When do you dissolve a commune?

I asked this somewhat provocative question on Facebook, but with a real purpose. Unfortunately, many and perhaps most communities that are formed don’t make it. When is is time to pull the plug?

We got a bunch of comments–here’s most of them, including mine (Raven’s) and the reply that I made to someone who I chose to see as not understanding why I wrote this.

When do you dissolve a commune?

If it’s about relationships…

by Raven Glomus

In early September, I had just reprinted on Facebook the piece I wrote here about the importance of relationships. I was looking for something to write the next day and decided to ask it as a question:

I got several comments and here are some of them. I particularly like the last one.

“You build relationships by showing up, even when it’s hard.” Yes, indeed.

If it’s about relationships…

Emergent Community–Part Two

by Raven Glomus

This is the second part of a piece focusing on how adrienne maree brown’s six elements from her book, Emergent Strategy, apply to commune building.  My last piece focused on commune building as Fractal, Interdependent and Decentralized,and Non-Linear and Iterative.  Here I will focus on why we need to build communes to be Adaptive, Resilient and Transformative, and in a way that Creates More Possibilities.

In Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown talks about Intentional Adaptation–that is adaptation with intention.  She refers to this process as “how we change”.  And communities need to be open to change and changing.  A community that can’t change, dies.  But any community that simply goes with whatever changes happen isn’t going to last long either.  The key, as amb puts it, is to have an intention, a goal or end point in mind, and to make sure that any changes, whatever adaptation we do, keeps us moving toward that goal.   And in order to have that goal, a community needs to have a vision–what is it that we want to move toward?  And, as we encounter each place that we need to change, the community needs to ask itself, what changes will move us closer to our vision?  What changes will move us away?  This is an ongoing process, because we will always need to keep changing and we don’t want our vision to be static.  We need to keep dreaming (collectively) of where we want to be and keep updating our vision and our goals as we go through each change.

This is very related to the next element, Resilience, which adrienne maree brown refers to as “how we recover and transform”.  Some of the changes we will encounter may be relatively simple, but sometimes a commune will encounter things that are more challenging and may cause real problems for the community and sometimes within the community.   We may need to do more than adapt, we may need to recover from traumatic disruptions.  We may need to collectively heal.  We may need to change in ways that transform the commune. The question always is, how can we transform the community in ways that are of service to our vision?  In the book, adrienne maree brown talks about the principles of Transformative Justice to keep in mind as we make the changes that we need in order to heal the community. She quotes Shira Hassan, “In order to resist one size fits all justice, we have to resist the idea that every process looks the same.”  I love amb’s advice here: “Relinquish Frankenstein.  You are not  creating people to be with, or work with, some idealized individuals made of perfect parts of personality… Stop trying to make and fix others, and instead be curious about what they have made of themselves.”  Communes aren’t made of perfect folks, they are made of flawed people struggling to build something together.  Again, quoting adrienne maree brown, we need to “Commit to being in each other’s lives, and doing whatever is needed to ensure that in the long term.”  What great community building advice!

Her final element, and I believe perhaps the most important, is that we work toward “Creating More Possibilities.”  This is why I am so happy that there are so many different flavors of communes out there and only wish there were more.  If we see community building as a way to explore social change, we need to acknowledge that we are not trying to build a perfect alternative.  Rather, we are trying to build many different alternatives, with the realization that no one way works for everyone.  Certainly income-sharing communities aren’t the only way to go, but even among communes, there should be differences and there should be support for folks trying even more new things.  There is a reason so many of us love rainbows–all those different colors existing together.  As we create a communities movement, as we support organizations such as the Federation of Egalitarian Communities and the Foundation for Intentional Communities,  we are building the small scale version of the world we want (going back to amb’s Fractal element), one in which there are many different possibilities and we are working to create more.

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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 patron communards:

 Aaron Michels

Brenda Thompson

Cathy Loyd

Colby Baez

Heather

Janey Amend-Bombara

Jenn Morgan

Joseph A Klatt

Kai Koru

Kate McGuire

Kathleen Brooks

Lynette Shaw

Magda schonfeld

Michael Hobson

Montana Goodman

Nance & Jack Williford

NorthernSoul Truelove

Oesten Nelson

Peter Chinman

Raines Cohen

Sasha Daucus

Suzi Tortora

Tobin Moore

Twin Oaks

Warren Kunce

William Croft

William Kadish

William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Emergent Community–Part Two

Emergent Community–Part One

by Raven Glomus

I have been reading (and re-reading) adrienne maree brown’s wonderful book, Emergent Strategy.  I have often said that I see intentional communities (especially income-sharing communities) as laboratories for social change.  What adrienne maree brown lays out in her book is that she sees six elements involved in social change (based partly on her reading of Octavia Butler’s ideas in Parable of the Sower).  According to her, change is Fractal, Adaptive, Non-Linear and Iterative, Resilient and Transformative (as in Transformative Justice), Interdependent and Decentralized, and Creates More Possibilities.

