A video record from the Twin Oaks Communities Conference:
Here is the workshop and partial presentation schedule for the upcoming Twin Oaks Communities Conference. The below links are to blog posts on these elements. There is a posted full program (with short descriptions for every workshop are in the newly published program).
Saturday September 1st
9:30 to noon
1:30 to 3 PM
- FEC Panel
- Holistic Planning and Decision Making
- Could your community be 100% energy self sufficient
- Art as Strategy for Creating Community – Damanhur approach
- Creating Unity in the Communities Movement
4 to 5:30 PM
- POC Panel
- Why are you fundraising?
- Building Community thru Song
- Designing Community for Seniors
- Communities building cooperatives
Sunday September 2
9:30 to 11
- Diversity in Recruiting
- Ecovillage Design
- Consciousness in Community
- Surviving Exodus in Community
- Nomadic Communitarians
There is still time to register for this amazing event. Twin Oaks Community is hosting this event in central Virginia Aug 31st thru Sept 2. There is also great Labor Day (Sept 3) program at Cambia Community, less than one mile from the Twin Oaks Conference site.
One of the interesting new workshop topics for this years Twin Oaks communities conference (over Labor Day Weekend) is the Exodus Panel, which will be moderated by Taylor Kinniburgh, a member of the Baltimore Free Farm:
Panel Discussion on Surviving Exodus
Sunday, 9:30-11:00am, Registration Tarp
How can intentional communities survive a membership exodus? This workshop will carve out space for community members to share their experiences, learn from other communities, and develop strategies to overcome the challenges of member- ship overhaul. The panel will consist of experienced community leaders that have dealt with exodus to varying levels of success. Failure to deal with member exodus can lead to the collapse of a community, but it take more than recruiting new
members to take on this problem. Communities need to be self reflective about why the exodus took place and this panel hopes to guide participants in how to do that analysis.
Come with me on a thought experiment.
You knew it might happen. In the worst case the conflict within your community could blow things up seriously. Now several of your members are leaving and the future of your community is in doubt. Often people within the communities movement say “No one is indispensable” as a secular mantra for communities shifting to cover important jobs left vacant when an important member leaves. But when several people leave? Well, this is likely no longer a true maxim when the number departing is larger than one.
Certainly, some part of the response of the group left behind must be soul searching. “What did we do that was wrong? Could we have taken better care of the group? What have we learned from difficult circumstance and can we create new policies and practices to avoid it happening again?”
But after this important self reflection is completed, there will likely be a need to re-assess if the mission of the community is still the same after the exodus. It is possible that the new group of members have a somewhat (and potentially quite) different vision of the future community. While difficult work, this can be very satisfying and healing to the group remaining.
There is still time to register for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference over the labor day weekend (Aug 31 thru Sept 2) in central Virginia, 45 minutes from Charlottesville and 55 minutes to central Richmond or RSVP on Facebook
The most important part of the Twin Oaks Communities Conference is not the incredible collection of workshops. It is not the rich Open Space offerings. It is not even the Saturday night dance, which is reliably one of the best dances of the year at Twin Oaks.
The most important part is Meet the Communities.
For the first couple of hours of Saturday’s program, each of the communities present send up a representative or three to introduce their community to the whole group for 1 minute. There is a script of questions which representatives can answer, but there is a strong anarchist streak among many of these people and they often freestyle.
Then participants of the event mill around the collection of picnic tables where representatives of the different communities are present longer and more personal presentations. It is like speed dating, except it is better in every way. People can meet people who live in these 40 or 50 different communities and try to figure out if any of them are a good match.
I have no idea how many people precisely found the community they want to live in at each years Meet the Communities. What i do know is that some of the most important community recruitment each year happens at this conference and this is one of our better tools. If you have a community which is seeking new members, even if you can’t make the entire event, it makes sense to be there Saturday morning.
It might be just the most important place to meet new members for your community or your new home.
