Come Hell or High Water

by Raven Glomus

The two previous book reviews this week (books on sustainable community and collaborative groups) focused on books written about how to do collaborations (including communes and communities) well.  Today I want to review a book about what not to do.  It’s called Come Hell or High Water and is subtitled “a handbook on collective process gone awry”.  It’s published by AK press–“one of the world’s largest and most productive anarchist publishing houses”–that also publishes a bunch of other interesting books (including adrienne maree brown’s book on Emergent Strategy which I based two blog posts here on).

As the cover illustrates, this is a funny, cynical book that has a bunch of cartoons illustrating some frustrating problems.  It also has a lot of hard won lessons about how all these wonderful processes that we talk about here and which other commune building guides extol can go terribly wrong.  It’s written by a couple of anarchists who believe strongly in “egalitarian collectives” but have seen the pitfalls in the process and have looked at ways that form what the authors term “predictable patterns” that can lead well-meaning groups to things like “hierarchy, mistrust, looking out only for oneself, and sometimes even underhanded scheming.”  

Although this is a modest sized book (and a quick read–127 small pages) Delfina Vannuchi and Richard Singer look carefully at issues like misusing consensus, how not to do power sharing, the difference between politeness and kindness, character assassinations and banning, justice and due process and free speech, and how vagueness can lead to authoritarianism.

I’ve seen reviews of this book that complain that this book is overly ‘pessimistic’.  However, I think that it provides a nice counterbalance to all the books on the wonderful things you can do with group process.  (See my two previous reviews this week.)  The cartoons are also a nice touch that makes the emphasis on problems easier to take.

The authors end the book with a section that they entitle “There’s hope” where they talk about how “Virtually all problems in collectives can be overcome by applying compassion, and by being thorough and even-handed in our thinking.”  Sounds lovely but not easy to do, especially when things are tough.  

Here’s the last paragraph in the book, which is a nice summary of their thinking:

“An egalitarian collective is meant to accept and incorporate differences and heterogeneity.  The task is to create a productive, relatively peaceful community out of all the different and sometimes contradictory personalities that form the group.  No collective will ever be a perfect picture of unity, but it doesn’t have to be.  A working collective is more like a crazy-quilt of disparate styles, all stitched up by a common thread.  Frayed edges and all, that’s what a functional egalitarian collective looks like.”

It’s a nice reminder for people living in or trying to build communes.

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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! 

Come Hell or High Water

Joining a Community: The Reality

by Raven Glomus

I have written a bunch of articles on starting a commune or community, and we’ve published more here.  In many of them, we talk about how hard it is and in at least one of them I stated that you should join and live in a community before starting one.  And probably for the majority of community minded folks it’s easier to just join a community as opposed to starting one.

Yet with all the posts on the perils and promise of starting a community, I realize that there have been few articles on what’s involved in joining one.

This piece was inspired by reading a post by a disgruntled former Twin Oaks member where he (at least I think the writer is a he) talks about how the community treats new members as “peasants”.   I’ve seen other things written about how communities build themselves on the labor of new members and that new members get less privileges than older members.  And there is some truth to this, especially in the larger communes like Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Acorn (as well as non-income-sharing communities, such as Ganas and Dancing Rabbit) but I’ve also seen things like this happen on a smaller scale in smaller communities.

A Twin Oaks visitor group

The biggest part of that is that new folks can’t understand how things operate really until they have been there a while.  And it takes a community a while to understand and trust new folks.  Just because someone has been through a three week visitor period (like they have at Twin Oaks) doesn’t mean that they truly understand the community or the community truly understands them.

I heard a long term member at Ganas say that a person would join them and within a day announce that they had finally found the community of their dreams and that they intended to stay forever and then a second person would come and say that the place seemed ‘okay’ and that they might stay a little while and see if they liked it, and generally the first person wouldn’t last six months while the second might end up staying years.  It’s not always true, but it often is.

