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).
Saturday September 1st
9:30 to noon
1:30 to 3 PM
- FEC Panel
- Holistic Planning and Decision Making
- Could your community be 100% energy self sufficient
- Art as Strategy for Creating Community – Damanhur approach
- Creating Unity in the Communities Movement
4 to 5:30 PM
- POC Panel
- Why are you fundraising?
- Building Community thru Song
- Designing Community for Seniors
- Communities building cooperatives
Sunday September 2
9:30 to 11
- Diversity in Recruiting
- Ecovillage Design
- Consciousness in Community
- Surviving Exodus in Community
- Nomadic Communitarians
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.
Last week, we published a piece on two income sharing systems called “Allowance Versus Box of Money” (which I’ve also heard called Dual and Unitary income sharing systems). Although I thought it was a really interesting article, I had a couple of difficulties with it.
One was that it seemed to claim that all income sharing came in “in two broad flavors”. I know of a couple of communities in dialogue in the FEC (the Possibility Alliance/Stillwater Sanctuary and Rainforest Lab) that are exploring using a gift economy exchange system, which involves neither an allowance or a box of money. The article also suggested that the box of money approach was the “more radical solution”. As someone who helped create an income sharing community, I found the allowance method an elegant solution to what we were trying to achieve. Instead of trying to figure out which is the ‘more radical’ approach, I think that it’s useful to know that there are at least three different ways to share income–probably more. (I heard someone talk about ‘punk income sharing’ where it’s not hard to share income if there isn’t any to share.)
I think one of the main reasons for creating new communes, is (as I also heard someone say) to create ‘new flavors’ of communal living. This is why there are five different income sharing communities in Louisa County, VA.
I think it’s important that there are many options for income sharing, that some communes are high structure (say Twin Oaks) and some communes are low structure (say Acorn), that there are communities that approach a middle class lifestyle and communities (like Living Energy Farm and the Stillwater Sanctuary) that are already preparing for life beyond fossil fuels. I’ve heard some folks talking recently about communities of people of color. I’m not threatened by this, any more than I’m threatened by women’s communities. And as much as I’m an advocate for egalitarian, income sharing communities, I’m well aware and even happy that this is only a small percentage of all the communities out there–there are co-operative houses, cohousing communities, ecovillages, hybrid communities of all kinds, and many varieties of spiritual communities, to name the most common ones in the Communities Directory.
Again, we’re creating more options for people, not less. And I’m well aware that not everyone wants to live in community. The point is that I think there should be all kinds of communities (and particularly income sharing communities) for those that are looking for them, because different people will do better in different communities, just like the ‘box of money’ approach will work better for some communities, and the ‘allowance’ approach for others, and using a ‘gift economy’ for still others.
As David from las Indias said, in an article on diversity that we published a year ago, “The kind of diversity many of you are concerned about … will come by itself, but probably not to every community, but to the network we must build together.” While diversity within communities is important, I think diversity among communities is crucial.
There are not very many places that do secular income sharing. But those that do come in two broad flavors. For those of us who spend a lot of time talking about income sharing, these two different approaches are sometimes given the shorthand “Box of Money” and “Allowance”.
All full income sharing systems are in agreement about communalizing the vast majority of expenses: Medical expenses, food, housing, clothing, education, transportation, costs connected with children, pets, various emergencies – these are all covered. Everything that falls solidly onto the “needs” side of the sometimes vague needs vs wants divide is covered. It is the small things and the things at the needs/wants margin where we struggle.
Should i be paying for your beer (especially when i don’t drink)? Should i be paying for your vacation to the beach? At Twin Oaks we have “solved” this problem by giving our members an allowance which is typically around $100 per month. You want to smoke cigarettes, you can have up to a $100 habit. You have to be at the premier of the latest Marvel superhero movie, that is your discretionary call. By giving people allowances, the commune avoids having to agree on a whole bunch of small, and oft divisive issues.
The more radical solution is the infamous “box of money”. In a number of European communes, including some of the larger ones, there is a physical box of money and when you need some, you go take it. Sometimes you need to write down what you took it for, in other places there is less concern about this. But if you are using this approach, you are agreeing to have whatever conversations and consensus is necessary for everyone to trust each other enough to let them spend the money they need to spend to live the life they want to lead.
In the US, the existing “box of money” communes are smaller. Compersia in DC, Sandhill in Missouri. Allowance based communes include Twin Oaks, East Wind and Acorn, the largest three members of the FEC. Although Acorn, with its anarchist orientation, straddles the boundary by empowering any member to spend up to $50 on anything for the community that they think is a good deal. In the three years i lived there i did not hear anyone complain at a meeting that someone had misused this privilege.
Some of the trade offs between the “allowance” and “box of money” systems are obvious, but many we are still exploring. We know that using an “allowance” system makes room for differences of opinion to exist without being resolved or even seriously addressed. Is that a good thing because it saves time and preserves privacy or a bad thing because it doesn’t drive us towards mutual understanding and critical reflection? We know that using “box of money” system allows for a greater diversity of spending patterns and priorities among members. Is that a good thing because it more easily makes room for people from diverse backgrounds and in diverse situations or a bad thing because it doesn’t drive us always back into the communal economy, looking for ways to meet our needs with each other rather than with money? As more examples are created here in the States and as we build better bridges of communication across the Atlantic our understanding of the dynamics of egalitarian, cooperative economies can only flourish.
Darles was a founder of the Quercus community, which is now, sadly, disbanded.