v Gathering guidelines

Below, we include practical how-tos of our Gathering format to demonstrate how to balance power dynamics and create constructive collaborative events.

Gathering rules

There are a few rules necessary to orchestrate the Gathering, but they all revolve around respecting the process that in turn, respects the people.

1. If you come at all, you come for it all
Current fellows MUST attend, and all attendees must be present for the entire period. There is a designed sense of egalitarianism at every Gathering. Everyone is at the same level, there for the entirety, and no one is special.

2. Be present
All sessions are important, nothing is skippable. No time out to take calls or hold offsite meetings – it breaks the dynamic. To create a productive community of trust and respect, everyone must be “all in”.

3. No presentations
Monologues and PowerPoint presentations are unwelcome. Breakout sessions are held to create dialogue around a specific issue so the host gets as much wisdom from as many people in the room as possible. These are for honest deep dives into issues, not to present your best possible self; you are not selling yourself or your project. Keep. It. Real.

4. No companions
Gatherings are for fellows and staff only, and family or team members should not attend events or share accommodation. The focus is on generating a community. Others are a distraction, diminishing this effort substantially.

5. Meeting rules
In addition to the Gathering rules, which relate to the event as a whole, these are the rules that the facilitator shares at the beginning of each Gathering to remind the group how to work together during the event.

The rules:

The agenda

Key features:

Typical sessions

Facilitation tips

Great facilitation lies at the heart of a successful Gathering, and over the years we have gained valuable insight into getting the mix just right. It’s important for the facilitator to come from outside the organisation, to remove the hierarchies sometimes imposed by the everyday workings of the fellowship. We must all surrender control to the facilitator so they – alone – can apply the Gathering rules to all participants equally and fairly.

If the facilitator were part of the group, the dynamic would already be a bust. It’s a subtle point. While some would suggest these issues can be easily resolved by simply playing by the rules, in practice it’s very different. Any kind of existing hierarchical relationship between the facilitator and group members will, inevitably, skew the dynamic for the worse.

The facilitator holds the room to the rules we’ve agreed to, and oversees each Gathering with an iron fist in a velvet glove. Promptness is a perfect example. It matters. It is expected of everyone as a matter of respect. And if you’re late, you will sing a song – with no exceptions. It is a matter of embarrassment for some – and rather unwarranted pride for others – but there is a shared expectation that you will be penalised for disrupting the flow and disrespecting the group.

Correcting those minor infractions with moments of joy in an intense five-day event is one of the many ways a facilitator must mediate the interpersonal and group dynamics. It takes a skilled and steady hand to navigate everyone through a Gathering without conflict. Even the closest of families fight when they’re in a room for five days, and our fellowship is no exception. Too lax, and arguments and bad feelings can slip into the fray; too stern, and it could lead to a multitude of unproductive wormholes.

We have learnt that working with one person who understands us and what we are trying to achieve, rather than relearning norms each time, is much more rewarding.