Communal Cooperation

by Raven Cotyledon

I have sometimes described some of the communes as a combination of a housing co-op and a worker co-op.  There are certainly elements of both in the Virginia communes. In fact, if you buy Twin Oaks tofu you will see that Twin Oaks Community Foods describes itself as “A Worker-Owned Cooperative!”

 

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Twin Oaks Tofu label 

I have lived in three different Boston area co-op houses. Co-op houses (also known as collective houses–especially in NYC where there is something very different called cooperative apartments which are more like condos) are great, but communes involve even more sharing.  In fact, you could say that communes are an even more cooperative form of cooperative. 

Communes cooperate in almost every way I can think of.  Income-sharing, in particular, involves a lot of cooperation between the people who are doing it.  We cooperate in sharing the work of maintaining and cleaning where we live, in feeding each other, in planning together, and in supporting one another.  We care for each other in many ways and we depend on each other. 

Many co-ops are organized around the Seven Cooperative Principles, adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance. I believe that in many ways, communes meet or exceed all of these principles.

7-cooperative-principles

First, a voluntary and open membership. Voluntary, absolutely. Communes are not cults. No one will keep you there.  Open is a little more tricky. Communes, like co-op houses, involve living together. A consumer co-op is easy. Anyone should be able to join. Cooperative businesses have to be a little more selective–not everyone can do every job. Living together means you have to be able to live in your home with each person, so co-op houses and communes need to be more selective still. That said, there is a large push for diversity in the communes. Membership decisions are made about the ability to get along, not about a person’s race or religion or sexual orientation. 

Democratic member control–phrased in early documents as “One man, one vote.” Here the communes do a lot better than that.  They are even more democratic. First, they are open to all genders–not even just men and women, but trans folks, genderqueer, non-binary, two-spirit, and more.  And most communes don’t vote. The majority use consensus, which I believe is more democratic and more cooperative than voting. 

Members economic participation is next, called distribution of surplus in the older documents. This is where income-sharing communities really exceed and excel. Everyone in a commune shares in the economic surplus which is distributed as equally as possible. All the members of a commune get to participate economically as much as they want. 

The fourth principle is “Autonomy and Independence” which is absolutely part of the commune scene. This is the problem that the FEC faces. No one is in charge in the communes. This is the “Egalitarian” part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. 

 The fifth principle of the Cooperative Principles is “Education, Training and Information”.  This is as needed in the communes as it is in the co-ops. One of the biggest requests in the FEC budget is for one type of training or another. 

The sixth principle is “Cooperation among Cooperatives” and this is as desirable and sought after in the communes as it is with the co-ops.  In fact, this could be the very purpose of the FEC. 

Finally, “Concern for Community” seems almost too self evident in the communes whose very nature is about building community. 

7-Cooperative-Principles-1-1ukrmu5

All this is not to knock co-ops, but to point out that if you have done co-ops, especially co-op houses, and you want even more cooperation, maybe you should look at the communes.

____________________________________________________________________________

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! 

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Communities

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Thanks! 

 

Communal Cooperation

Status

by Raven Cotyledon

At the close of my final article on the Detailed FEC History, I wrote: “The current status of the FEC communities (as far as I know and subject to change with little or no notice): Full member communities–Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, and  Compersia; Re-forming communities–Sandhill and Mimosa; Communities in Dialogue–Oran Mor, The Mothership, Ionia, Rainforest Lab, Open Circle, Cambia, Le Manoir, East Brook Community Farm, and Cotyledon.”

What do these statuses mean? What is the difference between a Full community and a Community in Dialogue? What is a Re-forming community? And what is an Ally (or Allied) Community?  That’s what I want to explore here. (Warning: in great detail.)

Most of this information has been taken from the FEC website and more information can be found there. (Yes. As long as this is, I left out a bunch of things.)

From the section on Joining the FEC:  “The first step in becoming an FEC Community is to contact the FEC Secretary… The FEC Secretary is responsible for guiding you through the process, or connecting you with a delegate from another community to do so.

“There are six things that we expect from a community before applying for full membership in the FEC.

*  A member of your community completes a questionnaire, and sends out written information that you have about your community…  

* The members of your community make some kind of collective binding agreement, with a defined process for changing that agreement, that represents a written affirmation of the FEC’s seven basic principles.

* A representative requests for your community to officially become a Community-in-Dialogue with the FEC, at least one year before applying for full membership in the FEC.

* Members of your community develop and maintain an active relationship with the FEC or at least one FEC community by attending monthly conference calls, visiting other communities or doing labor exchange, written communication, attendance at our annual assembly, conferences attended or hosted by other FEC communities, or other forms of sharing.

