This resumes our Walk with the Elephant Series – on the lessons, or patterns, on how to remain mindful to the task of sustainable development through personal action and change.

PROBLEM:

People have many interests, do other things, have numerous commitments, move on.  Not everyone can attend all the time. Discontinuous and fluctuating attendance of groups is often taken as a sign of a lack of success.  While a robust core is invariably necessary, an alternative approach can be taken.

“People are dedicated and keen, but work pressures are putting constraints on them [and they are not] not turning up.” Those who join are often “joiners” of other groups as well: “too many enthusiasms – not enough energy, time, just making a living.” And different generations can have different values, interests and priorities: “… kids get to a certain age when they are too cool or too busy.” Rather than seeing these dilemmas negatively, accept that lifestyles and values change over time and that mindfulness comes with time, age and experience.

Here, one can draw lessons from the permaculture pattern that states that edges are the most diverse area of any system, and that diversity creates the most stable systems. Therefore, if the interface between a group and its wider community is potentially its most productive area, a diverse and flexible membership can be advantageous by increasing connections and accessing different knowledges.

The fields of sociology and anthropology have introduced the idea of a fluidarity – the combination of a desired solidarity between people and groups, and the acceptance that it may never be fully achieved due to the fluidity of relationships that also occur.

Perhaps this idea can also be adopted as a way of addressing and accepting the often varied and many alternative commitments of potential members of new groups. The success of the idea of “Open Space Technology” is also useful here – an approach to the organisation of meetings that relies on the innate interest of participants to contribute, reflect on and envisage outcomes about the subject matter through self-organisation, based on individuals’ “passion bounded by responsibility” rather than on hierarchical structures and rules.

SOLUTION

Accept the notion of a fluidarity – a fluid solidarity – in groupings – their membership and regularity of attendance of participants.  Work this to the advantage of the group and its objectives.