A Look Behind the Scenes in DC

by GPaul

A little while ago, while the DC communards were still scattered between a few different houses, a fellow member of the as-yet-unnamed DC commune shot me this quick note:

Hey, I liked this article that you wrote: http://frompointa.org/blog/2016/02/15/a-busy-month-for-the-dc-crew/.

It occurred to me that a blog article that peeks behind-the-scenes at what policies we’re working on, why and how the discussion/consensus/writing process works, would be interesting. Especially for people who would consider starting a commune. And for people who are like, “So what are you DOING? What is the ‘work’ that you keep talking about?”
I thought about this because when one of your housemates and I were chatting in the car today, they were like “GPaul keeps talking about all the work people are doing for Point A, but I don’t get it. What is the work?” And they live with us.

A little embarrassing, certainly, but to be fair the work of starting a commune is varied and non-obvious. In fact, even people planning on starting communes or really almost any sort of intentional community, frequently underestimate how much work goes into organizing them. The general advice from the intentional communities world is that any group trying to organize an IC of any significant complexity should plan on putting in one full person-year of work on it. In theory this can be done equitably by all the future members of the community but most advisors recommend paying one or two people to focus all their time on it. The communes have another option open to them, of course, which is to gift the labor time of one or more of their own communards to the task of organizing a new commune. This is a big part of how Twin Oaks started East Wind and Acorn and how Acorn started Sapling and assisted in the founding of Living Energy Farm. And most recently it is how Acorn assisted us in the founding of the first Point A DC commune.

A little peek behind the curtain. What strange magic are these communards up to?
A little peek behind the curtain. What strange magic are these communards up to?

So what does all this work look like? What takes a person-year’s worth of focused attention and labor? Here’s a partial list patched together from what occupied my time for year or so of organizing that I put in before the commune launched and other members started taking over a lot of the work (which is, of course, the goal for a horizontal democratic commune).

  • Develop a pitch (or vision) for the commune that is both viable, inspiring, specific enough that people can imagine what it would be like but at the same time open ended enough that they can see room within it for their down dreams and schemes.
  • Identify and individually recruit the initial group.
  • Write, design, and produce fingerbooks, pamphlets, business cards, and a website to get the word out.
  • Plan agendas, draft agreements, organize events, bring in speakers, check in with initial group to work through concerns and make sure that the project is engaging for them and that they feel inspired and invited.
  • Keep doing that for a long time.
  • Talk about what sort of property you want and can afford, go looking for it, follow up on leads, research potential properties, talk to owners.
  • Research legal issues specific to your city.
  • Research legal options for your group to incorporate or organize.
  • Research tax implications for your legal organization.
  • Continue recruiting, organizing events, checking in with people, drafting agreements, organizing meetings, attending meetings.
  • Plan social events and trust building events between prospective members.
  • Then do them.
  • Get involved, under the banner of your commune, in groups and efforts and events that you want to be engaged with and that you want to be engaged with you.
  • Cook food for meetings and events.
  • Clean up after meetings and events.
  • Look after the kids.
  • Mediate conflicts between potential members.
  • Research financing and funding options and then pursue them, either by wooing individuals or institutions.
  • Don’t completely neglect your own needs.
  • Write blog posts.
Surprisingly complicated for such a simple goal: can't we all just get along?
Surprisingly complicated for such a simple goal: can’t we all just get along?
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A Look Behind the Scenes in DC

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