Not long now till Robin’s next ‘Dynamic Groups, Dynamic learning’ creative teachers, facilitators and group leaders course to be held at her home community of Crystal Waters Permaculture EcoVillage using the community village area, kitchen, deck and dining room facilities in amongst the beautiful 640 acre property.
This will be her first Dynamic Groups course back in Australia after successfully leading four of them across Europe last year.
Here is a quote from one of our Permaculture Elders, Declan Kennedy, 83, from Lebensgarten EcoVillage in Northern Germany after he participated in (as well as organised and hosted) the six day course. “This course is a must for people trying to facilitate events in a democratic/sociocratic way. The toolbox is extensive and helps the facilitator do his/her job thoroughly, deeply and with fun. Robin walks what she talks during the course of the course. She is so quietly and humourously skilled in conveying her message that she has to be highly congratulated. I am glad we brought her here to Germany after so many years”.
A healthy, solid and nurturing foundation is important for any group to grow and achieve it’s vision and purpose. Beyond our groups, organisations, teams, businesses and workplaces, we can also say the same thing for relationships of all kinds – with our partners, family members and most importantly, with ourselves.
Imagining that we are a little seed with so much potential. Imaging our group or organisation as a seed looking to plant itself somewhere that will support it to grow tall and strong and produce great abundance.
Where to start?
With our needs – our personal needs and the needs of the group. This is foundational, like the sub soil beneath our feet.
Add a rich layer of top soil to mix with and enrich the subsoil for essential grounding and solidity through exploring and naming values, principles and ethics that group members feel are important.
We now have the basis for healthy soil, healthy group culture and happy, engaged members if we mulch and nurture what we have by establishing shared agreements and understandings. What personal needs do we share and what needs do we agree the group has? What values, principles and ethics do we commonly have that relate to the group? These will inform the groups vision, mission, goals and activities and can be continuously referred back to and refined as the group grows and changes? Shared agreements and understandings are like the straw that protects the soil and retains moisture, the green manure and ground cover crops that nourish and make sure everything is covered, the liquid manure that vitalises and ensures the successful germination and growth of the seed.
With these three elements in place the seed, representing the group and it’s ‘Vision’ takes root in fertile ground.
Creative, empowering and diverse processes can be used to work with a group to establish their personal and group needs, values, principles and ethics then come to shared understandings and agreements. The analogy of the seed is part of a meta process Robin is developing called ‘The Vision Tree Process’. The next stage is to explore the Group Vision and the things that help the seed to grow.
The whole process will be detailed in Dynamic Teaching and Facilitation – The Foundations which is mini book one of the series Robin is writing and due out by the middle of the year.
The IPC in India recently was a feast of colour, culture and fabulous Indian cuisine with interesting presentations, much networking and diverse learning opportunities as 1200 people from over 70 countries gathered for the week near Hyderabad.
The two day Conference was held at an agricultural research college on the edge of the city and was brimming with Indian farmers. 350 people had travelled around the globe to be be part of the event and other came from all over India.
Robin set up a small stall with her books, card games and resources and get to be set up in between Indian seed sellers and traders of Indian crafts and baskets.
She also made a valuable contribution to the Conference by presenting a panel titled ‘Are Women Leading the Change’ as the finale program item for the weekend. One of the sub themes of IPC was ‘Women Leading the Change’ so, as a female pioneer in Permaculture and Social Permaculutre Robin felt well placed to gather key women from different cultures and backgrounds and address this interesting question. The panel that joined Robin was made up of Starhawk, Vandana Shiva, Rowe Morrow, Robina McCurdy, Padma Koppula and Beatriz Ramirez Cruz and was later joined by Robyn Francis and two Indian Women Farmers who’s names aren’t with us to be published.
Robin began by inviting the audience to stand up, thank each other and acknowledge the positive change they were already involved in creating, even if it were just by being there at the Conference and taking the good energy and learnings home.
Robin then asked the panel to share on three points:
One way they felt they were personally contributing to change in the world
Areas where they felt women were leading the change
Comment about the qualities being modelled by women that they felt were vitally important to positive change
The whole session was inspired by Robin contemplating the theme of ‘Women Leading the Change’ and noticing that a very high percentage of the acknowledged pioneers of Social Permaculture around the globe were women, so they are the ones she invited to join her.
The Indian women farmers were magnificent at modelling the empowerment and passion of women who are standing up in India and now becoming more able to be heard.
Robin ended the session by asking everyone in the audience to contemplate one word that described a quality they heard expressed by the panel that they felt was really important to them. She then counted to three and everyone called them out all at once, inviting more of those qualities in the world, in their lives and in their home communities. A great end to the Conference. Look out for a link that will be available soon of the Live to Air Telecast of the panel session.