The thing is that almost every community has people coming and going–many people idealize communal living and try it out before realizing that it’s not perfect and it’s not for them.  People who are willing to make compromises and don’t expect utopia and are willing to stick through with something they believe in, even through the rough patches, often do very well at Twin Oaks as well as other places.  Seniority makes a difference and I think that it makes little sense to give full privileges to someone who just got in the door and doesn’t even understand what they are doing yet and probably won’t stay very long and I think that’s the way most communities feel.  

So when you join, be prepared for a rough patch at the beginning.  If you think that the community is what you want, try to stick it out.  It will get better if you hang in.

from the East Wind visitor page

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that you shouldn’t expect to get close with or even become good friends with the long term members.  They have already built friendship bonds with each other and they probably don’t want to invest a lot of energy in you, if they have no idea how long you will be there.  Instead, try to get to know the other new folks.  They’re in the same boat as you are and they will be looking to build friendships as well.  I noticed that when I was at Ganas I got close with a number of folks and they were all members who arrived around the same time as I did, or later.  I did build one close relationship with one long term member, but that didn’t happen until I had been there well over a year.  This same person basically ignored me when I got there.

So this is my advice to anyone joining an already established community.  Hang in there.  Be useful, be committed (as long as it makes sense), and seek out other new folks to make friends with.  If you can stick with it, you can create a nice life for yourself in community–but it will take time.

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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! 

Joining a Community: The Reality

My Hopes for 2021

by Raven Glomus

Welcome to 2021!  The year 2020 is officially over.  One of my commune mates pointed out that nothing really changes as the calendar year rolls over, but there’s a lot of symbolism, especially this past year when so many (mostly not good things) happened all at once.

I will try to focus on commune related things in listing my hopes, but the coronavirus has had a major impact on the communes, and will need to be dealt with.  My first and biggest hope for this year is that, with folks getting vaccinated, we may be able to move somewhat beyond having to deal with the repercussions of the pandemic.  In terms of this happening, I’ve heard everything from late spring, to the summer, to sometime in the fall.  This will mean a lot for the communes.

The only good thing out of all this is that I think that the pandemic has increased interest in communal living.  It’s also made it hard to join communities.  So when some of the pandemic restrictions are lifted, I am very hopeful that many of the communes, which are at low populations now, will be able to bring in some good folks and increase their membership.

I also hope that this encourages some folks to decide to actually create communities.  There’s certainly enough interest in it–maybe with restrictions being lifted, some folks will decide to just do it.  I know that I am often discouraging of people simply starting communities, but if someone is really willing to begin the work (and a lot of this work is outlined on the blog) and reaches out and knows others who are also interested–and especially if they have some communal living experience, goodness knows we need more communes.  And I believe that if 90% of new communes fail, and we want to get at least ten new communes up and running, we’re going to need to start a hundred communes to get there, so I am actually in favor of folks starting communes, particularly if they are willing to do the research and networking they will need to do.

A big, pandemic related, hope for this year is that if the restrictions can be eased on time, there can be the usual August gatherings at Twin Oaks this summer.  I have never been to the Queer Gathering and I was planning to go last year but TO canceled all three gatherings.  My hope for this summer is that the Queer Gathering and the Women’s Gathering and the Communities Conference can all happen again.  I mentioned networking earlier and these are all great networking events.  If they happen (I hope, I hope, I hope they do) I would strongly encourage anyone interested in communal living to attend at least the Communities Conference, and if you identify as queer, the Queer Gathering, and if you identify as a woman, the Women’s Gathering.

Another hope for this year is that the communes continue to look at and figure out how to embrace racial justice, whether that’s by figuring out how to become more diverse or by figuring out how to support communities of color.  For horrible reasons, there was a large upswelling of interest in this over the course of 2020.  My hope is that this wasn’t another political phase but the beginning of some sustained work in all of our communities.

And my final hope for this new year is that folks find fun in all of this.  A lot of 2020 was grim and we have a lot of work to do, building back community membership, creating new communities, and continuing to work on racism (and classism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and creating access for people with disabilities and…) and that we find a way to be joyful and even playful in all this because we will never attract anyone if we are all too damn serious.

What are your hopes for 2021?

My Hopes for 2021

Live at Le Manoir!

