120 attend LAEV 20th Anniversary Celebration Honoring Jackie Goldberg

And what a night it was a month ago on December 7th! So cold, we squeezed almost everyone into the lobby, which made us much warmer and cozier, like an art opening, as pizza appetizers circulated hot out of Ray Cirino’s astounding rocket stove with great local and organic veggies donated by Mud Baron and Camille Cimino.

Eco-Villagers Ana Paula Noquez Mercado, Jimmy Lizama (ctr) and Eric Roman

Eco-Villagers Ana Paula Noquez Mercado, Jimmy
Lizama (ctr) and Eric Roman (photo by Yuki)

While wine flowed to accompany Jimmy Lizama’s great rice, beans and veggies with help from sis Mayi Mauricio,  more great food was prepared by Lara Morrison, also chief server for the evening.  Nichole Schwab provided a popular wine pairing activity while Eco- Villagers Jordan B and Becca L. tended bar. To top off the food

Early LAEV visionary Maria Davalos (photo by Yuki).

Early LAEV visionary Maria Davalos (photo by Yuki).

part, 15 dozen fabulous homemade cookies were provided by early LAEV visionary Maria Davalos.                                                                                   

A silent auction and raffle event were  organized by members Claire Bergen and Laura Allen.  LAEV members Yuki Kidokoro and Ianne Lavigne took some terrific photos as did our cohousing consultant and friend Raines Cohen from San Francisco. Yuki K. and Irma Garcia along with our friend Tina Mata helped check folks in at the door.  Other Eco-Villagers circulating to host the event and welcome our guests included Eco Maya Festival producer Julio Santizo, Peter Ralph, George Patton, Melba Thorn, Randy Metz, Somer and Aurisha Walters, Eric Roman, and Michelle Wong.

Thiago Winterstein and friends provide mellow bossa nova

Thiago Winterstein and friends provide mellow bossa nova (photo by Yuki)

Eco-Villager Thiago Winterstein DJed for the event, and, with his musician friends, Elizabeth Perry Dickson, Matt Dickson, and Clark Skelton, provided mellow live Brazilian bossa nova. Los Angeles Country  Bicycle Coalition staff Chris Barnes provided volunteer bicycle valet service.  LA Walks’ Deborah Murphy couldn’t join us but graciously loaned us her catering supplies making our effort at holding a zero waste event very successful.

Midnight dishwashing party with LAEV Intentional Community members.

Midnight dishwashing party with LAEV Intentional Community members (photo by Lois).

We had planned to debut our outdoor courtyard kitchen (coordinated by LAEV member and Greywater Action co-founder Laura Allen) for the dish washing activities, but the cold weather resulted in our carting all the dishes up to our community room for the midnight dish washing party spearheaded by Eco-Villagers Melba Thorn and Ana Paula Noguez Mercado, then joined by members Nichole, Becca, Yuki, Eric, Michelle, Laura, Jordan and Randy who finished the job.

KCET’s “Engaging Spaces” blogger and LAEV friend George Villanueva describes the highlight of the evening as we honored our former LAUSD School Board and City Council member Jackie Goldberg “who fought side by side with LAEV to make the physical and social space for the Village that we see today.” George goes on to quote Jackie saying  “how LAEV members ‘not only talk about what to do, but live it and demonstrate it.'” Go here to read the complete blog post.

Honored guest Jackie Goldberg holds clock plaque award up

Honored guest Jackie Goldberg holds plaque award up (photo by Yuki)

We presented Jackie with a small crystal plaque with the engraved words “Thank you Jackie Goldberg for giving us a garden plot instead of a parking lot” to honor the many times she helped save the LAEV neighborhood from being razed for a new school, especially because there were better alternatives. Jackie set the precedent which ultimately resulted in the saving of the northeast corner of Bimini and White House Place for the White House Place Learning Garden instead of more asphalt.  Currently in development, the corner will eventually host gardening instruction for kids from eight schools within walking distance of LAEV.

Eco-Villagers Mayi Mauricio (left),  George Patton, Lara Morrison

Eco-Villagers Mayi Mauricio (left),
George Patton, Lara Morrison (photo by Yuki)

After the presentation to Jackie, I made a special acknowledgement to Lara Morrison, 15 year LAEV member who has been our buildings manager for over ten years, nearly half of that time as a volunteer.  She will be leaving that position in 2014 as she pursues a variety of other earth-related interests.  A key player in piloting the conversion of our two adjacent apartment buildings of 45 units from conventional nonprofit ownership to the Urban Soil-Tierra Urbana limited equity housing cooperative,  Lara also oversaw the

Eco Maya Festival Producer and BVCLT Board member Julio Santizo.

