Tackling inclusivity and social justice at the Communities Conference

This labor day the oldest, largest, egalitarian, income-sharing commune in the country, Twin Oaks Community, is hosting the annual Twin Oaks Communities Conference. This conference is an unparalleled opportunity to learn about, learn from, share, teach, and network with communards, communitarians, and cooperators experienced and aspiring. This year’s theme is particularly exciting as the conference tackles the topics of inclusivity and social justice. Read more below about this year’s conference and register now to reserve your space.


Communes, cohousing communities, ecovillages, co-ops, and other Intentional communities of all kinds are a response to problems in society. They are a recognition that some of the essentials that make community what it us, mutual support, love and caring, sharing lives and livelihood in a meaningful and satisfying way, are lacking in the world. Not all intentional communities share the same political or social views. Some mirror the trend towards isolationism and protectionism we see politics today. But most value, at least in theory, diversity, equality, and sustainability, and want to help create a world that works for everyone.

Intentional communities have a unique opportunity to address oppression and privilege. And while most value dTOCC conversationiversity, they often struggle to achieve it. Why? This is one of the questions that will be addressed through many of the workshops at the conference this year. How do racism, classism, hetero-cis-sexism, and other forms of oppression play out within intentional communities? How can they become truly accessible and inclusive spaces? How can people with privilege, especially white people and men, let go of their privilege or put it in the service of others? How can intentional communities help address oppression in larger society, both directly and by providing accessible and relevant alternatives?

The theme of this year’s Twin Oaks Communities Conference is Inclusivity and Social Justice. Held every year on Labor Day weekend, Sept 1 – 4, 2017, in Central Virginia, this conference is a unique opportunity to connect with other community builders and seekers, and experience community while learning more about it.

TOCC workshop

In addition to covering other topics of interest and importance to intentional communities, like legal structures and fundraising, and the usual opportunities for networking and sharing, we’re excited to host this opportunity for intentional communities to look at how they are perpetuating these issues and how they can become powerful agents for real change.

Here’s a selection of workshop titles (a full list of current confirmed workshops can be found here):

  • Why is My Community So White?
  • Building Resilience through Disaster Preparedness
  • Will Raise Money for Sanity
  • Black and Native American Land Legacies & Intentional Communities
  • Community Land Co-ops and the Decolonizing Urban Ecovillage
  • Legal Clinic for Intentional Communities
  • Sacred Clowning: The wisdom of the fool
  • Attracting Diverse People to Intentional Communities
  • Together as one body: gender, power, and multiplicity

We look forward to seeing you there! Register here.

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Tackling inclusivity and social justice at the Communities Conference

Fire and Ice

Responsibly managing one thousand acres of land is a big task that requires a community sized effort to do well. Winter is the key time for big forestry and ranch maintenance projects. Last week a controlled burn was executed on two areas, about one acre in total. The day was calm and below freezing for the most part, with just enough wind for an effective and safe burn. Jeremiah led the burn, his third at East Wind. Plenty of communards were on hand to keep an eye on the fire and direct it as necessary.

fire1
Before the ‘big’ burn a large fire break was created around the entirety of the area to be burned to ensure an easily managed fire.

Fire, whether man-made or natural, is important for various ecosystems such as prairies and forests to maintain health and diversity. This controlled burn was intended to clear brush and recycle crucial nutrients back into the soil. Burns promote diversity by favoring species adapted to fire such as wildflowers. These fields will also warm up faster in the spring time, due to the ash and soot on the ground, which will kick start microbial activity in the soil.

fire2
Andrea and Indo help build the fire break.

Once the fire break was established it was time for the field to be set alight. Buckets of water, running hoses, and hundred of gallons of water hitched to a tractor were readily available just in case the wind picked up.

fire3
The ‘big’ burn sweeping across the brushy field.

fire4

fire5
Nearby treelines were the most at risk areas for the fire jumping the fire break.  Plenty of people were on hand to keep the fire under control.

All in all the day went perfectly, without a hitch. The fire never became dangerous and the burn plan was executed as intended. Thank you to everyone who came down and helped out!

Post and pictures by Sumner

Fire and Ice

If this is your first time here…

…or if you want more information about this site:  On the upper right corner are three lines that connect you to the blog’s sidebar.  Click on it and on the top is a sign that says PAGES and underneath that is a link labeled “Welcome!”  There’s a lot of information about this blog on that page.

And under the sign PAGES is a list of CATEGORIES which you can use to find more information on a particular community, project (under the heading Projects), or subject (at the end of the list, under the heading, What Else).

If this is your first time here…

The Best Parts of America

by Paxus Calta (reprinted from Your Passport to Complaining, September 7, 2011)

Part of my job is networking.  With some regularity, someone sends me a request like, “I am riding across the US (visiting each state in the lower 48) on a solar powered trike that I have constructed; what are all the cool communities I should stop at?”

