I mean, we can talk about dogs and, you know, lifestyle sponges and, and cars and things like that. But are there are there key areas that should definitely be in this, this founding document that you’re going to come together around?

Dave Henson 49:37
Great, great question, and that helps guide my thinking. So I mentioned that what I what my day job is, is social movement strategy and facilitation for 30 Some years and I’m really good at it. And it’s my, my, my secret skill. And what I’ve learned so much about people and processes and There’s a there’s a scaffolding in my, in my consciousness of how a group of people can structure their planning around virtually anything. And it’s not just about social justice campaign, it’s then it’s definitely fits for for the community question we’re talking about the vision, that vision, and I’ll just, I’ll just speak the words, and they start to sort themselves in different ways. Purpose, vision, mission goal, objective strategy, outcomes, metrics, tactics, timeline, or plan. And these are the the words that I then when I start with a group of people, I say, let’s start with nomenclature. Because what you call goals, somebody else might call vision, somebody else might call mission, somebody else might call objective. So I’m not going to argue which is right or wrong, because none of them are right or wrong. It’s just it’s colloquial. So let’s just set ourselves definitions for the purpose of this planning process. And for you, Rebecca, and yours for the purpose of your visioning process, I would say, the vision is it sits at a certain altitude. And I imagine a one question I love to ask groups of any sort. When they asked me to come work with them, I say, what does success look like? Like if you want me to design with you and agenda to achieve the goal of what you think you’re gathering to achieve? I need to start with what is success look like? Describe for me, the happy outcome that you want this process to have resulted in. So if I asked you that, you might say well, actually, we want certain definitive, not not unclear. pillars or guideposts or markers or, or statements that that we can test ourselves against as we go along, or that we that we can check ourselves against to see if we’re still on the right path. Oh, path Goodman. So you said path. How about North Star. So you’re looking for a North Star, North Star is you can hike for 17 days, and the North Star is still exactly where it is. And you’re never gonna you’re never going to get there. So North Star is a kind of vision and quotes. That’s aspirational, but you don’t actually it’s not you’re not supposed to do it. It’s guiding right as opposed to and then I think about the billiards metaphor of anybody. You go to the bar and you’re playing billiards, the the rookie takes the easy shot, and then is left with no leave the the, you know, the sophisticate might take a difficult shot first. But if they make that shot, they’re lined up to make three more shots, and are Polynesian net ocean navigation where you’re headed to Hawaii, but we’re not going straight to Hawaii, we’re gonna go over to the Johnson islands, because there’s water there along the way. And our show our our trip to the north star will be quite a zigzag. But the North Star is always just we’re testing ourselves against it. But we understand. So that’s all to say vision is a certain altitude statement. That might be platitudinous, or grandiose or, but not specific. But then I think the document you’re looking for in your community also wants a few next levels, like goals are a really good one. Like, well, what does it look like if our if our if our vision says we want to be a

Dave Henson 53:26
multi generational, diverse, consensus based community that that elevates right action on every question. It’s like great, that’s a great vision. Now, what does that look like? It’s like, okay, by our five year goals include having inner inculcated ourselves in the local community of X town in a way that we’re seeing as a as a positive resource for the community. We’re giving, we’re giving our labor and resources to the community, whatever, whatever you want, right. And it’s sort of like now you’re kind of developing a work plan, but it’s not down to the day to day level, by any stretch, even annual plan. It’s sort of like, we’re gonna we’re gonna put some goals on our board along the way. And then objectives to me are like, many goals on the way to getting to the goal in place because similar to that billiard game or the Polynesians, you, you need to do a bunch of things to get to what you think you want to get to that don’t look like you’re getting there necessarily, don’t worry, but the only way you can see and relax about that is to see it over time. So this is all to say, vision can be out there. But in order to know in order to test yourselves about whether you’re doing the vision or not, you ought to have at the same time set for yourselves some some, some particular marks along the way that you think you want to achieve, because that will help that will be realizing your vision. And the last thing I’ll say there is that can be then added up as mission, which you don’t have to do We don’t have to do any of these things are purpose, like, what is our role? And why are we doing towards that vision? So like, if that’s helpful, do it if it’s not, it’s just words on a page. Right? So to me that the more the practical thing that really helps communities is the goal and objective on a timeline, hopefully a stretched out time and not an annual timeline yet. That that says, oh, that’s what we’re talking about. We’re going to build a farm that’s going to take five years, and that will help us achieve food security, or, or