Pictures from Raines Cohen, Cohousing California, captions by GPaul Blundell
(Also see GPaul’s report on the conference)
The conference was at Terra Madre Gardens outside of Escondido, CA, all of 40 miles from the Mexico border. Hot and dry, succulents seemed to be having a grand old time and even the oak trees’ leaves had spikes like hollies as if to say “keep your thieving mitts off of my water!”
Welcome to the conference! Here’s an orientation board.
The folks at registration came up with a colorful way of communicating what you were seeking in an intentional community.
Much conversation was had over the delicious food cooked by the crew at Terra Madre Gardens.
Sky opens the conference on Friday night with some framing thoughts for the weekend ahead.
Alayha, the event’s MC (and occasional cosmic clown), gets the crowd warmed up before one of the workshops.
The dining area was always active with conversations large and small.
GPaul and Betsy share their thoughts on a panel at the conference.
by GPaul Blundell of Compersia Community
The Twin Oaks Communities Conference has been happening for decades at Twin Oaks in Central Virginia and every year bring together communitarians and communards, experts and students, founders and seekers from all over the communities movement. It is, without fail, an incredible and, for many people, transformative experience. There is a catch, though: it’s on the East Coast and it’s always on the East Coast (because it’s always at Twin Oaks). The further west you live the harder it is to get to and so it is hardest for the folks on the West Coast.
Three years ago, a solution was born: the West Coast Communities Conference! Hosted for the first two years at the Groundswell Institute in Northern California this year a new organizing team stepped up and moved the conference to Southern California just outside of Escondido. This year I had the good fortune to get to attend both communities conferences. In contrast to Twin Oaks, where it rained steadily for half the conference, at Terra Madre, the proto-community, organic farm, and event venue that hosted the West Coast Communities Conference, was sunny and dry as a bone. Instead of dense deciduous forest we were surrounded by bare scrubby hills built of sun bleached boulders.
But those are superficial differences. In many ways, the conferences were a lot alike. Both attracted a mix of community seekers and community veterans with a sprinkling of students, researchers, and people from outside the movement curious to look in. Both had lots of valuable workshops and panels and drew some big names in the communities movement. Both were great networking events, connecting existing communities with community seekers and sparking all manner of other valuable relationships and connections. Both mixed structured content with unstructured networking time and serious work with relaxed recreation.
There were differences, however. Twin Oaks is the oldest largest secular income sharing egalitarian commune in the US. Twin Oaks provides the basic infrastructure and support and does a lot of prep work and clean up but all the attendees of the conference pitch in to cook and clean and play with the kids and keep the whole event running smoothly. This keeps costs down and recreates the cooperative and collective effort that is the basis of communal culture. Terra Madre is a private farm and event venue. The staff there did all the food prep and serving and volunteer opportunities, though present, were more limited. It was interesting to watch the conference participants repeatedly ask the staff if they could help and get repeatedly rebuffed. One unfortunate effect of this was that the necessary ticket price for the WCCC was noticeably higher than the TOCC and a lot of people who would have liked to come ended up discouraged by or unable to pay the ticket price. How many were discouraged, of course, is impossible to tell and the price could likely never get low enough to not draw any complaints.
Another difference was in what sections of the communities movement were represented. The Twin Oaks Conference, which is co-sponsored by the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, is free to attend for any member of an FEC commune and most FEC communes send a small delegation most years. Additionally, being hosted at Twin Oaks means that a good share of Twin Oaks members will wander up to the conference at some point during the weekend. The end result is that the conference is crawling with communards and egalitarian income sharing communes are an inescapable presence, bordering on the conversational default, most years. The West Coast Conference this year was, of course, hosted at a venue that is not an intentional community (but might be one day) but was also primarily organized by volunteers from within the co-housing portion of the movement. The networks they reached out to were mostly co-housing networks, a couple co-housing networks were event sponsors, and many of the workshops were geared towards a co-housing audience. As such, the majority of attendees and the conversational default at this year’s WCCC was co-housing, not communes. In fact, out of about 60 speakers and attendees only Sky Blue and myself were currently living in an egalitarian commune (and we were both there as speakers and organizers for the event). That being said, there were a handful of egalitarian community oriented attendees and my workshop on the hows and whys of income sharing was both well attended and so popular that several people insisted I lead a follow up session during the open space portion of the conference. A few people left inspired and some hopeful connections were made.
