Ecotopia is an extraordinary event, created when people from all over Europe meet and try to shape their own ideal community for two weeks. It's self-organised and run horizontally. During the camp all decisions are taken by the participants at the morning circles, and everybody is responsible for creating the programme, solving problems and running the daily tasks.
Day-to-day policy at ecotopia is made by consensus at the daily morning circle. This is when the day's activities such as workshops, actions, recreational activities and important housekeeping information are announced. There are no hierarchies, all ecotopians have equal rights. Kids and adults, local people and those from other countries, all have the same privileges and responsibilities on the camp life. Equality also means that all people coming to the camp are asked to take part in the everyday tasks and in the decision-making. Where possible, ecotopians participate in regional actions and clean ups, try to get local people interested in ecological problems and empower local organisations.
Everybody who joins ecotopia is expected to put some effort for the organisation and the effective running of the gathering. It means that everybody has to take part actively in one of the daily working groups so that the teams can rotate and everybody is equally able to work, attend to the workshops and rest at ecotopia. People volunteer to help out with various chores, e.g. collecting firewood, collecting water for showers, digging toilets, cleaning, etc. To really experience life in a sustainable community try to volunteer for all of the tasks at least once. If you see something should be done, do it!
We strongly disapprove discriminatory types of behaviour such as sexism and racism. Moreover, ecotopia brings together people of diverse ethnic backgrounds who have very different traditions relating to relationships, environment and everyday life. We would like to ask you to be sensitive to different cultures, be patient and friendly and respect the local community that is hosting ecotopia.
Working with consensus means that we all try to move forward together rather than going with what a majority want, so we don't vote - we just keep talking to reach a solution for everyone! Consensus works better when everyone wants it to work, so it's very important to be constructive. Meetings which work by consensus do not have a chair but do usually have a facilitator. This is someone who -with consent of the group- helps structuring the meeting. The facilitator's main tasks are to make sure everyone speaks in turn and to make the group aware of the time limits.
The facilitator should also keep an eye on the structure of the meeting and so is more likely to introduce different techniques or to summarise the current state of the discussion, although anyone can do this. Apart from the facilitator, other specific roles will be the note taker (who should take note of the decissions reached), and a vibes watcher (sometimes it is important to watch out for people getting upset/tired/stressed or who are unhappy with the decission but don't feel able to say why). It is better if the facilitator and vibes watcher are not part of the meeting themselves (if possible).
The meeting starts with the facilitator, time keeper, note taker and vibes watcher being appointed, followed by the agenda and time limits being agreed by the meeting. The facilitator will also make any necessary practical announcements at this stage. The topics on the agenda are then discussed. Each discussion continues until everyone agrees -if someone blocks a decission then the discussion must re-start on the basis of those objections. Everyone has the right to block a decission they really can't live with, although this is rare. People also have the option to stand aside ("I'm not doing it but I won't stop you"), but in most cases true consensus can be reached. During the morning circles working groups can be formed to further discuss a specific idea or problem later on during the day, and report back to the morning circle the next day.
The two golden rules are to be constructive (it's not valid just to disagree or block, explain your reasons, offer your alternatives or commitments) and to wait until it's your turn to speak. Other things that may help are:
Listen - Make sure you understand what is being discussed, especially if you need a translation. Try to get all information about a point before you support or criticize it.
Explain - Make sure people understand your position and your proposals, especially if you are being translated.
Be as brief as you can.
Be flexible, Be patient. - Contradictions in the decision-making process are O.K.
Do not feel isolated - We are all here with the same motivation.
Support the facilitator if the meeting starts to get out of control.