Put your CAN to the meta & POCA to the max

Put Your CAN to the Meta

We are all creating meta-communication by doing Community Acupuncture everyday by working in our clinics. It’s not even so much what we do or how we do it but how what we do interacts with others; our patients, co-workers, and other CANners.  What we, as a profession, do or don’t do is also a reflection of the ways that acupuncture has interacted with allopathic medicine, insurance companies, law makers, and sadly, it is a reflection of how acupuncture has had very little interaction with real actual patients.  

One thing I've learned doing CA is how to talk directly with patients about acupuncture, e.g. what it works for and what to expect, but there many more subtle message sent by the way we work with people in recliners, in community rooms, at an affordable rate, and in the conspicuous absence of the usual trappings of  “medical” offices, or spas.  CAN as an organization has been the leading edge of helping punks create practices where they can be who they are, using simple, frequent, and affordable treatments to help many people.  This basic combination of feeling at home in ourselves, our communities, and the people we serve, has had a dramatic effect on our work and on the success of our clinics that even the best systems don't impart into the equation.  It's as if CAN and community acupuncture are finally letting acupuncture just be what it is too.  Whether directly or through meta-communication, two themes are being communicated both inwardly and out:  we want you here, and we can help.  We’d be lost without these two basic things.

CAN has been a container for us to influence each other, an alchemical vessel where ideas and intent fuse into gold and tungsten.  Not one of us would be here doing what we do, the way we do it, if Lisa and Skip hadn’t happened upon it first in their own lives and practices and then communicated it so well to all of us.  Thanks to them, from the very beginning, a brilliant vision, determination, and a willingness to share, has resulted in the perfect combination of elements to spark a revolution in our lives, our profession and our communities.  From the start Lisa and Skip have been able to communicate with other punks two basic things:  we want you here and we can help. 

CAN was born out of necessity, a way to help channel the influx of interest and energy moving towards WCA into a bigger arena where people could play and learn together, hash out particulars, struggle out loud with their own blind spots and fears, logistics, and numbers.  Together with CAN as our ship, we’ve weathered storms, and sea monsters.  And always close at the wheel and high in the riggings have been our first leaders, Lisa and Skip.  The ship’s crew- a raggedy bunch- that has stepped up and made real all kinds of things: CANferences, workshops, books, articles, newsletters, shirts, wrist bands, aprons, poems, and videos, is not limited to the board, but includes many active members.  Our leadership has grown and so this new thing, this POCA, has been able to emerge, like a new coastline.  And again the message to the budding leadership of a budding organization as part of a budding healthcare movement:  we want you here and we can [all] help.

The CAN board is unlike most boards in that it is so large.  As a group of 25+ punks over the past 4 years (with people rotating on and off the board) we have been a group of punks sharing a common mission and vision, engaging together in the actual work of launching clinic after clinic after clinic, and lots of other projects.  Many of the CAN board-folk ended up serving as their clinics took-off and they became able to share their experiences with the next new wave of converters. And as each wave of punks moves through the process of setting up, and running, and getting busy in their clinics, naturally they have more valuable experiences to share, but at the same time many more responsibilities to attend to.  There is so much to share and build that in order to make it into a manageable work-load, the CAN board has had to be large.  It could be way larger—there are so many people involved here that contribute in valuable ways.  But what is the structure that would most effectively be able to manage all these waves of interest and energy.  How, do we begin to create clinics where there are no punks, no schools, but plenty of folks who need and want acupuncture?  How do we create and fund our own bank or purchasing group?  How about a school?  All of these things are doable, but people are needed to do them.   And the good news is:  you are wanted here and we can all help. 

In general, CAN members are active way beyond what members in state or national professional organizations that represent acupuncturists and the profession.  What stands out in CAN is the cohesiveness and cooperation with which we work, rather than the disagreements (go ahead and disagree if you like-ha!) though there have been many of those too, both inside the forum and on the blog.  CAN has been the place to wrangle with issues of social injustice and how we play those out ourselves as individuals, and as a profession.  It has also been a place for many like-minded people to come together and stir a lot of passion and hope for the future, while staying rooted in the work to be done here in the present.  In under 5 years CAN has been the vehicle for many great ideas to become reality, including hundreds of new clinics, and that’s just a beginning. 

