These are the early days at Cotyledon, the income sharing community we are forming in NYC. We are not even two months old. There were four of us but one person decided to live somewhere else, so now we will be three. This is not a good direction to go in.
I helped build a commune in Cambridge, MA, in the nineties, that got up to six adults and two kids at one point. It was after we dropped down to four adults that we fell apart. A four person community is very vulnerable. We lost two more folks and we were gone. I’ve heard of at least one other community that fell apart for similar reasons.
As the manager of Commune Life, I’m hearing of a bunch of new communities–most at this point consist of three or four folks. Many have a couple at their center. I’ve written about how some communities with a couple at their center fail to work out. I’ve noticed that some of these communities have different dynamics, some of which still may turn out to be problematic.
I’m, also acutely aware of the new communes that don’t work out, or are transitioning out of income sharing. It’s hard to build these communities to last and, I think, growing them beyond a small number of people is an important part of the process.
I talked with someone at Acorn about how they survived. They were down to six people at one point early in their history and down to two people at another. I asked how they managed to get past that. I was told there were two reasons for their survival. One was Ira Wallace, a strong person, and the other was Twin Oaks, a strong community nearby.
And how did Twin Oaks survive? In her book, A Walden Two Experiment, Kat Kinkade wrote that in 1969 Twin Oaks was down to ten members and dropping. They decided to get rid of the entrance-fee. It meant that anyone could come and people started coming.
I find Kat Kinkade amazing. She was part of starting three communes (Twin Oaks, Acorn, and East Wind) and all three are still going strong. Folks have told me that her philosophy was to build up communities fast and I figure that she knew something.
I don’t have an answer to this but I’m well aware that staying small is a barrier. I’ve talked with GPaul at Compersia about this and they are working on growing. They are up to six folks now.
I believe that having some openness and flexibility while remaining true to your basic principles is part of what is needed. It’s a balancing act but I think it’s what you need to do to get beyond being two, three, or four.