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Sharing Ideas from Bioneers: Part 3

Submitted by on November 10, 2009 – 5:23 pmNo Comments

At our “Cooperative Living and Sharing Brainstorm Booth” at the Bioneers Conference, we also asked people to tell us: “What are barriers to community building?”

Here are some of the answers:

  • Petty issues that get people angry and make them shut down to cooperation
  • Zoning issues and codes that don’t support sustainability
  • Hyperindividuation
  • Egos
  • People who are unpredictable, irrational, and uncontrollable 
  • The digital divide (the fact that poor and marginalized communities do not have access to the online community-building tools that many others have)
  • Large communities that are hard to organize; it’s difficult to create a unified voice or vision

As usual, the general sentiment is that sharing would be great…if it weren’t for the other people. Conflict, difficult personalities, egos – it seems like everyone has a story about how they got burnt in a sharing plan or cooperative effort that went sour.  Honestly, this does seem like the biggest barrier to the sharing revolution. But those of us who are mediators, or who have taken classes in non-violent communication or powerful non-defensive communication, know the potential for any conflict situation to transform into something positive and constructive, so we feel confident that this barrier is entirely surmountable. 

While talking to Bioneers conference attendees, we also brainstormed ideas about ways to manage our differences, including:

  • Hear people out. Even if you think they are “unpredictable, irrational, and uncontrollable,” they will probably be much easier to talk to if they feel they are being listened to.
  • Remember that what we interpret as “unpredictable, irrational, and uncontrollable” may actually just come from a miscommunication.
  • Remember that most people are well-intentioned. Most of the time if someone is acting “unpredictable, irrational, and uncontrollable,” it’s because they feel their needs aren’t being met.
  • Use meeting facilitators to talk through difficult topic.
  • Postpone discussion of issues that tend to trigger people, and start by finding common ground on other issues.

Of course, whole books could be written on this topic. For now I just wanted to share some of the thoughts we collected at Bioneers.

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