What can we learn from lasting communities?

,by Raven Cotyledon

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

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

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Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary

 

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

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

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

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

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Houses at Ganas

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

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

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

____________________________________________________________________________

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

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

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!

 

What can we learn from lasting communities?

One Hundred Members by 2017

from Keenan’s Twin Oaks Blog

FEB 28, 2013

100 members by 2017

Blog readers: This is a paper I posted at Twin Oaks. The reception did not rise to the level of lukewarm. Twin Oaks’ finances are tight, so this was deemed as not a good time at Twin Oaks to start planning a major new project. As of March 2013, there is still no movement to begin process to build a new building.
[Editor’s note: Still true in 2019.]

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By Keenan

25 Aug 2012

100 members by 2017

Twin Oaks’ reached a peak population of 96 adult members a few years back—very close to 100 members—but since that time, due to more kids, additional slack rooms, and bedroom conversions, our current pop cap is now down to 93 adult members.  I would like to reverse this downward trend; I propose that Twin Oaks’ next building be a residence that brings Twin Oaks’ adult population to 100 members.
Adding seven more members would mean about 14,000 additional hours of labor per year, with a negligible increase to Twin Oaks’ labor infrastructure (we won’t need a bigger membership team, more cooks, more Planners etc.)  With a waiting list that has been ongoing for years and a need for more labor in our income and other areas, it seems that it’s a sensible next step to begin planning for increasing Twin Oaks’ population.  It’s been awhile: the last residence completed was Kaweah in 1995.  Since then, the community has mainly been doing maintenance (replacing roofs) and building infrastructure (tofu addition, Nashoba addition) , but not increasing population.

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Kaweah residence

If the past is any guide, we could be just starting to break ground in  a little over two years in early 2015 (that is,if the community chooses this direction and makes a commitment to moving process forward swiftly). With a Twin Oaks crew working at a steady pace, the building could take as little as two years to build, so that, by 2017, just in time for 50th anniversary, Twin Oaks could have 100 members.

Where to locate a new residence? I suggest somewhere along the ridge overlooking the pond—either near MT, or on the volleyball court, or in front of Llano parking lot. The advantages of these sites are all about the same: excellent solar gain,  (no need to cut down lots of trees either for the building site, or for a solar clearing), good access to a road (no need to build a driveway), minimal excavation needed, and easy access to sewer, water, and electric (less expense and less labor).

One advantage of any of these sites is that if there is a kitchen, it could serve as a second courtyard kitchen.  The courtyard has three SLG’s and only one kitchen.  The Llano kitchen gets a lot of use.

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Entrance to the Llano kitchen

The proposed building:

I propose a two-story, solar powered, child/adult, 11 bedroom SLG, with two bathrooms, a kitchen (with pantry),  a utility room, an office for the Seeds business, and two sign-outable public rooms (meeting rooms).

For purposes of acoustic separation, I propose locating all of the bedrooms on the second floor and all of the public rooms on the first floor.

Why eleven bedrooms to add seven members? If we increase the population of adults, we also increase the number of kids.  I assume that two of these eleven rooms will go to children.  There are then nine rooms to increase adult population.  I am assuming that in the next five years probably two of the most sub-standard bedrooms will be taken out of commission,  (furnace room?) or, that a bedroom or two will be converted to some other function, or that with a higher population, that we will want more “slack” rooms for guests.  Given these considerations, I believe it is a conservative estimate that adding nine rooms for adult members will only be a net gain of seven adult members above the current pop cap of 93.  Twin Oaks added 21 bedrooms with Kaweah and got a net gain of about 12 members.
Presumably, the seeds business will keep expanding. The hammocks business, the tofu business, and the indexing business all have their own offices (indexing used to have its own office and in a few weeks will again) .  I understand that this courtyard location might be a good location for the seeds business office.

Twin Oakers seem to enjoy outdoor space—especially decks.  The proposed, simple, rectangular design of this SLG lends itself to having a second-story, screened in deck on the east and west ends of the buildings.