Reasonable people would simply flee from such a broad question.  There are too many answers requiring too much explanation and detail.  Of course, I am sharing my reply to show off how unreasonable I am.

Dearest Alexander:

Were I doing what you are doing, the places I would stop include:

Twin Oaks/Acorn/LEF communities in Louisa, Virginia. LEF is a post-fossil fuel start up. (I call these dark green eco-villages.)

Possibility Alliance: NE Missouri community is also a dark green eco-village, with a super radical internal gifting economy and all volunteer labor system.

The NEMO communities (North East Missouri)  Dancing Rabbit, Sandhill Farm, Red Earth Farm are all within a few miles of each other. Three different flavors of very low ecological impact intentional communities.

East Wind in the Ozarks of Missouri. This anarcho-democratic community is income sharing and runs its own businesses. It is a bit like the wild wild west of the Egalitarian secular communities movement-  low work obligation, very high respect for personal freedom, high levels of personal drama.

Emma Goldman Finishing School in Seattle, WA. Urban, activist, income sharing community.

All of these can be contacted through some front door via the internet, except the Possibility Alliance, which is actually, in my opinion, the most important place on this list. They can be reached at 660-332-4094.

There are a couple of other pieces of advice I would give you after a brief scan of your website.  The first is that you should look at couchsurfing.com, which will likely help with free housing en route. The second is that you should investigate attitudes and approaches to begging.  You will need to finance/support this trip through the people you meet, mostly having them open their places to you.  “I am going to save the world, let me stay on your couch” turns out to be a turn off.  “I have funny stories to tell and will clean your dishes” will likely get you far better results.

Good luck, be brilliant.

 

The Best Parts of America

In Case of Expulsion – Open Blog

by Paxus Calta
I got a call.  A new community was thinking about expelling a member and they wanted to know what they should do.  Sadly, they had no existing expulsion process to turn to so they were making it up as they went along.
in case of emergency
I was flattered to be called, so i banged out some instructions.  And i thought i would share them here.  If folks have suggestions on how to improve them, as my dear Ukrainian friend used to say, “I am one big ear.” [The names have been changed in this post.  Fuliano is what we call a generic communard at Twin Oaks.]
Even if expulsion is not what a group is considering, if there is an incident where people in the community are seriously upset with someone, this process could help.

The need for an Advocate

I think it is critical for someone to become Fuliano’s advocate.  An advocate is someone who is solely concerned with making sure the focus person (Fuliano in this case) is getting what they want.  It seems in this case the advocate would be asking them what it is they want and why they broke the agreements.  Having an advocate will greatly reduce the chances Fuliano will do more things which are upsetting to the members because there will be a more open line of communication (until we know the motives, it does not insure there will be no problems, but it certainly helps).  Ideally the advocate would be someone Fuliano knows and trusts (or at least respects) from inside the membership.  If not it should be someone who is local, someone who knows the community and its culture (at least somewhat) and still is someone Fuliano either trusts or respects (ideally both).

Process Steps:

Try to take urgency out of the situation.  Being rushed about making a decision about Fuliano dramatically increases the chances of a bad decision and/or bad treatment of them.
pencil to paper
It starts with a  letter

Ideally, the process would look something like this:

The advocate meets with Fuliano and together they comes up with a letter that
1) Describes what Fuliano thinks happened and their motivations
2) Outlines what it is they want from the group (to stay as a member or to have other members do particular things, or to leave under specific conditions, etc)
3) Fuliano’s commitment to not do things which will upset the group while the process around them is ongoing
4) Agree to be in and respect the community process around this situation
5) What desirable next steps could be

After this letter is shared and read there would be a sharing circle.

sharing circle

This would start with as much of the full community membership as possible including Fuliano and their advocate.  The group would talk about the situation with the facilitator making sure they stuck to feelings and did not drift into blaming or attacking.  Fuliano would get a chance to speak as part of the group – first, if that is Fuliano and their advocate’s preference, and then again at the end.
Then, once the sharing circle was exhausted, which might take a couple or three rounds with increasing numbers of people passing, Fuliano would be asked to leave, and then the group would do another round of sharing, with the advocate present.  It is possible next steps will be designed.  This could be influenced by the letter Fuliano and their advocate drafted, or it could include additional things (we would like Fuliano to not block decisions while this process is happening, we would like them to stay somewhere else for a while, we would like them to investigate therapy or counseling, etc).
Hands in a circle
Our culture can be judged on how we treat our heretics and outcasts

In the end the community will need to figure out if it has to expel Fuliano or if they can re-integrate them.  This is often the hardest decision a community can make.  Ideally, we figure out a common ground, we get the focus person to change their behavior and pull together.  But sometimes the trust is too deeply broken.  Sometime it is impossible (especially with issues like sexual assault) to re-integrate someone in, and not expelling the focus person means that other members will leave.

In Case of Expulsion – Open Blog