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Notes of a workshop at the Teachers' Event at Launde Abbey, Leics, UK on 4th August 2013.
It includes celebration of good experiences of coco culture; outlines some potential problem areas; and suggests some ideas for good practice.
Comments are very welcome

Attended by (I think – and not everyone for all of the time): Rachel Beard,  Julian Briggs, Sally Cooke, Iris Finnern, Sue Gray, Charlie Green, Sheila Lochrie, Steve Roche, Susan Tilley, Caroline Thorpe

Celebration / noticing what is going well (in our opinion)

  • We took delight in the loving, warm environment we found / find here.
  • We noted that it seems healthy to make a point of refreshing / re-making ground rules at each residential event.
  • We felt that the process of refreshing the ground rules connects us with each other.
  • A culture-setting process was modelled in the opening circle we had had this morning – we thought it a good idea to share that process on cocolist (I am hoping that the people who facilitated it will be willing to do that ....?)

What's the problem (in fact, is there one?) (this is my personal view and I think underlay some of our discussion but wasn't explicitly stated)

  • the backchat and horseplay when we are in a group, e.g. opening circle, sometimes gets out of hand and then some people don't feel properly heard or respected
  • issues that seem small to most people sometimes get discussed at length in our group sessions and we don't keep to our intended timetable, e.g. opening circles over-run and workshops have to be shortened
  • in sharing rounds, sometimes the quality of listening and attention is not good; sometimes comments are made, even jokes at the speaker's expense. People can feel hurt as a result, sometimes they shut down and /or leave.

What could we try that would help ensure a good culture?

  • Settings change in a residential : one moment you can be in an individual session, later in a support group, or in a workshop, or in an opening circle, or in social time, and so on.... We could be more explicit about how the culture is different in each setting.  e.g. when having a round in a group / workshop / circle, to say explicitly what is asked for,  such as, is it a free attention round, or is interaction OK?
  • If opening circles overrun extensively, there are knock-on effects . It takes up time which was meant for workshops etc.  If the over-running happens due to acting out of feelings, perhaps we need to think of other approaches to handling feelings – e.g. calling for a time-out to allow feelings to subside; or reminding people of the contract (is there one?) for this particular activity or time-period. (Time-out could just be 'three mindful breaths'.)
  • If we hold a general aim of valuing everyone who is present, we will naturally try to find ways of helping them to stay and to be part of the group. This includes in support groups.
  • Wary Wednesdays! We noted that being aware of group process is probably wise – we usually get to the 'storming' stage about mid-week in a week-long residential. No surprise then that Wednesday's opening circle may often be a tricky one!

Sally / 23 Aug 2013
amended 9 April 2014