Crafting Community: Do’s and Don’t’s

by Raven Cotyledon

I have said all this before but here are what I see as the most important ways to successfully  craft community, broken out into a list of Do’s and Don’t’s:

DON’T start by buying land or getting a place

DO have a few ‘bottom lines’ for what you want the community to value or what the community is about

DON’T have a detailed plan before you have others involved

DON’T ever have a plan that you are not willing to change

DO try to find like minded people who want to start a community with you

DO look for good people with useful skills

DON’T be too fussy however

DON’T reject people because they are not perfect

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DO talk about what you want and make collective agreements together

DO support, encourage, and care for the people you are building community with

DON’T critique, belittle, or discourage people

DO come up with steps and goals in building community

DO think about money and pay attention to finances

DON’T limit your thoughts to jobs and traditional sources

DO celebrate your successes

DON’T be discouraged when things don’t happen quickly

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DO keep at it

DO get support to keep at it

DO make commitments to each other

DO keep those commitments, especially when it becomes difficult

DON’T give up

Two important pieces in here, that I am convinced make a difference, are to support others and make sure you get support for yourself.  Building community isn’t easy; if it was we would have a lot more of them.

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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

  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Bryan Utesch
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft

Thanks!

 

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Crafting Community: Do’s and Don’t’s

Aspirational Egalitarianism

by Raven Cotyledon

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities is a network of North American communes. As the name implies the communities involved have a commitment to equality and egalitarianism. Unfortunately, these communities are filled with flawed and fallible human beings, as is the nature of any human endeavor.  Thus, as the title of my post suggests, egalitarianism is an aspiration, something aimed for but not always accomplished.

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Right now the FEC is struggling with questions about how to better live up to its name. Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and transphobia (and more) are all found in our communities because these oppressions are a basic part of our society and the communes are not separate from society.   The communities are mostly white, mostly middle-class, and while there is a decent percentage of women, there is still misogyny, and while we try to be a safe place for queer and transfolk, it isn’t always true.

So the work is about how to change that. How can these communities reflect the world we want rather than the world we have?  I would suggest that the first step is to acknowledge that we are still far from where we want to be. At Twin Oaks they give visitors a booklet with the title “Not Utopia Yet.”  This reflects both where we are and where we want to go.

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Each year the FEC has an assembly of representatives from the member communities and the  Communities-in-Dialogue where we talk about pressing issues in the communities. Figuring out how we can really become more egalitarian is one of the top topics this year.


 

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:

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore

Thanks!

 

Aspirational Egalitarianism

Communities Conference Workshops

Here is the workshop and partial presentation schedule for the upcoming Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  The below links are to blog posts on these elements.  There is a posted full program (with short descriptions for every workshop are in the newly published program).  

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Cambia lunch

Saturday September 1st

9:30 to noon

1:30 to 3 PM

4 to 5:30 PM

Sunday September 2

9:30 to 11

There is still time to register for this amazing event.  Twin Oaks Community is hosting this event in central Virginia Aug 31st thru Sept 2.  There is also great Labor Day (Sept 3) program at Cambia Community, less than one mile from the Twin Oaks Conference site.

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Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary – Circa 2017
Communities Conference Workshops

Will your community survive an Exodus?

By Paxus of Cambia Community

exodus people walking.jpgOne of the interesting new workshop topics for this years Twin Oaks communities conference (over Labor Day Weekend) is the Exodus Panel, which will be moderated by Taylor Kinniburgh, a member of the Baltimore Free Farm:

Panel Discussion on Surviving Exodus
Sunday, 9:30-11:00am, Registration Tarp

How can intentional communities survive a membership exodus? This workshop will carve out space for community members to share their experiences, learn from other communities, and develop strategies to overcome the challenges of member- ship overhaul. The panel will consist of experienced community leaders that have dealt with exodus to varying levels of success. Failure to deal with member exodus can lead to the collapse of a community, but it take more than recruiting new
members to take on this problem. Communities need to be self reflective about why the exodus took place and this panel hopes to guide participants in how to do that analysis.

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Come with me on a thought experiment.

You knew it might happen.  In the worst case the conflict within your community could blow things up seriously.  Now several of your members are leaving and the future of your community is in doubt.  Often people within the communities movement say “No one is indispensable” as a secular mantra for communities shifting to cover important jobs left vacant when an important member leaves.  But when several people leave?  Well, this is likely no longer a true maxim when the number departing is larger than one.

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When people leave en mass, the group changes and perhaps dies

Certainly, some part of the response of the group left behind must be soul searching.  “What did we do that was wrong?  Could we have taken better care of the group?  What have we learned from difficult circumstance and can we create new policies and practices to avoid it happening again?”

But after this important self reflection is completed, there will likely be a need to re-assess if the mission of the community is still the same after the exodus.  It is possible that the new group of members have a somewhat (and potentially quite) different vision of the future community.  While difficult work, this can be very satisfying and healing to the group remaining.

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The Baltimore Free Farm, Acorn Community and Twin Oaks have all experienced an exodus of members and survived.  Other communities we will discuss did not survive.

There is still time to register for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference over the labor day weekend (Aug 31 thru Sept 2) in central Virginia, 45 minutes from Charlottesville and 55 minutes to central Richmond or RSVP on Facebook

Will your community survive an Exodus?