* One or more delegates chosen by your community attends annual assemblies of the FEC.  A community can apply for membership in the FEC during the second assembly to which they send delegates.

* A representative of the FEC designated by the delegates visits your community, and co writes a report to the FEC and its member communities about your community and your adherence to FEC values.

* Consensus of the existing FEC communities is necessary to accept a new community, both as a Community-in-Dialogue and as a full member community in the FEC.

“For your community to become a full member in the FEC, delegates will evaluate your community on the basis of these requirements and criteria.  Once accepted the new community is granted full member rights and privileges from that point on.”

But, before we go into Full Membership Status, here’s a lot more on Communities in Dialogue.  The status of Community in Dialogue was created at the January, 1980 Assembly.

EastBrook Sign
East Brook is a Community in Dialogue 

 

From the section on Community-In-Dialogue Status:

“If a community is seeking FEC membership but is not yet at the point where the Assembly will approve its application, that community may apply for Community-in-Dialogue (CID) status. For a community to be accepted as a CID, the Assembly need only be convinced that the community is actively working toward meeting the membership criteria, and that there exists a mutual desire for cooperation between the community and the FEC.

“The Assembly shall not be obliged to accept a community as a CID, even if it is working toward meeting the membership criteria, if it is felt that the community in question is actively contradicting those criteria (e.g., using violence, being governed by a leader or minority, discriminating on any of the grounds outlined in the Federation’s basic principles).

“A Community-in-Dialogue shall:

1 Maintain an active relationship with at least one FEC community through activities such as visiting or labor exchange, written communication, attendance at conferences, etc.;

2 Attend FEC assemblies if they so desire, and participate in discussions on a limited basis;

3 Pay an annual base tax of $100, plus $5 per working member.

4 Be eligible to participate in FEC projects specifically designated by the Assembly (e.g., conferences, training programs, etc.) on the same basis as members, but with the understanding that FEC members receive space priority… and

5 Have their status reviewed annually by the Assembly.

A Community-in-Dialogue shall not:

1 Vote upon or ratify decisions of the Assembly; or

2 Be eligible for transportation subsidies without approval.”

TOOT1
Twin Oaks is a Full Member Community 

From the section on Full Membership:

“CID status essentially has been the category we hold interested communities in while they are working to meet all the criteria for full membership. There is no fixed limit on the amount of time a community can have CID status; presumably, as long as the delegates see no reason to revoke that status, they can be CID as long as it takes until they can be accepted as full members.”

“The only guidelines the FEC Constitution gives about new communities joining is that they must meet the seven core principles of the FEC. The decision is made through normal decision making structure we establish for all our decisions.”

“Communities desiring full membership in the FEC should:

  1. Be a Community in Dialogue for at least one year, and meet the requirements for communities in that category, such as attending Assemblies, participating in FEC discussions, having at least one site visit, etc.

 

  1. Have the seven FEC principles as core values of the community in their Bylaws (or equivalent fundamental documents). This does not have to be a word for word copy…  but the community should be able to demonstrate that those principles are part of the community’s written core values.

 

  1. Be actually following the above seven principles.

 

  1. Have group ownership of all land, property, and other major resources.

 

  1. Have a detailed income-sharing model in place, preferably already functioning for some time before applying for full membership.

 

  1. Appear to be sufficiently stable, in terms of population, economics, and other relevant factors.

 

  1. Have, at minimum, three members, none of whom are in a romantic relationship or family.

 

  1. Not have different tiers or levels of membership, or significantly different privileges based on membership length, beyond the provisional to full member process. Once people are full members, they should have the same basic level of political and economic equality.

 

  1. Not have any blanket restrictions on people joining based on sex, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other similar discriminatory categories.

 

  1. Have systems in place to provide for the health and medical needs of all its members up to at least the requirements of PEACH. Since FEC membership guarantees automatic membership in PEACH, and since one of the presumptions of PEACH is that member communities are taking care of the health needs of its members up to the catastrophic level where PEACH kicks in, this is something we need to evaluate.

