Appendix I - The Finer Details: The FAQ’s Of Getting Collective
Included below is a list of frequently asked questions in relation to forming and participating in Collectives. But first, a caveat. Because the particular preferences and needs of every mutual aid community will be wholly unique, there is no one ‘right way’ to set up and run a Collective. Which means that the slightly unsatisfying answer to many of questions below tends to be, ‘it depends on the needs of the group’. The whole idea after all is to come together in community and decide for ourselves how best to support and empower each other. However, with this in mind, I thought it still might be useful to share my own attempts at answering some of the key questions that tend to be raised when people are first introduced to the idea of forming or joining a Conscious Change Collective.
How did you get involved with this? Are you part of a Collective?
What are the major purposes of forming a Collective?
What are some of the benefits of joining a Collective?
How do Collectives get started?
How many people are there in each Collective?
What kind of things do people in a Collective do together?
How are decisions made and how is power distributed within a Collective?
What are Pods and why are they so central to the Collective experience?
Does everyone in a Collective live together or at least near each other? Can a Collective be solely online?
Are people in a Collective expected to share their money or finances together? Do people earn income together?
How do people in the collective communicate with each other?
Where do Collective meetings and activities take place?
Does there need to be a clear boundary between who is in or out of a Collective? Is there a specific membership model?
Roughly how often do people in a Collective meet up or interact with each other?
How do people get selected or invited to join a collective?
How can we ensure that forming Collectives doesn’t simply lead to more division and separation in the world?
How can we encourage diversity and ensure people of every age, race, gender, economic status and sexual preference (etc.) feel invited into, and included within, each Collective?
How do Collectives relate to stepping into a new societal narrative together? Can they really create wider systemic change?
Are there any Collectives out there already that I can learn about or join?
What type of values, intentions and guidelines might a Collective choose to adopt?
Isn’t this how cults start? How can we avoid such unhealthy dynamics forming within a Collective?
What are some of the major challenges and pitfalls of forming and participating in Collectives?
Can forming Collectives really help us address our most pressing societal issues & existential challenges as a species?
Are Collectives better suited to rural or urban environments?
How do Collectives relate to the concept of Metamodernism?
How can we help to minimise any sense of exclusion that might arise in those people that haven’t been invited to join a particular Collective or Pod?
How do we deal with the fact that joining such close knit communities can often compel us to subtly conform to the cultural median of the group?
How can Collectives learn from the wisdom of the worlds Indigenous people and foster a meaningful connection to the land?
How are Collectives different from a close friendship group, a Mens or Womens group, or any other kind of growth focused or change making community?
How can Collectives ensure that they take into account the needs of people living with disabilities and various types of health conditions?
Is everyone in the Collective expected to have similar political, dietary or religious/spiritual preferences?
Is it possible to be part of more than one collective at a time?
What are some examples of the kinds of working groups that might form within a Collective?
Is there a particular methodology for resolving conflicts within a Collective?
What happens if someone in a Collective continually violates the rules or guidelines of the group?
Is there a minimum level of engagement required to stay a part of a Collective?
How can Collectives cater to the needs and desires of Introverts & Highly Sensitive People?
Will there be whole families in each Collective? Should I invite my Mum along too?
1. How did you get involved with this? Are you part of a Collective?
My journey with forming Collectives began with a desire to design and build Ecovillages. But after becoming involved with a community cafe and events space I soon realised that it was possible to cultivate a strong sense of belonging and support between a group of people without having to live together on the same piece of land. A few of us proposed to our wider community that we might like to experiment with forming a rudimentary kind of Proto-Collective. That was in late 2016, and since then around 150 have been deepening our shared story ever since.
2. What are the major purposes of forming a Collective?
To act as a container for an experience of transformational community.
To help us to grow, evolve and become more integrated individuals.
To act as a catalyst for responding to the challenges we face as a species.
To create new ways and opportunities for us to express ourselves and have fun together.
To empower ourselves and each other to do more meaningful work with our lives.
To act as petri dishes for the creation of a new kind of regenerative culture.
3. What are some of the benefits of joining a Collective?
To experience an increased sense of community, belonging and connection.