Meet the Communities

The most important part of the Twin Oaks Communities Conference is not the incredible collection of workshops.  It is not the rich Open Space offerings.  It is not even the Saturday night dance, which is reliably one of the best dances of the year at Twin Oaks.

The most important part is Meet the Communities.

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The FECs newest member – East Brook Community Farm 2017

For the first couple of hours of Saturday’s program, each of the communities present send up a representative or three to introduce their community to the whole group for 1 minute.  There is a script of questions which representatives can answer, but there is a strong anarchist streak among many of these people and they often freestyle.

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Nope – but we are still looking hard for it

Then participants of the event mill around the collection of picnic tables where representatives of the different communities are present longer and more personal presentations.  It is like speed dating, except it is better in every way.  People can meet people who live in these 40 or 50 different communities and try to figure out if any of them are a good match.

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Conversation is the Key – Sky and Victor circa 2016

I have no idea how many people precisely found the community they want to live in at each years Meet the Communities. What i do know is that some of the most important community recruitment each year happens at this conference and this is one of our better tools.  If you have a community which is seeking new members, even if you can’t make the entire event, it makes sense to be there Saturday morning.

It might be just the most important place to meet new members for your community or your new home.

 

Meet the Communities

Ecovillage Design – An experts perspective

We are lucky to have some very talented folks presenting at this years Communities Conference.  In the coming days there will be several workshop highlighted on this blog.

If we are going to change the way relate to our environment, we are going to need to build new types of buildings and entire ecovillages.  Fred Oesch has been doing exactly this for years now.

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Charlottesville Ecovillage Design Proposal

 

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Acorn/SESE Seed Office design

This is the workshop Fred is offering at this years Communities Conference.

Ecovillage Design – Principles and Practices

Presented by Fred Oesch of Oesch Environmental Designs and Openworld Villages

We now have significant experience designing ecovillages both in rural and urban settings and this workshop will take stock of what has been learned over the last 30 years.  There are sustainability elements, aesthetic aspects and design components connected with high degrees of sharing which all go into making a high functioning ecovillage. In many cases these are not elements which are taught in architecture school.  We will explore conversions of existing non-ecovillages as well as designed from scratch solutions. The workshop will start with presentation and then go into question and answer.

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Fred Oesch – Architect/Ecovillage Designer

Fred Oesch is a licensed architect who designed the seed building at Acorn and lives in Schuyler VA.  He has also been involved in several ecovillage projects, both urban and rural as well as new builds and conversions.  He serves on the Ecovillage Charlottesville Board and throws a mean quarry party.

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Site of ecological design and excellent parties

Some of what is covered in the workshop is Principles of Regenerative Environmental Design:

1] Design as a Way of Life.

2] Reflection of Evolving Regional Society, Tradition, Culture, and Religion

3] Utilization of Indigenous Technology, Materials, and Labor Skills

4] Direct Response to Microclimate / Seamless Site Integration

5] Minimum Inventory / Maximum Diversity Systems

6] Direct Designer / Builder / Inhabitant Participation

7] Net Resource and Energy Production

8] Self-Regenerating ‘Living’ Systems

 

It is still possible to come and participate in the Twin Oaks Communities Conference on August 31st thru Sept 2.  You can RSVP here in Facebook.  Or simply register for the Communities Conference

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Acorn/SESE Seed Office Actual

 

Ecovillage Design – An experts perspective

What it’s Like to Organize All Three Twin Oaks Conferences

By Julia Onedia

“Ask me again in September.” This phrase is my shield against requests of all kinds—everything from friendly hangouts to an offer to join the tofu management team. I say it so often now that I’m just waiting for the moment when someone asks me “what’s your name?” and all that I can say is a dreamy “September…”.

I was the Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering intern in 2016, which is why I decided to join Twin Oaks [you can read more about my protracted membership process in a future post]. Therefore, it was only logical that I would become a Women’s Gathering organizer this year. I’ve been attending the planning meetings since I was a visitor in January; I traveled to the farm from Baltimore for every meeting but one between then and when I became a member on May 26th.

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Twin Oaks Conference Site Pavilion Roof

At some point this spring, I joined the Queer Gathering team thanks to some friendly pestering from the original organizers. From there it became a slippery slope: I was just dipping my toes into Communities Conference work when someone who had agreed to bottom-line the whole conference suddenly left the community to take care of a family member. At that point, I decided to stop fighting it, and I allowed the conference beast to consume my being in its entirety.

As July inches in, everything is eerily calm. The conference site is slowly becoming habitable after its long winter hiatus. I usually have no more than twenty unread emails in my inbox at any given time. I still have time for tofu shifts, cooking, and childcare. But I know that’s all about to change.

Come find me at the Queer Gathering on August 3rd—only slightly deranged—as I lead a workshop on using glitter to battle gender dysphoria and body hate. Then, join me again at the Women’s Gathering on August 17th, slipping into full lunacy as I fittingly lead a group of women to howl and scream at the moon and the sky (it’s healing, I swear). Finally, you might recognize me as hot pink hair on a human-potato hybrid at the Communities Conference from August 31st to September 2nd  as I coordinate childcare and put out (hopefully metaphorical) fires all over the conference site.

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Portrait of the communard as a conference-induced human/potato hybrid

On September 3rd, I sleep. Then you can ask me your questions.

If you want to follow developments of the events on Facebook, here are the pages for these events:

What it’s Like to Organize All Three Twin Oaks Conferences