Rebecca Mesritz 55:32
Yeah, awesome. That’s fantastic. Yeah, our so our sort of founding document, which has been, it’s gone from like, kind of a one pager up to like a five pager and then got condensed back down to a two pager. I think right now we’re right at two pages. And, and I love to write, so I’ve been continually kind of like helping to tune this thing. And it includes, for us a vision statement, which is, in our, in our sort of nomenclature, the vision is the world that we want to live in, that’s our North Star, there’s a mission statement, which is how we are going to try and move ourselves towards that world, we actually have separate mission statements for the community, and for the what most likely be a learning center. So we’ve got sort of aren’t the the nonprofit sort of thing that we’re setting up as well as our community. And they’re both going to have slightly different pieces, if the same vision, but slightly different pieces of the mission. And then we’ve we’ve taken that down. And we’ve got sort of phased out phase one, phase two, phase three, which were actually, shockingly, I think we’re on Phase Three now, because we’ve Phase One was to find the land, I think phase two is actually going to be moving on the land. So we’re in phase two. So phase two is is the move and like getting our family and our people into into position. And then phase three will be starting to sort of develop more of the systems boots on the ground. So yeah, this is very affirming. And I think, you know, just for listeners, this what all of this really speaks to, and I know that this is something that’s will come up time and again, on this podcast, but just the primacy of good organization and really running your community, like a business, I mean, it’s meant to be something that feels good and generates good feelings, and gives you that warm, fuzzy. And also those warm fuzzies come a lot more easily when you have good organization when you know that the bills are getting paid on time, and that there’s someone who’s in charge of maintenance, and you have agreed agreements that you’ve made around how to deal with interpersonal things. And so just Yeah, I can’t speak highly enough to the fact that I think the reason that so many communities that I’ve seen that are successful are successful is because they have very organized people who kind of get off on writing up visioning documents and creating spreadsheets, and making ways to have it all make sense. And one thing that you touched on early in this interview that we have, that we also endeavor to do here at Emerald village, and we will do again, is really view whatever community project you are trying to create as an opportunity to create a template and something that other people can come behind you and learn from and replicate. And when you have that mindset of we’re going to create something here that we can share with other people, and they can see what we’ve done and they can learn from our mistakes. You’re actually taking responsibility for the evolution of humanity in that moment when you decide to do that. And so it’s so so important to have that as a piece of what you’re doing. Because not only is it does it give you purpose, but it helps you to share with the world and help the people that come along for the next intentional community and the one after that, and one after that, to actually evolve this icy intentional community movement as a whole.

Dave Henson 59:07
Yeah, that’s great. And I think in in imagining, does our vision and phasing and big idea, how’s it going to be truth tested? Does it? Does it make sense? And could it resonate and help build in the outer world is almost like to testing it back? Like the answer if the answer is not yes, then what’s making us so particular special that we think we can pull off something that isn’t set up to be somewhat of a model or a pathway forward for others. I like that and you know, something you hit on a minute go to that. Another essential thing is Who else do we want? So you’re soon it sounds like one of your phases in your new community is bringing others in. You expect that and want that. And I’m sure you’re doing this because you’ve done everything else really well so far, but what’s the Who do we who do we want? What’s the Dream Team right? It’s like, there’s the people, you know, but really the skill set and you had this a minute ago, it’s like, if you were to sit down and write, what are the 15 or 10, or five job descriptions of any land based intentional community or urban cohousing, intentional community, or farm attachment, you know, they’re gonna be so different. But it’s like, well, we need a gardener slash farmer. We need somebody who loves to take care of kids. And we need an animal person. And we need, you know, a builder and be great to have an accountant. And accountant. Thank you a web designer.

