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General News · 9th October 2010
John Anderson
Doctor Issue – CCHA Board Decisions

We all know about the Cortes game of buzz, where one person says something to another, and by the time the story gets to the other side of the island, it is completely different. That can be fun chatter around a campfire, but understanding the changes in our health center requires something a bit more objective, a more careful gathering of information to replace the inevitable rumors and distortions.

On Tuesday evening at Manson’s Hall, there will be a community gathering in a form based on respectful conversations among people with different opinions about a subject that happens to be important to everyone. Here’s what will happen. We will gather in a circle and briefly explain the simple rules for assuring the civility of the conversations.

Everyone will then be invited to think about what is the most important aspect of this issue for them. You might want to think about that before the gathering. Then, anyone that wants to will propose a conversation on their chosen subject and people will attend whichever one interests them.

I will suggest that if any conversation becomes the least bit heated, if we get permission to do so, we will use that conflict to demonstrate that both people or groups have coherent and important points.

The right to have and express different opinions is central to any democratic process. In our normal meetings with speaker lists, motions on the floor, and timers, the same fifteen brave souls do all the talking. And important points are never discussed by a group of people for however long it needs, maybe even an hour. So, how does this model allow for that?

Several conversations will go on simultaneously in different parts of the room. Each will have a host and a note-taker, who will capture the important points in that conversation. All of those notes will go into a big document that will be available after the meeting. People will have several weeks to read the big document and find out what everyone else thought was so important. In a way, it will present a story of the community’s concerns on this issue.

Then, we will ask people to pick a few of the ideas in the big document that they think are the most interesting or important. We will make a short list of the most mentioned ideas and then make those available. It is quite possible that one or more ideas will evolve to warrant further consideration.

But we aren’t likely to get to such a point without inviting and listening to every voice that chooses to be in the conversation.

Now, suppose you propose a conversation and nobody joins you. This is another kind of opportunity. You might be seeing something that no one else can see yet. You can then write into the notes for the conversation exactly what you think and that goes into the big document just like any other notes.

The most important guideline for this type of meeting is called The Law of Two Feet. If you are in a conversation and realize that you have nothing more to give or gain from the conversation, politely get up and leave. You can join another conversation or go get a cup of coffee, anything you like, but don’t stay in a conversation if you don’t feel like being there. Traditionally, this meeting design includes the image of bees and butterflies. The bee might move to a new conversation and see how information from the previous conversation might pollinate the new one. The butterfly might not even sit, flitting from conversation to conversation.

We simply ask that you remember how you like to be treated when you are expressing something that is important to you and provide that same respectful listening for your neighbors.

There are several different meeting styles for different situations. This one is designed to address a conflicted situation and, with a commitment to respectfully listening to each other, “take it down a notch.”

Any questions can be emailed to me at …See you Tuesday.
Finally, I’ve said it before, but this bears repeating. If Cortesians, living in a natural paradise, can’t find a way to freely express ourselves without fear of judgment, the world doesn’t have a chance.