Sustainability at the Communes

by Raven Cotyledon

Last week our community, Cotyledon, sponsored a talk by a researcher from the Czech Republic.  It’s been a strange few weeks at Cotyledon, with Swedish and Czech and Australian visitors coming one after another.

Our Czech visitor, Jan Blažek, gave a presentation on Eco-communities in Europe at a local artists space for us.  We decided to have some of the NYC area communities get a chance to respond to his talk and have representatives from Cotyledon (me), Ganas, and Arc38 (which is in the countryside a bit north of the city) there to react.

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Jan Blazek

This set me to thinking about how the communes that I know of approach sustainability.

As I said in my part in the discussion following Jan’s presentation, Cotyledon began with a focus on food justice and urban agriculture. I have written about our relationship with Smiling Hogshead Ranch. Even though we are embedded in New York City, we are clear that we are concerned with working with nature and growing soil, plants, and food.  We have also become increasingly involved with the Extinction Rebellion–a movement to take radical action against climate disruption.

And we are one of the more urban of the communes.

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The banner for the presentation

The rural communes have even more of a focus on agriculture and food production. I have seen the crops growing at East Brook, Twin Oaks, Acorn, Mimosa, Sandhill, East Wind, and Oran Mor. There are major dairy programs at Twin Oaks and East Wind and both Acorn and Rainforest Lab used to have lots of goats. (Sadly, both of these communities had to give up their goats.) While few of these communities are fully self sufficient, they grow a large amount of their own food. Most of them also dumpster, as do the folks at Compersia in DC and us at Cotyledon. Dumpstering takes food out of the waste stream.  I believe these things are also true at the Mothership and Rainforest Lab and Ionia, but I haven’t been to any of them. (Although there is a sweet video about making grape juice at the Mothership.)

The communes in Virginia helped set up Living Energy Farm, which is a demonstration site for fossil fuel free living. Cambia community also spends much of their time demonstrating ecological living, with many teaching exhibits and a passion for reaching out to young people.

At its core, the radical sharing involved in all communal living, creates sustainability by its very nature.

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Kale at the Ranch

I see the communes as models for the sustainable world that we need to live in. Communities give us the chance to try things and see what works.

We may not survive climate change, but if we do, our learnings from the communities will be essential in recreating the planet.

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eCo from Arc38 with Jan

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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!

 

Sustainability at the Communes

Cambia has kittens!!!

from the Commune Life Instagram account:

 

Cambia has kittens!!!

What’s scary about income-sharing?

by Raven Cotyledon

As I wrote in my post on Trust, when I was part of starting the Common Threads community in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1995, we didn’t begin by doing income-sharing. We always had the intention of doing it, but Robert and I had learned the hard way not to try to do everything at once right from the start.  Robert and Susan and I spent at least a year (my memory of the time is a bit foggy now) getting to know each other and learning what we would need from each other (trust, naturally, was a big part of it) and what got in the way of us wanting to do this. What got in the way was mostly fear.

Susan wrote a lovely article about our process for Communities magazine (Summer, 1998, issue #99) entitled “Income Sharing: Overcoming Stage Fright”.  A quote from the article, “My worst fears about income sharing a year ago were that I would lose control of my money.  I thought that I’d have to attend a meeting to get permission to buy a pair of socks. I thought people might be judging me for what I wanted to buy and that I would judge them as well.”   She also pointed out that Robert and I “were wise not to ask us to commit to income sharing at outset, because I, for one, wouldn’t have been able to agree.”

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The issue

My memory is that we had at least one meeting where we discussed our greatest fears about income-sharing.  Susan was worried that she wouldn’t be able to buy a pair of socks. I was worried that we would never actually begin income-sharing.  We did begin income-sharing and Susan was able to buy socks. Again, from her article, “We have spent little time discussing actual expenditures. I have bought several pairs of socks and even a skirt, all with no discussion.”

I had done income-sharing a few times before this, so it wasn’t so scary for me.  As I sometimes say to people who wonder how we could do something that seems so scary, there are lots of people around who do income-sharing–especially married couples (and even non-married couples). But the idea of taking it beyond two people seems to fill some people with fear. Part of this is, as I said in my previous piece, concerns about trust. Some of it, perhaps a lot of it, as Susan pointed out, is about losing control.

Susan also wrote that this isn’t what happened when we actually started income-sharing. “Although I was concerned that I might be losing control over an important aspect of my life, the opposite has occurred. I enjoy the fact that I am spending money in accordance with a budget, rather than haphazardly, as I did before.”

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The article

It is interesting to be doing this again with DNA and gil and seeing how much this frees up each of us. I have heard each of them talk directly about the benefits of what we are doing.  It makes me wonder why more people aren’t willing to do it.

I will end this with a few more quotes from Susan’s article. “I feel I am reaping the benefits of not having to figure things out on my own.  … Paying more attention to money helps me remember that money and material goods, while important and sometimes necessary, are not the be-all and end-all of life. I try to find ways to enjoy and nurture myself and others that don’t require much money, or at least more money than I had previously. These are, for me, the emotional and spiritual benefits of income sharing.”

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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!

 

 

 

 

What’s scary about income-sharing?

Harvesting Nettles at East Brook

From the Commune Life Instagram account:

Harvesting Nettles at East Brook

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.

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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.

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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

____________________________________________________________________________

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