Spring Gathering 2022 🌼
Our third community gathering in Pico
Our third community gathering, themed Connecting Islands within the Island was a significant milestone towards maturity of our congregation.

Context

Since our first sharing circle back in August 2020 we have been gradually getting to know each other, discovering our individual dreams of ideal "community" (which can mean so many different things), finding where these dreams overlap, and how we can support each other in making them come to life in Pico Island.
Our process follows Microsolidarity patterns. We went through numerous reconfigurations of small "core teams" and neighbourhood communities, with our congregation serving as an important meeting point for finding people that naturally form smaller crews around a specific project. This process has been happening naturally, as well as by design (through the Community Council game developed during our previous Gathering). Our Pico Community Gatherings happening twice a year are an important part of our congregation scaffolding providing a rhythm for deeper connection, complimenting other spaces and meeting points within the island.
It's worth noting the unique context of our island, due to the fact that we're all living on a relatively small chunk of volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
  1. 1.
    There is a strong local community
  2. 2.
    People who are here are here for the long game
  3. 3.
    Relatively slow influx of new people (not counting tourists)
  4. 4.
    People generally know each other
  5. 5.
    Most of our connection weaving happens in physical spaces with little need for digital socialising
One of the consequences of our context is that we do not have a clear boundary defining who is a part of our congregation. This has become very clear earlier this year, when a number of community events supported by the magic hat (voluntary contributions) led to hosting our first conversations about money: Piconomics. The conversations brought up the insights that we don't have a clear structure defining who makes decisions, and how the decisions are being made. This has been good enough for now, but it seems that we have reached a stage where we could benefit with more operational structure. This is particularly apparent as we have begun the process of raising funds for our Community Home. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
One of the challenges we have been navigating is that the energy of Pico encourages "going within", and people are busy with their livelihoods, families, and tending their gardens, often leaving little energy to actively bring new ideas to the congregation.
In the context of the two past Gatherings (Summer and Autumn 2021) it resulted in pretty much a top-down design, and the core team carried the organising work, as well as facilitating almost all of the activities during the gathering, while managing the logistics etc. The rest of the community eagerly contributed their time and energy to help in any way possible (cooking, site prep etc.), however the top-down structure and relying on the catalysing energy from few individuals felt both draining and limiting in terms of possibilities that could emerge from within our group.
From early 2022 we have begun to discuss this issue more openly with the intention to encourage more people to step into contributing posture, and our Spring Gathering was a game changer in that area.
Rather that being a top-down event with fully curated program, our Spring Gathering became a container where each of the participants had the opportunity to contribute with their own gifts, and hosts holding the space.
The feeling at the end was spectacular. The core hosting team felt relaxed and fulfilled, despite the fact that two core team members had to step out from being at the Gathering last minute due to challenging personal circumstances. The participants actively took more responsibility for designing the site according to their needs, which resulted in significantly improving the electric installation in our community building, hanging swings in the playground area, painting a mural and more. Most importantly, the participants themselves stepped into facilitating roles and offered numerous activities in the program, paving the way for next Gatherings to be even more co-created.
With more people stepping into actively co-creating our Gathering, the magic was blossoming on every step.
Here's how it happened.
Pico Community Gathering

Practical Details

  • We gathered for 3 full days
  • The gathering was a full time commitment
  • 17 people (including 3 kids) and 1 dog participated in the Gathering
  • For the first time we had 4 people from other islands (Faial and SΓ£o Miguel)
  • A local professional photographer (who joined our two previous gatherings as a participant) took photos during the last day.
  • The core hosting team originally included four people. Unfortunately, two of them (a couple) decided not to participate last minute due to challenging personal circumstances.
  • The theme was Connecting islands within the Island.
  • The food was vegan, gluten-free, created from mostly local and organic ingredients was prepared by two chefs with rotating ad-hoc helpers.
  • Participants were asked to bring their own dish, cutlery and cup, and clean after themselves.
  • We explicitly asked not to bring/consume substances (eg. alcohol, weed...) during the Gathering.
  • The Gathering was free to attend. We asked for a contribution to the "magic well" (we rebranded the magic hat into a well, to bring up the idea that it's not by magic that these events happen, but we also need some tangible resources to draw from).
Here's the invitation we have sent out to people, which was followed by an info pack (both docs edited for privacy).

