Critical Mass

by Raven Glomus

When I was compiling the responses to the questions about communal size for last Friday’s post, I started thinking about the issue of how small was too small and the brittleness of very small communities.

This is not just a theoretical issue for me.  Common Threads, the commune in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that I helped start in the nineteen nineties and loved dearly, broke up when membership dropped down to four adults and then one of the founders decided to leave.  And Cotyledon, my most recent attempt at building a commune, was ended by mutual consent, but my primary reason for deciding this was that it had never grown, in terms of primary members, beyond the three of us, through our more than four years of working on it.

The crew of Cotyledon

As I said on Friday, I don’t think of three people as being a community.  You need at least four adult members with, hopefully, some of them not being in relationship.  And it needs to be real, full time members.  Two adults (generally a couple) with any number of interns, visitors, guests, wwoofers, etc, does not make a community.  The FEC recently (in our Assembly last December) decided to require full FEC member communes to “Have, at minimum, five adult full members who have been in the community a minimum of six months, understand the community systems, and have access to equal participation in the community’s processes.”

I think that four people can be a nice intimate community, but as I said with Common Threads, having only four members makes you very susceptible to falling apart.  Skyhouse was an income sharing community at the Dancing Rabbit ecovillage in Missouri that lasted seventeen years.  It was a small, close group of four folks, but when two of them (a couple) decided to leave and another person also decided to depart (to attend school in another state), it left Tony to decide whether to try to rebuild it from scratch or give up and focus on the ecovillage as a whole.  (I talked with several people about this, including Tony.)  Apparently he tried once and couldn’t duplicate the lovely little commune that they had and, having a lot of responsibilities for Dancing Rabbit as a whole, decided to turn the building into a simple housing unit.  It was a story that resonated with me, given how Common Threads ended.

The Skyhouse building at Dancing Rabbit

So, my question is, what constitutes ‘critical mass’?  While I don’t think that any community is “too big to fail” (although it would take a lot to bring down Twin Oaks–which recently had been bemoaning dropping down to less than seventy folks, which is still bigger than almost any other of the FEC member communes), I think that there is safety in numbers.  (Acorn at one point was down to six members and at another down to two, but they had Twin Oaks nearby to support them until their numbers could be built back up.)  Kat Kinkade, who I will have to admit I admire a lot since she helped start three communes, all of which are still around and doing well, apparently said that she believed in growing communities rapidly, to quickly get past the brittle period.

As I think about it, I would say I think that seven is a minimum number for safety.  Four and five are the fragile numbers–lose one or two people and it feels like it’s over–and often is.  Six might work but it feels too close to four or five.  So I am going to say seven, but I would also say that having nine or ten feels even stronger.

Until recently at Glomus we were six or seven folks (we lost one in the last few months), but we’ve recently gotten three new members (okay, they are saying that they are seasonal, but they are all communal veterans and they feel committed) and the difference for me is large.  It definitely feels more like a thriving community with nine people actively involved here.  

The current line up at Glomus

Having seven or even ten folks doesn’t guarantee that you won’t fall apart, but it certainly makes it less likely.

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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
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda Schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman 
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Critical Mass

A Question of Longevity

This is the next in a series that I’ve posting here on questions that have gone up on the Commune Life Facebook page. Here’s the first question we reposted and the second and the third and the fourth and finally the fifth and latest.

In early January, I posted this question on our Facebook page:

Here’s a sampling of the responses that I received:

My comment at the end of the thread is actually a response to Lucy Perry’s question at the beginning of it.

Honestly, I wish I knew a magic formula to guarantee longevity for communities. It is possible; look at Twin Oaks. But, as Julia points out, even longevity brings its problems.

A Question of Longevity

Eastern Massachusetts Community Dream

by  Dave Scandurra

We have a dream of creating an intentional community here on Cape Cod, or in southeastern Massachusetts.  We are seeking community-minded folks who also share our vision of creating a community somewhere in southeastern MA sometime in the next 1-5 years. We will have 1-3 rooms opening up within the year.

The most important aspects of our community:

~Egalitarian.We are big fans of egalitarianism which is the belief that all people deserve equal rights and opportunities. All people will have an equal voice, equal access to community resources, and all labor in the community is valued the same (an hour of cooking is valued the same as an hour of carpentry, for example). Our goal is to affiliate with the Federation of Egalitarian communities (www.fec.org).