Caveats:

Caveat #1) If Twin Oaks chooses to increase population, there will be lots of papers and meetings for input-gathering and design decisions.  I am under no illusion that there is any assumption that we will be a) building a residence anytime soon, or  b) that if we do choose to build a residence, that it will be anything like the one proposed here.

The current five-year planning process is getting people looking at “What next?”  I am providing this somewhat detailed proposal merely as a discussion starter for people participating in that five-year planning process.

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Aerial view of Twin Oaks entrance and courtyard

Caveat #2) Isn’t this a really bad time to be posting a building proposal? I am hoping that most people recognize that our current building issues wilbl be long resolved before five years have passed.  Maintenance is a big issue now, but soon TCLR roof will be done.  Soon Christian will be back.  Soon Red will have more time available.  Also we are mid-stream with two building projects.   The Nashoba addition is inching forward and could be done in as little as six months. The tofu addition has been stalled, but it is moving forward and looks like it will have a completion date, probably soon.   And, once the tofu addition’s done, Twin Oaks’ finances should suddenly look a lot better.

Additionally, the early stages of gathering community input for choosing what to build, where to site it, how to design it…all take a really long time.  It is best to do processey, labor-intensive, meeting-heavy stuff in the winter, so I think now, with fall approaching, is a good time to start peeking over the horizon to see what we want our collective future to look  like.

Caveat #3)  Sketches have a false feel of significance to them.   In thirty seconds these sketches could have  four more bedrooms—or four fewer. I really did sort of whip the sketches together;  for instance, the generic meeting rooms in the building design are not that essential.  But to maintain the separation of the public space from the bedroom space, I had some extra square feet on the lower floor. It seemed to me that two meeting rooms would be a good use of that extra space. But my guess may well not be the highest need in the community.

Posted 28th February 2014 by keenan

Labels: Twin Oaks

One Hundred Members by 2017

Strange Sights at Twin Oaks

by Raven Cotyledon

I was recently down visiting Twin Oaks and noticed a bunch of what I thought were unusual things and I thought that I would share them, just because I thought that they were interesting. (This is not the best introduction to Twin Oaks, but if you are familiar with the place, you may find this amusing.  We have a lot better information about the community if you look around the site.)

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These tanks were near the dining hall. I had never seen them before.  I was told that they were for the waste produced in the tofu manufacturing.  No one seemed to know what the ‘OOS’ on the sides stood for. I had lots of silly guesses.  Someone thought that it might be ‘500’ upside down, but the tanks did not look upside down to me.

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These signs were in the midst of a bamboo thicket near one of the Twin Oaks parking lots and all but invisible and inaccessible unless you were pretty determined.  I couldn’t read what most of them said but one of them clearly gives the distance from the moon.

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This is the Emergency Bell at Bozo Beach, there, I assume, in case anyone is drowning.  I wondered how often it has been rung. (This is by a pond at Twin Oaks.)

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A statue near Bozo Beach.

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A group of statues meditating near Morningstar, a residence at Twin Oaks

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I saw this sitting right outside ZK, the dining hall.  I don’t know what it’s for or if they even still use it but it certainly looks intriguing.

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This is the Sewage Treatment Plant at Twin Oaks, sometimes called STP.  Yes, Twin Oaks has their own sewage treatment plant.

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The Poop Deck is a humanure toilet with two seats.  The sign adjusts that way in case you want company while you do your business.

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Many people come to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference (or the Women’s Gathering or the Queer Gathering) in the summer.  This is what the site looks like on a warm winter day, barely recognizable to anyone who remembers it from the summer.

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An outhouse at the Conference site, visible through the bare trees.

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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

  • 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!

Strange Sights at Twin Oaks

The Gifts of Being Sick in Community

by Audrée Morin

I was freshly arrived at Twin Oaks, the community I had been hearing so much about for the last seven months. I had heard about it for the first time at Ecovillage Pathways, in June. Even though I felt like I had just left Quebec City and just started my north-east winter communities tour, I had already been on the road for two months, I had already visited more or less 12 communities, and I could smell the end of the tour coming.

