A Diversity of Communities

by Raven

Last week, we published a piece on two income sharing systems called “Allowance Versus Box of Money” (which I’ve also heard called Dual and Unitary income sharing systems). Although I thought it was a really interesting article, I had a couple of difficulties with it.

One was that it seemed to claim that all income sharing came in “in two broad flavors”. I know of a couple of communities in dialogue in the FEC (the Possibility Alliance/Stillwater Sanctuary and Rainforest Lab) that are exploring using a gift economy exchange system, which involves neither an allowance or a box of money. The article also suggested that the box of money approach was the “more radical solution”. As someone who helped create an income sharing community, I found the allowance method an elegant solution to what we were trying to achieve. Instead of trying to figure out which is the ‘more radical’ approach, I think that it’s useful to know that there are at least three different ways to share income–probably more. (I heard someone talk about ‘punk income sharing’ where it’s not hard to share income if there isn’t any to share.)

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I think one of the main reasons for creating new communes, is (as I also heard someone say) to create ‘new flavors’ of communal living. This is why there are five different income sharing communities in Louisa County, VA.

I think it’s important that there are many options for income sharing, that some communes are high structure (say Twin Oaks) and some communes are low Diverse3structure (say Acorn), that there are communities that approach a middle class lifestyle and communities (like Living Energy Farm and the Stillwater Sanctuary) that are already preparing for life beyond fossil fuels. I’ve heard some folks talking recently about communities of people of color. I’m not threatened by this, any more than I’m threatened by women’s communities. And as much as I’m an advocate for egalitarian, income sharing communities, I’m well aware and even happy that this is only a small percentage of all the communities out there–there are co-operative houses, cohousing communities, ecovillages, hybrid communities of all kinds, and many varieties of spiritual communities, to name the most common ones in the Communities Directory.

Again, we’re creating more options for people, not less. And I’m well aware that not everyone wants to live in community. The point is that I think there should be all kinds of communities (and particularly income sharing communities) for those that are looking for them, because different people will do better in different communities, just like the ‘box of money’ approach will work better for some communities, and the ‘allowance’ approach for others, and using a ‘gift economy’ for still others.

As David from las Indias said, in an article on diversity that we published a year ago, “The kind of diversity many of you are concerned about … will come by itself, but probably not to every community, but to the network we must build together.” While diversity within communities is important, I think diversity among communities is crucial.

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A Diversity of Communities

Photos from the Rainforest Lab for Cultural Transformation

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Our goats foraging in the forest. With no fences, they get the best wild diets while we get exercise chasing the herd.
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The goat herd on the move along the Bogachiel River, heading out to forage for the day.
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View from Reade Hill, an old-growth hemlock and fir ridge overlooking the Bogachiel River valley and our home.
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The wild Bogachiel River on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. The river we live on feeds and nourishes our bodies and souls, and often threatens to wash our neighborhood away!

To milk the goats, we remove our skivvies to ford the path to the goat yard.

The water rises and I swell with excitement. Amidst the danger and ‘inconvenience’ (read ‘adventure’), I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to dwell on such an active river. To live amongst such rapid hydrologic change, where before my eyes boulders and towering trees are swept from their centuries old pedestals to dance a few steps before finding a new throne down river.
The flow, the change is more than a metaphor to me– it’s how I want to live my life. Active, engaged, tumbling recklessly with a precision that comes from a life of full integrity. Unafraid to hold fast, unafraid to let go.
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The fungi we live amongst offer endless foraging excitement.

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We often quote the phrase, “Don’t do anything that isn’t play.” I think we are all enjoying ourselves here.

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Cobbing the ‘Wicker House’. Feet and hands full of clay and sand, hearts full of warmth and community.

Photos from the Rainforest Lab for Cultural Transformation

A Cornucopia of Communes

Pictures of most of the communities featured in Commune Life over the last year.  (All communes are in US states unless otherwise noted.)