 

  1. Be able to address a variety of less tangible factors that the delegates believe are necessary. There are likely going to be many situations where a community seems to be in a somewhat borderline situation with some of the above criteria, or there may be issues about things that we can’t think of in advance.”
Aviva1
Ganas is an Allied Community 

The Allied Community or Ally Community status was created at the September, 2004 Assembly.  There isn’t a lot written about this status on the FEC website, but if you look at the Our Communities page, you will see Baltimore Free Farm, Ganas, Living Energy Farm, Terra Nova, and the Walnut Street Co-op listed as Ally Communities.  From what I have heard, this status was created at the request of Ganas, which is not (by their own admission) an egalitarian community, but has a long relationship with Twin Oaks and the FEC and wanted some status within the FEC.  Terra Nova and the Walnut Street Co-op also have had a long history with the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. When Living Energy Farm realized that they were not going to be able to become income-sharing, at least for a long time yet, they requested this status. And, honestly, Baltimore Free Farm is on the page in that status because there is no income-sharing group there now, but there are people there that hope they will in the future. This is not an official status for them. They are literally there because I didn’t want to completely take them out since they might return in the future.

img_20160624_172209361
Sandhill is a Re-forming Community 

The Re-forming Community status is the newest status having just been created at the November/December, 2017 Assembly.  It was created to address difficulties with two full communities which had dropped down to only a few folks, less than the required amount: Mimosa (formerly Sapling, which Acorn had put a lot of energy into) and Sandhill (one of the oldest communities in the FEC).  It is so new that there isn’t yet a section on the Our Communities page (even though there is supposed to be one).

From the section on Re-forming Community Status:

“Becoming a Re-forming Community is a voluntary action taken via the full member community’s own internal decision making process, although members of other communities may gently encourage them to consider the idea.

“Re-forming Communities will be given a separate section on the web site, and are encouraged to include a paragraph in their long description explaining why they are currently a Re-forming community.

“The FEC will make special efforts to assist Re-forming Communities in returning to the principles of The FEC.

“Re-forming Communities may elect to begin paying dues equal to those of a Community in Dialog and their rights and privileges will be reduced to those of a Community in Dialog. Re-forming Communities may choose to continue paying Full Member dues and retain the rights and privileges of full member communities. The delegates may check in about this at each assembly.

“In order to regain their status as a full member of the FEC, a Re-forming Community applies in the same way a CID applies for full membership, but the application can be made at the FEC Assembly or on a Conference call. Re-forming Communities who have elected to reduce their dues to the CID level must pay the dues that would have been due during the current fiscal year had they remained a full member community.

“Full Member communities who experience major turnover may find the experience of re-forming to be more like starting a new community than coming back into alignment with The FEC principles. Such a community may also elect, by their own decision making processes, to change their status to Community in Dialog by submitting a CID application.”

If you have read all the way to here, I am sure that you are truly interested in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.  You may be wondering about the Seven Principles mentioned several times here. Rejoice has promised to write seven posts about these principles, analyzing each of them. I look forward to publishing them here in the future.

Meanwhile, again, if you have any questions about any of these statuses, I suggest that you go to the relevant section on the FEC website (follow the link) where there is even more information, or ask in the comments.

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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:  

Communities

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

Communards

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

Status

A Detailed FEC History: Part Five, the Tens and Teens

by Raven Cotyledon

(This is the fifth and final part of a series.  Part one is here, part two is here,  part three is here, and part four is here.)

This post should bring us up to date on the History of the FEC and its Assemblies, concluding with last year’s Assembly.

This decade began with two Assemblies, one in March of 2010, and one in November. Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, and the Emma Goldman Finishing School attended both of them. Twin Oaks reported a population of 92, East Wind 50, and Acorn 30.  These are close to their current populations. The March Assembly was also attended by a community named Patchwork. The only other note was that “Villages in the Sky” was discussed.

The November Assembly brought two new communities, both of which had something different to offer.   The Midden was an urban community, in Columbus, Ohio, very much on the model of Emma Goldman. Living Energy Farm was a rural commune in Louisa, Virginia (home to Twin Oaks) but was focused on being off the grid and a demonstration of fossil fuel free living. Both communities were exciting to the FEC and both have, in their own way, ended up moving away from income-sharing.

cropped-cropped-wider-header (1)

The 2011 Assemblies followed the same March and November pattern as the previous year.  Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, and the Emma Goldman Finishing School again attended both Assemblies, along with Living Energy Farm (LEF). I have nothing else on the March Assembly, but the November Assembly brought back The Midden, along with Skyhouse and two new communities, the Possibility Alliance and Camp Pleasant.

Camp Pleasant was another one time Assembly attendee, but the Possibility Alliance was something else.  Also known as the Stillwater Sanctuary, they made low tech LEF look extravagant. LEF uses small scale electric power, but the Possibility Alliance didn’t use electricity at all. The Possibility Alliance had a telephone, but no computers (or TVs–they had a “no screen” policy) and, of course, no website. But it wasn’t hard to find them, with articles about them all over the web. Also, their method of income-sharing was operating under the “gift economy”, where they only took what was given to them and shared the excess.