To be able to give and receive support from a group of people you care about and who care about you.
To learn more about your self and grow as a person.
To provide an opportunity to actively engaged with making a difference in the world.
4. How do Collectives get started?
So far I’ve identified two major approaches for starting a new Collective. The first approach involves inviting members of a pre-existing community to officially form a Collective. The second approach involves starting from scratch, which is likely to begin with the formation of a Pod (containing between 3-6 people), and then grow from there as those first Pod members gradually invite other people to join.
In his article ‘How to Weave Social Fabric’ Richard Bartlett outlines his own specific approach for forming mutual aid communities. It begins with an individual or small group of initiators calling in a group of people to a Gathering (usually a multiway residential event) in order to share in a series of peak bonding experiences together. He then suggests making use of the momentum and sense of cohesion that a Gathering can create in order to form a series of Crews (his term for Pods). This then forms the context for people to begin practicing what Richard has dubbed Microsolidarity, which he describes as 'a kind of personal development, in good company, for social benefit.’46
5. How many people are there in each Collective?
I would suggest the minimum number of people for a group to be considered a Collective is anything over the size of a single Pod (ie. larger than 6 people). And I would put the the maximum number somewhere around 250 people, as this is the upper range of Dunbars number, a cognitive limit to the amount of people with which anthropological research suggests we can maintain familiar and stable social relationships.
6. What kind of things do people in a Collective do together?
This will vary widely depending on the interests and values of the particular Collective. But see a list of example activities in Chapter 11.
7. How are decisions made and power distributed within a Collective?
Each Collective will decide for itself how best to allocate power and responsibility, as well how to make decisions as a group. Though broadly I would say the balance to aim for is between giving everyone in the Collective as much of a sense of agency and involvement in the decision making process as possible, whilst also ensuring that the process is not so time consuming or complicated that people stop engaging.
Here is a list of some of example structures for making decisions and allocating power:
The Working Groups Model
Specific working groups are formed around the different functions within the community. Each working group then makes decisions related to their own domain of responsibility on behalf of the rest of the Collective. One member of each working group is then chosen to participate in a meta group that helps to oversee the entire Collective.
Sociocracy is one version of this model that emphasises consent (we don’t strongly disagree) over consensus (we all completely agree) and includes a number of other specific practices for how to operate each working group, which in the Sociocratic lingo are known as a Circles.
The Elected Council Model
A small of group of people are selected (or voted in) by the Collective to act as decision makers for a certain period of time.
The Direct Democracy Model
All decisions that are deemed important by the Collective are determined by a vote where every member makes their preference known. Generally each member is given one vote.
Due to recent advancements in blockchain and token technology there are a number of emerging alternatives to the Direct Democratic model. These include Liquid Democracy (which allows people to vest their voting power with various delegates) and Quadratic Voting (which allows people to express the degree of their preferences rather than just the direction of their preferences).
The Sole Representative Model
One person acts as the final decision maker for the entire Collective for a distinct period of time. They may form a team to support them or chose to oversee the formation of a series of working groups.
They are either selected or voted in by the whole Collective, or else they are chosen, overseen and supported by a Board, which is also either selected by or voted in by the whole Collective.
The Anarchic Model
There are no chosen representatives and people participate as they wish based on their particular preferences at the time.
There may be an agreed upon process for the majority of Collective members voting to be able to request changes or put a stop to a particular project, or the activities of a certain member, if they are deemed to be doing more harm than good.
Peoples actions may, or may not be supported by a set of guidelines or a kind of constitution.
This is just a small list of potential models, there are many more variations that Collectives can choose to make use of in governing themselves.
8. What are Pods and why are they so central to the Collective experience?
Pods are where a lot of the deepest experiences of belonging, support and growth tend to occur. They are groups of between 3-6 people that form within a Collective in order to share a particular type of experience. They can be conducted in person or online and depending upon the needs and wishes of the particular Pod, they can happen over a period of weeks, months or even go on indefinitely. They can take many different forms, but here is a list of examples:
Circling Pods - A form of peer to peer group therapy, where participants come together to share about their inner experiences and receive support around any challenges they might be facing in their lives.