POCA to the Max.

The “official” stuff for POCA, by-laws, bank accounts, staffing, and structure is something that a small group of CAN bordeos and EC folks have been knitting together like a chrysalis over many months.  Now with the August 1st membership sign-up launched, we can see wings quickly emerging.  If you’ve ever watched a caterpillar spin a cocoon and then watch the butterfly break out and fly away it is nothing short of a miracle; it is the perfected sequence of steps that make one thing into another.  Caterpillars don’t go to school or check-out the internet for how to do this, they just know.  But unlike a caterpillar, CAN, and the folks including me, who have been taking the first steps towards this change, do not know the perfect sequence.  We know that something beautiful is waiting, and is already emerging. 

We- meaning everyone reading this- get to figure out just how this one thing turns into the other.  Sociocracy- the organizational arrangement that we stumbled upon at just the perfect moment, seems a good fit for POCA because by design it creates what the sociocracy folks call “equivalence” an idea that while we may not all have the same skills or interest or roles within a group, everyone’s presences is of value.  The actual processes of running meetings, and making decisions sociocratically helps to bring out those voices not usually heard.  Sociocratic process encourages objections to be brought forward, which in turn allows the group to develop strategies and solutions that are more sustainable over time. 

The internets have been a helpful tool to learn more about sociocracy. 

This website explains:

The fundamental principle behind sociocracy (and for the matter, behind life) is that individuals are equivalent. Without equivalence, systems cannot be sustained forever. Equivalence simply refers to the fact that we have the right to be considered. If my neighbor decides to throw a large outdoor party without taking my objections into consideration, equivalence has been lost, and the system is broken. This will likely lead to conflict. Had equivalence been present, the friendly neighbor would have worked with me in an attempt to find common grounds through a creative solution.

Again the basic two messages of being considered in both your presence and your ability to contribute to the process of finding a solution are communicated through this idea of equivalence.  Furthermore sociocracy is described (by the blogger cited above) with these four basic rules:

1. All members are equivalent (not equal, but of value and all deserving to be treated with dignity and consideration).

2. There is a place where important decisions are made, and there are representatives from all related areas present (called the circle).

3. The decisions that are made in the circle are made by consent, meaning that we work at integrating all the objections into the decisions.

4. Every position in the organisation is filled by consent election (an election based on argumentation rather than on campaigning and seduction).

The first steps towards creating a sociocratic structure capable of engaging people in the work requires clear and detailed aims for each circle.  An aim in this case is an actual thing- even if it isn’t material, that a circle can provide to or utilize for actualizing the mission and vision of the group.  POCA has an overall mission and vision, and each department of the organization will too.  This enables us to divide the workload into manageable pieces that can be shared by many people, over a large geographic area, and it decentralizes decision making so that new ideas, and voices can help lead the organization.

Since one of POCA’s biggest resource is people, many of the circles will have aims that allow people to do work for POCA, or receive benefit from the work done by POCA.  For example, the circle responsible for microlending will need to create the tools to achieve this.  They will need to write (and run by an accountant or lawyer) basic contracts, and a means to distribute the funds.  The financial circle would be responsible for keeping track of all of POCA’s money from all sources of income, all of its expenses, and the amounts budgeted to specific projects like microlending.  So when it comes to finalizing criteria for receiving and calculating the amount of a loan, both the microlending circle and the financial circle under which the microlending circle operates, would meet so that information and ideas from both areas could be shared.  Members from the stakeholder participation circle would also be involved, as they would be in direct communication with members seeking loans.  

All of this is much easier to understand with a visual schematic which might look something like this:

I was talking with my co-worker today about the CAN/POCA metamorphosis and he helped put more clear words to something I was trying to describe to him (read: rambling about) as a matter of how people think about leadership.  He talked about a common view of leaders as corrupt or ineffective authorities, and the cycle of hope and disillusionment that seems to be rampant in today’s politics, where power, charisma, and wealth have a disproportionate influence on what happens in the world.  POCA is going to need lots of leaders and leadership, in part because it will be so huge, but also because there is something really important about people feeling empowered to steer their own lives, and to have their work mean something more than just a paycheck or a pat on the back.  Livelihood and appreciation are important things, but without the ability to make shared values into shared realities that work is not sustainable over time and generations.    

