We had two naming parties to find a name for the new commune in DC. They both failed. Unlike naming a car or a rope machine, it actually matters that you get a good name out of a party, if you are naming your home. Naming parties tend to gravitate towards sillier or complex names. For example, the Mighty HaHas of TomorrowLand was the disputed result of the last Compersia party. But even this silly name did not go to waste completely, the Ivy City house which Compersia Community just moved out of is called TomorrowLand.
But the community itself needed a bigger name, and stronger name. I was quite satisfied with what they choose without the help of a naming party – Compersia. Derived from the word compersion, this name is a big ask. It’s about trying to let go of our jealousy and envy and be happy with those we care for being happy, even if our special connection is not exclusive.
The Compersia community has a new house. They moved out of Ivy City and now are in Crestwood (one of the proposed names was Bestwood). It is a much larger house, with a real yard and an ample basement play space. This basement space got named Bonkersville at the naming party, which seemed apt since Sappho, Meren, Zadek and Julian were boxing with oversized gloves for much of the evening.
I was asked to facilitate, which i really should take as a compliment, because both of the previous two meetings that i facilitated failed. We got about 50 suggestions from Bagel and The Situation to Emma’s Tea Room and Whitetop’s Castle.
There is an origin story to that last name. Whitetop was the gambling tzar of DC in the 50s thru 70s. Someone said running the numbers ended not long after this with the advent of the state sponsored lottery. He built this house in Crestwood, a quite suburban enclave beside a park, within the city limits of DC.
Perhaps 50 people participated in the naming party that i facilitated. In the first round they had all 50 choices and 6 yes votes and 3 no votes. Over half the list got eliminated this way. People added names in, but generally these did not make it to the next elimination round. Bougie’s Bugaloo did not make it to the 3rd round, (Bougie Galore is Jenny’s comic commune name), and we also dropped Neverland and the Lucky Heretics. Lucky was for gambling, and heretics because they don’t believe in private income. The last three names on the list were:
The House that Numbers Built
Technically, Asterix won, but only by a single vote after 4 rounds of eliminations. We agreed to call the Bike Shed, “Wheels Up,” and the Basement, “Bonkersville.” There already is a holy site dedicated to “Our Lady of Perpetual Container Shortage” which houses a giant four door refrigerator filled with well organized dumpster treasures.
But the name i think the house is going to go by is “Numbers” which is what folks will call “The House that Numbers Built”. It references Whitetop’s business success. It can quickly be abbreviated by a single #. Googles parent company is Alphabet, the Communes star model is Numbers.
We will see if this one sticks. It is a lovely place.
The 67th annual (previously biannual) Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) assembly was hosted by East Wind this year. In 1977, the very first FEC Assembly was held on East Wind’s land and forty years later both institutions stand as a testament to the durability of income-sharing and communal living. In mid March FEC delegates and people interested to visit East Wind traveled from Twin Oaks, Acorn, Sandhill, The Midden, and Sapling communities to review the state of the communes and plan for the upcoming year. Communities that wish to become full members of the FEC (known as ‘Communities in Dialogue’) that were in attendance included Stillwater Sanctuary/Possibility Alliance (La Plata, MO), Oran Mor (Wasola, MO), The Mothership (Portland, OR), Rainforest Lab (Forks, WA), Cambia (Louisa County, VA), Le Manoir (Quebec, Canada), and Ionia (Kasilof, Alaska). The Assembly consisted of five days of meetings, land tours, and social gatherings in the evenings. A number of topics were discussed, ranging from financial goals and better ways to support Communities in Dialogue to mediation workshops and how best to communicate the benefits of income-sharing.
The Assembly agenda flowed smoothly and a lot of ground was covered. The budget required a lot less time to finalize than last year and everyone was grateful for it. A new addition to the budget is ‘mini-grants’ which is a program that allows any member of a FEC community or Community in Dialogue to make a requests for small amounts of money ($50-$300) to make travel, education, and outreach opportunities become reality. The existing budget for full member scholarshipswas also approved and Joston of East Wind is receiving the first $500 grant for the budget year for an intensive permaculture training he will be attending next month right here in the Missouri Ozarks.
