About Connect Groups

As we have shown, synergy is an experiential phenomena, it can ONLY be experienced by relating to another person or persons. To experience synergy we need other people, it cannot be experienced by an individual alone.

Because synergy is absolutely ethical, unless all the parties to the relationship practice the principles and make effort to resemble God and a result is achieved that satisfies everyone including God, synergy will elude us.

It is also a fact that once you have experienced synergy you will never forget it. You long to experience it again yourself and you want to share it with others.  Thus synergy is naturally expansive.

To train ourselves in the ways of Synergy when most of our past life experience has been with Win-Lose is not easy, so we need to start out at first in small ways and gradually build confidence.

  • The first step is to embark upon relationships whereby we we start out giving some benefit to another person and learn that we naturally receive benefit in return. This is Win-Win.
  • The next step is to practice Win-Win with Synergy which means that we take into account Gods’ concerns for all the stakeholders.

Connect Groups are where this work is done.  These groups are informal and fun but purposeful. First we bring out differences in viewpoint between the participants by using real life scenarios to generate discussion.

Discussions can be initiated from a video, which is of interest to the group, for example a PBS Television Great Decisions program, or reading a few paragraphs from a book, or a personal experience. Then everyone in turn discusses what they got from it.

Sometimes some group members may not be comfortable talking freely about God. We have found that reading and discussing Tom Atlee’s description in his essay on Synergy provides a comfortable introduction to understanding the concepts of the immanence and transcendence of God which are crucial to understanding synergy.

  1. Immanence means that God dwells within each of us. This means we must be humble and respectful towards every person in the group, seeing them as unique embodiments of God, as a son or daughter of God. Anyone can be a channel for God to speak through no matter their age, their experience, their opinion, etc. We must get beyond individual opinions which are extremely difficult to reconcile into a single Win-Win view.
    1. This is done by recognizing and experiencing the transcendent God and his relationship to the parts (the group members).
    2. We experience God through others by LISTENING respectfully and carefully to each person, listening for Gods’ ideas, wisdom and viewpoint. Even when we are not yet perfect in our spiritual or mental maturity, when we always ACKNOWLEDGE that we hear and APPRECIATE what was said by those who speak before us, others waiting to speak after us do the same and gradually a climate of trust is created.
    3. The more that we acknowledge that God is participating in the group, the better we become at recognizing CREATIVE possibilities because members stop fighting for the rightness of their individual ideas. Members become able to be vulnerable, to be wrong, to admit or accept a different idea or approach. They no longer feel the need to compete, but are able to applaud one anothers’ ideas and suggestions. Everyone builds upon what others have said, adding their own ideas, building towards a third alternative solution. Usually it happens that one solution arises and becomes the focus of everyones attention. Because everyone has been contributing and building and applauding and appreciating one anothers contributions, the result becomes owned by the group as a whole, synergy is created.
    4. It becomes the facilitators job to observe this building process happening and to summarize back to the group where this growth process is at. As M.Scott Peck wrote in his book “The Different Drum” a group usually starts out with each member having their own idea.
      1. At first everyone behaves very politely, as if they accept one another, this first stage he calls pseudo community. Then with a little bit of reality injected by the facilitator, the group will usually descend into a second stage;
      2. the stage of chaos where everyone feels free to express different ideas which usually leads to argument, based upon beliefs, opinions etc. It is the facilitators role to ensure that the expression of labels, stereotypes and accusations don’t get out of hand. Chaos and the expression of diverse opinions is actually healthy. Sometimes the facilitator suggests the group should treat these difference like brainstormed ideas, which don’t have to make sense or be dealt with until everyone has had a chance to be heard. If the chaos does not start to resolve after a short time, usually the facilitator calls for a time-out and reminds everyone of the common task before them and the seriousness of the consequences of not reaching a consensus.
      3. The group members then go through a stage that Peck calls emptiness.  Through reflecting upon the ideas and viewpoints of others, and accepting that they too are sincere about accomplishing the shared goal, and that the whole we seek is also of interest to God, that the task is serious, this kind of internal “work” usually allows the members to let go of  their emotional attachment to their own ideas. They become willing to submit to the Will of the group (Gods’ will).
      4. Depending upon the work each member did during the time-out, most members if not all, will be close to accepting one viewpoint which is perceived as Gods view. When the group reconvenes, usually one person will honestly share about why he was so attached to his viewpoint and how he has now come to see others as having made a valuable contribution. He may even ask forgiveness for his attacks or negative comments. This expression of vulnerability is experienced as trust in the group, trust then multiplies amongst the entire group. When this happens, they feel unity with each other and through their unity with each other they feel unity with God.  This is the stage of true community. This state is described by Peck in his book as a Holy Spirit experience. This is real synergy.