Learning Pods - A group of people that come together to study a certain course, subject or approach to personal development.
Enterprise & Project Pods - A group of people that either directly undertake a new project or social enterprise together, or else support each other in further developing projects or businesses they already run.
Goals & Accountability Pod - A group of people that come together to set goals and then support each other to stay accountable in moving towards them.
Skill Share Pods - A group of people that take turns in teaching each other particular skills or expertise.
Activism Pods - A group of people that work together to progress a particular cause.
There are countless different ways that Pods of people can come together to support and empower each other, and the high level of intimacy, trust and depth they allow for is one of the most transformational aspects of the whole Collective experience.
9. Does everyone in a Collective live together or at least near each other? Can a Collective be solely online?
People can live where ever they choose and still participate in a Collective. However living close enough to be able to regularly participate in activities and events together will naturally allow for a much more intimate and cohesive community experience. Some Collectives may choose to allow members to participate remotely, others may be conducted largely online and perhaps only encourage members to gather in person once or twice a year, if at all.
10. Are people in a Collective expected to share their money or finances together? Do people earn income together?
There is no expectation for anyone to share their finances with other people in their Collective. Some Collectives will be run without a budget, relying wholly on voluntary contributions. Others may collect a fee from members or else be funded from the proceeds of a Collective enterprise. Another possibility is to set up a kind of expanded Tool Library and share the use of certain possessions (such as tools, bikes, cars, instruments, sporting equipment etc).
Over time, certain members of each community will likely begin collaborating with each other on projects that earn income, and may then decide to allocate a portion of this revenue towards covering any costs of running the Collective. Such a Collective fund can also be utilised for seeding new projects and enterprises within the community. Some freelancers within the Collective may also choose to experiment with pooling together a percentage of their revenue and then distributing it amongst themselves.
11. How do people in the collective communicate with each other?
There are number of different online tools that people in a Collective can use to communicate. They include:
Instant Messaging Groups
Social Media Groups
Online Group Decision Making Tools
Online Group Project Management Tools
However, wherever possible, a healthy balance of online and in person communication is encouraged, as more regular face to face interactions tend to weave much stronger community bonds.
12. Where do Collective meetings and activities take place?
Collective meetups, meetings and activities can happen anywhere. Depending on the type of activity they might be held in peoples homes, in a shared work space or in a local cafe. It’s definitely beneficial to have a space (or a number of them) that members of a Collective feel to be a kind of home base. This might take the form of a particular cafe or co-working space managed by the Collective, or perhaps by one of its members. However having such a definitive home base is by no means a prerequisite for forming a Collective, as much of the community experience happens in small groups or Pods that can be held in a wide variety of spaces.
13. Does there need to be a clear boundary between who is in or out of a Collective? Is there a specific membership model?
To cultivate a deep sense of belonging and trust I believe it's essential to establish clear boundaries between whether someone is or isn’t a member of a Collective. It will be up to each Collective to decide whether they will have one level of membership or various tiers of involvement and responsibility.
14. Roughly how often do people in a Collective meet up or interact with each other?
This will vary widely depending upon the culture of each particular Collective, and the personal preferences of each of the individuals within it. However, if one of the aims is to share the flow of life together, then having regular opportunities to interact is essential. I would say a minimum level of interaction to remain engaged and connected to the culture of a Collective would involve attending around at least one event or activity per month.
Over the last few years, on average I have personally participated in around 3-4 community based activities each week. However, this doesn’t include the various one to one meet ups with friends in my community, or meetings for projects I’m undertaking with other community members. My engagement level has been towards the higher end within my community, with many others choosing to only engage around once a week.
15. How do people get selected or invited to join a collective?
Each Collective will evolve its own approach to inviting new people in. Some may have a working group that is responsible for the task, other’s may have a system where every current member of the Collective has to approve of any new invitees before they are accepted into the group. No matter the approach, it's useful to have a number of mechanisms for potential members to get to know others in the Collective before officially being welcomed in. This may include inviting people to participate in Collective Gatherings, Open Mics, gardening days or Skill Share workshops.
