Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fear and Arrogance

"I think you are trying to gangster in on my community" My stern faced comrade from East Wind was not joking with me. I have been called many things, but not this before.

There are many legitimate concerns. We said we were going to bring 6 people, and 10 arrived - impacting food and social space. We brought the architects into the music room (which is an important social center) in the middle of the day to look topological map on the wall, and people felt run over and intruded on. Some of the personalities that we brought on the trip are a bit tricky and some East Winders bristled at them. We were late in posting the description of the project and the proposed lease. We had not figured out a way to compensate kitchen for our additional meals. And of course the one which was toughest to hear "And you ran over Acorn with this project last year."

Toughest for me to hear, because the stumbled relationship with Acorn was the one thing i was most determined to fix at East Wind. It is why we brought Sara out to live here well before the event to give the community clear signals about what was happening.

And what several people would tell me about my East Wind critic was that they would never trust me because of my arrogance. So i went to the community meeting fearful, this was only one of a number of people who have concerns and there was a small chance that the project would get derailed and a much larger chance that East Wind would be far less generous and careful in ways that decreased the chance of the events success.

Sara and i agreed in advance that i would say as little as i could possibly. It is critical that the community see us as peers, and that some of the prejudices be removed by showing the power balance as it is, rather than what people suspect it might be. I helped create this problem because of my initial funding of the project.

Sara was brilliant. Reflected concerns, was earnest in her willingness to work with everyone, was funny and accessible, was clever in pointing out synergies.

But far more important, the overwhelming response to the project was positive still, even after this suite of small mistakes. No personal attacks on my running over the local culture, no one really even said "we need to reconsider this project". Many powerful voices in the community spoke in favor of the project. Zeke who had been our principal contact, Kara Jo the finance manager, Quinn who has been helping us with the neighbors and community relations (and presented the project proposal he importantly fixed for us), Matthew and Yellow Sun spoke of VIS help forestry, Kris was excited to build the artificial limbs. It was clear East Winders want this to happen.

We are off the ground. There are a million things to do still, but we are flying.