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Planting the first year at Living Energy Farm

Also for the November, 2011 Assembly, in addition to the populations staying the same at Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Acorn, Emma Goldman reported having 10 folks, Skyhouse 4, and The Midden 6.  And the reported topic that Assembly was something called the “league of activist communities”.

There was only one Assembly in 2012, in March. It was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, The Midden, Red Earth Farms (for the last time at an Assembly), and CRIC House, a new community in California that wouldn’t last long, but actually lead to another community in Louisa.  While most communities that reported their population stayed the same, Acorn dropped down to 27 and Emma Goldman down to 8. It’s also notable that Skyhouse, which had been a stable little sub-community in Dancing Rabbit ecovillage, was now gone, having lost three of their four folks and the remaining member decided not to start over again.  

There was also only one Assembly in 2013, in April. Attendees were Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, The Midden, CRIC House, and the Possibility Alliance. Acorn now reported 28 folks, but The Midden dropped down to 3. It was also reported that the Emma Goldman Finishing School was not fully income-sharing, and this was their last Assembly.

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The Emma Goldman Finishing School

And, again, there was but one Assembly in 2014, in March, but it was a packed and busy one and I was there.  It was held at Acorn and attendees included Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Living Energy Farm, Sapling (which was a short lived offspring of Acorn), the Baltimore Free Farm (a scruffy punk anarchist collective), The Midden, CRIC House, the Possibility Alliance, and Willow Vale Farm (the would-be community that I was representing). Willow Vale never got the land that they wanted and I soon left the project for complicated reasons, but they eventually bought land in another place with another name.  This was the decade where several community attempts crashed and burned and new communities came out of them. (The transformations will become apparent as we go along.)

The 2015 Assembly was again in March. There was a good attendance: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, The Mothership, Living Energy Farm, Sapling, the Baltimore Free Farm, The Midden, the Possibility Alliance, Living Tree Alliance (yet another one time Assembly attendee), and Oran Mor were all there.  CRIC was gone (but wait). Living Energy Farm reported a population of 5, Sapling also 5, and Oran Mor 3.

By 2016, the communes movement seemed to be taking off. Attendees at the March Assembly were: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, The Mothership, Living Energy Farm, Sapling, the Baltimore Free Farm, The Midden, Cambia (the new Louisa community founded by folks from CRIC), Ionia (a community in Alaska), Compersia (in Washington, DC), Oran Mor, Sycamore Farm (in southern Virginia, created by some folks from Twin Oaks), Open Circle (also in Virginia, but north of Louisa), Quercus (in Richmond, Virginia, founded by folks from Acorn), and Le Manoir (in rural Quebec).  Cambia reported a population of 2, Ionia 30 (they had been around a long time before they discovered the FEC–or vice versa), Compersia 6, and Le Manoir 6. The movement appeared to be exploding, but some of these communities weren’t going to last long.

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Welcome to Cambia

By the next year (2017), two of these communities were gone.  For complicated reasons, neither Sycamore Farm nor Quercus made it. Living Energy Farm and the Baltimore Free Farm, while both continuing on, stopped trying to do income-sharing. In 2017, there were again two Assemblies.

The March Assembly still had a lot of communities at it: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, The Mothership, Sapling, the Baltimore Free Farm, The Midden, Cambia, the Possibility Alliance, Ionia, Compersia, Oran Mor, Rainforest Lab (a new community in rural Washington state), Open Circle, and Le Manoir were there.  The notes list three things happening: minigrants were created (these are small amounts of money–$500 or less–given to communities to pay for things like workshops, travel, infrastructure, etc), “Commune Life blog begins” (they noticed!), and “conflict resolution team ideas” were discussed.

The November Assembly had much the same crew but with some significant changes. The Midden and the Possibility Alliance were gone.  The Midden transformed itself into a cooperative house and the founders of the Possibility Alliance eventually moved to Maine. Sapling transformed itself into Mimosa.  It was the same place but all the people who started it were gone and it was taken over by the folks who tried to start Sycamore Farm. There was also one new community, East Brook Community Farm in rural New York, started by the folks who tried to start Willow Vale Farm. (As I said, new communities were emerging from the wreckage of the old.)

There was again one Assembly in 2018,in November. It had basically the same crew as the November, 2017 Assembly. Populations reported on the chart were Twin Oaks 92, East Wind 50, Acorn 28, Mimosa 2, Cambia 2, Ionia 30, Compersia 6, Oran Mor 3, Rainforest Lab 2, and Le Manoir 6.