I want to look at how these elements apply to the building of communes as well as seeing communes as part of a social change strategy.  In this first part, I’ll focus on three of these elements, seeing commune building as Fractal, Interdependent and Decentralized,and Non-Linear and Iterative.  I will look at the remaining three elements in my next piece.

Let me start with the fractal nature of commune building.  When adrienne maree brown uses the term ‘fractal’, she defines it as “the relationship between small and large.”  She points out that “How we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale.”  This is exactly what I mean by communities as social change laboratories.  In building communes, we try to create on a small scale the world that we wish to see.  The end doesn’t justify the means, the means reflects the end goal.  My point about communities as laboratories is that through them we get to test out, on a small scale, what works and doesn’t work for the world that we want to build.  The communes are egalitarian, because we want to build a society based on equality.  We share so much, because we believe that sharing can improve the world.

Interdependent and decentralized is a very apt description of the commune world–including the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.  Communes are not this monolithic entity.  There is no central communal authority.  The communes are each worlds unto themselves, networked together by the relationships between them.  We like having dozens of different flavors of community..  Rather than trying to have one way to build a commune, we have many different communes and each is responsible for itself–and we are also responsible for each other, since we see how we are connected.  It makes accountability tricky, since the ultimate authority resides in the individual community but, because we are connected and interdependent, we also have some leverage with each other.

I used this particular order for the elements (not exactly the order that adrienne maree brown puts them in, although they are in a slightly different order in the two places in the book where she lists them), because I think this is the most useful order for community building.  First you want to think about where you are heading (building something that reflects the world that you want to see) and then realize that what we are building needs to be decentralized and interdependent.  The third element comes in as you build community–the process is non-linear and iterative.  

I think that this may be the most important thing to realize.  It’s not a straight line path at all.  You may plan to build community in a certain way and then you realize that things start falling into place, but hardly in the order you anticipated.  You will soon find out that you can’t control the process.  I love the term ‘emergent strategy’ because emergent phenomena come as they will, not as you want.  Perhaps the most important part to realize is that saying it is iterative is to say that you will find yourself doing the same thing, again and again and again.  And then it happens again.  You may think that you are going in circles, but often it’s more like spirals.  It may seem like you are back in the same place but you are actually a level higher.  If it sounds like it might be frustrating, you are beginning to understand the process of commune building.  As Katarzyna Gajewska pointed out in her post about Community and Techie Fallacy, building a commune is not anything like building a bridge.  You can’t just draft some plans and build it, step by step.  You need to be prepared for some amount of chaos, the whole process through.

In my next post, I will look at the final three elements as pointing out how communities need to be.

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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

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

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Heather Alexander
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Kate Mcguire
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda Schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Montana Goodman
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Oesten Nelson
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen
  • Sasha Daucus
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Emergent Community–Part One

Interpersonal conflict

Communal living isn’t for everyone. There are some definite trade-offs that need to be made. Theresa put this very personal piece on Facebook toward the end of August:

I appreciate her honesty but, unfortunately, it only received three comments, unfortunately. Here they are:

We talk a lot about sharing in the communes. We don’t talk as much about conflict and emotional processing but that’s also an important part of community living, and something many people are not prepared for.

Interpersonal conflict

My Commune Life Goals

by Raven Glomus

In searching for something to write for Facebook, I got a little nostalgic. In this post from our FB page, I give some of the history of this blog, as well as my reasons for working on Commune Life, both this blog and the Facebook page.

As you can see, I called for responses (including from other members of the Commune Life team) and I got a few comments. The first was from Theresa who explains why she is involved with the Commune Life work:

Because this is a picture of the content on our Facebook page, that link won’t work. Here is a link to our patreon page that will: https://www.patreon.com/communelife

We also got a lovely comment from Cathy Loyd, followed by a comment from someone who has been following us from Saudi Arabia, who wanted to know something.

I responded with some of my story:

And Zamin K Danty responded with some of his:

My Commune Life Goals