Discussions are intended to evoke diverse opinions which may be strongly expressed. The goal of the discussion is to arrive at a solution or agreement that is Win-Win for everyone.  To ensure that exchanges are always respectful we use a facilitator. All group members are encouraged to take on the role of facilitator after attending two or three discussions and becoming familiar with making thoughtful interventions.

Discussions are usually conducted sitting in a circle or around a table so that everyone can see one another.The facilitators role is to;

Maintain order, decorum and direction within the meeting by:

  1. guiding group members to speak in turn around the circle or as they are recognized by the facilitator.
  2. depending upon the number of participants we encourage speakers to limit their time to 2 or 3 minutes.  This is to ensure that every member present gets an opportunity to speak.
  3. Members are encouraged to bring a small note pad to write down ideas so they don’t forget the point they wish to make by the time their turn comes around again.
  4. ensure that speakers are not interrupted and that discussions remain on topic.

Guide the group to identify the stakeholders in the issue;

  1. Next we discuss how Win-Lose is at the core of the problem being portrayed.
  2. What are the consequences if a Win-Win solution is not reached in the real world.
  3. Our group is a microcosm of the real world of stakeholders, so if we cannot reach agreement, what hope is there?
  4.  Then we discuss what we need to change in order to move closer to a Win-Win solution.

Another method we use to give people the experience of Win-Win is through a special Bulletin Board.

The Bulletin Board

When a person registers to become a member of the Co-op, they have access to, they can buy and sell, search and advertise for free on the local Co-op Bulletin Board much like on Craig’s List or E-Bay.

The Co-op offers an incentive that encourages members to practice Win-Win, do things for others. The incentive acts like a sellers’ discount, but the way it is set up using an alternative currency, the discount you offer becomes a tangible asset to the seller.

Here is how it works.

  1. When a member subscribes to the Co-op for a minimal $10.00/ year fee, they are sent an initial allotment of 200 barter dollars an alternative currency that we call 200 BARTS (B$200).
    1. Imagine that I sell you a service or an item worth say $100 but I am willing to take only $50.00 in cash and accept the balance, B$50.00, in the alternative currency, I am in effect GIVING you a $50.00 cash discount.
    2. By accepting the fifty barter dollars (B$50.00) from you I am trusting that the Co-op (the whole) will one day repay me for my generosity, by allowing me to spend my B$50.00 on something that I need.
    3. When I do spend my B$50.00, I am in effect RECEIVING a cash discount on the item(s) that I purchase as a kind of “reward” or karma for having given you a $50.00 discount.
  2. After a few cycles of these GIVING and RECEIVING transactions, Co-op members not only start to “Get the connection” between trading with BARTS and Synergy, but their cash dollars will go further.
  3. We fully expect that as greater numbers of people experience Synergy, their transactions will become more and more innovative.  Once this begins to happen, as Dr. Robert Putnam says, a sense of social connectedness with a deep sense of identity, belonging, trust and life satisfaction within the membership of the Co-op will develop.

As people experience the benefits of living cooperatively by applying the principles of Synergy, a sense of community will naturally spread and generate many innovative programs to positively affect problems such as, school performance in children, public health, crime rates, clinical depression, philanthropy, race relations, community development, teen suicide, economic productivity, even simple human happiness.

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