Upsetting the MBAs

by Paxus Calta

This is being published simultaneously with Your Passport to Complaining.

During tours of Twin Oaks I make sure to point out the things which we do which are unconventional.  This makes the tour more memorable and hopefully thought provoking.  At three different points there are business practices which drive MBAs a bit crazy:

Embracing Inefficiency:  The jig that we make hammocks on is quite unconventional.  If you go into any other woven hammock shop in the world, you will see a weaving jig which is operated by a single person.  Sometimes these are upright and the person is weaving at eye level.  Sometimes these are positioned like our jig and people weave at waist level.  From the right angle these look like a capital U.


Our jigs looked at from above look like a capital H instead.  This makes it possible for two people to weave hammocks across from each other.  What we clearly observe is that when people can talk with other workers their productivity goes … down.

Why would any self respecting business use tools which make worker productivity decrease?  Well, the easy answer would be we are not a self-respecting business in the conventional sense.  As you might know all work (including income work) done at Twin Oaks is done by volunteers.   Hammock shop managers think first of what will get people and keep people in the shop and only secondarily about what makes them go fast.  If you oppress or make uncomfortable your hammocks production staff, they will go out into the garden or cook or make tofu or take care of kids or any of over 100 jobs which are available.

This has most MBAs scratching their heads.

Profit Insensitivity:  As business professionals walk around and understand our economy they start to ask good questions.  “If you make a much higher dollar/hour by having people work in the hammock shop or the tofu hut, why don’t you pull workers from low dollar/hour areas (like Garden) and simply make more money and buy organic food?”

Garden work is not lucrative – Photo credit: Aaron Cohen

The answer is “we want to grow our own food”.  This is a cultural value for us.  We want to live in a place where we are involved in all cycles of the farm, growing fruits and vegetables, running our own dairy and chickens programs and in good years even our own bee hives.  None of this makes economic sense.  We don’t do it for the money.

This causes MBAs to start pulling their hair.


Marketing without Money:  Arguably the most unconventional thing we do is pretend that we can do almost all our marketing without spending money on it.  We spent less than a thousand dollars a year on advertising.  We prefer to use labor to do marketing.  The problem is people generally don’t move to communes if what they want to do is marketing.  I have been one of the few marketing managers in hammocks for decades, and I have not done very much with it until recently.


Our unwillingness to go to trade shows, run promotional advertising with our many online vendors, even run ads in our local friendly urban press cause MBAs to look for the door.

Really, it is not safe in here

Uncharacteristically, an MBA from Richmond is interested in Twin Oaks.  She has a good job and stable circumstance, but was profoundly influenced by the Women’s Gathering and wanted to check out the place which organized it.


I was excited by someone with business experience possibly living with us, despite the peculiarities i listed above, there is much for us to learn.  So as i do with people who i really want to live here, i went over the biggest obstacles most outsiders have coming to the community.

  1. We are Filthy.  We can claim we are a farm, or that we have a bunch of kids and messy strangers.  But truth told at our core we are more than a bit unclean.
  2. Limited Privacy.  Your personal space ends at the door to your room.  There are lots of people out there and some of them are quite unusual.
  3. We will push your buttons.  Hard as it might be to believe, what ever they are we will push them.  If you know your hang ups, than this will be a personal growth opportunity.  If you don’t know what plugs you in, the we are guaranteeing a (probably painful) journey of self discovery.  Because we will find these buttons for you and push them.

Alexis did not pause.  She had done her research, she was unworried about the filth.  She was looking forward to living much more collectively and felt like she had a pretty good handle on her buttons.  I just hope she is right.


Upsetting the MBAs

Fun Facts About Twin Oaks Energy Consumption

from the Federation of Egalitarian Communities blog  (July, 2013)

I am working on my NASCO Institute presentation for this year, and came up with these figures. Enjoy!


The average American uses about 500 gallons per year.(1)
Twin Oaks consumed about 15,267 gallons of gas in 2007.Old time conservation
With an average population of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 175 gallons per person.
That is 65% less gas consumed!


The average American uses 11,000 kWh of Electricity per year.
Twin Oaks consumed 268,065 kWh in 2007.
With an adult population on average of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 3,083 kWh per person.
that is 73% less electricity consumed!

