The 2021 Conscious Coliving Team Retreat

The past week the Conscious Coliving team came together after almost two years of remote working for an epic reunion of team retreats and sprints. Our current co-founders, Penny Clark, Naima Ritter, Juan Ortiz and Matt Lesniak, came from all ends of the world (Costa Rica, United Kingdom and Ivory Coast) to meet in Berlin for this special occasion. 

This past year our team has gone through a few transitions and challenges during the global pandemic and this was a much needed moment of reconnecting, creativity, productivity and just good ol’ having fun. In this post we will share some of this fun with you and bring in some exciting evolutions of our brand, products and content. 

*Thumbnail photo credit to Pura Vida Festival

Team Dynamics: Building Vulnerability-Based Trust Through Conflict Management

Our team retreat started off with 3 days of sprints in the heart of Berlin’s cultural center, Freidreichsain. With the help of a few falafel, halloumi, peanut butter, and pita sandwiches, our team started off with some team dynamics exercises, including the following: 

1. Enneagram personality tests 

Each of us took an Enneagram test to understand our different personality types and what kind of behaviors arise when each of us are in ‘disintegration’ and ‘integration’ (essentially what happens when each of us get into a state of flow / productivity and what happens when we’re down / in a state of reactivity). We found we had similar but complementary personality types, including many ‘Achievers’, a few ‘Helpers’, a ‘Peacemaker’ and a ‘Challenger’. This exercise helped set the stage for working with one another and having a stronger awareness of each other’s needs according to different situations. We had already done similar exercises a few years ago (using the DISC model), and so it was also interesting to see the evolution of each our personality types and how we had grown both personally and professionally.

2. The five behaviors of a cohesive team 

The Five Behaviors Model enables people and teams to get results while simultaneously creating a collaborative, more enjoyable work environment. Based on a pyramid model, the framework looks at five core behaviors (or sometimes dysfunctions) of a cohesive team: trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results.

The idea is that when team members are genuinely transparent and honest with one another, it forms a safe environment that creates and builds vulnerability-based trust. This then leads to the team engaging in unfiltered debate of ideas and conflict, making them more likely to commit to decisions and more willing to hold one another accountable, ultimately leading to achievement of strong results. 

We used this team assessment to understand where each of us felt on the spectrum for each of these five behaviors / dysfunctions. We aim to take this assessment every 6 months or so to see how the scores develop and we will use these scores as a key KPI for our team’s governance / HR indicators. To understand more about this approach you can also watch this Youtube video here

3. Nonviolent communication 

As we went through our personality tests and the five behaviours of a cohesive team, naturally some past tensions and conflicts arose. When we were able to take ourselves out of our naturally-occuring reactive states, we practiced nonviolent communication (NVC) techniques to give one another effective and non judgemental feedback. According to Marshall Rosenberg, inventor of NVC, the technique is an integration of the following: 

Consciousness: A set of principles that support living a life of compassion, collaboration, courage, and authenticity.

Language: Understanding how words contribute to connection or distance.

Communication: Knowing how to ask for what you want, how to hear others even in disagreement, and how to move forward towards solutions that work for all.

Means of influence: Sharing “power with others” rather than using “power over others”.

The 4-Part NVC Process uses a structure that asks the person giving feedback to first make an observation, then share how this made them feel and the needs that were unmet during this situation, and then make a request to the group or the individual they are giving feedback to. This is a powerful tool to help give constructive feedback in any kind of relationship, both professional and personal. For us it was a key step before making any further strategic business decisions. 

Brand Positioning: Redefining Who We Are and Evolving The Conscious Coliving Manifesto 

Once we assessed our individual personalities and team dynamics, we were ready to think about how best to evolve our brand. Earlier in the year, our Head of Spatial Design, Tom Manwell, took a step back from Conscious Coliving in order to focus wholly on running his architectural studio (Wellstudio Architecture), which is moving into coliving. We have re-created our relationship with Tom and Wellstudio as one of our close architectural partners, and look forward to working together on projects with coliving developers and operators around the world! With this new situation, we are now evolving our products and positioning accordingly.

Together, we drafted a one-liner on who we are and what we do:

Conscious Coliving supports impact-driven shared living businesses and communities to embed social, environmental and financial value through research-based content, education and consulting. 