Dave Henson 1:00:35
And everything else, right. It’s like, civilization. Yeah, we’re reinventing civilization. So we don’t have to have all these in house, we can rely on and I know this, I bet this is true for you and your, your emerald village community that it’s remarkable how many people who don’t live in a, quote, intentional community in such a direct way, are happy to help out and be a friend and a partner, one of the concentric circles of people who show up for the May the main dance or the or the concert now and again, or the volunteer day or what have you. And they have mad skills, you know, that web designer or that accountant, you don’t have to have a CPA on staff, but you definitely need to know, you have a friend who has a friend who’s a CPA was like, Oh, they’re living in a test community. I love that shit. Oh, elbow, I’ll give him a couple hours, you know, and then maybe they charge at some point, but so that imagining of who fits the need is is a big part of dreaming who else is gonna come?

Rebecca Mesritz 1:01:32
Yeah, yeah. And we for sure have I mean, I, I’m kind of a spreadsheet junkie. So I’ve got Google Docs that have contact lists and job descriptions written out for the Dream Team. And we are certain that we want the dream team for this project, because we have a really big vision, and we feel a deep responsibility to use our skills for the betterment of humanity. And it sounds so lofty, but we feel very much that that’s what we’re, if we’re not doing that, then we’re not going to do anything. Like that’s what we’re called to do. And so in looking for that dream team, I mean, I think I really, I really resonate with something that I was reading the other day in the handout that you gave Yona that I think actually came from Diana, leave Christian about who Who do you want to have in your community, this, again, is kind of coming back to that membership conversation. But you want to have the people that don’t need it. Like you want to have the people who are doing all in their life who are financially socially emotionally responsible. And yeah, calling those people in so that, yeah, you’ve got good playmates.

Dave Henson 1:02:37
Right. Excellent. And let me let me throw in another layer to this because this is this is great that you know, what’s interesting, when you flatten the roles that are in basically civilization down to a community is that you elevate the disenfranchised and unseen or disrespected elements of, of our capitalist culture for good and for bad, that are like home making, or, or weeding, or fixing the fence, and, or maintenance that versus doing the teaching or being the money person, or those things in society start to go way different in terms of the value of for what you get paid out in the world, right. But in a community, it’s like, We’re all family, we’re, we’re a village, we’re actually a tribe or clan, we’re, and somebody’s got to cook. And somebody’s got to drive the food to the CSA or whatever the we’re all doing together. And in our case, how that landed is. So we’re also a 501 C three nonprofit arts and Ecology Center, right, as well as an intention community, and a whole bunch of the people that co founded the OAC. We’re still here working. I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and I’m the executive director. But how weird will it be that the executive director, he got Executive Director pay, and the gardener got the gardener pay, right? The world for 27 years. It’s like Dave, what’s up with Dave’s house is getting bigger and bigger, and he’s got some nice clothes and like that car, and the gardener is like still in scrubby garden where it’s like, no, no, that’s just like, that’s crazy. But out in the real world that’s normal that the gardener gets paid day laborer wage and he did the finance person gets paid that right so so we’ve actually developed in I wouldn’t say this is what everybody should do. But for us it’s a necessity is to flatten the because a bunch of us are on payroll, we actually figured out an economy for our community. It for many of us work within the OAC and that pay is way flat because we’re all family and it doesn’t make sense that but then what about somebody went to grad school and they they still owe money on that and, and oh, somebody else has kids and somebody so then it’s like, oh, right in community we’re gonna have to do With those economy pieces of fairness or not, and how does that fit into our vision, and for our vision, at the beginning, before we bought this land, we said, we want this to be a non speculative project that when anybody leaves here, they only get what they put in, adjusted slightly for some equity and improvement, but nowhere near the appraised their share of the appraised value, which normal tenants in common, or law would, would insist upon. And that’s like, Okay, you better know that going in. Because when you leave, you’re not going to get all the value because we have to sell the property to actually realize the money to pay you out. So things like that. We plugged into our vision, but it’s only after really thinking through some of the economic parts did we realize it’s not just an ideological vision of equity and fairness, it’s like, no, it’s a necessity.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:06:00
I guess before, before we close out, you know, one of the things that we had talked about before was just sort of this, these patterns that kind of play out over different. I mean, we can talk about it in terms of seasons, there’s patterns and seasons, but also patterns for different communities, and different organizations. And I know that you’ve done a lot of work with a lot of different kinds of people. And I would love to leave the listeners with, if there’s any patterns that you’ve you’ve noticed, it doesn’t have to be related to vision, it could be related to any aspect of of organization or whatever. And who’s successful and what, maybe what’s not successful, but definitely like, what, what are the things? What are the things that you see in the in the folks that are that are nailing it? And how are they finding it?