Hey, fellow communards!

You already live in an income sharing community.  Do you also have experience in managing a big garden, or a small farm? Would you like to live a unique experience, in a different country, another climate, surrounded by people speaking a foreign language, and yet, feel at home in a egalitarian tribe that decides by consensus, is LGBTQ+ friendly and shares other values, cultural traits and ways of life?

Why not take the leap, and LEX? (as in « Labor Exchange »)  https://www.thefec.org/about/projects/lex/  Or simply, take a paid job in an international intentional community environment.

COOPERATIVE LES POTAGERS PARTAGÉS IS HIRING!

An organic local farm, in a 5 years old intentional community, is looking for a production manager for the 2021 season

From Mai to November, come live in Gaspésie, Québec, Canada!

The « Po-Pa », is:  40 vegetable baskets; 5 employees; 25 different vegetables, and at least 8 types of seeds; and a coop business well knitted in its larger community!

Link to the job offer:  https://potagerspartages.ca/job-offer

To apply or for any info, please write to Solange at: potagerspartages@gmail.com

You know what? Le Manoir is still ‘’on the map’’!  Yes, yes! On the far east, and up… higher, higher… Oh, yeah, have I forgot to mention? We are on the other side of the border.

Remember? This is a ‘’not-only-foreign-but-exotic’’ creature of the FEC, french speaking, and still unvisited by you, american members of the income sharing diaspora.

Last september, Le Manoir was celebrating its 5th year of existence.

The community is actually down to 4 adult members. We are gently settling in this new normal, as last year has been rich in turnover.

Winter is usually a quieter season. It brings a pause in farm and building work. As the day light becomes scarce and the snow slowly covers the fields with its white mantle, we ‘’turn inward’’.

Between a field hockey game and a cross-country ski trip in the surrounding forest, we get together around a warm fire. We think and discuss, digest the past months and make plans for the future. What’s in for 2021? We definitely will be looking for new members. The rest is yet to be seen (and lived!).

Here’s a video which features Le Manoir. It’s in French with English subtitles–also there is a warning with it: “This film contains scenes of animal slaughter.” However there is a nice piece about Le Manoir at the beginning of the film, before any scenes of animal slaughter: https://www.nfb.ca/film/gatherings-episode-1-territories/

Live at Le Manoir!

Why live in a commune?

So, I thought that this was a super simple question, but I got a bunch of interesting responses to it. The question:

As you can see, I got twenty comments (although a couple of them were mine–Raven’s). What’s more important is that many of them were thoughtful responses to this relatively simple question. I will start with my response, which Facebook seems to have shuffled to the top.

I got a response from someone with similar aspirations and I responded using (unintentionally) the Commune Life handle.

Here are a bunch of the other responses:

Here’s one from Dan Parelius, former Twin Oaker and avid Commune Life follower, which I had to respond to:

And then more stories of the ups and downs of communal living:

Finally, someone had to send one of those meme pics, and indeed, someone did:

Why live in a commune?

“No, you can’t come back.”

Posted 1st March 2014 by keenan from Keenan’s Twin Oaks Blog

This is a paper I drafted as a community Planner.  The decision to deny a member a year-long leave was controversial, so I had to explain it very carefully and with a great deal of thought. It should be self-explanatory.

The Planners stand by the decision to deny Bert a Personal Affairs Leave (PAL)

The 3×5 board at Twin Oaks where messages are posted

Some background to this decision: Bert left Twin Oaks in October of 2007, moved all of his stuff out, bought a house, bought a car, got a job, gave up his room and stopped turning in labor sheets.

Before we get to the policy details of why the Planners are denying Bert’s  request, we wish to frame this issue within a larger context. One purpose of the Plannership is to serve as a backstop for Twin Oaks policies. Frequently, the Planners are asked to make an exception to some policy and we occasionally grant it because the situation before the Planners is not adequately covered by the policy. Planners don’t like making exceptions to, or overriding written policies. But sometimes policies are poorly worded, sometimes they are incomplete, sometimes they are meant to cover one extreme situation that is unlikely ever to occur again. So it is up to the Planners to bring their judgment to bear on any application of policy to insure that it is not at odds with the well-being of the community as a whole, or the well-being of any individual member.

