A Developmental Pathway
While there is no formal credentialing system for microsolidarity, you can be a more or less mature practitioner. A really mature practitioner will have developed in many areas, including:
- skills like meeting facilitation, conflict resolution, or introspection;
- reputation, the product of time spent developing relationships and making contributions to a group;
- character, e.g. generosity, courage, humility, grace, and other virtues which can be cultivated with practice & support.
This is a non-exhaustive list and the process of developing these areas is non-linear. Like other practice-based methodologies, the proof of work is in the embodied presence of each practitioner.
It may be useful to think of the developmental pathway in terms of group size: hosting a group of 50 is more challenging than a group of 5. So if your aspiration is to host a group of 500, you can cultivate your competencies one step at a time, in groups of escalating size.
nested scales of microsolidarity
This article describes a possible developmental pathway for how you could develop the capacity to confidently host a Congregation. It’s important to note: as a rule of thumb, my recommendation is not to start "working on yourself" or to work at the dyad scale, but to start with a crew. The crew is a safe & cozy container to get started: it’s more supportive than working on your own, and less exposing than working in a dyad.
In the absence of a formal credentialing system, you can self-evaluate your competence with the support of people who know you well. Ask questions like: "what skills do you think I should develop to be better equipped for this role?"
The minimum requirement for anyone participating in a microsolidarity community is a kind of "interior curiosity". This is the capacity & willingness to investigate your inner experience. In a conflict for example, this means you are not purely fixated on what the other person has done; you can also look inwards to explore your own feelings, needs & desires. You can examine the judgements & stories that you’re attaching to your experience.
One of the reasons to participate in a microsolidarity community is to develop your agency. Agency is the opposite of helplessness: it’s the capacity to take purposeful action.
Interior curiosity is a prerequisite for agency, because it helps you to articulate your desires, fears & boundaries.
Interior curiosity can be cultivated through meditation, contemplative practice, psychotherapy, coaching, Gendlin Focusing, Circling, etc. If you participate in a Microsolidarity Practice Program or a Gathering, you will experience some of these practices to cultivate your interior awareness.
If you are willing to develop your interior curiosity, you are "qualified" to participate in a crew.
To host a crew, you don’t need much more, just some basic organising and facilitation skills. This means you can coordinate & schedule a sequence of meetings, help the group to settle on a "good enough" plan, and guide them through the kinds of group practices documented in the Practices section of this site.
Crews usually have a "caller" or “convener” (the person who creates the first invitation to meet), and then the hosting responsibility will be rotated so each participant can practice being a host.
It doesn’t take much effort to start practicing your crew-hosting skills. See for example the How You Can Get Started section, which describes a process where four friends meet for six one-hour meetings. Think of it like courtship: you’ll probably need to go on a few "get to know you" dates and meet a range of different partners before you even think about marriage and babies.
When you’re hosting a crew, you may notice that you want to develop in certain areas. This might be practical e.g. to develop your skills in facilitation, conflict mediation, or project management. Or you may encounter your own behaviour patterns that limit your ability to be an effective host, e.g. if you react defensively to criticism, or you’re not sure what to do when someone is feeling upset.
Some of this development could happen in a crew (e.g. giving each other feedback; or taking an online course together to learn new skills), or it might be better in a dyad (e.g. working with a therapist or coach).
After you’ve hosted a few crews and you have developed a sense of competence at that scale, you might be ready to host a congregation. This is mostly about creating the space for many crews to form, so it requires more facilitation & coordination skills. You have new questions to answer, like: how will potential crewmates get to know each other? Who is invited to join? What do we do when community members come into conflict?
As the group size increases, you are likely to encounter some of the common challenges that all decentralised organisations face. While 5 people can develop a high degree of trust & shared understanding with very little effort, you’ll never find a group of 100 people where everyone trusts everyone else. As group size increases, you collectively need to learn how to grow, maintain, and repair trust. Practically, you will need to develop skills in decision-making, conflict resolution, project management, feedback and learning. You can learn more about these in The Hum’s online course: Patterns for Decentralised Organising. (Remember, it’s easier to learn these skills with 15 people before practicing with 50.)
Furthermore, your role as a congregation host is to support the development of any congregation members that want to take on more responsibility. Ideally, most participants will feel confident to host a crew, and many will be willing to take on some of the congregation-hosting responsibilities.
If you want to be part of a co-owned community, it’s imperative to start cultivating decentralised leadership as soon as possible. For example, I was one of the hosts for the first gathering of the Enspiral Europe community. For the second gathering, I played a logistical support role in the background, but the main hosting energy came from two other community members.
It’s possible for a community to mature to the point where it is truly co-owned by the participants, and your role as the original founder is no longer critical to its ongoing success (e.g. see this discussion with Enspiral founder Joshua Vial). It could take multiple years to reach this point, so as a new congregation host you can expect to make a long term commitment to holding the community as it develops.
Note: to be an effective congregation host, you should also be participating at the smaller scales. You’re not creating a community for others, but with others.
The Microsolidarity Network is the place where Congregations connect. Until now, the Network has been mostly invisible. I’ve been meeting with congregation hosts one at a time, and publishing interviews on Youtube, but there has not been an active conversation space for them to meet each other.
We’re now in the process of creating a new digital meeting space and defining the terms of engagement. If you want to participate, please join the Discord community: a space to chat and coordinate with other practitioners. In 2022 we’ll have some meetings online and in person so we can deepen the connections across the network.
At the moment the Network is hosted by me; I currently have sole "authorship" rights to define the microsolidarity framework and to make any decisions about how the network functions.
As the project develops in size & maturity, there are governance questions to answer e.g. Who decides what is included as an essential component of the microsolidarity practice? Who gets to call themselves a microsolidarity practitioner? How does a community join the network? How does someone contribute to the project? Where does funding come from and who can spend it?
Currently all these questions are answered by me, i.e. I’m acting like a "benevolent dictator". As the network matures, it seems natural that it should become more collectively governed over time. I imagine a “Meta Crew” working together to host the network and develop the big picture. This is ironic, but honestly I’m unsure about the best way to find my partners for this Meta Crew! I’m nervous about the “design by committee” effect, where my precise and opinionated authorial voice gets diluted by too many compromises. But I’m more concerned about working alone: it’s incoherent & unsustainable.
So by publishing this new series of essays I’m hoping I might find some co-hosts who can help me steward the mission. I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for. I can imagine many people making diverse contributions, like illustrations, zines, or blog posts, without needing my permission. But for the more significant governance questions, I feel I need to be more selective. I’m looking for people with sufficient experience at the congregation scale to be able to meet me as a peer. I think it’s also important for the Meta Crew to be connected to diverse contexts, not just 30-something techy white guys who all listen to the same 5 podcasts. Most importantly I want to convene a group with that mysterious thing called "chemistry". This is a live question so I’m eager to hear your thoughts. If you have ideas, please join the Discord and share!
I want to be a host, not a dictator. To further unpack the difference between these two, read on...