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~Inter-generational. We want to create an inter-generational/multi-generational community where we take care of our elders while raising up the next generation of humans- truly a full circle. In a perfect world, we would be able to take care of elders till the end of their life, bypassing the need for nursing home. And when it comes to children, we would love a critical mass of parents and kids so we could create our own childcare set up and/or home school.

~Shared Businesses. We want to start and run community-owned, ecologically-based businesses. We currently own and operate a profitable Edible Landscaping company here on the Cape (www.ediblelandscapes.net), but we want to find people who are excited about the following businesses: specialty perennial edible plant nursery and seed business, online store (for plants, seeds, books, tools, etc.), herbal products, foraged and farmed floral arrangements and art, niche farming (micro-greens, high profitability market gardening, mushrooms), education/workshops (classes, field trips, etc), and we are open to others’ thoughts on what businesses could fit into this mosaic.

~Location. Our target location is southeastern Massachusetts. Currently, our core of three people is based here on Cape Cod, where we are running an organic landscaping company. The fact that the business is making money here makes it hard to leave any time soon. But in the long term, once we have solid community momentum and if our online store is doing good, we are open to moving anywhere in southeastern New England.

~Permaculture. We are big believers in the potential of permaculture, especially as it applies to community and ecologically-based business. Permaculture is a cohesive set of ethics, principles and practices that help guide the stewardship of an ecosystem to ensure resilience and abundance to all its inhabitants (human and non-human alike). Permaculture means meeting human needs while improving ecosystem health. Permaculture is more of a design science that can be employed when designing anything from a forest garden, to a house, or even a village. It’s a holistic approach to land design, human design, life design or any kind of design. 

These are the five pillars of our vision.

 We also have a three-phase timeline:

Phase 1: The next 1-3 years

We are currently renting  a big beautiful home in Barnstable on 2 beautiful acres with great gardens. We plan to keep renting this home for the next 1-3 years, depending on who comes into the fold and how quickly we can move toward phase 2… We have a greenhouse, an irrigated veggie garden, a ton of edible perennials in the ground and lots of potential. We are renting this home from the mother of one of the core members. We expect 1-3 rooms to open up within the next year or so. When these rooms become vacant, we want to fill them with solid community-minded people. We  want to get our core group solidified, so that we can figure out who is “in it for the long haul.” When we feel really good about our group and we have trust in each other, we can move on to phase 2.

Phase 2: Buying a home

Once we feel ready and that we are all on the same page, we plan to buy a property as a group. This would most likely be here on Cape Cod (or just over the bridge) and will ideally have at least 2 acres, a big home, good privacy, and enough space outside for our permaculture/farming projects. This could happen in any number of ways, but what this will likely look like will be creating a 501d entity. This 501d entity will technically be who buys/owns the property. Eventually any individual contributions made by core members will be paid back by the entity. Another way of funding this would be through so called “angel investors,” or even some kind of crowdfunding campaign. Also, the funding could be a hybrid of: individual contributions from core members, angel investors and a crowdfunding campaign. The whole point of phase 1 is for us to be living together so we’ll have plenty of time to figure this out. Once we get ourselves into our home, we can get to work on phase 2. Phase 2 will be very exploratory. We will try out some of the business ideas, see which ones work for our context. The goal of phase 2 is to tighten up our community, make it work, prove that it works, and figure out what can be scaled up for phase 3.

Phase 3: Scaling up

In the long term, we would love to create a larger intentional community / eco-village on a 50+ acre piece of land that could potentially support 50+ people, somewhere in southern New England. We would love it to be a demonstration site of what is possible when permaculture is applied in the community context. It could take 10, 20 or 30 years to get there, but we still want to keep this goal simmering on the back burner. To give some idea of things we’d love to see in the phase 3 community, we are thinking about creating large scale agro-ecology/agroforestry/silvopasture/permaculture/regenerative farming systems, as well as a storefront/market to sell our diverse products, infrastructure for agri-tourism/education, a hospice-esque building for elders who need extra end of life care, a nature-based school and daycare, ultra-ecological waste treatment (something like John Todd’s Living Machine), conference rooms and retreat center infrastructure, commercial kitchen and big dining hall, gym/sauna/fitness area, camping areas, a big meeting space/auditorium, tiny house sites, communal houses, etc. This is why it could take 30+ years to build. But we are big believers in having epic dreams.