Eco Maya Festival Producer and BVCLT Board member Julio Santizo (photo by Yuki).

Eco-Villagers Melba Thorn (r) and Lois Arkin

Eco-Villagers Melba Thorn (r) and Lois Arkin (photo by Yuki)

development of the Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust, which now owns the land underneath that housing.  The White House Place Learning Garden has also been spearheaded by Lara’s boundless energy.  She will, of course, continue as a valued member of our LAEV Intentional Community.

Eco-Home Network Founder Julia Russell, now retired, chats with new ecohome  creator Avo Babian and former EHN board member Mary Proteau

Eco-Home Network Founder Julia Russell, now retired, chats with new Sherman Oaks ecohome creator Avo Babian and former EHN Board member Mary Proteau (photo by Lois).

More media coverage was provided by Koreatown News staffer Leyna Chon.  Referring to Jackie’s comments, Leyna states “Noting the recent natural disasters around the world and the unusually cold LA weather that evening, Jackie also emphasized the urgency of LAEV’s cause,”  referring to the increasing volatility of climate change.  Leyna’s article on LAEV is one of the most comprehensive in recent times, referring in some detail to our Housing Co-op and Community Land Trust, the LAEV membership process, the Arroyo SECO Network of Time Bank, and more.  See full article here.

Arroyo-Seco Network of Time Banks co-founder Autumn Rooney and Santa Barbara Time Bank activist Jonny Sacko

Arroyo-Seco Network of Time Banks co-founder Autumn Rooney and Santa Barbara Time Bank activist Jonny Sacko (photo by Lois)

Among some of our long time friends and activists attending were noted permaculture trainer Dr. Bill Roley, Eco-Home founder Julia Russell, LA Streetsblog founder Damien Newton, permaculture trainer David Kahn, environmental and political activist Hans Johnson; LAEV co-founder and CRSP board president Architect Ian McIlvaine and wife, architect Victoria Yust, both principals of Tierra Sol y Mar; City Planning staffers and CRSP board members David Somers, Priya Mehendale, and immigration attorney Jesse Moorman; Santa Barbara activist Jonny Sacko, Burbank recycling coordinator and long time friend Kreigh Hampel; Time-Bank founder Autumn Rooney, Time Bank activists Lee Conger and Kathie Adams; Cohousing coaches Raines Cohen and Betsy Morris,
affordable housing advocate
and consultant Ryan Lehman,
L.A. River consultant Jill
Sourial, Filipino-American cultural ambassador

Left to right: George Villanueva, Roque Bucton, Michelle Wong, David Kahn

Left to right: George Villanueva, Roque Bucton, Michelle Wong, David Kahn (photo by Yuki)

and environmental activist Roque Bucton, long time affordable housing activist Sheila Bernard; Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust co-founders and Board members Tina Mata and Helen Campbell; LA County Bicycle Coalition co-founder Ron Milam, popular permaculture activist Hop Hopkins, attorney and social activist Adalilila Zelada-Garcia, Cal State Chicano Studies and Urban Planning professor David Diaz, Sherman Oaks ecohome creator Avo Babian, and school garden activist Mud Baron.

Long time LAEV friend Hop Hopkins with daughter.

Long time LAEV friend Hop Hopkins with daughter (photo by Yuki).

Then Surprise–
The surprise of the evening was when Eco-Village members Yuki Kidokoro and Becca L presented a large framed LAEV photo collage with congratulatory notes from many LAEV community members to LAEV co-founder Lois Arkin (i.e., “me”) along with a very special native buckwheat plant.  I was so surprised and flabbergasted, I was speechless, a most unusual response from someone who generally has something to say about almost everything. It’s pretty hard to keep a secret in the

Yuki Kidokoro and Becca L present congratulatory photo collage to a speechless Lois Arkin

Eco-Villagers present congratulatory photo collage to a speechless Lois Arkin

LAEV community, but they really did it.  After the photo presentation, long time friend and colleague Julia Russell made some very moving  comments about our friendship, followed by Tina Mata’s words of appreciation.  Here are a few of Julia’s words:  “…In my opinion, it’s the most evolutionary project in all of Los Angeles, demonstrating a society of economic and social democracy rooted in ecological wisdom.  Yes, it’s true, as Lois never tires of reminding us, none of us do what we do, or did what we did, alone.  It’s the armies of people that catch the vision and the fire of inspiration and opt to become part of it and give it their energy and commitment that actually bring it to fruition.” (Do email me if you would like to see Julia’s entire comments crsp@igc.org.)  If ever there is a time to make you feel humble, it is when something like this happens, so completely unexpected.