Planners make sure that the application of policies passes the muster of common sense. If a policy fails to cover the situation at hand, then the Planners have more than the right, but the duty to interpret, create, and make exceptions to policy. Most often exceptions are granted in the form of being more lenient. But exceptions can also be made in making the application of policy stricter.

In the case before us, Bert is asking for a PAL. Bert has been gone from Twin Oaks for six months already and his PAL request means that he could be gone from Twin Oaks for up to another year and return as a full member with no further process. This request seems inconsistent with our policies, but it also seems inconsistent with the wishes of the majority of the community.

But the desire of the majority will not always carry the day. Twin Oaks is not meant to be a democracy. Our culture and policies strive to provide more protection for an individual than is the case in a mere democracy. Twin Oaks is in opposition to the tyranny of the majority. As a community, we also have chosen to protect the rights of minorities—even a minority of one. The Planners must always keep in mind in making a decision how this decision will affect the life or well-being of the “losing side” the minority. Even a minority or one must be protected if the loss of rights would be significant enough.

In this case, what would we be depriving Bert of by denying his PAL? Bert doesn’t live at Twin Oaks now. He hasn’t for six months. He owns a house, a car, has a job. By denying him a PAL, are we taking any of those things away from him? No. Rather, by denying him a PAL we are making his status the same as every visitor who comes to Twin Oaks. He can join a visitor group and apply for membership. This does not seem like a significant imposition on Bert’s civil or human rights. Therefore the Planners don’t feel that we need to apply a higher than normal standard of protection to Bert’s rights in making this decision.

Reasons to deny Bert’s application for a PAL: 

Sabbatical policy states that a PAL may not be taken within six months of returning from a sabbatical. Bert has not returned to Twin Oaks at all, much less returned to Twin Oaks for six months. Bert asserts that by claiming vacation he has “returned” to Twin Oaks. The Planners doubt that this was the intent of the drafters of the policy, and whatever their intent at the time, this group of Planners is interpreting the policy to mean that a member must physically return to and live at the community for six months.

Sabbatical policy states, in bold print, that sabbaticals are not meant to be a leaving cushion. The very clear intent of the sabbatical policy is to allow long-term members some time away from Twin Oaks. The community has been very lenient in the application of this provision of sabbatical policy and has merely asked that if a member chooses to leave the community, then they must repay any expenses that were incurred during the sabbatical. Recently, sabbaticals have become a leaving cushion, in clear violation of the intent of the sabbatical policy. It is clear that, in order to have sabbaticals fulfill their original intent, that sabbatical policy needs to be tightened up.

The Planners are well within their rights to deny Bert a PAL. That is, to retroactively say that Bert has used the sabbatical policy as a leaving cushion which is in violation of the sabbatical policy and therefore Bert is now (or when his vacation ran out, which would have been January 7th) an ex-member of the community—and therefore not eligible for a PAL.

Another reason the Planners used to deny Bert a PAL is that he is not a member in good standing. The issue of what the PAL policy means by a “member in good standing” was divisive and contentious when we were dealing with Bok Choy. While in the midst of expulsion proceedings was Bok Choy a member in good standing? The membership team at that time made a narrowly defined decision that being a member in good standing merely means not being in the labor or money hole. The current Planners reject that interpretation as being at odds with the intent of the community, with the intent of policy authors, and as creating bizarre situations like Bok Choy’s. She was being expelled, but chose to leave the community before the process was completed and expected to be granted a PAL because she was, technically, a member in good standing, even though her lying on her labor sheet was one of the issues involved in the expulsion proceedings.

Until the membership team updates their definition of “good standing” the Planners are using a broader definition of good standing. Bert was involved in a dispute just before he left and that caused lots of stress in his life and which caused Bert to do things that made Bert, as far as the Planners are aware, not a member in good standing. The Planners at that time didn’t want to make Bert’s life harder since he was leaving, so issues around Bert’s behavior were allowed to drop. But the current Planners believe Bert to not be a member in good standing and therefore not eligible for a PAL. If any member wishes to challenge this, the Planners can share more information.