The tour was finishing at its most exciting part: this was the 52-year-old community, home to 100 people who don’t need to work outside of the community, the one that founded the Federation for Egalitarian Communities, a farm in the woods where every hour of work is worth the same, the community that sprouted more or less 5 other communities in the area creating a buzzing communities hub.

I felt soooo excited to jump into my 3-week visitor program.  I would have multiple hours of explanations about how this successful long-lasting community functions (which might sound boring to some people, but for the community nerd that I am, it sounded exciting). I was ready to take part in the life of this community at 110% intensity; I was eager to work a diversity of jobs, to give back to this generous community that was welcoming me, housing and feeding me for almost nothing, and teaching me about my passion. I was all in to learn as much as possible and to get to know people.

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Between the trees is the hammock where I rested when I was sick

But… my body had a different story in mind. The week before, I had started getting a cold.  I tried to take care of myself with a bunch of teas and decoctions that my herbalist and friends taught me, which typically works great….. if I do the one thing everyone knows is necessary to heal: rest (and drink a crazy amount of water). But with the same enthusiasm and eagerness I had for Twin Oaks, I had decided to go to the song circle in Woodfolk house of song, which I had also been hearing about for months and was one of my highlight bucket list items in this region.

Big mistake! The cold mischievously turned into a bad sinus infection, which pretty much started the day I arrived at Twin Oaks. I was able to be in denial for the first days, napping for 10 minutes in between my work shifts and thinking that would be enough rest, but by the fourth day, I realized that I was probably not going to heal without complete days of rest and antibiotics. I had sinus infections every winter for the last 5 years: I knew what to expect.

I knew I would have to go to a doctor and pay for it because I had decided not to get medical insurance. I knew I would have to get those darn antibiotics and destroy my poor microbiome that I had put so much efforts (and money) in reconstructing for the last 6 months. And, the worst part…… I knew I would have to not work for 2 days.

Normally, when I have to take days off from work to heal, I feel lucky and I am happy to take them. But here, work is so meaningful: I wanted to contribute and learn. Just imagining missing my work shifts was giving me anxiety. “I won’t get to know anyone and I will be alone for the rest of my visitor period!” “People will see me as a lazy parasite who eats their food, sleeps in their bed and doesn’t work!” “I wanted to get practice gardening and making hammocks and doing tofu and working with orchards and bees! I will learn nothing if I sleep all day and don’t meet people!” and so on…

I ended up crying in multiple people’s arms that morning, as they asked me how I was doing, and I couldn’t help but answer: “afraid and discouraged”. All of them reminded me of a wonderful feature of the culture here: Twin Oaks strongly considers that when you are sick, your job is to take care of yourself and rest. Resting counts as labor (the community is based on a labor credits system), and it is what you are expected to do. The visitor guide mentions: “Please don’t try to work when you’re sick: it sends the wrong message about you (…)”.  

As obvious as it is when others are sick and I advise them to take a day of rest, this was the hardest thing to do for myself.  It took me a couple of hugs, until I finally accepted the reality, wrote a little paper note on the “today board” asking to cover my tofu shift, and started the process of finding how to see a doctor without spending a fortune.

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The Today Board

I went to the “shtetl” (everything has cool-hard-to-spell names here), a space with four couches in a communal building, and asked around if someone knew where to go. It was so heartwarming to hear half a dozen people brainstorm together, with everyone coming up with ideas: one person thinking of calling my doctor in Canada and asking to fax a prescription to the pharmacy, others trying to orient me to the United States medical system, and remembering places where people without insurance can go (the community provides full coverage health insurance).

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The Shtetl

Someone thought of a Dr. Shwartz but didn’t know if he was retired. Someone remembered that they had an appointment with him five months ago, and a third person managed to find his number on the health board. Dr. Shwartz had lived 10 years at Twin Oaks, and was known to be a high integrity doctor who doesn’t order useless tests.

I walked over to a place with a landline and made two phone calls: while my doctor in Canada said it was out of question to fax a prescription without a consultation, Dr. Shwartz agreed to see me the same day, if I was able to get there in 20 minutes. I was saved!