Site

Site of the Gathering
Our site included a campsite, ruin with a roof (serving as our community centre), a fire space, and a cabin. There was also another private house offered as a "tea house" and two more private houses - one serving as a kitchen and other as eating area and backup activity space in case of bad weather. All venues are located within 10 minute walk.
Map of the Site
It's the third time that we're hosting our Gatherings in this space, and every time we are gradually improving it, with everyone helping out during prep days.
This is a very precious part of our context - we all live here, so we can spread the necessary work overtime (rather than compacting a few days of build just before the Gathering), as well as enjoy the space after the event, which brings a wonderful feeling of spaciousness and continuity.
Here's what we did this time:
  • Moved the fire pit away from the campsite to keep it more silent.
  • Added swings and net to the playground (which has been unanimously decided as the best thing of the Gathering according to the kids)
The Net
The net is just the best spot ever for the ultimate chill.
  • Cleared a new path, setup a fire storage
  • Cleared a new area and setup fire space
Firespace
Sitting around the fire during the Night of Gifts.
We also added significant improvements in the Ruin on many fronts:
  • electrics - added plugs, lights, organised extension cords, added light in the bathroom
  • removed awkward water pipe
  • cut new sitting logs
  • added an outdoor sink
  • cleared space in front and setup a lounge area
Inside the Community Building
The Ruin is becoming a wonderful space
The Ruin
Front of the Ruin
Big shoutout to everyone who helped and a big hug to our host for allowing us to use the Land πŸ’œ.
​

Dreaming about our Community Home ✨

With every Gathering it becomes evident that our Community needs a Home.
There is a possibility that the land where we are currently hosting our events will become available for sale later in 2022, and we have formed a working group with the intention to rise the necessary funds to purchase it.
Have a look at this document with more info, and if you're game to help financially, then we invite you to add your name along with some notes here​
Feel free to get in touch with MichaΕ‚ via twitter or email: michalroots {at} proton.me
You're THE BEST πŸ’œ
​

Program

Every Gathering is composed of magical moments and this one was particularly abundant.
Learning from the success of the previous gatherings, we have kept a very spacious timeflow, leaving plenty of free time in the program for spontaneous moments to emerge. It seems to be resonating much more than overloading people with constant activities, which inevitably leads to creating a feeling of rushing.
The most significant change, however, was how we created the activities in the program.

Open Space

In the past, one host (MichaΕ‚) was responsible for the program, with very few activities facilitated by someone else. This was a very fun gathering-design challenge, but also, an extremely draining situation. This time, we decided to experiment with Open Space model mixed with a few pre-designed activities (opening, closing, daily home pods, and three evening activities - Jam Session, Gift Night, and a Farewell Party).
Spoiler alert: it was the best decision we could have ever made.
Empty Program
On the opening session participants could fill the spaces in the program according to their needs.
Creating Activity Menu
Which resulted in a beautiful plan for our days together fitting the needs of participants.
Full Program
It's worth noting that there are very few people in our congregation who have previous facilitating experience. Bringing more people into hosting posture is a huge progress for our group, and a big step towards distributing initiative.

Activities

Onboarding - every Gathering starts with an onboarding where we quickly introduce logistics to everyone.
Opening - this time, the main dish of the Opening Ceremony was designing the program together. Before we jumped into it, we had a moment of sharing and created secret handshakes in pairs. Perhaps we can continue with creating new handshakes every Gathering until we have our personal way of greeting everyone in the congregation? πŸ˜‚
Link to tweet.
Waltdorf School Style Drawing Workshop - we created portraits of each other and "community generated drawings", where we pass drawings around in quick rounds building upon what has been drawn.
Portrait
Charming lad, hey?
Community Generated Drawings
We then displayed all the artwork and had a little exhibition.
Home Pods - every day we'd meet in a group of three, which was randomly selected on the first day. The group would provide a space to check-in with each other and reflect on the day at the Gathering.
Pod Cards
Pods were determined by picking a card.
Gift Night - a night where everyone brings a gift, which can be a poem, a song, a physical object for the community or anything else. This is one of the most beautiful connecting moments and a precious opportunity to get to know each others secret talents.
Community Council Retro - a retrospective from our Community Council held during the Autumn Gathering, and then again during our Pico Community Day. We have set a goal of having at least one project succeed by the time of the retrospective, and we successfully completed this objective. Here are some of the projects that sprouted:
  • ​Pico Foraging Database - an interactive map displaying foraging spots in the island. The project is still in its early days but the v1 of the website is up already.
  • Pico Network - a group on Signal serving as a digital communication channel for exchanges, requests etc. The group is fully operational πŸš€.
  • Pico Meditation Circle - a weekly hour-long meditation sit.
  • Repair Cafe - while the project haven't "formally" moved forward, the Caller has been actively involved in fixing things and contributed significantly to improving our community space.
It's worth mentioning that Pico Coop was the project that received the most support during our previous Community Council, but it hasn't sprouted. We have been exploring this subject from different angles and in different configurations, which resulted in Piconomics 101, as well as forming the working group to acquire a Home for our community.
Sigil Making Workshop - Silvia led a prototype of her new workshop, inspired by success of her Vibetraits and work with Peter Limberg from the Stoa.
Community Space Design - we asked children to design their ideal Community Home, which they later presented to everyone.
Community Space Map Made By Kids
Kids presenting their design for our community space on the lounge area
Here's the scan of their creation:
Community Space Map Made By Kids Scan
The Power of 10 - A workshop visualising mathematics
Power of Ten
Group Photo and Portrait - It's kinda funny, but we never thought of taking a group photo during the past Gatherings. We decided to change that this time, and even took it a step further - and asked one of the participants (a visual artist) to create a portrait of us all.
Group Photo
Group Portrait
Closing - we combined closing session with getting feedback and last meeting of the Home Pod, to create more spaciousness in the afternoon. We finished with singing a few songs together.
Closing Ceremony
Farewell Party - based on the success of the previous Gathering, we created our Community Playlist (where everyone picks one song to dance to for the party). Funny enough, instead of party, we felt like chilling and watching the setting Sun.
Farewell Chill
We also had Thai Yoga, Energy Yoga and pilates sessions. Also, MichaΕ‚ and JoΓ£o premiered a song they created.