Soiciocracy is designed to place power back in the hands of people who actually do the work.  In autocratic, or strictly top-down organizations, the leaders at the top make decisions and the workers follow through on these directives.  It’s easy to see how this could create conflict or tension, especially if there were few options for workers to get feedback to leadership.  Productivity and profits do not necessarily measure worker satisfaction, just in the way that a sliding scale, and treating in a group doesn’t necessarily reflect community building.  The structure needs to be infused with common values.

There is an example in the We The People book where a big manufacturing plant in the Netherlands was planning to lay off all the workers in one department because that department wasn’t’ meeting its quotas because of a downturn in the economy and a resulting slow down of business.  But rather than have their co-workers laid off, a worker from another department proposed that those people be retrained as sales people.  This solution came from the ranks of the workers, not the managers, and because there was a structure in place for this voice to be heard, the proposal was tweaked a bit, the people who were to be laid off were retrained, and were able to go out and successfully attract more business for the company.  Not only was the tragedy of lost jobs averted, and more business created, but in having a way for people at different levels of the organization contribute in a meaningful way, the company gained a loyalty and investment in successful group decisions that was invaluable to its long-term successes.  The fact that all jobs were valued was shared;  management was willing to spend resources retraining, and in turn, the workers were willing to compensate for some of the duties of the group that went out to bring in more business.  This is a beautiful example of how people act when all members of the group are considered with equivalence.  

Being a leader doesn’t have to mean that you run for office, it can mean other things like making something happen that wasn’t happening before.   Like talking to your neighbor, or making acupuncture affordable for your neighbor.  It can mean managing a clinic or regional meeting.  Being a leader can mean taking the initiative to follow through on a task or project to its completion. Being a leader can mean asking for help where no one else is.

Sometimes small things turn out to be big things, like making something out of nothing.  The magic of alchemy, like metamorphosis, is that while both require  a vessel, or  a cocoon to contain the energy needed to drive the process, no one knows exactly the combination of things that actually do make it happen.  Our scientific minds want to understand the world by quantifying it, but how can you quantify a spark?  Do joules really do justice to that?  Can you measure conception?   The spark I think is the flicker of energy that is generated when all the parts come together.  That’s how I am looking at what CAN, and now POCA is about; coming together to spark a change.  And so leading is making it possible for that spark to happen, and that happens in so many ways. 

In concrete terms what that means is that POCA will be set-up for members/leaders to step-up/step-in/step-out (repeat) in big and small ways.  POCA is after all a dance.  We’re in the process of defining the areas where work needs to be done, and writing up descriptions for the work itself.  Please note: this is a complete transformation of how we’ve done things up ‘till now.  The spark acting on the metamorphic process of CAN  turning into POCA, is all of us coming together to make it happen.  Part of that coming together is where make up the steps we need to get from here to there.  Every member leads POCA in some way with interests, inquiry, or skills.  Every member, from each category of membership has a stake in POCA’s realization of its goals.  We have among us former CEOs, and IT wonks, there are teachers, surfers,  karaoke hostesses, nurses, statisticians, and sales people, etc.  We’ve got some really big ideas rolling out including how to get many more people involved in seeing these ideas into reality.  We’ve got an abundance of resources to draw from. 

Stay tuned for news and updates on participating in circles, learning more about circle process, and circle elections. If you can do any of the following: facilitate a meeting, attend a meeting, take notes, share your ideas, look at details, remember the long view, access resources, set up a system, talk to people, write about your experience, make an objection, crunch a number, teach something, learn something, or if you play well with others, POCA is looking for you.


Author: crismonteiro

I've always thought that I would live to be 100 years old and now that I have an actual idea of what it might be like to inhabit this body for a century I want to be damn sure that Community Acupuncture is around to help me through my days and in the end, on my way. In the meantime, I am passionate about getting shit done, and also having fun.

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  1. …..pin drop…..

    ….ssshhh….everyone must be patiently waiting for the POCA site launch 😉 Nice post Cris. I’ve never known an AOM org to actually say the words “we want you here and we can help”.


  2. well, i wasn’t gonna comment, but…

    yay! meta-communication!  accessability!  i love that the above is what i get to say most every day to the awesome people who want to be here, and want help and then, they WANT TO HELP as well!