The internet was not working, and I didn’t know how to get there, but a nice Twin Oaker gave me the directions. I felt unsure driving to a place without having seen a map of the road on Internet first, but I did it anyway, and it worked. I found the place, without problems.

I got my appointment, the nurse was the nicest nurse I had ever seen, and the first thing the doctor told me, before talking about antibiotics, is that I should take licorice root to support my adrenal glands for my low blood pressure. He answered my concerns about my asthma medication with research-based explanations, and prescribed me another kind because, he told me, with the first kind, more people die.

Of course, I got my antibiotic prescription. The price ended up being really low (68$ for those who like quantification), and he gifted me a whole bottle of licorice root pills! What doctor gives free and natural remedies to his patients? One who has lived in community for ten years apparently.

Back at Twin Oaks, another resident offered me the use of his south facing room because he would be away for three days. His room was in a newer building with better air quality than the visitors’ building. Thanks to him and his humidifier, my lungs had a little break.

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Kaweah, the house where I stayed when I was sick

I ended up spending two days resting on his couch. No one made me feel guilty about not working, and people took news of my health when I went to lunch and dinner. I didn’t have to worry about cooking, because it is labor creditable, which means that all meals are communal (but never mandatory) and taken care of by the team assigned to cook. We just need to show up on time, and choose between the diverse options of delicious food, for the most part grown by the community itself.

With that setup, I felt safe, supported and taken care of, almost like when I was a kid and I had my mom to take care of me. It felt so good to know that I was not left alone to take care of myself.

Being sick takes time, with all the teas, tinctures, pills, inhalers and sinus rinsing, and it also requires resting, so having meals and dishes taken care of and feeling the support of the community really made a difference. I have healed now, and I don’t wish to be sick again, but I am grateful for this vulnerability episode that allowed me to experience a new unexpected manifestation of the power of community.

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________

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!

The Gifts of Being Sick in Community

Why doesn’t Twin Oaks have community meetings?

from Keenan’s Twin Oaks blog

Why doesn’t Twin Oaks have community meetings?

I have been asked this question many times in recent years by people new to Twin Oaks, and I burble some sort of platitudes about trusting people who make the decisions, but the truth is that I don’t actually know why Twin Oaks doesn’t have more community meetings.  Other communities have more meetings; East Wind’s democracy-based culture means that they have decision-making community meetings; Ganas’ culture is based on daily hours-long community meetings; new-age spiritual communities like Sirius start every work shift with a group gathering.

The common bias is that collectivist groups are systemically hamstrung by the necessity of ponderous and contentious group decision-making—which means many hours hammering out agreements in group meetings. But Twin Oaks is as collectivist as it is possible to be—and we don’t have community meetings. How is this possible?  Are we all being oppressed by a mysterious and powerful ruling elite?

We used to have community meetings.  During much of my tenure there was typically a once-a-week community meeting.  During economic planning time, or when a building was being designed, or during contentious issues in the community, that was bumped up to twice-a-week meetings. Why does Twin Oaks so rarely have community meetings now? I have a few guesses. Twin Oaks doesn’t have community meetings because:

Being in a meeting is an unpleasant experience.

Meetings are typically poorly attended, therefore, being unrepresentative of the community, there is little justification for allowing the people in a meeting to make a final decision.  After a meeting there will be an O and I  paper posted, or a survey taken. Meeting attendees have little more influence over a final decision than non-meeting attendees, so why bother going to a meeting?

 

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Or maybe it’s the lack of chairs 

Decisions get made anyway.

Twin Oaks has a decision-making infrastructure.  If no communal decision gets made, then some sub-group of the community has the power to make decisions. In fact, Twin Oaks has somewhat overlapping spheres of organizational influence, so even if there is a non-functioning sub-group of the community, the default isn’t that the collective steps forward, but that some other subgroup will step forward and make a decision.

GOOD decisions get made.