The chart ends there but there was an Assembly last December. Fortunately, I was there. It was filled with controversy (as I suspect many others were), and due to that, the site was changed at the last minute from East Wind to Oran Mor (although many of us stayed at East Wind and they provided strong support for the Assembly). Present were folks from Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, The Mothership, Cambia, Ionia, Compersia, Rainforest Lab, Oran Mor, Le Manoir, East Brook Community Farm, and Cotyledon (the new community in New York City, which I was representing).  Folks from Sandhill also tried to make it, but they had children with them and since there was a stomach virus which swept through many of the delegates, they decided not to risk it. In spite of the controversies (and there were a bunch of them), we passed a budget for the FEC (something that apparently didn’t happen the previous year) and began forming teams in the hope of expanding the leadership of the FEC.

Instagram video of the 2018 attendees

The current status of the FEC communities (as far as I know and subject to change with little or no notice): Full member communities–Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, and  Compersia; Re-forming communities–Sandhill and Mimosa; Communities in Dialogue–Oran Mor, The Mothership, Ionia, Rainforest Lab, Open Circle, Cambia, Le Manoir, East Brook Community Farm, and Cotyledon.

Some takeaways from all this history.

Obviously, communities come and go. What’s more interesting is that the people who start communities often try again. Cambia was started by CRIC House folks. Sapling and Sycamore Farm both fell apart, but the folks who started Sycamore Farm took over Sapling and remade it as Mimosa. The folks who tried to start Willow Vale Farm eventually got East Brook Community Farm going. I have been to three different Assemblies representing three different communities: Common Threads (1996), Willow Vale (2014), and Cotyledon (2018).  There are communitarians who are passionate and don’t give up easily.

Also, a bunch of the communities that look like they have left are actually still around, just no longer income-sharing or wanting to be part of the FEC. Or wanting a different status in the FEC. The Ally Communities status was created to keep a connection with communities like Ganas and Living Energy Farm. I also know of at least one community that most people thought was long gone which has recently approached the FEC, possibly wanting to return.

The FEC itself is an interesting organization. I have written a bit about what it is and isn’t and how difficult it is to keep all these communities connected. I know that in this series I have focused on the Assemblies, but that’s what I have the information about and that’s where most of the decisions were made.  As always, if you have more information, feel free to share it in the comments.

I will probably write an addendum featuring the 2019 Assembly later this year, and maybe, if I am still around and Commune Life is still around, in another decade or so, I will write the FEC history of the Twenties. Meanwhile, for a shorter, more abbreviated and interactive version of FEC History, watch the video Maximus put together.

____________________________________________________________________________

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:  

Communities

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

Communards

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

A Detailed FEC History: Part Five, the Tens and Teens

FEC TV

from the Commune Life Instagram site

FEC TV

A Detailed FEC History: Part Four, the ‘Oh-oh’ Decade

by Raven Cotyledon

(This is part four of a series. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here. Note the warning that this is for commune geeks.)

The millennium began (or perhaps ended, to be precise) with the April, 2000, Assembly. Participants seemed to be Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, and Skyhouse. Twin Oaks reported a population of 76, East Wind 50, Sandhill 5, and Acorn 16.

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Jolly Ranchers, Terra Nova, and Tekiah all still seemed to be part of the FEC but didn’t appear  to have made it to this Assembly. Topics discussed at the 2000 Assembly included Paxus proposing a software co-op, another proposal (unclear who from) for an FEC video project, and something about East Wind being less engaged in the FEC.

There were two Assemblies in 2001. The first one was in April and was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, and Skyhouse. It was reported that Tree was no longer at Acorn but was still serving as the FEC secretary.  (Tree Bresson is a facilitator and consensus expert who was the FEC secretary for many years, even when no longer living in an FEC commune.  Rejoice, the current FEC secretary, remarked on this at the last FEC assembly.) It was also mentioned that Laird was absent. (Laird Schuab is community and facilitation consultant who lived for many years at Sandhill and was also the long time Executive Secretary of the Fellowship for Intentional Communities–the FIC, often confused with the FEC.) And, finally, there was a note that Common Threads was no longer a Community in Dialogue. (Sadly, Common Threads, a community that I helped form and lived at, dissolved in the summer of 2000. We referred to it as our own Y2K problem.)

There was a second Assembly in December of 2001, attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, and Acorn, as well as two new communities, Aspenwood and Heathcote.  Apparently, Heathcote became a Community in Dialogue at that Assembly.

