Report from the session on Group Immune System (Robert Gilman, convener; Tod Sloan, scribe)

Participants: Elaine Hansen, Gabriel Shirley, Norma Burton, Susan Partnow, Shiloh Boss, Heather Tischbein, Patricia Pfost, Henri Lipmanowisz, Kaya Jacolen, Brian Bainbridge

Primary issue raised: How do deal with difficult individuals who hijack meetings and distract communities from their fundamental purposes.

Even skilled groups have problems with this and need skills.

A primary strategy: avoid managerial approaches > get the gift out of the shadow.

Perhaps use 'dynamic facilitation'

Ask what a biosystem would do about this problem: limit openness and inclusivity? Develop an immune system to maintain integrity and energy of the group

Avoid demonizing

In open space, everyone can just walk away from the problem person, but some noted that this is not always possible in groups and communities.

About getting the gift from the shadow: there is an outer aspect, the irritant, the thieves, bullies, and vampires who destroy things; and an inner side, our own buy-in, our participation in letting it happen. Some respond with the equivalent of gated communities, but instead we must do our own shadow work, shift our energy, join, not oppose the shadow energies and redirect them toward the intention of the group

Study the shadow in order to know it > look for the wound in oneself > take responsibility for self > outer shadow is diminished

One practical solution: get several people with non-violent communication skills to engage the difficult person, can't just be one or even two.

Extensive discussion of how dynamic facilitation (see Jim Rough) is a key to dealing with these problems since it allows the difficult energy to express itself, be heard, and dissipate

A preventive move is to anticipate such problems in the founding agreements.

But what about the most difficult cases? We can't always have advanced expertise in place. Might just have to reply on the law of two feet.

Look at how nature does this: mobilizes critical mass to address interruptions – it takes work, effort, commitment as a group.

All of this reflection is part of building a new culture, a new set of practices, that ideally will become a simple part of organizational design and process, even though they seem complex now.

Attend to body feeling and share this . “I am feeling x in relation to what is going on” -- practice resonant field awareness – hold the field, stay in inquiry ....

Final question: do agreements get in the way of self-organizing.