16. How can we ensure that forming Collectives doesn’t simply lead to more division and separation in the world?
The ‘us and them’ trap that humans have been falling into for thousands of years is one of the greatest risks of forming such communal groups. As when a Collective comes together there is always a potential that its members will begin to see themselves as separate from, or somehow more superior than the rest of society. As history has shown us this kind of thinking can result in some very violent outcomes.
As such whenever a Collective is started it’s wise to repeatedly highlight the intention of coming together in order to be of benefit to all living beings, and then to cultivate a sense of group culture around this particular intention. Along the way this can be re-enforced by ensuring that each Collective offers up value outside of itself, and provides a number of benefits to the wider community in which it's embedded. Being as transparent as possible around how the Collective is run is another way to minimise any sense of separation from people outside of the group.
It’s also important to be aware of any ‘High School’ dynamics that may emerge within a Collective. This is where an inner group of friends, whether they mean to or not, begin to engender an overt sense of exclusivity. While it is natural that small groups of friends will wish to spend time together, the Collective will benefit greatly from its participants expanding the traditional concept of ‘coolness' to include as many people as possible, and for it’s members to always practice seeing each other not as stereotypes, but rather as totally unique bundle of experiences, characteristics and gifts.
17. How can we encourage diversity and ensure people of every age, race, gender, economic status and sexual preference (etc.) feel invited into, and included within, each Collective?
Each Collective will have to settle upon its own approach for ensuring a healthy level of diversity within the group. I personally believe that as long as everyone is in alignment with the core values of the Collective, then it’s preferable to go for as much diversity as possible. I feel that practicing the successful honouring and integration of a wide range of world views, beliefs and cosmologies within one community container is one of the more profound opportunities that forming Collectives can provide us with.
However, for a number of reasons people from similar demographics with similar interests tend to congregate together in groups. So if a broad level of diversity is desired by a Collective, then its members will have to consciously work to ensure there is welcome space for all of the different voices to be heard and celebrated within the community. Part of this may involve having uncomfortable conversations around systemic oppression and privilege, which may bring to light a number of biases and prejudices members of the Collective may not have even realised they were harbouring.
18. How do Collectives relate to stepping into a new societal narrative together? Can they really create wider systemic change?
Collectives can encourage us to adopt new societal narratives by acting as cultural Petri dishes where we can cultivate and experiment with new ways of living together. They are places where new stories can emerge, take root, blossom and then go to seed, hopefully spreading far and wide across different parts of society. They bring about systemic change by:
Nurturing members with a sense of belonging and support, thus empowering them to become even more effective in the kinds of activism and changing making projects they are already involved in.
Acting as the catalyst for new world changing projects to be launched by members of the group.
Serving as a space to prototype and beta test new ways of living together and organising our selves.
19. Are there any Collectives out there already that I can learn about or join?
The closest thing to a fully fledged Collective that I’ve come across (that has a public profile) is the Enspiral network based in Wellington, New Zealand. They have made their handbook publicly available online, and some of their members have also published a book called Better Work Together which details many of the lessons they have learned in their quest to help each other do more meaningful work.
Other examples of Collective like Mutual Aid Communities include:
The Monastic Academy.
The New Republic Of The Heart Practice Community.
The concept of the Proto-B as described by Jim Rutt.
There must be many, many more examples out there that go by other names and I’m looking forward to encountering more of them in the years to come.
20. What type of values, intentions and guidelines might a Collective choose to adopt?
While each Collective will co-create its own set of values, intentions and guidelines, here is a list of examples:
Building Community - Building & weaving a resilient sense of community where everyone feels connected and part of something bigger.
Celebrating Creativity - Celebrating each others creativity through making and sharing our art and music.
Fostering Cohesion - Fostering deep and meaningful interaction between people from different age groups, races, genders, nations & walks of life.
Advancing Social Justice & Equity - Working to create a more just and equitable world. Focusing on both local and global causes.
Forming Friendships - Forming vibrant relationships with each other.
Seeking Growth & Transformation - Inspiring and supporting one another along a path of transformational growth.