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Heathcote in October of 2001

2002 seemed a banner year for Assemblies. There were three, in May, July, and December. The May Assembly was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Aspenwood, and Heathcote. There were no notes about what actually happened at this Assembly.

The July Assembly was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, and Skyhouse. The main topic of discussion seems to have been PEACH, the umbrella health insurance project of the FEC. At that point, the worth of PEACH was listed as $400,000. The members of PEACH were listed as Twin Oaks, Acorn, East Wind, Jolly Ranchers, Kindness House (the first time I have heard of it), Sandhill, Skyhouse, and Terra Nova.  

The December Assembly was very well attended, featuring Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, and Emerald Earth. (I will have to say that I am impressed that Beacon Hill House and the Jolly Ranchers made to all three Assemblies that year, since both of them are out in Seattle on the west coast and most of the Assemblies took place in Virginia or Missouri.)  The only note from the Assembly was that Beacon Hill House wanted a stronger social justice focus. (I will add a personal note about Meadowdance. When I visited them, early on, I heard that they were opposed to the FEC income-sharing philosophy. Then they joined the FEC. Later they left, saying it was a big mistake. Like any community, I think that Meadowdance had different people in it with different opinions. Apparently, the direction they went in depended on who held sway.)

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There was only one Assembly in 2003, held in May. It was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, and ecofarm. (Apparently ecofarm was another one time Assembly visitor.)

There were two Assemblies in 2004, one in May and one in September.

The May Assembly was packed: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School (formerly Beacon Hill House), the Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, shivalila (this is the first of only two Assemblies that they attended), Terra Nova, Heathcote, Oran Mor (the first Assembly for this small but long term FEC member–formed by four ex-East Winders), Tekiah, and Ganas. The agenda seemed packed as well.  They discussed racism in the FEC, talked about creating an income-sharing starter kit, talked about questions of the FEC as a mediator (none of these things for the last time). Violence at East Wind was discussed. “Sorrel and Matt identified three negative patterns at EW: unwanted sexual attention, alcohol abuse, and yelling/volatile verbal exchanges.” Facilitation training was talked about. And there was a note that Tree was paid $2000 for 200 hours of work.

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One of the buildings at Oran Mor 

The September, 2004, Assembly was also fairly well attended: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, the Jolly Ranchers, Aspenwood, shivalila (for the second and last time), Heathcote, Oran Mor, Tekiah, Phoenix Ranch (another two Assembly attendee), and Springtree (who last showed up in April of 1989).  Some of these communities were in trouble. While Twin Oaks and East Wind remained stable at 76 and 50 members, Acorn went from 16 members at the May Assembly to 3 members. (Note, the rapidity of the change is probably more a function of how it was reported. I will have more to say on this later.)  The Jolly Ranchers also reported 3 members and Tekiah reported 2. The notes said it clearly. Jolly Ranchers were “dissolving” and Tekiah was “failing”. East Wind’s alcohol problem was discussed, along with something called “commune on a bus”. The ‘allied community’ status was also created at this Assembly. Although Ganas wasn’t there, I am pretty sure that it was created for them.  Ganas was never an ‘egalitarian’ community (something they are quick to say), but they have had a long relationship with the FEC, especially with Twin Oaks. This status allows them to remain in relationship but makes it clear that they are not interested in pursuing full membership (which is the direction Communities in Dialogue are supposed to be going).

The August, 2005, Assembly (the only one listed for that year) was also well attended, with Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, Terra Nova, Heathcote, Ganas, Phoenix Ranch, and Red Earth all listed as being there. Both Jolly Ranchers and Tekiah are no longer on the chart, so apparently neither of them made it.  It’s interesting that Red Earth shows up for the first of several times. (It’s a homesteading community, with each homestead organized differently–although one or two of them are income-sharing, I can’t see why the whole community would be represented.) In spite of the large attendance at the Assembly, there were no topics listed as being discussed.

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Dandelion, an income-sharing sub-community of Red Earth Farms 

2006 had two Assemblies, one in January and one in July. The January Assembly featured Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Alpha, which I am assuming meant Alpha Farm. The anti oppression clause was discussed.

The July attendees were almost the same, except Alpha (or Alpha Farm) wasn’t there. The only note was that Tigger became the treasurer, which is noteworthy because he only recently left that position.

There were two Assemblies in 2007 as well, in January and June. Both were attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Oran Mor. The only notable differences were that Echowood also attended the June Assembly and there was a note from the January Assembly that Aspenwood had closed.

