A three-day experience of intense individual and group work

Three days  about CLIPS to deepen, between theory and practice, the art of facilitation, processwork and the use of group diagnostic tools. Aimed at all those who work in and with groups, the course draws on the deep knowledge of experienced facilitators and community members, to understand how to manage group dynamics and support the success of group projects.

With the kind translation by Mark Bruno

What does CLIPS stand for?

CLIPS or Community Learning Incubator Programme for Sustainability https://clips.gen-europe.org/ is a programme born in 2015 from the meeting of 21 representatives of 9 Ecovillages of the GEN Europe network.

Where did the idea of ​​creating a programme to support and develop new communities come from?

From experience! Many trainers, who were present at that first meeting, are decades-long members of community living projects, such as ecovillages.

The multiple risks of failure led them to write a guide https://clips.gen-europe.org/downloads/

The guide, written by several hands, is not an academic text, nor a practical manual, rather a valuable tool for inspiration, because it was informed by intense, direct community experience.

The text designed to provide guidelines, food for further thoughts, examples of
past experiences and concrete help for those moments of criticality in group dynamics that can be as destructive as they are fertile sources of new well-being!

Even if it has its origins in the experiences of ecovillages, the reflections and tools suggested by the guide are not for the exclusive use of intentional communities such as ecovillages but are also addressed to those who belong to and / or coordinate cultural associations, co-housing, NGOs, community schools, ethical banks, collective initiatives and, in general, those who work within groups or plan their creation.

The intention of the guide and the CLIPS course is to avoid the creation of cracks or, worse, breaks-ups in groups and the spread of suffering, that is difficult to absorb afterwards.

On the contrary, a deeper and deeper knowledge of the four dimensions and their interaction can concretely help a group to overcome difficulties and achieve its goal!

What are the four dimensions of the CLIPS model?

In the guide we find  four macro areas listed and described:

The individual: experience, skills, needs…

The community: daily living, management of activities and spaces, communication, conflicts and their facilitation, celebration …

The structure: the decision-making process, organization of finances, legal representation…

The intent: within a group, the three areas are interdependent and are supported by an intention that leads in the same direction.

The intent or intention is nourished by dreams, aspirations, desires, needs and individual intuitions which, in turn, drive people to join a group, and join those in the group, to carry out a community process.

In short, it is a circular energy, to be kept alive and pulsating for a project as ambitious as it can be: “being together“!

“What is a community? When we speak of ‘community’ or ‘community project’, we refer to a group of people brought together by the same worldview, by the same vision and goals of their project, and by sharing moments of their nonprofessional lives.”

And now we get to the heart of the CLIPS course!!

All right, these are the basics but the CLIPS course is not just about theory, quite the opposite!

The program is rich and animated:

The Italian CLIPS team guides us along this path, made up of four facilitators / trainers with direct and lasting experience in the field of facilitation and community life: Genny Carraro (Manger Director Gen-Europe and Arterra), Lucilla Borio (Ecovillaggio Torri Superiore), Riccardo Clemente (Comunità degli Elfi, co-president Rive and member of the GEN Board of directors) and Giorgia Lattuca (member of the RIVE – the italian ecovillage network- board of directors).

Genny, Lucilla, Riccardo and Giorgia take turns to bring us their experiences as members of ecovillages, creating the opportunity to test practical assessment tools on ourselves.

Diagnostic tools

What do we mean by “diagnostic tools”?

These are tools (tried and true!) useful for “take the pulse” of the group in certain moments, even critical ones, in its community journey.

The diagnostic methods are transversal for the four areas, they can help to highlight critical issues in the group and although this may raise new problems, they are useful to give the group greater clarity.

Let’s take a closer look…

Within a group it is not always clear to everyone what each individual really thinks about a given topic.

Can we ask? Of course, but we can also see it very… physically!


Sociometry measures social variables within a group and captures information by turning a question into physical data. Perfectly clear, isn’t it? Maybe not…

But if you take a sellotape and draw a line on the floor with it, establishing the lowest value at one end and the highest value at the other, when asked “With respect to question X, how much do you agree?”  you can see not just an individual but a group of individuals move and place themselves along the line, immediately giving us a clear picture of the where the group is at.

