Ecotopia is a horizontally run, self-organized event, and participants are asked to take part in all aspects of running the camp. Decisions and plans are made by participants during the daily morning circle, such as who will help with cooking, cleaning. who will run workshops, fetch wood, decide if extra structures (toilets etc) are required and ask for volunteers to help build them, and many other tasks. Everyone is expected to take equal part in working groups, and contribute to the smooth running of the camp. If something needs to be done, then take the initiative!
Ecotopia is a place for people of diverse cultural backgrounds to come together and unite in solidarity against discriminatory and unethical actions, therefore it IS NOT a place for racism, sexism, homophiobia or other predjudiced attitudes. Participants are asked to be open and friendly to the people around them, and of course to respect the traditions and people of the local host community.
Ecotopia exemplifies it's environmental principles in it's actions. Therefore, we ask participants to take the most sustainable form of transport to reach the location. Catering is provided by the vegan kitchen, and we ask particpants to please not bring meat onto the site. And lastly, after some problems at past Ecotopias, we request that there are no dogs brought to this years camp.
Consensus decision making
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).
Structure of a Consensus Meeting
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.
How to make it Work
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.