The notes for 2008 are confusing. The columns on the spreadsheet that I am getting most of this information from are for February, 08, followed by January, 05, followed by November, 08. I am going to ignore the January 05 entries. Another confusing thing is that the Twin Oaks population was listed as 76 for June of 2007 and 92 for February, 2008, a rather rapid increase. (The fact that the listed population of Acorn goes from 3 as of March, 2009, to 30 in March of 2010, makes me even more suspicious. I think they must keep listing the same population until someone tells them that it has changed.)  Both February and November list Twin Oaks (with its now larger population), East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Red Earth as attending, with Heathcote being at the February Assembly (their last Assembly) and Oran Mor and Echowood being at the November Assembly. No topics were listed for the February Assembly, but there seemed to have been a discussion about the expansion fund at the November Assembly.

Finally, there was an Assembly in March of 2009, attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and two one-time attendees, the 529 Collective and Teaching Drum.  There were no notes about what was discussed.

Which brings us to the current decade, what I am calling the Ten and Teens Decade.  That will be the final installment of this series, next month!

As always, if you were a part of this history, or know information about this period, and want to add or correct, please let us know in the comments.

____________________________________________________________________________

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:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
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  • Twin Oaks Community

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  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
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  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
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  • Magda schonfeld
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  • Em Stiles
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw

Thanks!

 

 

A Detailed FEC History: Part Four, the ‘Oh-oh’ Decade

Herding Cats to Network Communities

by Raven Cotyledon
cats-lp

I have been posting, monthly, a detailed history of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.  (Here’s parts one, two, and three. Part four will come out in early May, probably on May 13th.)  Looking over old posts, I realized that I have never written a post just about the FEC.

It’s probably easier to start by talking about what the FEC is not.  The Federation of Egalitarian Communities is not, as I have said, a governing body.  It does not tell any of the communes what to do. It cannot police them, or make policies for them, or organize them in any way.

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities exists to connect the communes, to facilitate communication and transportation between them, and to help work out labor exchanges. It also funds some activities that the individual communities can’t or won’t and tries to support new and/or small communes and holds regular assemblies.  And really that’s about it.

 

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Rejoice, Cat Wrangler in Chief

Unfortunately, as I have pointed out, communities are very imperfect places. And, when there is stuff going on in individual communes that people don’t like, they sometimes approach the FEC to step in.  And since the FEC has no authority over any of its member communities, not a lot happens. Which can lead to some frustrated people.

The communes are a lot like cats.  Each of them is different and each has a unique way of working.  (I once heard someone ask one of the founders of the umpteenth commune in the Louisa, VA area why they were starting yet another income-sharing community. The answer was that this was a different flavor of income-sharing community.)  While I think that the differences between the communes is precious, it can sometimes lead to tension.

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An early FEC assembly

It isn’t as if any of these difficulties are new or there aren’t people trying to work on these problems. At the last FEC assembly, we talked about creating a team to deal with conflict and mediation as well as a different team to respond to reports of harm or abuse. But the reality is that communes are very busy places and intentions often don’t lead to lasting initiatives. Without at least a few people with the time, energy, and enthusiasm to make sure that these things happen, it may take a good while before either team actually meets and gets working.

In the meanwhile, the FEC has monthly calls to keep communication open, figure out what activities can be funded, and where and when the next assembly will be.  The calls give the delegates from the member communities a chance to hear what is happening at the other communes. And the FEC also supports Commune Life. We have become one of their projects.

As I said last week, the communes are part of a worldwide movement, something that I want to see encouraged and grown.  By keeping the communes connected, hard as that is sometimes, the FEC is helping make that happen.

          ____________________________________________________________________________

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:  

Communities

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

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  • 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
  • William Kadish
  • Em Stiles
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw

Thanks!

Herding Cats to Network Communities

A Detailed FEC History: Part Three, the 1990s

by Raven Cotyledon

(This is part three of a series. Part one is here and part two is here.)

In 1995 I helped found a community that became in dialogue with the FEC. So the FEC history of the nineties is more personal for me because I was involved and remember details, not only about our community’s involvement (we were Common Threads), but also what was going on for other communities at the time.

It was a busy decade, with lots of communities popping in and out. Our community lasted five years. Just after it fell apart, I saw an article in Communities Magazine that suggested five years was the average lifespan of a community. (I plan to publish a piece next week about longer lasting communities.) So here is my detailed history of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, Part Three, focusing on the 1990s and starting with the year 1990.

