Common Ground 1 - Process

Common Ground 1

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The Circle Groups:

  1. Circle group assignments were determined by a computer programmed to seek diversity in age, geography, group affiliation, and youth-adult balance. Originally we planned for twenty-two circle groups. Finally we had twenty, due to staff and delegate cancellations in the last two weeks before the conference.

  2. Each circle group had no more than 14 people and an assigned facilitator. Each group had its own meeting room available all week as desired.

  3. Each circle group was offered an exercise designed to introduce techniques for reaching a consensus on difficult values questions.

  4. A requirement of the conference was that circle group members eat breakfast together. Staff member Jeremy Taylor made available suggestions on encouraging sharing and discussion of night dreams among the group members during breakfast. These breakfasts were important in the "binding" of each group.

  5. The circle groups were asked to address the issues involved in four theme areas: Who? Why? What? and How/When? (This last one was combined into one circle group meeting due to time pressure.) Using the outline of issues provided to each circle group facilitator, the groups were asked to try to reach consensus on as many of the issues as they could. The groups were able to come to consensus statements on most of the questions addressed.

  6. If a group finished its work on one theme area, they were able to move on to the next one, or give themselves free time as they wanted.

  7. If a group could not reach a consensus in the time allotted, they were invited to draft majority and minority views, or not report at all on that issue.

  8. All circle group reports were written on both 81/2 1 9 x 11 " paper and on newsprint. The newsprint was posted in the Concert Hall lobby so people could follow the direction of the reports, and so that everyone could see the material the Fair Witness was working with in framing motions.

  9. Groups which came up with "creative ideas" during their meetings which could not be easily fitted into their consensus statements were invited to submit those to our Creative Ideas Bank. These are included in this report for your information. (Appendix C)

  10. Groups that developed proposals they felt might influence other groups' deliberations could circulate those proposals on our "Rural Route"-a message system between groups developed by our administrative staff.

  11. Many circle groups developed detailed proposals for the structure of the proposed new section and youth organization. There was not enough time left at the end of the assembly to give these proposals the consideration they deserved. The Youth Consultant intends to hand these proposals over to the new Youth Adult Committee for their consideration in formulating structural proposals over the next year.

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The Whole Group:

  1. The Fair Witness, Rosemary Le Page, received the consensus statements of the circle groups, reading them over with a representative of the group to insure that the group's meanings and intentions were understood.

  2. With the assistance of the Moderator, Parliamentarian, and several staff members, the Fair Witness reviewed and tabulated the consensus statements, and decided on a list of motions to be presented. Motions arising from agreements reflected in two-thirds or more of the circle group reports were framed as "Consensus Motions". Motions arising from broad areas of agreement reflected in less than two-thirds of the circle group reports were framed as "Debatable Motions".

  3. Two persons, David Williams (youth) and Wayne Arnason (adult) rotated the roles of Moderator and Parliamentarian.

  4. The usual GA format of microphones designated for "Pro", 'Con' and "Procedural" was used.

  5. "Consensus Motions" were presented for the ratification of the whole group. Debate on their substance was not allowed. The Fair Witness could be questioned about the wording of the motion, and her understanding of its intent and meaning. Amendments could be offered to change spelling, grammar, or clarify the intent of the motion. These were usually accepted by the Fair Witness and the whole group without the necessity of further formalities.

  6. "Debatable Motions" were handled in the usual style, with the same time limits on debate and presentation of amendments as at the UUA GA.

  7. The whole group frequently resorted to use of the "Committee of the Whole" to consider the sequence, wording, or degree of support for a motion before considering it in formal session. This helped considerably.

  8. The Whole Group sessions followed each individual circle group discussion on a theme question. The assembly moved constantly from circle group to whole group.

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It was the belief of the Youth Assembly Planning Committee and of the Common Ground Staff that worship would be a critical component in the success or failure of the youth assembly. We recognized that Unitarian Universalists do some of their deepest spiritual work together in business meetings. We also recognized that Common Ground would be a place for midwifing, and a place for consoling those bereaved; a place for honoring sharp differences, and a place for discovering unforeseen unities; most of all a place for celebrating hard work, the work of the people, the real meaning of "liturgy."

Our worship services were diverse in style and theme, but unified in their thoughtfulness and power.

The opening service on Monday followed a fairly traditional high church pattern, with a sermon by Nada Velmirovic and Oren Peterson, and the ritual sharing of water, adapted from the ceremony developed at the 1980 Women's Convocation.