Natural Gas:

The average resident in Virginia uses 767 therms of natural gas.(3)
Twin Oaks consumed 16,221 therms of natural gas in 2007.
Bicycle fleetWith an adult population on average of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 186 therms per person.
that is 76% less natural gas consumed!

This is a great example of the power of sharing.


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Fun Facts About Twin Oaks Energy Consumption

A little bit about Rainforest Lab

An important question I often reflect on while living at Rainforest Lab for Cultural Transformation:

How do we want to live and learn together?

Rainforest Lab is an intentional community focused on a particular type of design we call a Transformational Learning Community- the core purpose of this intentional community design is to catalyze personal and systemic transformation in a way that is accessible and radical. At the basis of how we cultivate this intentional community space is to focus on people experiencing a sense of belonging, care, and safety. I recognize these qualities are vastly undernourished in the world we live in, and creating a space where those values are an active part of the culture is a huge leap in the right direction for me. For example, whenever we have a guest joining us out on the land, the community will spend time during our evening circle selecting a “buddy”- someone who has a specific intention to care for and track the new person while they are with us. The buddy’s purpose is to take seriously the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of the incoming person, and to support them in integrating into the community. This is just one opportunity we have created to prioritize people’s sense of belonging, care, and safety at Rainforest Lab first and foremost.

As people establish a sense of belonging, care, and safety in the community, we invite you into increasing degrees of practicing what we call life-serving systems with others who are already in the community. Participation in these systems might look like (but are not limited to): attending a community-held workshop on conflict transformation, engaging with different land projects, engaging in one-on-one work around exploring your passions/gifts/dreams, or become involved in our community-based programs.

Members of Rainforest Lab in a car outside of Clallam Bay Correctional Center just before going inside to facilitate a workshop

One program our community sustains is a facilitated group in a nearby men’s maximum security prison in conjunction with the Freedom Project. Freedom Project is a non-profit which offering Nonviolent Communication learning events and community circles in the Washington State prison system. A part of my purpose for facilitating within the prison system weekly is to deepen our solidarity with those who are within one of the most violent and unsustainable systems within the US. My hope is to build community within that institution centered around cultivating connection, aliveness, and transformation so those on the receiving end of that violence (i.e. prisoners) can experience support, companionship, and nurturance in their struggle.

We seek to expand our presence within nearby indigenous communities (we have developed a small relationship with the Quileute Tribe) and seek to intervene on the behalf of young people (we are attempting to help co-create a Restorative System within the nearby school district). I recognize some of the most powerful healing work of this age will be to stand in solidarity with marginalized groups (whether human or non-human) and to own my privilege and learn about it, so I might steward my privilege for the benefit of all . Many members are also proactive in a variety of social and political movements. I believe this is central to the more radical focus of our community.

I realize that a part of the work of transforming oppression is to increase accessibility and redistribute resources so marginalized groups are able to better meet their needs. This realization flows in tandem with the Rainforest Lab community, which I would say is a group and physical space cultivated and structured to respond to all needs present with those who are interacting with the community.  Shared ownership of assets, economic solidarity (through a shared monetary system), awareness and dialogue around power inequalities, and a fluid, collectively-held governance system are all present to help us transform oppression within the community itself.

I hope what we do inspires others to find their passions and live authentically in a world where we have been taught to disconnect from these qualities. I find living out my passions in community and supporting others in doing so is some of the most impactful and meaningful transformational play I can be doing on the planet.


A little bit about Rainforest Lab

Fanshen Overhaul

Post written by Sumner, Pictures by Virgil, from the East Wind blog

For the past six weeks the Building Maintenance crew has been busy renovating Fanshen, East Wind’s largest dorm. Building Maintenance manager Brandon has been leading crews replacing the roof, removing the old wood siding, installing new composite siding, installing new windows where appropriate, and completely replacing one of the building’s porches.



The project has been an excellent opportunity to learn about structure maintenance for members, visitors, and working guests who are interested. The multiple decades of combined experience among the Building Maintenance crew has made this major project go quite smoothly with no long delays. The unseasonably warm weather has allowed for many nice days to work outside and no resident of Fanshen has had to worry about being too cold.


The roofing and siding part of the project are complete. The porch and some small tasks remain to be finished in the next couple weeks.


Fanshen Overhaul