As a final clarification, Bert is not being expelled. He is being denied a PAL. That Bert’s behavior during his membership makes it unlikely that he would be accepted as a member is not lost on the Planners. Rather, that is all the more reason to deny his PAL. The Planners also want to protect the rights of the members who live here now. Many of those members never had a chance to give input on Bert’s membership and may not want to live with him. Allowing members to have some say over who lives at Twin Oaks is a fundamental right.

For all of these reasons the Planners stand by the decision to deny Bert a  Personal Affairs Leave (PAL).

“No, you can’t come back.”

Children, Families, and Single Parents

by Raven East Brook 

A couple of weeks ago, I put a post here about how communities deal with abusive members and entitled it, “Misbehaving”.  The title was intended to be provocative and to illustrate it, I searched for images of folks misbehaving. I found a couple of pictures of kids acting out and used them to illustrate the piece. I thought that they might add some humor to my post. 

Someone in my community pointed out that these weren’t appropriate and I also got feedback in the form of comments when it went up on Facebook.   I want to apologize and say clearly here that children are seldom, if ever, the cause of real problems in community. The issues I was pointing out all involved abusive adults. 

A family at Twin Oaks

Unfortunately, children, who bring so much to communities, are often not accepted into income-sharing communities, particularly if the communities are stressed out. Families and single parents have a harder time getting into communes and often staying in communes than people without children. 

This is truly unfortunate and something that we need to change. While I can understand the issues on both sides, we can’t simply reject folks with kids. 

A family at East Wind

I want to say here that I was part of a commune in the 1990s that helped raise two children, who are now lovely adults. I also know how much energy it took. There were usually five or six adults in the community and, although this wasn’t supposed to be the focus of our commune, parenting issues took up a lot of our time. (We actually did communal parenting, which I suspect few communities do.)  I often wonder how my parents did it with two adults and five children, when we could barely deal with two kids when there were five adults. 

I think that this is incredibly important work. If we are going to claim to be a real alternative to this dysfunctional society, we are going to need to figure out how we can support parents and families. We are going to need to take on the responsibilities involved in raising children. Communes and communities need to open their doors to families and single parents.

It does take a village to raise a child. We need to be those villages. 

Another child at Twin Oaks

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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! 

Children, Families, and Single Parents

Associate Status

by Raven

I was talking with Ryn, who had been staying here at East Brook Community Farm for several months but is also an Associate member of East Wind. East Wind is one of a few communes in the FEC that has an Associate status. I know that Acorn used to have Associates (and may still have them) and they are considering creating this status at East Brook.

Ryn sent me a copy of the East Wind policy on associate members. East Wind has had Associates for a long time, perhaps dating back to the 1980s.  Basically an Associate member is required have a room at East Wind for at least 60 days during any given year and to be away from the community for at least 60 days during a year. An associate member is therefore a part time member in a community. Being part time at one of the communes allows you to spend significant time at other communities.

spring-2016-29-of-152-1024x685
East Wind’s membership in Spring 2016

Associate members at East Wind can own their own cars and vehicles and they can hold jobs outside the community, something that full members at East Wind can’t do.

Being an Associate member gives you a lot of freedom to go back and forth between various communities and therefore Ryn believes that it creates the “social glue” that can hold the communes together.  Associate membership allows you to hang out for decent periods of time with people from different communes and get and spread the news about what is happening at various other communities.

Ryn pointed out that when there was at least one member that went back and forth between East Wind and Acorn, the two communities grew closer together, and when that communard settled into one of the communities and dropped membership in the other,  there seemed to be more tension between the communities.

Nov-18-Group-photo
Acorn’s membership, November, 2018

I am always a believer in creating more options for people.  Living part time in several different communities is an important alternative that some of the communes offer.   It’s not for everyone (I wouldn’t want to live part time in several places) but I think that it’s an important and useful option that benefits not only the people who take advantage of it, but the income-sharing communities at large.

