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Feedback from Seattle Conversation Salon on 'Community'

Hello All,

I promised to feed back results from the first Conversations That Matter (CTM) public salon that I hosted in Seattle recently. The theme: “Where does our ‘sense of community’ come from?”.

See attached document, which I've also pasted below. I'd be interested in your comments!

Warm Regards,

Here is feedback results from the first Conversations That Matter (CTM) public salon that I hosted in Seattle recently. The theme: “Where does our ‘sense of community’ come from?”.

After the background info, I’ve listed feedback in two sections: feedback from the full-group probably contains the most pertinent and resonant comments for the group; additional notes from the tablecloths may be interesting or relevant. I was particularly taken by the “Community is…” from the second section and wished the author(s) had shared it with the group!


People who attended were a mixture of friends, people within my business and health care reform advocacy networks, and a contingent from the CTM Meetup group that I set up.

Rough demographics:
• The age range was roughly late 20’s to early 60’s
• 7 men, 8 women
• Ethnic backgrounds (that I know of): Caucasian, Asian, Israeli
• Seattle-based

• Intro to the purpose of CTM and the format; handed out Questions for Reflection*
• 3 conversations of 20 mins each, followed by 30 mins full-group sharing of key points that were recorded on flipcharts
• Tables chose host for each round
• Bright colored butcher paper ‘tablecloths’ and markers provide at each table of four

*Questions for Reflection (A note to TWC Community ‘neighbors’: Please feel free to use the Questions for Reflection if you want to focus on this subject in a salon you’re hosting)
• How do we define community? What’s its purpose?
• What makes a community? What is the glue that holds people together?
• Why is community important? Is community important?
• What’s the difference between a community and a network?
• What’s my role in building community?

• It was great to have a broad mixture of people – those I knew, those I didn’t, different work and ethnic backgrounds, different ages – just what I was hoping for.
• My sense was that the Questions for Reflection helped keep the conversations going, and it’s something I’ll continue to provide.
• Since there was no specific goal for this café, other than to have an opportunity to discuss issues that matter, one of the participants suggested allowing 15 mins at the end for tables to discuss how they would implement some of the things that came out of the evening in their own lives, what they will be more conscious of, or what they want to spend more time thinking about and discussing with people they know; I like this, and will add it to the next salon.
• Some people used the butcher paper, others not – I chalk this up to preferences, as well as some being unfamiliar with using it as a tool for the host or group-thinking; I will encourage greater use in future salons.


The Glue that keeps a community together:
• Sense of belonging, comfort, being welcomed, being cared for, concern for well-being
• Shared interests and values; common interests and goals
• Survival, support, sharing, healing, fun, joy, attraction, trust, commitment, continuity, respect, dignity, love
• Investment in the group – I’m not the most important person

Purpose of community:
• To enrich our lives and experiences
• To validate our existence

The nature of community:
• Container / space
• Dynamic – fluid, permeable boundaries
• There are different layers (like an onion)
• There are different styles of community

Other observations:
• A community is a group of people willing to engage in the give and take of human interaction
• We learn in relationship with each other
• Our emotions can affect our connection, energy, intuition, intangible feelings, and the magic
• Groups end for different reasons – as people come and go, lack of continuity
• Some community is not optional (through birth or family)

Further questions:
• What are the elements necessary to create community and transcend barriers?
• How do you deal with – or bridge the gaps with – people who are close-minded or different?
• How do we respond when there is no planned schedule or serendipity? (ie, being self-directed)
• What is it that makes a good community? How do you recognize a bad community? If there’s a perspective that a community isn’t healthy (e.g. Nazi Germany, violent gangs), is it still a community?
• Quantum theory – does the observation of a community or its members affect its/their behavior?
• Can one expect to have a community?


Community is…
• Where I feel comfortable
• Where I can relate, share ideas
• Where I belong
• Where I feel secure (people will be kind)
• Where I fit in

• Purpose of community – to make life more wonderful; to get needs met; to flourish
• Magnify experience/enjoyment
• To commune

Need for balance:
• Basic human needs of belonging (joining; social identity) vs self-protection (separateness; private identity)
• Imposed (necessary) vs chosen (desired)
• Different levels of community, e.g. personal, nurturing community vs eco/earthly/global community

Key words
Comraderie, comfort, acceptance, caring, mutual benefit
Shared destiny
Shared ownership

Other observations
• Collectively we know the right answer
• Fear is the opposite of community
• Identify with others
• The value of a link that breaks down barriers:
• Willingness to open up and share self
• Common histories that unify
• Not one size fits all
• Able to contain changes in relationships
• Society is narcissistic = isolation
• More permeable boundaries = stronger community
• It takes a lot of work to keep things going
• Global and societal shift → need for community → survival
• Need to be open to the idea of community and vulnerability
• The sum of unique contributions to the greater whole is more valuable than the contributions on their own; the whole group is larger than its parts
• Give and take – sharing of space; having others come to your door as well as going to another’s door
• Currently, community is more virtual than physical
• Unplanned, but extended interaction → continuity of relationship
• Organic, dynamic, based on mutuality
• willingness to be changed, let down guard, be vulnerable
• Maintaining health of community
• All or nothing feeling among members

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Ellia wonderful notes from your cafe session. Two thoughts from your notes caught my attention. First the concept of container. Our work often is all about creating containers for conversations. Very important. The second is "Collectively we know the right answer" is what this work is all about. Very powerful. Thank you so much for sharing.

Thanks John.

I was interested to see the container concept come up, which also came up within my Windsor Leadership Trust cohort some ten years ago. Interestingly, I've switched metaphors recently and use 'jazz improv' as a metaphor for freedom within boundaries: Miles Davis would go into the studio with his band, write a melody and chord structure, then hand it to the band to do what they wanted with it; pretty good music, eh?

I love seeing other people arrive at 'aha moments' in their own way, and so I was thrilled to see "collectively we know the right answer" appear.
Dear Ellia,

thank you for sharing your notes on the café!

I am really inspired by your questions and will take them for discussing the planning of the European Salon in autumn.

Allow me to add a suggestion: I'd love to see a picture or a photo of how your café looked like included in your report, to get a visual feel for the café.

In your reflection you mention the outcome of the café and that one of the participants asked to think about next personal steps. This points me to an interesting question: What do we see as a result of a conversation? I hosted a little workshop on this question a year ago and I'd be interested in what others see as a result of a conversation. Find the documentation here.

Thanks again for sharing your notes.

Dear Ellia,

I LOVE this story, and I find myself really wishing it was set in the post itself rather than attached as a document. I'm wondering if you would be willing to put it in the post itself?

Warmest Wishes,

Hi Amy,

I thought it might be too long to put in the post itself, hence the attachment. I'm happy to re-post when I get a few minutes!

Thanks for your enthusiasm!

Thanks, Ellia!

I don't think it's too long to post, and it's also a nice idea to have it as an attachment for versatility.





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