What can we learn from lasting communities?

,by Raven Cotyledon

I was interviewed recently about the time I lived at Ganas, which is not an egalitarian community, but is an amazing, thriving community of a different type. Ganas has been around for forty years as of this year and that got me thinking of other long lived communities and what people who are  trying to start (or keep going) new communities can learn from them.

Twin Oaks, of course, is a big example, since they hit fifty in 2017 and will be fifty-two this year. Another obvious candidate is East Wind which is clocking in at forty-five this year, as is Sandhill in northeastern Missouri.   But I want to even include somewhat younger communities like Acorn (26) and Dancing Rabbit (22). I think that any community that is over twenty is worth studying, since so many communities never even reach ten.

Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary


What is the secret to their longevity?   One obvious thing to me is their size. Twin Oaks has ninety something adults (I often just say a hundred members but they have never reached that), East Wind, Ganas, and Dancing Rabbit all have in the neighborhood of sixty people, and Acorn keeps itself at around thirty.

Sandhill is the outlier here. It has never had more than ten adult members and often less. They are currently down to three adults and have put themselves in a reforming status. Things seem touch and go there, but I certainly wouldn’t count them out.

I found out that Acorn had been down to two members early in their history. I asked a long time member how they survived. He suggested it was due to two things: Twin Oaks and Ira Wallace.  Having a big, stable neighbor like Twin Oaks, I am sure was helpful, but having someone as tenacious and persistent as Ira, who is an amazing person, I believe, was essential.

Which brings me to a first factor in longevity: persistence, basically not giving up, even in the face of adversity. And with that, I would also add, having a commitment to the other people in the community. I have seen this modeled at Ganas and I am sure this is a big piece of why they have lasted so long.

Houses at Ganas

A third major piece is flexibility, or perhaps, adaptability. Allowing a community to change and evolve is key.  Both Twin Oaks and Ganas are quite different from when they started. I would say that there is an essential core that has never changed (for Twin Oaks, I would say, it is a belief in income-sharing and equality, for Ganas, a belief in the importance and healing power of feedback), but the communities grew and changed as people came and went and the community aged.  Interestingly enough both communities went through a similar process with their founders. Both Kat Kinkade (Twin Oaks) and Mildred Gordon (Ganas) were key in founding their respective communities, both left after many years because the community had changed in ways they didn’t like, and both returned to their communities to die.

So here are at least three important things we can learn from long lived communities: persist, even when things get hard, commit to each other, and figure out how to adapt while holding on to your key principles. These don’t guarantee success, but little in life does.

There are lots of new and young communities out there.  I’ve written about why communities fail and how fragile they are; now I am thinking about how communities can last.


Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  


  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community


  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish



What can we learn from lasting communities?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s