I think that the general lesson here, and the lesson for the egalitarian communities movement specifically, is an unsurprising one. An event, like a community, is shaped by the people who organize it. No matter the stated goals or self-conception, the people who show up to make it happen will quite naturally bring their own perspectives and interests to bear on their work. If we want the West Coast Communities Conference to be more effective as an organizing nexus for egalitarian community we need to step up and devote our time and resources to making it happen. The promising news is that, both at the conference and on the travels around the West Coast before and after it, I saw copious evidence that people are hungry for solutions to the problems that egalitarian community addresses. There is interest in the ideas and experience that we have to offer and there are individuals and groups circling around and looking for an opportunity to get together and transform their lives. The soil is rich. If we attend to it, beautiful things can blossom forth.
A couple of weeks ago, Caroline (from the Midden) wrote on Commune Life about attending the Communities Conference and then visiting Acorn and Compersia. I also attended the Communities Conference and did some commune visiting. This is my report on the conference and spending time at the new communities of Mimosa and Cambia.
The Communities Conference is an amazing collection of people from various communities, people looking for community, and lots of workshops. My favorite part is the Saturday morning Meet the Communities event. This year there were lots of new communities that I learned about, many talking about income sharing, and some of which I hope that we’ll feature in upcoming posts.
After the conference, I hung out in Louisa. I’ve spent a bunch of time at Twin Oaks (and did more on this trip) as well as Acorn and have had several visits to Living Energy Farm. This year I decided to spend significant time at the two newer communities, helping out and learning more about them from being there. Here’s my report on them:
More than anything, Cambia is an experimental and educational community. This makes it sound a little like Living Energy Farm, but Cambia has a whole different flavor. Where LEF use unusual technologies to move past fossil fuels and demonstrate how we could move past their use, Cambia has set up a series of kid friendly (but adult interesting) hands on exhibits in their forest, to show things like how much land each American requires to live, how our carbon usage could be balanced, how the ground and water table work, and (on a very small scale) how to use various alternative construction techniques. (The last was in an exhibit called ‘Barbie’s Ecovillage’ which featured a timber framed doll house that you could create straw bale or cob walls for.)
The boat at Cambia
Cambia is a community that seems to attract academic types. Ella and Gil are lovely folks who are focused on how to educate others, especially children. (And they have one child, Avni, who also lives there.) Maximus, the newest member, is a grad student who is studying communities as an alternative to mainstream life, and using Cambia as a case study. And, former member Telos, was there visiting while I was there–and he is very interested in the social and political aspects of community.
One of the biggest things about Cambia is their willingness to try all sorts of things. There was the cute little pond they built to demonstrate how plant can clean water. I helped them work on the boat they bought to use as guest space. They seem to have endless ideas on how to repurpose everything.
Where Cambia is relatively new (two years old at this point), Mimosa is brand new. Mimosa took over the buildings and land of a commune that didn’t make it (Sapling). It’s located almost halfway between Twin Oaks and Acorn.
Me with Aurora of Mimosa–picture by Peggy Brennan
Mimosa is focusing on the work of agriculture, seed growing, herbalism, and activism. They only have a few members at this point and are trying to figure out their membership policies.
I got to hang out with them and help out. The place is beautiful and they are creating new spaces where people could stay.
I felt very welcomed at both Cambia and Mimosa and I was excited to learn the nitty-gritty of running a small new community.
Another picture showing the boat and the main house at Cambia, sent by Telos