Stalls

This time we also included "stalls" - we invited anyone form the Gathering to share their product and / or service, in order to bring more awareness of skills existing within our community. We had three offers displayed during the Gathering:
Offers

Gratitude Tokens

During the first night, we introduced Gratitude Tokens - a collaborative game designed to catalyse expressing gratitude within a community, prototyped in the Traditional Dream Factory.
Kid with Gratitude Token
Gratitude Token Mining Station
That's our local Mining Station.
A notable addition to the game was adding a Portuguese translation to the Tokenomics, and reading the entries from the Gratitude Token Ledger out loud on our second night together.
Here's the scan of our gratitude ledger.
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3

Reflection on the Theme

Interestingly, we didn't tackle the theme "Connecting Islands within the Island" in a direct way (eg. with a workshop). On the other hand, we had a lot of new people involved in the Gathering, including people from Faial and SΓ£o Miguel, so perhaps the islands have indeed been connected.

Food

The food was prepared by a team of two chefs, with rotating helpers stepping in voluntarily for every meal. This model worked extremely well - the meals were delicious and on time (in our previous gathering meals were significantly delayed).
Most of the food was sourced locally.
Here's a pic of one of our chefs, looking like straight of a cookbook cover:
Cookbook Cover
Ahh, and don't get me started on the epic sourdough bread baked on our community fire late at night, and the epic breadflip that almost went unnoticed:
If the video doesn't load, here's the link.

Money

The Gathering was supported by contributions to the Magic Well.
Money In: €380
Money Out: €261.58
Total: +€118.42

Retrospective

Plus

  • Open space model and stalls encouraged more people to step into co-creating the gathering
  • Food system was perfect
  • Adding the role of the "Bell Boy / Bell Girl" - a person responsible to gently remind people when the new activity is about to start
  • Having a photographer and a group photo
  • People from other islands

Minus

  • Food contribution was not clear in the info pack - it resulted in some people contributing with a lot of food that was not communicated in advance leading to too much food left after the gathering and some of it going to waste.

Next

  • Google docs are efficient but not exciting plus they are not showing correctly on the phone without an app. Most of our congregation is not very tech-savy –> find alternative solution for sending the invitation
  • It would be nice to have raw photos on a projector displayed during the farewell party
  • Consider inviting people who couldn't attend the full Gathering for one dinner + evening activity, and charge for dinner (booking and payment in advance) –> donation to community, perhaps combine with the farewell party and showcase everything created?
  • Consider having a week-long gathering with rotating participants and two / three consecutive days as a minimum commitment to participate
  • Create NFTs from community generated drawings? It could be a fun way to generate income for our community!
  • Keep adding secret handshakes every gathering!
  • Improve safety on site

Conclusion and Next Steps

The main conclusion is that our congregation is maturing and we're ready to begin stepping into the process of acquiring a community home, which could support our activities in Pico on the way towards co-creating the Azores Regenerative Network.
We have now created a working group moving this energy forward. If you'd like to help with this process, we'd love to hear from you! πŸ’œ

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Beautiful Moments

Every Gathering is made of beautiful moments. Here are some of my favourites from the Pico Spring Gathering 2022 compiled into a twitter thread (click on it to see the whole thread).
If it doesn't load for some reason, click here.

Energy Exchange

HeyπŸ‘‹ MichaΕ‚ here, the guy who brings people together in Pico Island and documents the process on this website. If you'd like to encourage me to do more meaningful work in Pico and beyond, I invite you to support me via Patreon, or get in touch for a larger financial contribution and / or crypto: michalroots {at} proton.me . Your support makes a tremendous difference, and it helps me transition into the circular gift economy 🌳. Thank you for Being!
On a different note: I'm also available to work with you and your community / project. I create experiences and documentation.
Thank you for Being πŸ’œ