The FEC’s annual budget is paid for by member dues equal to 1% of net income for each full member community. In addition to access to the FEC funds for promoting the ideals income-sharing community, inclusion in the FEC also allows communities to become members of PEACHwhich is the catastrophic health insurance fund for East Wind and its sister communities.
The Assembly isn’t all meetings, of course. A tour of Oran Mor and a land walk at East Wind were some highlights of this year’s Assembly. Oran Mor is a Community in Dialogue that is about forty minutes from East Wind. They value living a low consumption life style and avoiding the use of fossil fuels. Last year, when East Wind ended its goat program the remaining goats were gifted to Oran Mor and they are healthy and happy. This year, in return, Oran Mor gifted East Wind with some of their ducks. Thanks Oran Mor!
This year the FEC accepted Compersia as a full member community. Compersiais an urban commune based outside of Washington DC. Steve, Compersia’s ever energetic and upbeat delegate, is excited to participate in outreach by getting people interested in income-sharing and communal living. He emphasized the fact that people with careers in an urban setting can mutually benefit from income-sharing and that communes don’t have to manifest in the form of ‘back to the land’ rural arrangements such as East Wind and Twin Oaks. Also during the assembly, Davi of The Mothership finalized a purchase of a neighboring house in Portland. They are interested in expanding and having the infrastructure for population growth. Urban and rural communes unite!
The Assembly was a great time to meet new people and strengthen the bonds between the FEC communities. Everyone can agree that East Wind was a generous host. Thank you to all the East Winders who served up delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners each day and made all our visitors feel welcome! As usual, the quality and abundance of food found in East Wind’s meals amazes everyone who visits. And of course, upon departure copious amounts of nut butters were distributed to be enjoyed by all of our sister communities. All in all, hundreds of pounds of almond, cashew, peanut, and sesame seed butter left East Wind’s warehouse to be consumed by our fellow communards across the continent. East Wind is grateful to be able to share such bounty. The next FEC Assembly will be held in Virginia on Acorn‘s land. Looking forward to it!
Last Friday Compersia, the first commune birthed with the help of the Point A Project, turned one year old. It’s been a year filled with joys and difficulties and a few close calls. Recently, responding to our frustration with the gap between our reality and our vision and the stubbornness with which some big important items seem to stay on our to-do list, Courtney, one of our members, gave us some perspective by noting that the commune is a living thing and only a year old. If it was a human we’d be thrilled at this point if it wasn’t pooping on itself and had mastered the art of eating solid food and crawling around. From that perspective, we’re doing pretty well, thank you very much. We’ve got our foundational policies written, we’ve added some new members, we’ve got money in the bank, and we’re building some deep and resilient relationships. And, much like a baby, the commune demands a lot of attention and care and not always at the most opportune times. But as it grows and develops we can see more and more clearly how awesome it will be when it’s fully grown and how all our hard work parenting it will pay off.
Some highlights from our first year:
Started the commune! Set up a legal entity, set up a group bank account, started pooling our income, our labor, and our resources.
Modified one of our member’s houses so it could fit most of us and our vital functions, host events, and host guests. It made a wonderful crib to hold us in our delicate first moments.
Started a video editing and media coop that currently supports one member and will hopefully grow into a multi-member commune business.
Another member started a handyman business.
Took on two new members to add to the four founders.
Had a couple weekend long retreats to work on plans and policy.
Hosted dozens of guests.
Hosted jam nights and game nights.
Started connecting with cooperative lawyers to lay the groundwork for a project to create an easily replicable model for urban communes.
Pursued and started negotiating on several potential buildings to buy.
Now, on the eve of our first birthday, and with a recently expanded membership, we’re moving all six adult members and all four kids into a new house and setting our sights on a new set of goals. But we’re doing it with the knowledge that we’re only a year old and if we don’t accomplish all our lofty dreams we won’t be that hard on ourselves. As long as we’re growing and thriving, learning and maturing we will beam with pride at our bouncing baby commune.
Truly, most communities, even co-housing communities which are sort of at the other end of the spectrum from income sharing communities, do some degree of sharing. However, most of the income sharing communities, by their very nature, do much more sharing than simply income.
Acorn also shares cars and bikes and tools and clothes, as does East Wind. And at new communes such as Cambia and Compersia the work of building the community is shared.