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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! 

Associate Status

East Brook: How We Choose Our Members

from the Commune Life tumblr account

Membership processes are often in flux. Below is the membership process document for East Brook Community Farm, as of February 2019

Below is an outline of the process which begins with you not being a member and ends with you being an income sharing member.

58620617_197519464549513_1705697428662885183_n

Step 1: Introductions

  • You learn about East Brook, and then ask to come visit for a short period of time (can be a day, a week, or a month).
  • You come visit for this short period.
  • You leave.

Step 2: Formal request to begin the membership process

You write a letter to East Brook asking to live with us for a long but finite amount of time (between 6 months and 1 year), as a residential member.

This letter should describe why you want to live here and what kinds of things you want to do with us.

We respond. Possible responses include:

  • Yes! Lets live together for that amount of time!
  • We need more info! We are interested in what it would be like to live with you, but don’t know you well enough yet to commit to a multi-month stay. Why don’t you come back for a few weeks or a month and we’ll get to know each other better?
  • No! We don’t think East Brook and you are a good match right now.

Step 3: Roles and Goals

After your residential membership request has been accepted, you write up a roles and goals document. This should happen either before you move in or within the first month of living together.

  • This document outlines the roles you see yourself playing in the community during your residential membership period, and describes the goals you have in those roles by the end of the period.
  • Your roles and goals arrangement may include a stipend for you, or it might not. Either way, at this stage, while we live together, we make most decisions together but you do not share income or make long term financial decisions with us.

Once the roles and goals document is written, we have a meeting to talk about it. Changes to the document might be suggested, and consensus is reached. General excitement is had. We live with you now! We will definitely live with you until your residential membership period finishes!

We schedule your membership check-in meeting, which will happen about ⅔ of the way into your residential membership period.

IMG_0178

Step 4: The Membership Check-in meeting

Near the end of your residential membership period, we schedule this meeting to review how your time here has been, and what the future might look like.

If you want to continue living here, you bring a revised copy of your Roles and Goals document to the meeting, and we discuss what it would be like to live with you as an income-sharing member for the upcoming year

You may decide to remain a residential member of East Brook and not move forward into income sharing with us.

This meeting should be celebratory, not judgmental. We appreciate our time together and collectively imagine a path forward.

Step 5: Income-sharing membership consensus

The current income-sharing members meet without you and reach consensus about if we want to live with you and share income with you.

This meeting may happen before Step 4 in some circumstances.

Possible decisions include:

  • Yes! Lets live together for another year and share all our income!
  • We need more info! We are interested in what it would be like to live with you more intimately, and share our incomes together, but some concerns have come up during your time here and we need more experience living together before we explore the income-sharing path. Let’s revise your roles and goals to fit the next 6 months, and then after that we’ll check in again and re-explore income-sharing membership.
  • No! After living with you for the last several months, we’ve decided that it is not best for the community to continue to live together. We ask that you find somewhere else to live after your residential membership period is complete.

Step 6: Income Sharing

Once we have reached consensus on income-sharing membership, the details of the income-sharing agreement need to be worked out.

Income-sharing agreements at East Brook are modular, and tailored to the needs and resources of each individual. Our income-sharing agreements have four parts:

  1. Financial disclosure – this part describes your savings, material possessions, and expected income over the next year.
  2. An explicit agreement that all the money you make in the next year will be shared with East Brook, and all expenses you might incur in the next year will be paid by East Brook.
  3. A budget – This part details how the money you earn will be allocated by East Brook, and how East Brook will meet your needs.
  4. An exit agreement – some amount of your income is allocated towards exit savings, so that you have resources should you choose to leave. We make arrangements for cars and other material possessions to facilitate amicable leaving.

Once this agreement is made, next we take actions to implement it. Actions might include:

  1. You get access to East Brook bank accounts (either by being added to the account or getting a credit card which East Brook commits to paying)
  2. Any paychecks you receive from outside income are designated to be deposited into East Brook accounts.
  3. Any regular bills you have are designated to autopay from East Brook accounts.