Creating Healing & Integration - Nurturing and healing our minds and bodies.
Honouring Ecology - Rebalancing our relationship with nature and ensuring the health of our surrounding ecosystems.
Cultivating Awareness - Taking the journey inward towards becoming more conscious and mindful human beings.
Inter-Community Connection - Connecting up and collaborating with other communities in our region and around the world.
Providing Support & Guidance - Acting as a support network to assist each other in overcoming any challenges we may be facing.
Growing Social Enterprise - Helping one another launch and grow sustainable and ethical enterprises that make a difference in the world.
21. Isn’t this how cults start? How can we avoid such unhealthy dynamics forming within a Collective?
It can be, which is why whenever we start or join a Collective we should be well aware of common cult dynamics and how to avoid them. Here are some signs to be watchful for:
There is a highly charismatic leader who demands total loyalty from the group and seeks to be worshipped.
Members are strongly encouraged not to leave and penalised when they do.
There is complete authoritarianism without any accountability.
Questioning, doubt and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
The use of mind altering experiences are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader.
Ensuring there is transparency in how things operate, a healthy diversity in thought and accountability mechanisms for anybody in a position of authority are all ways to counterbalance any cult like dynamics that can begin to form within a community. For more information I recommend the book Cults Inside Out by Rick Allen Ross.
22. What are some of the major challenges and pitfalls of forming and participating in Collectives?
As Leo Tolstoy began his novel Anna Karenina, 'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ And Collectives are no different, while they can bring untold levels of joy and growth into our lives, there are countless ways in which they can become overwhelming, turbulent and fractious. Here is just a short list of some of the major challenges and pitfalls I’ve encountered so far:
Time Pressure - Many peoples lives already feel overly full with just the commitments they already have to their family, friends and workplaces. So despite all the benefits of joining a Collective, adding in another layer of responsibility and engagement can sometimes feel overwhelming.
The Potential Solution - Create a check in mechanism to ensure that people are not becoming overburdened by Collective responsibilities and that no one feels pressured to engage beyond what for them is a sustainable level of interaction.
Political & Moral Disagreements - Debates around political, social and economic issues can lead to deep schisms within a group. As people unearth various aspects of their individual and collective shadow there can be conflicts within around how best to approach integrate these parts of ourselves. Differing views around how best to enact wider system change can also lead to tension.
The Potential Solution - Early on work to create a culture of healthy dialogue and debate around difficult issues within the Collective and take the time to establish supportive environments for everyones voice to be heard and respectfully considered.
Loss Of Privacy - Being part of a Collective can create a kind of ’small town effect’ where a large group of people come to know a lot about what is going on in each others lives. In essence this can mean we trade some of our anonymity and potentially some of our privacy in order to establish a close sense of communal connection with others. And if the right structures, boundaries and protocols are not put into place from the beginning, this can sometimes lead to scenarios where we are left feeling over exposed.
The Potential Solution - Ensuring that everyone actively commits to safeguarding and respecting each others privacy and confidentially every step of the way. Creating a policy around which aspects of the Collective experience are to be kept private is also a helpful strategy. As is periodically discussing the Collectives approach to maintaining privacy and regularly checking in as a group as to how everyone is feeling in regards to the issue.
Burnout - A small group of people can often find themselves doing the lions share of the work in regards to keeping a Collective running and ensuring there is a healthy culture within the group. This can often go on behind the scenes and before long these individuals may soon find themselves feeling exhausted and overburdened.
The Potential Solution - Keep enquiring as to whether there are one or two individuals carrying too much Collective weight and find ways to support them.
Changing Relationships - Being in a Collective context with close friends can sometimes significantly change the nature of those relationships. While working together towards increasing levels of personal growth, and collaborating with one another on world changing projects often leads to an even stronger kind of bond, it can also take away some of the light heartedness and ease of simply being friends. Similar in a way to what it’s like when we start working in the same business as a romantic partner, it can change things, some times for the better and sometimes for the worse, and it’s good to be aware of this fact before joining a Collective.