As the questions change, so do the position of people, their movements going back and forth.

Simple,effective, and quite possibly fun. Seeing is believing!

The construction of the space can also be done in other ways and with techniques that touch deepest strings inside us. They can reveals affinity groups and, often, allow to explore individual and group characteristics of which we are not totally aware of… just hide notebooks to find us surprised, confused, “caught”, thoughtful (but no, I’m not going to
give it all away!).

Inner Sociocracy


We’re looking at hundreds of them. Genny’s amazing collection brings back vivid childhood memories. They’re all there, from Smurfette to Gargamel, the ever-present Papa Smurf, Baby Smurf, Brainy Smurf, and all the activities they’re represented in.

It all makes you want to play with them, and in fact, that’s just what we’re invited to do. With ourselves. With those parts of ourselves that are often in conflict, before entering into contact with others. Since we often give great power to certain parts of ourselves while ignoring others, without realizing the enormous potential we have in listening to all of these parts and letting them express themselves.

How can we hope to facilitate others if we do not first learn to facilitate ourselves?

If these tools and games are useful for good facilitation within a group, Genny reminds us that facilitation is not a technique, but rather like tailoring. Like any good tailor, the aspiring facilitator becomes skilled at knowing the “body” of the group to make a comfortable, practical dress that is able to express the beauty of the wearer.

Easy? Not at all! But these aspiring CLIPS facilitators don’t give in to fear and they…keep playing!

The course continues with several workshops and case studies, where theory gives way to practice.

A few examples:

Blue, Green, Red, Yellow. Aspirations, organization, care, dreams. When colours can help us understand
our inclinations, strengths, and fragilities, and those of others. The Game of Colours, with Riccardo.

“Each Voice Carries a Message. If you don’t listen to it, the message will come even more forcefully. Every voice wants to be heard.”
Rank, Leadership, Processwork

Systemic Tools: “The essential is invisible to the eyes” (and everything permeates) the Road to Awareness, with Giorgia.

“Everything I meet, no matter how painful, can contribute to my learning and personal growth.”
The Community Cards

The CLIPS model

“Ideally Individual, Community, Intention, Structure and Practice are perfectly interlinked. However, in our experience Practice is not always linked well to Intentions. Structures can be missing or inadequate, creating confusion and disruptions. Intentions can suffer from not being revisited and kept alive,perhaps because they are only fully owned by a few of the original founders. Coherence between Intention, Structure and Practice, and the balance between the Individual and the Community, are under constant challenge. Reasons for conflicts and malfunctions can generally be traced to not paying enough attention to interconnection between the layers or to neglecting one of the layers”

We are used to thinking that conflicts between people erupt in an obvious, violent, and shocking way.  Not always. On the contrary, in fact: the experience of community life wants to make visible precisely the more hidden and subtle dynamics. These are often difficult to understand externally but they are the real cause of what, often down the road, leads a group to dissolve amidst confusion, bitter anger, and guilt.

To help us in these delicate but essential phases for the success of a community project, there is the diagnostic tool SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), a kind of community thermometer.

““Conflicts that emerge in the group are an opportunity to become aware of what is not working, and through conflicts people can develop communication skills, better understand the diversity of their group, and discover how to manage their own emotions.””.

Social Permaculture also reflects on the interrelations between human groups and the outside world, allowing us to broaden our vision of the present in its complexity and to sharpen our vision (and imagination!) of the future.

Everything changes and changes again, and this causes anxiety and fear. Among the 12 principles of permaculture as conceived by David Holmgren, the last one says “Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”.

How can you use circle with so many threads that connect to it?

See you at the next CLIPS training to find out! 😉

Thanks to all the participants of the January 2020 session, now officially “CLIPS Ambassadors”. Let’s drink to the joy, music, laughter and tears that made these days of extraordinary sharing special. We are waiting for you at Torri Superiore!!!!


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