Acorn, Mineral, VA:

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Baltimore Free Farm, Baltimore, MD:

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Cambia, Louisa, VA:

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Compersia, Washington, DC:

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East Wind, Tecumseh, MO:

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las Indias, Madrid, Spain:

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Living Energy Farm, Louisa, VA:

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Oran MórSquires, MO:

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Quercus (disbanded), Richmond, VA:

Porch music jam on our snazy palette-finished porch

Rainforest Lab, Forks, WA:

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Sandhill Farm, Rutledge, MO:

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Sycamore Farm, Arcadia, VA:

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The Common Unity Project (TCUP),  Gitxsan Territory, Hazelton, BC (Canada):

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Twin Oaks, Louisa, VA:

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A Cornucopia of Communes

A little bit about Rainforest Lab

An important question I often reflect on while living at Rainforest Lab for Cultural Transformation:

How do we want to live and learn together?

Rainforest Lab is an intentional community focused on a particular type of design we call a Transformational Learning Community- the core purpose of this intentional community design is to catalyze personal and systemic transformation in a way that is accessible and radical. At the basis of how we cultivate this intentional community space is to focus on people experiencing a sense of belonging, care, and safety. I recognize these qualities are vastly undernourished in the world we live in, and creating a space where those values are an active part of the culture is a huge leap in the right direction for me. For example, whenever we have a guest joining us out on the land, the community will spend time during our evening circle selecting a “buddy”- someone who has a specific intention to care for and track the new person while they are with us. The buddy’s purpose is to take seriously the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of the incoming person, and to support them in integrating into the community. This is just one opportunity we have created to prioritize people’s sense of belonging, care, and safety at Rainforest Lab first and foremost.

As people establish a sense of belonging, care, and safety in the community, we invite you into increasing degrees of practicing what we call life-serving systems with others who are already in the community. Participation in these systems might look like (but are not limited to): attending a community-held workshop on conflict transformation, engaging with different land projects, engaging in one-on-one work around exploring your passions/gifts/dreams, or become involved in our community-based programs.

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Members of Rainforest Lab in a car outside of Clallam Bay Correctional Center just before going inside to facilitate a workshop

One program our community sustains is a facilitated group in a nearby men’s maximum security prison in conjunction with the Freedom Project. Freedom Project is a non-profit which offering Nonviolent Communication learning events and community circles in the Washington State prison system. A part of my purpose for facilitating within the prison system weekly is to deepen our solidarity with those who are within one of the most violent and unsustainable systems within the US. My hope is to build community within that institution centered around cultivating connection, aliveness, and transformation so those on the receiving end of that violence (i.e. prisoners) can experience support, companionship, and nurturance in their struggle.

We seek to expand our presence within nearby indigenous communities (we have developed a small relationship with the Quileute Tribe) and seek to intervene on the behalf of young people (we are attempting to help co-create a Restorative System within the nearby school district). I recognize some of the most powerful healing work of this age will be to stand in solidarity with marginalized groups (whether human or non-human) and to own my privilege and learn about it, so I might steward my privilege for the benefit of all . Many members are also proactive in a variety of social and political movements. I believe this is central to the more radical focus of our community.

I realize that a part of the work of transforming oppression is to increase accessibility and redistribute resources so marginalized groups are able to better meet their needs. This realization flows in tandem with the Rainforest Lab community, which I would say is a group and physical space cultivated and structured to respond to all needs present with those who are interacting with the community.  Shared ownership of assets, economic solidarity (through a shared monetary system), awareness and dialogue around power inequalities, and a fluid, collectively-held governance system are all present to help us transform oppression within the community itself.

I hope what we do inspires others to find their passions and live authentically in a world where we have been taught to disconnect from these qualities. I find living out my passions in community and supporting others in doing so is some of the most impactful and meaningful transformational play I can be doing on the planet.

Warmly,
Kevin

A little bit about Rainforest Lab