A final point: We are firmly against oppression and violence. We want to foster nonviolent communication, empathy and compassion within our community. We want to create a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ folks and folks of all races, ethnicity, gender identity and spirituality. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  We have been having monthly potlucks called “community conversations.” We just get together to share food and brainstorm and talk about our future community dreams and visions. If you have any questions or would like to be in the loop, shoot us an email at dave.earthmusic@gmail.com and tell us about yourself.  We are excited to hear from you! 

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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
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Eastern Massachusetts Community Dream

Join the Next Generation of Ecovillage Builders

by Thumbs

EP2020 LOGO 2

“You’re real, and you’re bigger than my laptop screen!”

We’ve converted a bedroom at East Brook Community into our retreat center headquarters. The walls are covered with butcher paper and the faint scent of colored markers permeates the room as we graffiti the walls with flow charts and picture notes manifesting from our brainstorm. This year we’ve been meeting weekly through virtual conference calls, but that can’t compare to the thrill of collaborating in person.

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), and its youth oriented sub circle of North America (NextGENNA) are currently buzzing with growth and opportunities.  This weekend 5 members of our team came together to use this potential energy to update our organizational structure and create strategies for our shared projects.  We did this with the goal of creating clear new ways for people like yourself to plug into our network and feed your community passion.

emergent octopus photo

Following the unconventional passion of community building on your own is difficult and ironic, so our team shared the value of trusting their own insights more when part of a like minded team.

Before expanding our team we need to understand what each of us are doing this for, because like all mostly volunteer non-profits time is limited so the work must nourish our higher selves.  A series of memes we drew capture what part of our heart song this work helps play.

A focus of this retreat was also planning Ecovillage Pathways, an intimate annual event which combines ecovillage education with a community experience.  Ecovillage Pathways 2020 will center around “Healing in Community” and how it shows up in the four pillars of community: social, culture, economy, and ecology.  We will introduce various community tools which ecovillages can use to address these four pillars. With a balance of intellectual discussion, heartfelt connections, and hands on practice this will be an experience of community from the very start.

The experience of designing, organizing and facilitating workshops at this event is in and of itself an incredible learning experience for young people interested in applying professional skills to their ecovillage passion.  However, we’re also ready to serve a broader audience by fostering an online community of ecovillage enthusiasts. We’re lucky to be friends and partners with the already vibrant virtual community network, but are discovering the unique niche we can serve as well.  For example, would you be interested in a monthly virtual discussion group on ecovillage life, opportunities and challenges?

ecovillage skills draw

A unique gift of NextGEN is to expand ones ecovillage education through immersive experiences, and also to invest in trainings which will help you fuse community passion and career.

There are many ways for you to become part of the NextGENNA team, and the best way to learn more about all of them is to join our Welcoming Meeting in November.  It’ll be an opportunity for us to get to know you, and for you to learn about how to plug into the rich global network of ecovillage builders. Please email us at NextGenNorthAmerica@gmail.com to receive an invitation for the Welcoming Meeting.  This event will also appear on our Facebook Page, and sign up on our website to receive infrequent but exciting email updates!

 Watch our Welcome to Ecovillage Pathways 2020 Video

1571338478742_best chicken

Author 

Team Photo

Next GENNA team

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

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks! 

 

 

Join the Next Generation of Ecovillage Builders

The First Two Steps

by Raven

Probably the most popular post that I have written on Commune Life is the one on Four Steps to Building a Commune.  Recently I have started thinking that I missed a few steps. 

When I wrote it, I wrote it with the assumption that someone who wanted to start a commune, had come with experience and checked out the alternatives.  Now, I want to look at those things. Let’s call it steps zero and zero point five. (Or Step 0.0 & Step 0.5)

stepzerow1

Let’s start with step zero. If you are thinking of starting any type of community, but especially an income-sharing community, you should at least have some real group living experience. How do you even know that you would even like living in a community if haven’t tried it first?

I know of people who have given lots of good reasons for why they thought that they would be great in community only to find out that they didn’t like it once they really tried it.  You may be great at working with people. That isn’t the same as living with them. If you’re working with a group of people, no matter how difficult, you can go home at the end of the day. If you are living in a community, you are home. These are the folks that you are with, sometimes 24/7.  If you don’t like that, you probably don’t want to live in a commune. 