We then co-created a short paragraph, which goes into greater detail (still a work in progress):

There is an urgent need to evolve towards a regenerative future where people are consciously connected to themselves, others and nature. This has led to a shared purpose amongst the coliving sector of facilitating impact-driven communities that thrive. As a collective of researchers, urbanists, international development experts and real estate professionals, we empower the people and businesses driving the global coliving movement through research, consultancy, training, frameworks, coaching and more. 

We also brainstormed some new brand values which are still in development. You can catch a glimpse of our approach below: 

Coliving Values

We also did an exercise to evolve The Conscious Coliving Manifesto. This included adding Pillars and subcategories for our Three Core Aspects. This is still in the works and it will be announced once completed, but you can have a sneak peek here: 

Product Development: Concept Development
& Needs Assessments

After doing some work on our brand positioning, we then explored some new products that we will prototype over the next few months. 

The first of these products is a Resident & Community Experience Needs Assessment: this product aims to support operators in identifying their community’s needs and co-creating strategies that work to get their coliving space running in the way they want. This offer helps these new ventures to:

  • Clarify gaps in their user and community experience strategy 

  • Understand the challenges of their teams and residents 

  • Learn from successful case studies

  • Identify appropriate interventions or solutions 

  • Optimize their user and community experience 

The second of these products is a Concept Development Workshop: this product supports new coliving initiatives to identify what makes their coliving concept unique, and how to bring that uniqueness to life. We can help these new ventures to: 

  • Feel confident in their knowledge of the coliving sector

  • Gain clarity on what makes their concept unique

  • Save time with a clear roadmap to bring their concept to life

  • Be inspired with new innovative ideas and possibilities 

We will use a design thinking approach with both these services and test the need for these products within the market. We also aim to conduct market research to further develop our services according to the needs of the coliving sector. We will have more information about these products up soon, and in the meantime to learn more our other products, head to our services page here.

Pura Vida Festival: Embodying Practices to Connect to Self, Others and Nature

The Conscious Coliving Team – plus some of our other lovely friends – also had the privilege of being part of the first ever Pura Vida Festival. This four-day sober wellness festival was about understanding and embodying personal wellbeing, collective awakening and planetary regeneration (sound familiar??). 

Having done our COVID-19 due dilignece, we dived into the experience, taking part in 5 rhythms dance, yoga, meditation, breathwork, nature-inspired art, a cacao ceremony, sharing circles, lectures and discussions on topics including relating to self and others, and exploring utopian potentials. Also not to be forgotten were the times around the campfire, connections made, beautiful vegan food, and some dips in the stunning lake of the Naturpark Schlaubetal.

This festival was a beautiful reminder of what it is we want to embody in ourselves and in our work. It reinforced our understanding that outer transformation must stem from inner transformation – trying to build a different world without the necessary self-work will only lead to the same mistakes being repeated. 

Communities are powerful. Engaging in these activities and discussions collectively showed us that we are far, far from the only ones who are seeking radical regeneration and new living paradigms (we already knew that, but it’s always good to be reminded!). We see ourselves as just one part of a movement to redefine what a prosperous and successful life is within planetary boundaries. Pura Vida!   

Coliving Conversations:
our Upcoming Podcast Series!

A final very exciting announcement is that we are soon launching a new Podcast show called Coliving Conversations. The aim of this show is to shine a light on the projects, people and places that are pioneering the coliving movement. It will target audiences from the real estate, hospitality,  coliving, purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) and other specialist real estate industries.  

Through interviews and discussions with key players in the industry, Coliving Conversations will serve as a resource for identifying common coliving challenges and innovative solutions. In particular, these will focus on business models, technology, investing, community, wellbeing and sustainability

During our sprint we had a creative session to set up the foundations and the topic for Season 1. We are currently in the pre-production stage and look forward to sharing more soon! 

Concluding Words

We have more IRL time together as a team, this time in London. Here we will continue to bring our new products to life, develop our content and refine our strategy, identity, partnerships and Manifesto.

The next few months of the year will then be focused on the development of our new products, production of the Coliving Conversations Youtube and Podcast series and some further R&D for our Coliving Impact Framework

We hope you have enjoyed our team update and learning about some of these team building practices. 

Stay tuned for more! 

This article has been authored for you by:

Transformational Coach and facilitator. Trainer in mindfulness, sharing circles, and how to live and lead more consciously. Co-author of the Community Facilitation Handbook and the Coliving Apps & Tech Guide. Facilitates community engagement strategies.

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