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1990  There were two Assemblies held that year, one in May and one in November. It seems like the May Assembly was held at Krutsio.   Metanokit dropped membership because they were no longer income-sharing and Apple Tree was absent. (In his Phylogenetic History of the FEC video, Maximus points out that Metanokit eventually becomes a summer camp and workshop business.) The good news at that Assembly was that the PEACH fund then held $60,000. The Ganas community attended the November Assembly, but Dandelion dropped membership and it seems that Apple Tree did as well. Twin Oaks listed its population as 65, East Wind reported 40, and Sandhill 7.  Ira Wallace made an impassioned speech at the November Assembly where she said, “I’d like to see us participate in a non threatening way with people who are really different… To change our major inflow of white, ‘middle class’ people, it will take things that not everyone wants to do, but which the FEC theoretically supports. Having contact with other communities not qualifying or ‘not’ interested in FEC membership. It’s not our differences but our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences, that really comes up for me. I think being around different people will challenge us.”

1991   There was one Assembly in November, but it was very well attended. Besides Twin Oaks (population then 76), East Wind (45), Sandhill (9), Krutsio, and Ganas, Veiled Cliffs (population 7), Tekiah (5), Moon and Stars Farm, Community Evolving, Alpha, and the Communes Network all apparently were there. Sandhill was certified organic and the Nashoba building was completed at Twin Oaks. Someone also noted that Pam joined Twin Oaks. (Tekiah, which joined that year, was in Floyd, VA, and apparently was home to several former Twin Oakers.)

1992     This was an important year. There were two Assemblies (April and November). The April Assembly was sparsely attended (only four communities were listed), but the delegates listed the reasons  communities fail and talked about Twin Oaks considering splitting. Twin Oaks, indeed, split, in the sense that it gave birth to a new community. A core group was formed at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference and with the help of a large loan from Twin Oaks and a lot of assistance from the FEC, Acorn came into being, just seven miles down the road from Twin Oaks. The November Assembly was very well attended, including Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Veiled Cliffs, north woods community, Community Evolving, Kerista, Krutsio, and Tekiah.

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Acorn in 1993–note Ira Wallace in the middle back and Kat Kinkade on the far right

There didn’t seem to be an Assembly in 1993.

1994     There was one Assembly that year, in November.  Attending were Twin Oaks (population 76), East Wind (50), Sandhill (5), Acorn (16), Ganas, and Tekiah (2). It was noted that the nutbutter warehouse was completed at East Wind.

1995     There was an April Assembly that year, with Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, and Tekiah attending. There were no notes left.

1996    This was a busy year. There were two Assemblies in May and December. In May, the Assembly was held at Tekiah and the FEC celebrated its 20th anniversary.  In December, Krutsio left and Terra Nova came in, and Dancing Rabbit and Common Threads became Communities in Dialogue. Dancing Rabbit folks were being housed at Sandhill. It was noted that Dancing Rabbit was not planning to be an income-sharing community, but would contain Skyhouse, with 6 adults, that would do income-sharing.  The Heartwood building was completed at Acorn and the tofu business at Twin Oaks was reported as being stable.  (Common Threads was, as I said, a community that I helped form, and I attended the December Assembly, which was held at Twin Oaks.  I think that it was my first time visiting there.)

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Skyhouse

1997     It looked like there were three Assemblies that year, in June, October, and December. Tekiah was absent at the June Assembly, and in October it was reported that Terra Nova was no longer income-sharing (although they continued to attend the Assemblies), and Shakti reported doing outreach at the Rainbow Gathering. There was also a discussion about violence at the October Assembly. At this point, Skyhouse was the Community in Dialogue attending the Assemblies. (The original intention of Dancing Rabbit was to be a community formed of several sub-communities.  Skyhouse was the only sub-community that emerged. Dancing Rabbit eventually filled up with families and houses where individuals lived.)

1998     There was only one Assembly, in April. Two new communities attended, Beacon Hill House and the Jolly Ranchers, in Seattle.  At this point, the FEC was dealing with a new problem. Up until now, all the FEC members were rural communes. With Common Threads in Cambridge, MA, and Beacon Hill House and the Jolly Ranchers in Seattle, the FEC had urban members, and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.  (It was also noted that Acorn community lacked the funds to attend the Assembly that year.)

1999         Again, only one Assembly, this one in May.  There was no other information listed for that year, not even who attended.

And with that, the nineties end. Next month, the ‘Oh-oh’ decade.

____________________________________________________________________________

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:

Communities

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

Communards

  • 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

Thanks!

 

A Detailed FEC History: Part Three, the 1990s