I would further suggest that if you are interested in starting a community, you actually live in one (even a co-op or collective house) for a couple of years first, and perhaps visit several others for at least a few weeks, before trying to start something. It’s really good to know how things are done at several places. The problem with only knowing one place before you start another, is thinking that the way that things are done in the place that you lived is the way things are always done everywhere.   

seeking-and-visiting-community

The more places that you visit, the wider the range of what you see as possible. Three places I would particularly recommend people who want to start a community should visit are: Twin Oaks in Virginia, to see how a commune that has lasted over fifty years works (I have done two three-week visits there plus many shorter stays), Dancing Rabbit in Missouri, to learn the pieces of how to build community, especially an ecological community (I did their three-week program several years back), and Ganas in New York City, to look at a community that fearlessly embraces conflict (I lived there for two and a half years–I would particularly recommend going to at least several of their morning meetings).

Then there is what I would call step zero point five. Ask yourself why you want to start a commune or any other type of community. Is there already a community that would meet your needs? If so, why don’t you want to live there? Please be real.  Starting a community is a lot of work and most new communities fail. At the very least (and this is moving into my Step One of my four steps), find someone else who wants to do this. Even better, see if there is anyone else who is already trying to do something similar. 
many hands together: group of people joining hands

As an example, I helped start Cotyledon because, first, I wanted to start an income-sharing community in the Northeast US and there wasn’t one at the point that I became involved. Ironically, I found some folks prior to this wanting to start a farming community in upstate New York, but after over a year working with them, I decided the way they were organizing wasn’t viable. I found out about Point A, so I would be working with a project out of the communes and after I was up here I met gil and DNA, so I now had a group to work with. (The irony is that a few years after I left, and by that time I was committed to working with Point A, the upstate farming community reorganized so that it was viable and became East Brook Community Farm. I am currently taking my own advice and planning on moving there as  Cotyledon winds down.) And I had literally decades of community living experience, including having previously started a commune in the 1990s, and visiting all the places that I mentioned above, all of which proved very useful in starting Cotyledon. And, even that wasn’t enough when we weren’t able to attract enough people. 

I am not suggesting that you need decades of experience, but I also think that someone who wakes up one day and says, “I want to build a commune” will not get far without, first, having at least some group living experience and perhaps visiting a bunch of communities, particularly places like the one that they are dreaming of, and second, having a really good reason for starting yet another new community, rather than simply joining one.

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

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks! 

 

The First Two Steps

Agreements

by Raven Cotyledon

I have written a post that is quite popular here (58 views just this week, 1708 views this year–really, it’s the most popular post on the blog) called Four Steps to Building a Commune. In it I say: “Step Two is about working on vision and agreements together.”

This post was suggested by Warren Kunce, who lives in Sweden and has been visiting us this week at Cotyledon and has been an avid reader of this blog. When I asked him what I should write about that hadn’t been talked about on the blog, his suggestion was “agreements”.  I realized that, while I had strongly suggested it in the post, I don’t think we have talked much about how to actually work on agreements on this blog, and I think it’s very important.

IMG_20190618_170921
Warren and Raven (picture by Warren)

The substance of the paragraph I wrote in the article about Four Steps was focused on what can go wrong if you don’t have agreements in place.  Here I want to talk about how to create agreements. First, it isn’t as easy as it may sound. We have been working on a Membership Process agreement at Cotyledon for over a year and we still don’t have all the details in place.

We use consensus decision making in our community and that means that you have to have buy in from everyone, at least on some level, for every decision. With agreements, it’s the details that are difficult.

And you really do want everybody’s buy in on your agreements, otherwise members are less likely to stick to them. So that means having many meetings to work through all the details. One thing that might make things faster, especially in a large group, is if there are two people in particular who disagree on some details, have them get together outside of community meetings and figure out a compromise that they can live with, and then bring that to the group for discussion and decision making.

designer491-fotolia

One really useful resource for making agreements, especially for new communes, is the Systems and Structures page on the FEC website.  Why try to reinvent the wheel?  Here you can see what other income-sharing communities have developed over the years. You don’t have to copy what they have done, but you can see what they have tried, and pick and choose what your community likes, and try it yourself.

