- At the East of Scotland AGM in November 1991 the common aim was agreed to go for a ‘membership of 1000 Co-Counsellors in five years’.
- The founding meeting of the CCiS in October 1992 decided to go for ‘Co-Counselling in Scotland’, ‘Scottish’ in this context meant as geographical area to be covered rather than ‘national’.
1. A ‘Big’ network provides more volunteers than a small one
If one takes as nominal figure that about 10% of the Co-Counsellors is prepared to do committed voluntary work, then in a small community of 50 Co-Counsellors only 5 people are available to carry the flag. This makes this community dependent on them. In a network of 1000 Co-Counsellors there will be 100 people available, and then the outlook is totally different. Enough people for organising & facilitating workshops and more than enough people for the newsletter etc. So in the future continuity needs not to be dependent on individuals like me.
2. A ‘Big’ network can better meet the diverse needs of Co-Counsellors
A big network is not only able to organise a great variety of topical workshops, but can also sustain a yearly recurrence of some of the more ‘vital’ workshops, like ‘Death, Loss & Bereavement’, ‘Relationships’, ‘Bodywork’, ‘Conflicts’ etc. Key is here that there will be enough Co-Counsellors interested in these workshops. For example, in 1994 with a small network of about 100 members, there was a workshop on ‘Death, Loss & Bereavement’ attended by about 24 Co-Counsellors. The years after on average only 2-3 Co-Counsellors were interested. In a network, ten times bigger, 20-30 people each year would be interested, enough to organise this workshop for again and again.
A big network also prevents ‘unnecessary’ dropout. In a group bigger than 100 there is far more chance for everybody to find partners of their liking. In a small community however the differences among people can turn into a selection process: those who don’t fit, tend to leave, as there may be no partners available.
3. A ‘Big’ network supports small, local communities that otherwise have a smaller chance of survival
When small communities are embedded in a bigger network, their members are more likely to attend Co-Counselling events outside their local community, weaving their connections with other Co-Counsellors and finding some additional Co-Counselling inspiration. This strengthens the Co-Counselling within the small community. In times of crises the small community is more likely to ask for and to get support.
2. The choice for ‘Quality’
During the discussions about the Newsletter at the AGM in November ’92 we decided to go for the ‘Highest Possible Quality’.
Co-Counselling is about improving the quality of life. On the whole Quality attracts Quality. It is a quality Good&Newsletter that keeps Co-Counsellors in Scotland connected in a dynamic network. It is the quality of Co-Counselling that inspires Co-Counsellors to tell other people about Co-Counselling. It is quality that persuades people to want to know more and more about Co-Counselling and to stick with Co-Counselling in the longer term. As time goes on a more varied and knowledgeable core of Co-Counsellors develops in Scotland, inspiring other Co-Counsellors in their turn.
Mandela paraphrased: ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate in the face of ‘quality’. It is our ‘Quality’, not our Inadequacy, that frightens us most.’
3. ‘Network’ instead of ‘Community’
A network is generally defined as a pattern of connections, e.g. chains of people, of computers, of broadcast systems, or a train network. One can access networks and generally they provide opportunities. The word ‘Community’ stems from ‘common unity’ and means a group with common interests, beliefs or origins. A community supposes a ‘we all belong together’. In a community, people are part of it or not. If they don’t like the community, the only choice is to leave the community.
In a network everyone is free to choose with whom to relate and on what basis and to stay away from people if they wish to.
Decision at the AGM 1994: the CCiS describes itself not anymore as ‘Co-Counselling Community’ but as ‘Co-Counselling Network’ with one of its aims, being to support ‘forms of community’ Some of the reasons for this change:
- People entering Co-Counselling are more interested in joining a Co-Counselling network that provides Co-Counselling opportunities than a Co-Counselling Community that expects individuals to belong to a group.
- As long as Co-Counsellors share their truth instead of imposing it on others, a network can carry a huge variety of basic beliefs, e.g. Marxism, Buddhism, Christianity, Socialism, new age spirituality etc. A single community, however, can have per definition only one set of shared beliefs, their common unity. A Co-Counselling network therefor can give equally space to Co-Counsellors who think that ‘spirituality’ is the new paradigm of Co-Counselling, and to others who think that this is irrelevant.
- The concept of a ‘Network’ provides a down-to-earth clarity, as in daily life most people are familiar with a road or rail network; they know some implications: a ‘code of conduct’ is necessary for ‘safety’, and effort needs to be put into it for maintenance and development.
4. Where does this leave peership so far?
For Co-Counsellors using the Co-Counselling network
Like using a car on a road network Co-Counsellors are able to travel to anywhere, with anybody they like at the pace they like. In this way they are peers.
The more developed and the more attractive the Co-Counselling network, the greater the opportunities for individual choices. More and more people can enjoy Co-Counselling. In this way I feel CCiS starts to function, providing more and more workshops, support groups and other Co-Counselling opportunities.
What about peership & the network organising group?
It may be clear by now that there are some fundamental imbalances: some Co-Counsellors volunteer to do network jobs and others do not; some people want to be involved in the decision making processes, others vote exclusively with their feet. And that is still OK!
Challenges for peership organisers
(In my order of priority)
- How to get as many Co-Counsellors as possible involved in volunteering to jobs necessary for the network?
- How can ‘wise’ decisions be made, knowing that quite a lot of Co-Counsellors don’t want to be directly involved in this process?
- How can peership be maintained in spite of this inequality in participation?