Due to our lack of hierarchy and inability to accrue political power (or really, who knows why) the planners and other decision-making groups typically make good decisions.  There is not really any need on the part of the membership to be hyper-vigilant to protect the community from heading off of a cliff, because competent and capable people are making decisions that fairly consistently accurately reflect the will of the community.  Why spend two hours in a meeting when you know that the planners are going to make the right call anyway?

Twin Oaks has loads of policies.

Over the years, Twin Oakers have hammered out and written down many policies.  These days, when an issue comes up,  people on a decision-making committee will consult Twin Oaks’ policies.   It is much easier for a committee to look up an appropriate policy than it is to get a community of people to gather together and agree on a new policy in the first place.  Lots of those earlier meetings were to determine Twin Oaks policy.  That work has been done, so now fewer community meetings are needed.

  The pace of growth has slowed.

The whole community wants to be involved in the design of a building.  A new building uses lots of the community’s resources and to some degree determines the future direction of the community.  There were many community meetings involved in the whole process of approving and designing new buildings. There is now very little need for these sorts of community meetings.

There ARE lots of meetings, just not community meetings.

Lots of Twin Oaks’ fairly routine decision-making has been delegated to subgroups of the community–planners, econ team, membership team, health team, child board.  In fact, there are lots of meetings necessary to live at Twin Oaks, just not very many large-scale community meetings.

Twin Oakers eat and work together.

One function of community meetings (in other communities) is to encourage members to get to know one another. At Twin Oaks there are many ways that we hang out with each other casually in our day-to-day lives. I have noticed that most Twin Oakers can, at a distance at twilight, recognize other members just by their stride.  If we know each other’s walks, we must know each other pretty well.  Mainstream people might gossip about people at work, or people in the neighborhood, or complain about the government, but for us, it’s all the same group of people.  We have a fairly intimate knowledge of the life details of our co-members.

There are lots of small social gatherings.

Throughout most of Twin Oaks’ history there were only two things to do: work and huge parties.  The culture these days favors smaller social gatherings—and LOTS of them.  This builds the bonds of community.  All of these mechanisms of social interaction means that we don’t really need meetings to get to know each other better.

 We facilitate meetings poorly.

As we have had fewer meetings, our group experience in having meetings worsens.  We have less experienced meeting participation, and less experienced facilitators. Going to one poorly run meeting is a powerful disincentive to go to a future meeting.

It’s painful to recognize our diversity of values.

We don’t actually want to recognize our diversity.  That is, we can maintain the illusion that we are living with like-minded people for a long time, as long as we don’t put it to a vote.  In a meeting, people voice their opinions and, inevitably, someone’s opinion will be in the minority. I have often heard (or said) as I walked out of a meeting, “What sort of people do I live with?”

People are busy.

Twin Oaks’ population hasn’t risen for a long time, but Twin Oaks expands businesses and infrastructure.  We keep doing more with the same number of people.  In thinking about going to a community meeting, everyone has to weigh whether going to the meeting is more important than whatever else they might do during that time.  For most people, the value of doing the other thing is more worthwhile than the value of going to a community meeting.

People are happy.

Twin Oaks’ turnover continues to be very low.  People are staying at Twin Oaks, presumably because we are all happy.  In any case, there isn’t much clamor for big changes in the community.  Unhappy people want changes in the community and go to meetings to campaign for these changes.  Happy people go to happy hour.

In conclusion,

I am a believer in the power of meetings. I believe in the wisdom of the group.  I believe that we are made smarter when we meet together and share our communal wisdom.  Admittedly, this is a somewhat faith-based rather than empirically-based opinion.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the community would be stronger and feel more supportive if we met together as a community more often.  But I don’t know.  I keep expecting the fabric of the community to begin to unravel because we don’t do stuff together as a community. But numbers work against this belief of mine.  If there were a chart tracking community turnover and community meetings, it would show that when Twin Oaks had more community meetings, turnover was very high, as there have been fewer meetings, turnover has dropped. Coincidence, no doubt.

I am interested in other people’s opinions about this topic. Are there points I make here that you disagree with? Is this a problem in the community?