And a good thing to remember is that agreements are experiments. You are not coming up with agreements to lock yourselves into doing things the same way forever. You are trying things to see what works for your community.  Agreements can and should be able to be changed if they don’t seem to be working for you. Some communities write an agreement with a “sunset clause”. Because consensus, honestly, tends to be conservative, in that once something is in place, it can be difficult to change it, there are communities that write some of their agreements with an expiration date. Once the experimental period has passed, the agreement becomes null and void unless the community agrees to renew it.  This makes the default, which the community needs to fall back on in the event that they can’t reach agreement on the agreement, that they need to start over, rather than they need to keep the agreement in place.

Agreements are mostly written for the difficult times, when there is a lot of conflict or turmoil. You don’t want to have to come up with an agreement or policy when things are rough.  Agreements are a support when times are difficult. But they can actually be ignored or discarded if everyone is able to decide on something different in a situation. For example, Common Threads early on came up with an agreement on what we would do if or when we dissolved.  However, when we did dissolve the community, we did something quite different, which made more sense to everyone at the time. It was still good to have the agreement, because if there had been a lot of disagreement, it would have been something we could fall back on. As I said, agreements are there to support the community, not control it.

So, the best advice I can give your community if you are making agreements, is to listen to each other. That’s what consensus is about, anyway.  Try things. Be flexible. Use agreements but don’t be ruled by them. They are there to serve your community. If they are used well, they can be very helpful. They can make things a lot smoother when you don’t have to make the same decisions again and again. And they can be changed when it’s needed. Be willing to toss out what isn’t working and start over.

And, above all, have fun with it all.

Working+Agreement

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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

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

Agreements

Thinking about Needs

by Raven Cotyledon

This may seem a bit off topic, but I think it’s very important. For people who want to start communities or folks who want to know why they can’t keep people in their commune, I believe that no one will be interested in a community or stay in one if their needs aren’t being met.

I have my own blog, which I have mentioned before, and which is now being neglected while I focus on Commune Life and commune building in New York City. I have thought about the concept of needs for a long time and, just a bit more than ten years ago, I wrote a post that inaugurated a series that lasted four months and involved something like forty-five posts, all focused on human needs.

I began by using, as a framework, psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef’s Fundamental Human Needs. Even though Max-Neef made his list in opposition to Maslow’s Hierarchy, I saw the two lists as compatible and created my own list, combining them, listing categories beginning with physiological/subsistence needs and finishing off with artistic and creativity needs, identity needs, and freedom needs. I followed this with forty-three posts, each talking, in some detail, about what might be needed to meet each of forty-three needs. I think this all is important to try to think about what the needs of each person in community might be and how to meet these needs. As I said in my wrap up post, these were all real needs and did not include things the advertisers claim you need.  There is no human need for SUVs or McMansions.

maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy

Since then I have encountered two other ways of looking at needs that I think are worth mentioning, from the perspectives of Nonviolent Communication and Permaculture.

One of the concepts in Nonviolent Communication (aka Compassionate Communication or NVC) is the difference between needs and strategies. An example is that I come from Boston and live in New York City. Most of the people I love are still in Boston. If something happened to one of them, I might have a real need to get up to Boston. (A need not on any of the lists, but a need just the same.) If I came to you and said that I needed to borrow your car, that would not actually be a need. It’s a strategy. I could get to Boston by bus, train, ship, plane, biking, walking, hitchhiking, and on and on.  There usually dozens, if not hundreds of strategies to meet a need. When needs seem to be in conflict, NVC claims that it’s often really about conflicting strategies.

NVC-Step-3-Needs
Where Maslow and NVC look at needs from a psychological and often individual perspective, Permaculture looks at them from a system perspective. In permaculture, they look at “elements” in a system, which could be plants in a garden or people in a commune.   Each ‘element’ has both needs and products or behaviors or yields or, I would say, gifts. The system part goes beyond the individual needs to looking at how one person’s gifts can meet another person’s needs, and with things in right relationship, the whole community can meet everyone’s needs. I love thinking about how person A’s needs can be met by person B’s gifts, and person B’s needs can be met by person C’s gifts, and then person C’s needs can be met by person A’s gifts. (This is oversimplified, but hopefully you get the idea.)

permaculture_chickenby-dt
Needs and gifts of a chicken

Maybe someday, the communes will figure out, not only how we can each meet other member’s needs, but we can do so effortlessly. Truly then we would have something that could transform this society.

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Thinking about Needs