Dave Henson 1:06:55
It’s a great question, great question to ask anybody, because we all when asked that question. I mean, I love the question. Because if asked, like, what what are you been doing Dave? All these years? I’d say, you know, well, I think in retrospect, and I’ve made this earlier on, but now is that I’m scanning for pattern in what, what, what has worked and why and what hasn’t worked and why. And I’ve had the ridiculous privilege to be alive. In the century where 90% of my life spent when I was born, there are 3 billion people on the planet, there’s seven and a half ish now. And when I die, if all goes well, when I’m 100, I will have lived through the extraction and burning of 90% of all the available fossil fuels on the planet lay down over the last 400 million years. And it’s like, wow, I was here for the the Anthropocene the party, the one, when in the future when they a million years from now. And whoever’s here finds there’ll be this little tiny layer of oil all around the Earth, and they have elements of concrete and plastic and, and that will be the Anthropocene this little time when humans did this and change everything, but then the Earth’s going to be fine. In the big picture. It’s just hate to see so much biodiversity die and have to be re evolved in different ways. But in any event, there was and I had like, can I tell you how many shoes pairs of shoes I’ve had in jeans, okay, guitar in my backyard, all these books, and I’m broke. And I’ve flown everywhere. I’ve worked in 45 countries, I’ve been to every state working in the United States. It’s like, okay, well, you better have a good you better have that better add up to something supportive for the planet, not just extractive. It’s like, well, I’ve been scanning for pattern. I’ve tried to pay attention to what works and not in any kind of different culture. And I’ve had the privilege to work with so many different peoples. So my answer to your question is, what, what’s particularly worse, it’s like, well,