Maybe we could have a meeting about it…

Posted 26th February 2014 by keenan

 

 

 

Why doesn’t Twin Oaks have community meetings?

A Detailed FEC History: Part One, the ’60s and ’70s

by Raven Cotyledon

This is for commune geeks.  

Maximus put out a video of The Phylogenetic History of the FEC.  It was surprisingly popular. My one complaint was that it left out so many details.

Maximus shared with me the spreadsheet that his video was based on.  Using that, Kat Kinkade’s books, Laird’s blog, the Communities Directory, and my own memory of events in the 1960s, 1990s, and recently, I intend to put out a detailed description of the history of the communes and the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.

I will break it up by decades and publish one a month to keep it from getting too long and boring.  This part covers the 1960s and 1970s.

The 1960s

1967  Twin Oaks is founded.  That was fifty-two years ago and Twin Oaks is still going strong with nearly a hundred members. To put it in context, there were hundreds of ‘communes’ formed in the late sixties.  Very, very few of them are still around. Kat Kinkade attributed Twin Oaks survival to a combination of hard work, structure, and freedom, and getting big fast enough. She thought thirty people was “the minimum for security” and said that TO reached that in their third year.

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Signing up for labor in the early days at Twin Oaks

 

The 1970s

1970  East Wind was started. Kat Kinkade claimed that she “left Twin Oaks, taking two members and some visitors with me, and we set out to form a community that would be just like Twin Oaks in every way except one: We would never close our doors!”  East Wind is also still around with about sixty members.

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REIM, one of the original structures at East Wind

1974  Sandhill Farm founded.   Laird Schaub described its founding this way: “In February 1973 I was in a public library and happened across the current issue of Psychology Today. It included an excerpt from a new book by Kat Kinkade, A Walden Two Experiment. It described the first five years of Twin Oaks Community, and it changed my life. …

“By the following spring, we had founded Sandhill Farm: four people willing to try to make that happen.
“Because Twin Oaks was the inspiration and because I’d already done a fair amount of work to reject materialism, we set up Sandhill as an income-sharing community, where all earnings would be pooled. The community still operates that way today.”

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Sandhill

1976  The Federation of Egalitarian Communities was formed.  Laird’s description: “…five North American communities shared a dream of cooperation. As a result, representatives of these communities got together and founded the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.”  The first Assembly was in November of that year. Attending communities were Twin Oaks, East Wind, Aliya, Aloe, Dandelion, Genesis, North Mountain, and Springtree.

1977  There seemed to have been three Assemblies that year, one in February, one in October, and one in November. (At least, that’s what was listed.)   Aliya and Springtree seemed to have already dropped out. The February Assembly lists the population of the other communities at the time, Twin Oaks (72), East Wind (55), Aloe (6), Dandelion (13), and North Mountain (12).

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Undated picture of an Assembly at Twin Oaks

1978   On the other hand, there only appeared to be one Assembly in 1978, in July, with the same five communities.

1979   There were two Assemblies in 1979, one in January and one in August, and a new community, Los Horcones, came to the January Assembly, and the August Assembly saw Sandhill attending for the first time.   The August Assembly also listed community populations at Twin Oaks (75), East Wind (55?) [yes, that’s how it’s listed], Aloe (10), Dandelion (10), Los Horcones (12), and North Mountain (12). There was no population listed for Sandhill.

That was the beginning.  Only Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Sandhill are still around today and right now, Sandhill is struggling. But the FEC continues to this day, with new communities and new energy.

Next month, I will detail the FEC through the eighties with communities coming in while others leave or disband. It will probably have too much detail for most folks, but I find it fascinating to watch the communities and the organization as it grows and struggles. This is how we change the world folks, one small step at a time.

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Kat Kinkade and others harvesting corn at Twin Oaks around 1969 or 1970

(If you have any information about the early days of the FEC or its history at any period, please add it in the comments.)

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Communities

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  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
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  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
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  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
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  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

A Detailed FEC History: Part One, the ’60s and ’70s