The Convergence was held at Polam Farm, a two year old Permaculture designed system that has received much support from volunteers to establish, especially in the months leading up to IPC. For five days 450 people were feed, housed in tents, cared for and given so much access to workshops, talks, panels, demonstrations, traditional living skills, films and networking time as well as many amazing and diverse cultural performances in the evenings.
Robin was kept very busy with offering or being part of many sessions including a workshop on ‘Teaching Permaculture Creatively as a Grassroots Action’ which saw the smallish thatched roof workshop space bulging with about 60 people.
She was on the panel for ‘Open Government and Sociocracy’, was a lead facilitator in the three CoLab afternoon sessions (which drew together those interested in an ongoing collaboration of people wanting to better respond strategically and collectively as a global movement) and also offered the now traditional ‘Jumping’ session as a finale for the Convergence. There is a photo here of Robin and Andy Goldring facilitating the first CoLab session using a ‘web of connection’ and also one of Narsanna, the principal organiser of IPC India, JUMPING his intention for future Permaculture Involvement.
Group Agreements and how to navigate this successfully with groups of all sizes and persuasions seems to be a hot topic at the moment. It’s important not just for community group, organisations, learning and education group and businesses but also for anyone in a family or relationship who values clarity and shared understandings.
Robin has fielded several questions from interested people over recent months about this topic or people have asked for more guidance about her ‘Group Agreements Icon Set’ that she uses in her courses and with groups. Now the interest will be taken into a Q&A Zoom session for an hour of exploring together with any of the Patreon Patrons who would like to join, contribute, question and unravel this essential topic.
The session will be on Tuesday 23rd January at 7am Qld, Australia time (so people from Europe and UK have a chance of joining).
Learnings and contributions from any of these Q&A explorations will end up finding their way into the book series that Robin’s writing and this topic is central to mini book I – Dynamic Teaching and Facilitation – The Foundations because Shared Agreements really is foundational to any group and a necessary subject for all group facilitators to have a handle on.
The Patreon Platform that Robin launched late last year, with much help and support from Erin Young, is slowly building and showing that it will be a great support for getting the ‘Dynamic Teaching and Facilitation’ book series written and produced.
There are now 26 of you wonderful people, most of whom have done Robin’s ‘Dynamic Groups, Dynamic Learning’ training, who are supporting her through Patreon. THANK YOU. Together you are contributing $544 per month which is just $56 short of the first goal of $600 per month. Robin said that “when we reach our goal of $600 that it will enable a percentage of the administration and social networking support required for the project to be engaged”.
Erin is already working to support the project and will now begin to gain some ‘right livelihood’ for her efforts and Robin will get more support from her as they get closer to their additional goals, eventually also affording art and design work, professional editing as well as some contribution towards production costs for the hard copies and e-book creation.
One big gift out of this was a one off donation of $500 that will be put directly to editing of the first mini book, Dynamic Teaching and Facilitation –The Foundations. Yeah! Thank you everyone.
Robin’s Sacred Union Labyrinth design is now know to many, having been created as an art and ceremony instillation at Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland these last five years. Robin woke up in a huge rainstorm one morning in January 2011 with the image in her mind. She attributes Labyrinth maker Mark Healy as being a spark of inspiration for her to conceive this design.
Labyrinths have appeared throughout history in many cultures and many forms. Perhaps the easiest to make and use is a simple spiral design which turns out is the predominant labyrinth type at Damanhur in northern Italy which is a federation of communities with a spiritual basis. They have created underground temples carved our of the hills and an abundance of stone spiral labyrinths above the cave systems, some of which are open to the public to walk.
Robin’s European tour of her ‘Dynamic Groups, Dynamic Learning’ courses last year also included, by invitation, two ‘Wise Women’s Weekends’, one in Switzerland and one in Italy. Being a lover and creator of labyrinths and wanting to include ceremony and sacred circle spaces into the Women’s Weekends, Robin naturally thought of making a labyrinth. The Sacred Union Labyrinth is quite a complex design to mark out and make so she settled on creating a simple spiral design with an opening into a sacred centre space where there could be symbols of the elements and directions and women could place objects from nature that could represent their intentions for the weekend or for change in their lives.
With the help of Kym Chi from Canada who supported Robin with both the Women’s Weekend’s and the Dynamic Groups course in Italy, the pair created a delightful and very special spiral labyrinth at each venue.
After the women’s event in Italy they went together to Damanhur for a five day visit and were very pleasantly surprised to find spiral labyrinths are a predominant feature used for healing, relaxing and conducting ceremony at the centre which is becoming world famous for it’s incredible art, sculpture, mosaics and stained glass ceilings and doors. They have pioneered selfic technology as well as the ‘music of the plants’ and their temples as like nothing else on earth.