The Potential Solution - Be conscious of how working together on projects can change the nature of important relationships, and perhaps allocate some extra time for simply having fun with those close friends who are also in our Collective.
Patience Tested - To experience the joy and belonging of close knit community we also need to accept that sometimes certain individuals are just going to leave us feeling frustrated and annoyed. Hopefully we can be successful in creating a culture where such experiences can be leaned into and used to further our levels of self awareness and growth. However even with these mechanisms in place, we still need to be ready to take the good with the bad and accept that sometimes we are just going be left feel frustrated, disappointed and annoyed by the people we are close to.
The Potential Solution - Ensure there are mechanisms for everyone in the Collective to be able to share their grievances and frustrations with some one close to them, perhaps even creating some kind of buddy system that ensures everyone has access to a receptive and supportive ear within the group.
23. Can forming Collectives really help us address our most pressing societal issues & existential challenges as a species?
While cultivating community might not seem like the most direct way to avoid catastrophic climate change or reduce the chances of nuclear war, I believe that the kinds of interpersonal skills we receive from participating in Collectives can significantly increase our capacity to create change in the world.
Collectives can also provide us with the inspiration, support and accountability to meaningfully engage with the most pressing social issues of the day. When we are part of a group that actively educates itself around human rights abuses, racial injustice, animal rights, biodiversity loss and oppression of minority groups (just to name a few), we are much more likely to be able to start taking the kinds of actions that will help to make a difference. And being part of a community that regularly discusses and engages with these issues can help to ensure we don’t feel alone in the face of such complex and multifaceted issues.
Collectives can also help to increase our capacity as individual agents of change. By offering us a place to process any difficulties, resistances and blockages we may be experiencing in our lives, mutual aid communities can serve to increase our sense of resilience and ensure that we stay inspired and supported enough to keep making a difference however we can. And over time as a global network of fully formed Collectives begins to emerge, the direct impact of all the projects they will undertake may prove to be a significant factor in our transition towards a truly regenerative societal narrative.
24. Are Collectives better suited to rural or urban environments?
Collectives can flourish in either context as long as there is enough people in one area that share similar values and a commitment to cultivating community together. If there are only a small number of people in any particular region that fit this criteria, then forming a Pod is another way to start experiencing a deep sense of solidarity with others. It's also possible to participate online in a Collective from a wholly remote location, so this is another option for people as well.
25. How do Collectives relate to the concept of Metamodernism?
The Metamoderna website defines Metamodernism as a 'philosophy and view of life that corresponds to the digitalized, postindustrial, global age. This can be contrasted against modern and postmodern philosophies.’ And as the author Hanzi Frienacht describes ‘The metamodern view is to support the necessary reintegration of highly dividuated modern people into deeper community—or Gemeinschaft—but to do so with great sensitivity towards the inescapable risks of new, subtler forms of oppression.’46 And he continues 'I believe that we would—we must—plunge head-on into the mysteries of existence, not as individuals, but as an evolving global network of posthuman transindividuals, living in volitionally organized virtual tribes.’47 Evidently the idea of forming Collectives dove tails very closely with such a Metamodern vision of the future.
26. How can we help to minimise any sense of exclusion that might arise in those people that haven’t been invited to join a particular Collective or Pod?
Whenever a group forms that has a clear distinction between who is a member and who isn’t, there is a good chance that some people on the peripheries may feel either excluded or left out. However such a dynamic can be pre-empted, and any Pods or Collectives that form can function in a way to minimise the likelihood of such feelings of exclusion arising within the wider community within which they exist. This can be achieved by:
Being clear and transparent about the groups policies of inclusion and exclusion.
Offering information and guidance to others around how to form their own Pods or Collectives if such groups that already exist are at full capacity.
Offering individuals a potential pathway to later inclusion (through self study or mentorship) if for what ever reason they don’t currently align with the criteria or values of the group but still wish to join.
27. How do we deal with the fact that joining close knit communities can often compel us to subtly conform to the cultural median of the group?