So, yes!, what a night it was to remember.  As an old lady of almost 77, who knows if I’ll be around for the 25th or 30th Anniversary party or not, and/or what shape I’d be in by then, to appreciate such lovely warm and inspiring thoughts?  So a great big public thank you to a wonderful community, one that knows how to throw a great party and make the most brash amongst us feel a tearful and speechless humility.

But, ultimately, the message has got to be:  let’s not take 20 years to create thousands of transitional urban ecovillages.  We’ve got the tools, and, already, there are dozens of eco community initiatives happening right here in the greater Los Angele area. What we call them is not so important as what people are doing in their neighborhoods to connect, collaborate and cooperate with one another for creating an ever higher quality of life at an ever lower environmental impact.  We’re nearly out of time so better to make change happen deeply and rapidly and with all the justice we can muster in the process.

Resolving Conflict Through Mediation

Mediation in progress

I am posting this article from Ron Milam Consulting who I will be collaborating with as their newest associate to offer mediation services for non-profits.

Are you tired of those same tensions playing out at every meeting? Is your organization or board loosing momentum?

Unresolved tension between co-workers, board members or board and staff gets in the way of productive meetings, wastes valuable time and energy and creates unpleasant office environments. These tensions often come from stress, misunderstanding, lack of communication or follow up, differences of perspectives, changes in leadership, and/or interpersonal resentments.

Oftentimes when facilitating retreats, some tension arises between participants. As a facilitator, one can manage any conflict that arises within a group but in order to truly transform the conflict, it is recommended that parties in conflict work to resolve their differences outside of a retreat during a mediation session.

Sometimes conflicts cannot be avoided. The challenge is how to transform them in an effective, creative and positive way to strengthen important relationships.

Mediation helps resolve disagreements or conflicts in a constructive and empowering way without having to go to court and before they become crises thus enhancing the productivity of your organization, generating more problem solving strategies, saving you money and time while also creating a more harmonious day-to-day work or meeting atmosphere. Mediation facilitates better communication and lasting resolution especially among parties with ongoing working relationships and where personal feelings may be getting in the way of a resolution.

How does mediation work?

The Mediation process is completely confidential and offers individuals an opportunity to work out acceptable solutions with the help of an unbiased third party or mediator. The mediator’s role is not to offer legal or professional advice or decide on outcome, but to provide guidance in identifying the issues and voicing negative feelings in a productive way. The mediator also helps to clarify misunderstandings and priorities, find points of agreement, explore new areas of compromise and collaboration, and negotiate an agreement.

Continue reading

Advanced Facilitation Seminar

(photo from a recent meeting Ron facilitated using small groups)

I’m leading another Advanced Facilitation Workshop on Wednesday, September 15th at the LA Eco-Village (117 Bimini Pl), from 7 to 9pm and invite you to attend. This workshop explores more sophisticated tools and strategies that facilitators use to ensure groups 
effectively reach decisions.  Participants will have the opportunity to practice facilitating challenging 
situations and receive feedback from the instructor and training participants.  Recommended pre-requisite:  Intro to Facilitation or some facilitation experience. Fee:  $35 (sliding scale available)
Reservations required:  crsp@igc.org or 213/738-1254.  For those interested in learning more about facilitation, consider attending Beatrice Brigg’s upcoming “Leading Effective Meetings” training on September 30th through October 2nd.

10 Tips for Running Effective Meetings

Photo of a Food Lobby Coop Meeting that occurred at the LA Eco-Village

Tonight (Tuesday, June 15th), from 7pm to 9pm, I’m leading a Running Effective Meetings Workshop at the LA Eco-Village, and I invite you to attend.  To rsvp, contact crsp@igc.org or 213/738-1254.  $35 sliding scale.