Our midweek service Wednesday evening divided the assembly into male and female. The two separate liturgies celebrating that difference became one song, one light, as the women processed back into the Carleton Chapel lighting the candies of a long corridor and large circle of men.

An afternoon service on Thursday honored in song, film, and prayer the memory of those who died at Hiroshima during the same week as Common Ground, thirty-six years before. We looked beyond our own work, and tried to find the connection to the only real work there is, the peace of the world.

At the conclusion of the business session Thursday evening at which the dissolution of LRY was voted, we assembled in the Chapel for a service invoking the history, the present, and the future of our youth movement. Seven generations of youth movement leaders from Gordon McKeeman to Lisa Feldstein reflected on the meaning of their experience, and the names of those who made the liberal religious youth movement a vital force in the denomination over the century were spoken. One candle was left unlit for the future. And the sky cried rain all night.

On Saturday, in brilliant sunshine, we ended Common Ground by tying our best hopes for the new youth movement to dozens of helium balloons. Some flew, some caught in the trees, and some never got off the ground. We walked across the "common ground" we had brought to Carleton from our home ground, earth spread across the piles of newsprint upon which were written our decisions. Many picked up the common water and earth we had brought to take back home.

Matins each morning, and a compline service most evenings, completed the round of worship that framed our days.

Our business sessions pointed us in a direction, but it was our worship services that gave us a vision, and it is the vision that our delegates are bringing home.

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"Bring The Vision Home:"

The final business session of Common Ground was held Friday night. The last morning, Saturday morning, was devoted to "Bring the Vision Home." Each delegate was given a large button with our logo, colors, and that motto inscribed on it.

Each of the district delegations, and the group of at-large delegates, were asked to gather for two hours that morning to consider two things:

  • their best single suggestion for how we could have improved the Common Ground business process.

  • an action plan for their districts, with attention paid to what the delegates would do in the first week, the first three months, the first six months, and the first year after returning home.

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During the five days of Common Ground, there was one evening and one afternoon of "free time," i.e. non-compulsory non-business time. The Planning Committee wanted to take advantage of the excellent youth programming talent that had been gathered together at the assembly, and so during the "free time," workshops were offered for delegates to participate in as they wished. The workshops offered included:

  • Disarmament and UU Youth
    • Robert Alpern and James Olson

  • Beginning a District YAC
    • with sharing from the Thomas Jefferson, Pacific Southwest, and Michigan District YAC members.

  • Fall Program Ideas for Locals
    • Beth Ide

  • Dream Work
    • Jeremy Taylor

  • Church/Youth Group Politics
    • a simulation exercise led by the Pacific Southwest YAC

  • Workcamps/International Youth Opportunities
    • Cheryl Markoff and David Williams

  • Peacework
    • Barbara Moore, Jim Eller, Robert Alpern, James Olson

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Other free time options included facilities available at Carleton College (a pool, tennis, the snack bar), an excursion to Northfield, a soccer game, two rock music movies, and a final night dance with live bluegrass music. Quiet time was also an alternative.

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rewarding (3) fun (7) beautiful (2) a physical strain / worth the trouble (3) hard work (8) historic (2) terrific (3) loving (5) tiring (7) interesting (4) quite an experience (2) learning (6) meeting people (5) wonderful (10) moving caring (4) very emotional (4) friendship (3) inspiring (2) excellent (2) great (15) tough / warm / a good time / necessary / very good (4) making a contribution (2) an accomplishment (4) a great place (2) one of the best things I've ever done / busy (2) satisfying fulfilling / uplifting / encouraging / existing / important (2) depressing / thought provoking / a lot of tension / exciting (I 1) no sleep / enlightening as to the wide-spread youth problem / tears never far from my eyes / a building sense of UUism unbelievable, a dream (2) high pressure / involving / intense (2) something I'd never want to do again, but worth it / exhilarating (5) exhausting (7) better than I had dreamed fantastic (7) tense / joyous / challenging (2) a great personal experience (8) something I'll never forget (2) an education / ecstasy / scary / I loved it! a high / heart warming / an honor / a privilege / a must / trust / like being on holy ground / terrific / what I pictured / growing (3) more wonderous than I ever expected . . . .

(From the Evaluations of Common Ground)

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To Appendix D - Evaluation Sheets



Translated from the original text document to htm by Lorne Tyndale, YRUU Programmes Specialist September 1993 - August 1994. The document was on I have placed the document on this site as I've been notified that appears to be down.

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