Monkey see, monkey do. Just like our primate cousins, when ever we join a new community, we can often find ourselves being subtly pulled towards the cultural median of the group. This can lead us to change our dietary habits, influence the way we dress and shift our political views, often without us realising that it’s even happening. And depending on community in question, this can either be a positive or negative dynamic for the individuals within it, but in either case I believe it’s important to take steps towards ensuring everyone remains as conscious as possible of the subtle tides of influence that operate within each and every Collective.
This might involve holding regular community discussions that are designed to identify and describe the various cultural currents at play within the group. It might also entail facilitating sharing circles around the questions of conformity and what behaviours and actions tend to either increase or decrease peoples status within the community. Ideally, over time, we could even begin to consciously select which kind of actions and behaviours we would like to be celebrated and modelled by the group, essentially then utilising our tendency towards accumulating status to hasten our growth and development.
28. How can Collectives learn from the wisdom of the worlds Indigenous people and foster a meaningful connection to the land?
Many Indigenous peoples have lived in harmony with their surrounding ecologies for hundreds of thousands of years. These cultures not only have extensive knowledge around how to live sustainably in close knit community structures, but they are also much more intimately connected to the land, and if they are willing to share their wisdom, there is much to be learned. So if a Collective is established in a region where there are still people with Indigenous wisdom, then it is highly recommended to respectfully try and establish a dialogue and relationship with these members of the community. In my opinion any kind of truly regenerative community will have a strong and sensitive connection to the land on which it lives, and having any understanding the traditional story of that land is a critical component of this.
29. How are Collectives different from a close friendship group, a Mens or Womens group, or any other kind of growth focused or change making community that already exists?
Collectives share many similar qualities with friendship groups and other kinds of community structures. However what makes Collectives broadly unique is the primary intention of cultivating a deep sense of belonging and community together along side a focus on bringing about positive change in wider society. More specifically, this manifests as a focus on the the seven different types of practices outlined in Chapter 11. These practices include:
30. How can Collectives ensure that they take into account the needs of people living with disabilities and various types of health conditions?
It is critical that people living with disabilities, chronic illness and mental health conditions all feel welcomed and able to meaningfully participate in Collectives. This requires the cultivation of a specific culture of awareness and sensitivity around each persons individual needs, whilst also making sure that no one is stigmatised for their disabilities or physical condition. An important part of this process is to create opportunities to carefully listen and learn about each others lived experience of day to day life, as such a shared sense of understanding not only ensures everyone feels better understood, but can also ensure that creative solutions are found which allow everyone to participate in Collective activities in their own unique way.
31. Is everyone in a Collective expected to have similar political, dietary or religious/spiritual preferences?
Ensuring that everyone in a Collective shares the same values will often also result in a broad alignment of lifestyle choices and personal beliefs. However, each Collective will have to decide for itself how tolerant they wish to be in terms of accomodating different views and opinions. As while a broad array of philosophies and cosmologies can bring a rich sense of diversity and vibrancy to a Collective as a whole, there can often be a limit to how much we can truly open up around people who hold a number of ideas that are diametrically opposed to our own. And seeing as one of the primary intentions of forming Collectives is to help us beyond late stage capitalism, whilst simultaneously tackling climate change, environmental degradation and the long list of social injustices and inequities we now face as a species, the politics of each Collective are envisioned to lean towards the progressive end of the spectrum.
32. Is it possible to be part of more than one Collective at a time?
Yes it’s definitely possible, however it comes down to a question of personal preference and the amount of time and energy people wish to invest in cultivating community in their life. Participating in each Collective will come with its own unique set of commitments and responsibilities, so it will be up to each individual to decide how many different mutual aid communities they can realistically and meaningfully engage with at once.
33. What are some examples of the kinds of working groups that might form within a Collective?
Activism & Advocacy Groups - To help organise action towards a particular cause.
Admissions Groups - To manage the welcoming in of new members.
Conflict Resolution Groups - To help people peacefully overcome their differences.
Counselling/Therapy Groups - For people to turn to when they need physical and mental health support.
Gathering Groups - To help coordinate the Collective Gatherings.
Musical Orchestrators - To help create a thriving culture of musical collaboration within the Collective
Online Moderators Groups - To help oversee the online components of group communication.