Many of us spend much of our times in meetings.  Having attending numerous meetings as a facilitator and participant, I’m happy to share the following 10 quick tips for running effective meetings with you:

1. Designate a Facilitator: Whether it’s a member of the group such or your group decide to bring in an outside facilitator, the facilitator’s role is to help keep the group focused and moving forward.

2. Develop an agenda before the meeting:
At the core of a good agenda are items that require the group to make decisions.  Project how much time each item will take and assign the outcome you hope to accomplish.

3. Stick to the agenda during the meeting:
Many temptations exist to stray off topic.  Stay focused to get the work done you need to get done and record other ideas brought up at the meeting for future meetings.

4. Record decisions made:
Have a notetaker at every meeting to take minutes and have them record each decision, who is responsible for implementing it and if any future actions need to happen.

5. Start and end on time:
When groups slide from starting and ending on time, people loose motivation for attending meeting.

6. Set groundrules:
Groundrules help ensure civility between members. Some examples:  test assumptions, share all relevant information and focus on interests, not positions.

7. Address conflict when it comes up:
Dealing with conflict can be challenging but not dealing with it and letting it fester can potentially be worse.

8. Use graphics:
Have someone scribe notes on a dry-erase board or poster paper to visually record people’s thoughts.

9. Evaluate:
Occasionally ask what about the meetings work well and what could be improved…experiment with ways to improve meetings.

10. Thank people for attending:
If folks feel appreciated and valued, they are more likely to show up at future meetings, especially if they are a volunteer.

If you’re group needs an outside facilitator to make your meetings more effective, please contact me.

Advanced Facilitation Training – June 9

LA Eco-Villager Julio Santizo presenting at a Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust board meeting that Ron Milam facilitated

Tomorrow night (June 9th), Ron Milam will lead an Advanced Facilitation training at the LA Eco-Village. The following week on June 15th, he’ll lead a Running Effective Meetings training.  You are welcome to attend one or both of these trainings.

Here’s more information about the trainings:

Wed, June 9, 2010 from 7 to 9 pm at L.A. Eco-Village directions

Advanced Facilitation

This workshop explores more sophisticated tools and strategies that facilitators use to ensure groups effectively reach decisions.  Participants will have the opportunity to practice facilitating challenging situations and receive feedback from the instructor and training participants.

Recommended pre-requisite: Intro to Facilitation or some facilitation experience.

$35 (sliding scale available)
Reservations required: crsp@igc.org or 213/738-1254


Tue, June 15, 2010 from 7 to 9 pm at L.A. Eco-Village    directions

Running Effective Meetings

This workshop explores the key components necessary to ensure meetings are effective and result in decisions that help an organization move forward.  These components include: developing an agenda, knowing people’s roles and responsibilities, having a decision making process, facilitation and good listening skills.

Fee: $35 (sliding scale available)
Reservations required: crsp@igc.org or 213/738-1254

For more information Ron Milam’s work as a facilitator, click here.

Ron will also lead another Introduction to Facilitation training on July 28th from 7pm to 9pm at the LA Eco-Village.

Top 10 Tips for Facilitating a Meeting

The other day, my rotation came up to co-facilitate one of our weekly meetings here at the Eco-Village, which went really well.  Outside of the Eco-Village, I facilitate a number of meetings for sustainability-oriented organizations as a Consultant and have learned some best-practices over the years that I’d like to share with you.

1. Listen: Listen closely listen to everything that is said and watch people’s body language as well.

2. Develop the Agenda: Before the meeting, create an agenda that has clear items that lead to actual decisions.

3. Serve Everyone: As a facilitator, you are there to serve the entire group, which means you don’t take anyone’s side.

4. Steward the Process: Your job is to ensure the decision making process moves forward – the group’s job is to decide.

5. Conflict is Normal: Expect occasional conflict and work to build areas of agreement with the group.

6. Set Ground Rules: Going over some common ground rules at the start helps enforce bad behavior if it occurs.

7. Decide how to Decide: Every group needs to agree on what their decision making method is before they start making decisions.

8. Pay attention to time: Remind the group how they are doing on time and/or appoint a timekeeper to help ensure things keep moving.

9. Use your toolbox: One example: Use a stack (which creates a list of who will speak next so people don’t interrupt).

10. Practice: We learn facilitation by doing it. We get better at it by reflecting on how we did and constantly learning new ways to do it better.