I have a button that I wear sometimes that says “Consume Less, Share More.” In the communes this type of radical sharing is a daily reality.
Folks from the DC and Virginia communes were very involved with the protests:
Christian and Paxus of Twin Oaks appreciate PETA’s big fuzzy suits.
Vegans GPaul of Compersia and Christian of Twin Oaks pose with PETA people.
Paxus of Twin Oaks and GPaul of Compersia rest after the disruption protests, while Steve of Compersia (only hand seen in picture) appreciates a good pun.
Residents and guests of the Keep, a cooperative house in Washington, DC, make signs in preparation for the Women’s March on Washington.
Steve of Compersia and Caroline formerly of Twin Oaks march in the Women’s March. Also Bryan Cahall of the http://extraordinaryrenditionband.com band marching to draw attention to Prison Liberation. Compersia hosted 3 from the band and it was delightful!
Residents, guests, and friends of the Keep, a cooperative house in DC, tell stories over food during a bunch following the Women’s March.
Residents, guests, and friends of the Keep join in a large post-protest Sunday brunch.
James of Point A NYC takes in the crowd at the Festival of Resistance Against Trump
A gaggle of Twin Oakers rest and eat dinner at Compersia after the Women’s March
More of Twin Oakers resting and eating dinner at Compersia after the Women’s March
One more photo of Twin Oakers at Compersia
Twin Oakers and Compersians participate in a blockade at the inauguration in solidarity with communities threatened by Trump and his administration.
Compersia and friends let loose after the inspiring Women’s March on Washington.
Kathryn of Compersia protests at Trump’s inauguration in solidarity with communities threatened by his administration.
Thanks very much for hosting Tom and me at Compersia! We learned so much from talking with each of you! And you were so friendly and open in how you included us in your community family while we were there!
We feel lucky to have met you, the pioneers of your new thriving income-sharing community. Learning from your experiences makes it far more likely that we’ll be able to participate in making a new income-sharing community in New York.
In gratitude for our time with you, we wanted to share the unexpected lessons we learned about Compersia when we visited you — lessons which might be helpful not only to us but also to others working on starting income-sharing communities:
The founding members of Compersia applied the membership process to themselves. No one was “grandfathered in” (which would have created two classes of family members). Instead, everyone went through the membership process.
The community formation process included intentional work on building trust and affinity, simultaneous with the work on building the structure of the community. The personal connections among Compersia members grew and deepened through clearnesses and transparency tools during the community formation process. All along, the personal connections were growing side-by-side with the community decisions.
Community members bonded around and stuck with a few fundamental principles — such as income-sharing, urban location, and FEC principles — together with additional important shared values whose implementation the members left open to work on together — such as community engagement, ambition, non-violence, feminism, and environmentalism. Additional details of the vision remained open so that prospective members could carve their own niches into the vision.
The pioneer Compersians engaged in a reflective process, consciously returning to basic principles, not a mechanical process about defining procedures in advance. The idea was to work together to implement principles, not to follow other communities cookie-cutter style.
Additional people became interested in Compersia for a variety of reasons. One approach to attracting others: Ignition first by figuring out what’s important to new additional potential members and showing how the commune will achieve that. Then remove individual barriers to joining.
While forming, Compersia enjoyed lots of support from multiple existing groups! The support included a paid worker for a year supplied by the Point A project and Acorn as well as free housing and food provided by The Keep. To start a commune, it takes a lot of material support and time and commitment to shared principles!
We’ve been asked what complaints we heard at Compersia, and we can’t remember hearing even one single complaint! How rare to find a group where no member feels a need to complain! It’s not that all the circumstances are perfect. Instead, the communication and support network is such that everyone seems to feel that their needs and feelings are respected. When issues arise, the community talks about them. At Compersia, we heard conversations about expansion, chores, and the communal house. The community choices were made by consensus and represented the intentions of the community members, upon taking each other’s feelings into account.
Compersia feels like a family. Income-sharing may help, but may not be the only way. The shared love and caring is inspiring. There’s far more than the sum of the parts. Compersians provide each other support to take risks and grow, individually and together. The sense of caring and love seems to increase through working together as a group to pursue shared principles and seems to extend beyond Compersians to genuine caring for those not yet inside the community.
Thanks so much to each of you! We had a wonderful time and learned a lot!