Spring 2014 Wellness Retreat

An agenda may not sound like a fascinating blog posting, but this one marks a turning point for our community.  Under the leadership of our Steering Council (and coming up on a 7-year anniversary at CoHo when the infamous 7-year “itch” is forecast), we have been revisiting some of the ways we interact and make decisions as a community.

Having a full day together at this retreat gave us time to explore these topics in a constructive context.  The outcome was that we put in place some steps (and some champions) to guide us toward changes in how we function as a team.

Here’s how we spent our day [with some observations in brackets/italics].


Retreat Agenda – Transformation Conversations – 3/1/14

10:10 Overview (10)

10:20 Leading with Gratitude: (20):

Question 1: Think about the land here at CoHo. Please take a moment to think of one aspect of or place on the land that fills you with gratitude (it doesn’t have to be just one place!).

Question 2: Think about a person (or people) at CoHo who have enriched your life and experience.

[Our reflections were shared in pairs.  Starting with gratitude helped anchor us in the features of community life that nourish us.]

10:40  (15)  Connecting by Sharing Our Commonalities & Our Differences

[As a warm-up for the next activity, CoHoots lined up to show their preference for dyads–like cat/dog, vanilla/chocolate, and CoHo meal prep/CoHo meal clean-up. With this crowd–chocolate was a BIG winner.]

10:55 (25): Questions about CoHo Process

[CoHoots lined up in more “human histograms” to indicate their level of satisfaction with the following aspects of community life.  In the photos, the number of fingers raised corresponds to the question number.

When designing the meal program prior to move-in, we used the technique of line-ups with photos to record meal plan preferences.]

We will quickly rate our responses to:

When you think about signing up to eat a meal right now…

When you think about using Tiki to reserve a room for a meeting or a guest right now…

When you think about participating in an “ooching” process right now…

When you think about turning in receipts for reimbursement right now…

When you think about selecting someone for a Coho office right now…

[CoHo has used a modified sociocratic selection method and is considering switching to other models.  The three photos show a range of views on this topic.  Photos range from more satisfied to less satisfied.]

















When you think about attending a team meeting right now…

When you think about asking HUB for help right now…

When you think about approaching Steering Council to find a team to address your concern…

When you think about beginning a green light design review process right now…

When you think about going through the budgeting process to get a project funded…

When you think about approaching CPR for help right now…

One last one: In general, how satisfied are you with your current relationship to process and procedures at CoHo right now?

[To set up the listening pairs for the next activity, the facilitator used a strategy to match folks with mid-range ratings of our process with folks at the ends of the continuum.  First, all lined up according to satisfaction with community process–the last question above.  Then the line was split in the middle.  The second half of the line moved forward, while the first half remained.  As the facilitator said in the debrief…”The hope (and I think it worked reasonably well) was to get diversity but not diametric opposites in each pairing.”]

11:20 (10)  Listening pairs:

  1. Describe one benefit you get from CoHo, that some process is trying to support
  2. Describe one challenge you have seen around CoHo processes

11:30  (30):  Deepening the conversation: partners continue with a 25-minute walk, sit, roll, or art experience.


[The “walk-and-talk” format had been used successfully at a previous retreat and led to some interesting conversations.  The canopies and plants in this photo were part of an “ooch” to explore what it would feel like to have a covered patio outside the common house main room.]


1:10  (20):  Deepening the conversation- small group

1:30 (15):  Sharing Out

1:45 (15)    Transforming: Brainstorming needs

[Identifying NEEDS grows out of our non-violent communication (NVC) focus.]

2:00 (10) Break

2:10  (15) Transforming: Brainstorming strategies

[The next step–Moving to Action–is a part of the process that has been challenging for CoHo.  The Steering Council’s focus for long-range planning “Dream–Achieve–Celebrate” gives a concise overall framework and this step supported the “Achieve” element.]

2:35 (20)  Transforming: Moving to Action

[One area in need of “transformation” was the time/energy to reach consensus decisions.  Two strategies were suggested to shift to a more productive process:

1)  Use the framework “Is there anything standing in the way of this being good enough?” rather than asking for niggles (small issues) at any point in the process

2)  Pose questions to those providing critiques to shift to a more appreciative and constructive focus–

a)  What do I like about this?

b)  What could I contribute to make it even better?

c)  What would I change?]

2:55 (5) Thank you and next steps.


We also played together at the beginning and end of the day.  Having more fun together continues to be a priority for CoHoots.


Musical chairs is a favorite game at retreats, but this time we added a twist–literally.  Folks (including those who were “out”) were asked to dance while the music played.

There was also a repeat performance of People-to-People where folks connect via two body parts (like “nose to toes”).  This photo shows there is more than one successful process for the “Achieve” step.













Cinnamon rolls were prominently featured at breakfast, but were joined by nuts/fruit, and gluten-free rolls (the census of gluten-free diners at CoHo is rapidly increasing).


Posted in Children, Decision Making, Traditions, Wellness Retreats and tagged .