Pod Groups - To assist with the formation of Pods within the Collective
Social Enterprise Groups - To support others in launching and incubating meaningful new projects and business ventures.
Structure Groups - To help oversee the function of the whole Collective. They might be made up of one representative from each other working group.
34. Is there a particular methodology for resolving conflicts within a Collective?
Every community is bound to have a series of conflicts and disagreements that arise along the way. Figuring out how to gracefully navigate these moments with patience and compassion whilst effectively expressing our anger and frustration is one of greatest learning opportunities that participating in Collectives can provide us.
While every Collective will settle on it’s own particular process for resolving conflict, a useful template might include:
Starting out by making sure that every one in the Collective has a shared understanding of the communities conflict resolution processes, and that they have agreed to follow the steps together when ever necessary. Also ensuring that everyone knows which resources and what kind of support are available and how to access them.
Then, if there is a disagreement, first encouraging people to try and resolve the issue between themselves through one to one conversation.
If a one to one exchange doesn’t resolve the issue, or if someone feels unsafe around the idea of such an encounter, then each person may wish to invite a friend from within the Collective to come along and assist in creating the right conditions for reconciliation.
Beyond this, having a Conflict Resolution Working Group that is made up of some of the more experienced mediators within the Collective (with as wide a spectrum of demographics as possible) can also be hugely beneficial. Such a group can provide advice and support when ever required and also directly assist in helping to resolve conflict when necessary.
35. What happens if someone in a Collective continually violates the rules or guidelines of the group?
Each Collective will decide on their own method for dealing with such a scenario. But one approach is to empower a particular working group with the ability to remove people from the Collective if they repeatedly violate the values and guidelines of the group. The principles of Restorative Justice can also be applied in these situations, which is based on the notion of creating spaces where all stakeholders involved in a particular incident can come together to best determine ways to repair any damage that has been done, and then hopefully transform their behaviours and actions going forward.
36. Is there a minimum level of engagement required to stay a part of a Collective?
Each Collective will set its own guidelines in relation to this, but it's likely that some minimum level of engagement will be required from each member within the group. This is due to the fact that it can be difficult to continue building trust and cohesion as a community if certain members are regularly absent or simply don’t participate.
37. How can Collectives cater to the needs and desires of Introverts & Highly Sensitive People?
In our modern culture many social settings and contexts are not designed for the Introverts and Highly Sensitive People (HSP) amongst us. For those unfamiliar with the concept of HSP’s, the psychologist Elaine Aron published a book in 1996 outlining the concept that a small percentage of the population are what she labelled Highly Sensitive People, in that they experience a high degree of what has come to be known as sensory processing sensitivity.48 Essentially these individuals are highly attuned to their surrounding environment. There are a number of ways that Collectives can ensure Introverts and HSP's feel welcomed, included and valued by the community. The creation of Pods and other small groups that meet up to partake in activities play a big part in this, as does holding events that are more peaceful or less ‘high energy’ in nature. But perhaps the most fundamental aspect is simply acknowledging that there are Introverts and HSP’s within the Collective and ensuring that they feel recognised, understood and represented in any decision making processes.
38. Will there be whole families in each Collective? Should I invite my Mum along too?
As long as each individual aligns with the values of the community then it’s definitely possible to have various generations of the same family participating in a Collective together. In the years to come it will be interesting to observe whether most individuals prefer to either bond together or seperate out their Collective identity and experience from their familial one. We shall see over time how this particular dynamic plays out and discover which approach tends to lead to the healthiest Collective culture.
39. What role will ritual play in the Collective Experience?
Rituals are an integral part of human culture and can play an important role in rejuvenating our sense of psychological well being. Participating in Collectives can provide us with an opportunity to re-introduce the use of ritual into our lives in order to celebrate what we feel to be sacred, as well as steady and empower us through times of transition. Some examples of the kind of rituals that can emerge within a Collective context include:
A welcoming in of new members as well as an honouring of those that leave the group.
A practice of everyone writing each other anonymous notes of gratitude and appreciation at the annual Gathering.
Meeting together on the solstices and equinoxes to set new goals as individuals and as a Collective.