Interested in Non-violent communication and building strong community structures?
Family HEART Camp (FHC) provides children and adults with a week-long summer camp experience at various camping locations in the U.S. Founded off of the principles of nonviolent communication (NVC), their goal is that someday “every family in North America will have access to a Family HEART Camp within driving distance of home.” The camp serves to offer campers of all ages diverse opportunities to experience a meaningful sense of community, using NVC principles.
One of the main motivators behind the creation of Family HEART Camp was that its founders were “completely devoted to community and offering opportunities for people to experience meaningful community.” All three founders were trained in NVC also referred to as compassionate communication. Family HEART Camp’s Website explains: “HEART stands for Harmony, Ease, Authenticity, Respect, and Trust, important family values that Compassionate Communication supports us in living, both at camp and in the wider world.”
FHC has been successfully using sociocracy since 2013. Their circle model begins with Hosting circles, which are responsible for the operations at specific camp locations. Each hosting circle is represented by a delegate on the coordinating circle which “makes decisions that impact the entire camp community, including common policies, processes and procedures.” The coordinating circle meets online to ensure that learning is shared and the philosophy of an intergenerational community is upheld across the organization. The top circle “fulfills the legal and fiduciary responsibilities of a traditional nonprofit Board of Directors, as well as connecting the organization to the external environment.”
While sociocracy training is not given to camp participants, the whole camp experience is immersed in the principles of sociocracy. They have found sociocracy beneficial for multiple reasons including the use of the sociocratic decision review cycle as a simple and radical way to engage in experimentation and learning in the organization. Most organizations do not regularly review and adapt decisions. Most reviews are straightforward because things are working well, but “sometimes getting feedback from people who were not part of the original decision making group can be very powerful.”
For FHC the biggest challenge with sociocracy is ensuring equitable and consistent training for members from various geographic locations. The technology used for online meetings can be especially difficult for some members to navigate, creating barriers to their participation. Additionally, they have found that when conflicts arise during meetings, it is helpful to leave the round they were engaged in and participate in NVC. “Even when something happens that becomes challenging, the group may pause the process and relate to each other on a human level. Without losing track of where the group is in the process they can make effective choices — maybe dropping the process or coming back to it.”
Continue reading to learn more about how Family HEART Camp uses sociocracy, and where they are going in the future…