Dave Henson 1:09:00
the first thing is, is that’s not luck. It’s like the conditions in which one or y’all find yourselves is, is determining of the outcome is anything else. If you’re in Miramar right now, there’s a situation going on if you happen to be in, you know, pick anywhere, and there’s a story to tell, and that that observation that pattern recognition, signals that one of the things any of us can do is take a deep stock of the context of our situation. Before we do do something. I have a four part test, I figured out my 20s about what I should do and I get up every morning and and really it’s like it’s it’s I should assess not not literally but like what should I be doing with my life? What’s my what’s my aptitude? What am I good at? Whether I want to do that or not? I should pay attention to that. What is where am I? I’m on like planet Earth, California and Sonoma County. Went when am I it’s like I’m sick. too and it’s it’s, it’s not whatever the year it is 2021 and it’s the it’s the moment of climate change. That’s the dominant reality that’s affecting, etc. And what are my passions is the is the other play to aptitude? So there’s like, When am I where am I? What am I aptitudes? What’s my passions? Like, I want to dance, even I even I can’t dance, I just want to dance. Like, that’s important. So maybe I should dance. But really, it’s if I assess the for those, I, it’s blessing containment, instead of like, the world’s my oyster, it’s like, no, it’s not your Dave and you’re living there at this time with these skills. And these athletes, like, make the best of it and be strategic. So with all that said, I think when people the people who have really placed their action, their plan into the, into the real contextual, perhaps opportunities and, and challenges of their situation, have so much more chance of doing what they aspire to, than just taking an idea that may be universal, and plopping it down in Des Moines, Iowa, and trying to make it happen. And it’s like, no, don’t you realize you’re in Des Moines, you’re not gonna win that there. So move or change your plan? You know, I mean, so I mean, it seems like all that’s day just said the sunrises everyday. It’s obvious. But it’s like, no, actually, people remarkably, you know, don’t think through, don’t do systems thinking. So we are resilient community design program at OAC, kind of a spin on permaculture, we start with site assessment and community assessment and economic analysis. And anybody should do this, the military’s not how to do this. They’re smart enough, they know that you win or lose based on assessing the train. So that’s one I won’t be too long winded here. Another, I think successful, or observation of what’s successful is systems that are that are real, that are participatory, and transparent. With elements of accountability are the best mechanism, some of the best mechanisms, we can hedge against the very human almost inevitability of power centralizing and sort of corruption moving in. And it’s, it’s not like, Oh, you people can choose to be corrupt or not. I think it’s systems often like systems set themselves up to be dysfunctional, in large part because they’re not transparent or participatory. And participatory doesn’t mean voting. It means people and the transparencies, everyone has access to the same information, and the ability to have some agency in the terms of their lives. And I could go on, I have actually have a long list I’ve been trying to write down about what works best. And I’ll say one last thing, though, that I think like American style, storytelling, and in the dominant narrative is, you know, Lewis and Clark set out west to discover the mouth of the source of the Missouri River. And it’s like, okay, it was already known. It’s just they didn’t know yet. So there, whatever, but it’s discovers a problematic word. Right. And Rosa Parks just had, she was a black woman who just had enough and she, you know, classic American story, she just had enough. And she started the civil rights movement, like no, Rosa Parks was a well trained and practice organizer had been arrested several times before, and was chosen with her agency to do that a direct action with a support team. It’s like, oh, there’s a social movement behind that. It’s like, yeah, that’s forgotten when we elevate individual illness above common collective action. So that’s another piece is like, not thinking anybody. We don’t need the leader. I mean, sometimes that’s very helpful that Martin Luther King showed up at that very moment. But he, he would have not known who he was in another context in time. And I think And so part of this is like, right, relax into collaborative efforts, and don’t take the bait of American exceptionalism and individualism as the pathway for for success. How about you, Becky, you got it, you got a good one.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:14:24
I just I love everything that you just said. It’s so good. It’s so so good. So I just want to recap what you just said. So observing the terrain, location, location, location, basically, like, know where you’re at, know what you’re open, open for, know what you’re capable of, and create your plan. Whether it’s for your community or your organization, based on what you actually have access to what’s really there and what what, how you can best be of service to what your surroundings are, and then creating these actions. accountable, transparent and participatory governance strategies and organizational strategies so that everybody that’s playing, can have a voice and know what’s happening and people aren’t being left in the dark. And that’s going to protect from. Yeah, abuse, essentially, because we’re all seeing it. We’re all seeing it. And then this final idea that you touched on, which is this collective action, which is, I mean, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I live in Southern California and have for the last 15 years. But there’s something about maybe it’s this proximity to LA where, you know, we all want to be the star, or a lot of people that I know, want to be the star. And there’s a lot of stars. There’s a lot of stars in the sky. It’s sort of like this. I don’t know, I’m really big into Mr. Rogers, probably because my daughter’s going to be three, she calls him uncle Rogers. And, and he really talks about how everybody’s, you know, we are all special, but we’re all special. You’re not more special than the next person. And I love this idea of the collective action and that the the tip of the spear isn’t actually a point. It’s kind of like a rounded thing with a hole, like a whole bunch of people there sort of pushing these agendas forward. Yeah, that’s also so beautiful, Dave, and I’m just so grateful for all your wisdom and all of your harvesting of that knowledge and, and your observation of the natural world that you’ve been doing with all of your peers and compadres and peppy upstarts over there at the sewing circle and OEC over the last 27 years and that you are so open to sharing your your wisdom with me and and all the people who listen to this podcast. So just deep gratitude to

Dave Henson 1:16:49
Rebecca, and good luck with this podcast. I will be an avid listener.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:16:53
Oh, I’m so excited. I’m yeah, I’m excited to share it with the world. So I’m gonna say thank you. Thank you, Dave Hanson. You’re welcome. And thank you.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:17:12
Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the inside community podcast. You can keep up with Dave Hanson and the occidental arts and ecology If you want to learn more about creating mission, vision and values, or any aspect of building community, check out the inside community podcast sponsor the foundation for intentional community. FMIC is an incredible resource center with weekly events, online courses, classified advertisements, an extensive bookstore, and lots of free educational materials. You can learn more about FDIC and access show notes at If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, please take a moment to subscribe on your podcast platform and share this episode with your friends. And if you want to see more about what it’s really like to live inside community, come find me on Instagram at inside community podcast. I would love to hear from you there and learn more about how I can inspire you on your journey to live inside community.

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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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