I wish you the best as you facilitate future meetings!  I also welcome any facilitation tips you would add to this Top 10 list.

Facilitator on a bike

Ron, my friend and neighbor, asked me to post this blog entry that he wrote, see the original post here:

A good facilitator brings some important materials to a meeting including an easel, markers, a small clock and most challenging of all to carry on a bicycle, a full sized posterboard to scribe notes to capture everyone’s good thoughts. Up until now, I have always asked clients to bring the posterboard because it was too challenging to secure on my small bike rack.

For a recent peer learning session I led for the Liberty Hill Foundation, one of the leading funders of social change movements in Los Angeles, I decided I would incorporate a little social change in my own lifestyle and bring everything to the training by bicycle.  Knowing I couldn’t fit everyone on my existing bike, I remembered one of my neighbors here at the LA Eco-Village has an XtraCycle I could borrow, which is a bicycle trailer device designed to carry heavy loads.

I’m excited to report that I successfully carried the following items on one bicycle: that big posterboard, an easel, markers, handouts, my laptop computer and three bags of groceries that fed an impressive group of 15 leaders working on social change here in Los Angeles.  I really enjoyed the ride and the discussion that followed it.
Now that I know it can easily be done, I look forward to hauling all of my facilitation tools on bike to future trainings, retreats and meetings. While I can’t confirm it, I just might be able to say I’m the only bicycling facilitator in Los Angeles! If you need a facilitator or want to know more about what a facilitator does, check out my website.
See you on the streets of Los Angeles and remember that you can always carry more stuff on a bicycle than you think you can.

Diane Meyer Photo Show – Featuring Lots of Eco-Villagers

Eco-Villager Melba Thorne at the Wilshire/Vermont Metro Red Line Station. All photos: Diane Meyer

Eco-Villager Melba Thorn at the Wilshire/Vermont Metro Red Line Station. All photos: Diane Meyer

Diane Meyer’s photography show Without a Car in the World: 100 Car-less Angelinos Tell Stories of Living in Los Angeles runs October 17th through December 11th. It’s at the 18th Street Art Center, which is located at 1639 18th Street, in Santa Monica. The opening reception is this Saturday October 17th from 7pm to 10pm.

Diane Meyer photographed 100 L.A. people none of whom own a car. These include various LAEV residents: Esfandiar, Lois, Melba, Ron, and me. Melba is featured prominently on the invitation above. There’s a longer write-up on the show at L.A. StreetsBlog here. Come down to the opening this Saturday night.

Lois Arkin in the LAEV bike room. The door to the right of her is the kitchen where the Bicycle Kitchen got its start.

Lois Arkin in the LAEV bike room. The door to the right of her is the kitchen where the Bicycle Kitchen got its start.

Ron Milam in the LAEV courtyard

Ron Milam in the LAEV courtyard

Esfandiar Abbasi in front of the LAEV chicken coop.

Esfandiar Abbasi in front of the LAEV chicken coop.

Introducing Ron Milam’s Consulting Business

Ron, my friend, neighbor, fellow bicyclist, bike advocate (and more) asked me to post this blog entry that he wrote:

Eco-Villager and Non-Profit Facilitator and Consultant Ron Milam

Eco-Villager and Non-Profit Facilitator and Consultant Ron Milam

I’m pleased to base my consulting business out of the Los Angeles Eco-Village.  Since I work primarily with urban sustainability oriented nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles, living and working at the Los Angeles Eco-Village definitely inspires me and has taught me a lot about sustainability. 
Living at the Los Angeles Eco-Village has played a key role in teaching me how to become a good facilitator.  I remember going to retreats that the Eco-Village had several years back led by experienced facilitators and taking detailed notes on how they helped guide us towards making important decisions.  I then had the opportunity to practice these skills facilitating one of our many weekly meetings where we make decisions by consensus. 
I now professionally facilitate for local nonprofit organizations, with the most recent retreat being for the Los Angeles Audubon Society (see my recent blog post on Facilitation and Flying for more details).  I’m pleased to offer an upcoming Introduction to Facilitation workshop at the Eco-Village on September 29th, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm and welcome you to attend. More information about this workshop can be found at laecovillage.org.  I also lead a wide variety of trainings to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations and welcome you to attend any of those as well – for information see the calendar page at my website.