Once income sharing is implemented, you are now an income-sharing member for the next year.

Step 7: Following Up

Income sharing members are members “indefinitely” but their membership is subject to regular conversation and exploration with the other members.

One year after you become an income-sharing member, we all meet and once again review and revise your roles and goals document.

  • This is a time to reassess your experience in community. Is it living up to your expectations? Are there things about your life or your relationships which you would like to work to change? How can we improve things? Might it be time to leave soon? Do you want to change your roles? Did you achieve the goals you set? What new things would you like to accomplish in the next year? How can you be supported in personal growth?

Unlike the first check-in meeting, there is no follow-up meeting after this one where all members besides you are present. (Unless someone wishes to trigger our expulsion process, which should almost never happen). However, this meeting is a time for everyone to seriously consider how our lives are affected by living together, and to explore all options available to us to continue to support each other and the community we live in. The meeting should encourage discussion of radical changes to our roles and relationships, if they are needed.   (Default is you continue to live here, this is just a chance to explore your options and figure out if your life is on a path you truly want blah blah blah etc.)

The meeting concludes with consensus on your updated roles and goals document. Then we schedule your next check-in meeting for a year or two from now. This process repeats indefinitely.

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East Brook: How We Choose Our Members

East Wind’s Path to Membership

Living in an intentional community can be a deeply rewarding experience. Many people are realizing the shortcomings of consumer culture and are searching for a better way to live. Living at East Wind offers the opportunity to be your own boss and pursue work that truly interests you, to develop a deeper connection with the natural world, to share your day-to-day life with an extended family of like-minded people, and to be a part of a movement to create a better quality of life for everyone in your community. East Wind isn’t the place for everyone, but some of our current members consider moving to community to be one of the best decisions of their lives. If we desire something better than ‘the American dream’ for ourselves and for future generations, we must develop alternatives and set an example for others to follow. So take some advice from Mohandas Gandhi and “be the change you want to see in the world.” That’s what East Winders do every single day.  Leading an autonomous life is an incredibly empowering experience.  You will certainly be amazed as your innate potential reveals itself.

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Those interested in joining East Wind are welcome to inquire about arranging a visit. Contact us first at ew.membership@gmail.com, as dropping in unannounced is not accepted. After completing a three week visitor period, visitors can apply for either provisional membership or associate status at East Wind. Provisional membership is somewhat of a trial membership, and is a year-long process to becoming a full member. You can click here to read all legislation pertaining to membership and visitors.

East Wind is self-governed through direct democracy. All members and visitors are welcome to participate in our political processes and speak in community meetings. However, visitors, provisional members (those during their first year of membership), and those with associate status are not granted a full vote. Provisional members receive a half vote in community ballots after three months of membership, and can vote on all issues except for those that deal with membership. Visitors and individuals with associate status have no voting rights, but may still attend community meetings and share their opinions. All full members have an equal vote and equal access to utilize the established processes. Only full members can sign and pass petitions.

After one year, provisional members are subject to a vote on their membership—if they receive a simple majority of yes votes, they are awarded full membership, full medical coverage, and a full vote in future ballots. However, if they receive a majority of no votes, they will be asked to either extend their provisional membership by six months before undergoing a second vote or to leave community. If this sounds like a lot of pressure, please keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of membership votes are in favor of the new member. This process is designed primarily to keep out individuals who do not do their fair share of work or make current members feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

All full members are equal owners of our land, our businesses, and our assets. Full members can only be expelled from community by the action of two-thirds of full members through petition or vote. Expellable offenses include failure to do fair share, physical violence, theft, violating the community’s property and income codes, and deliberate attempts to destroy or disband the community. The decision to expel a member for these or other offenses is made by full members of the community on a case-by-case basis. Though problems do occasionally arise, we are usually able to resolve issues amongst ourselves and expulsion is extremely uncommon.

East Wind offers a home to those who want to help us in our mission to create a sustainable and egalitarian communal lifestyle. If these values are important to you, please consider visiting us in the Ozarks and getting involved.

 

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East Wind’s Path to Membership