Questions about Rural Communes

This is yet again 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  the fifth and the sixth and, finally, the seventh

Towards the end of January, I (Raven) posted this question asking what people thought about rural communes:

It got a lot of folks looking at it and had eleven comments. The first three were people speaking from their experience:

Then came the quick, often one word answers–although Clint Brown wrote a second comment to clarify:

Finally, Zamin K Danty wrote a longer, deeper response, and Boone Wheeler made one final point:

Questions about Rural Communes

BF Skinner and Twin Oaks

Recently the Twin Oaks Facebook page featured this video about BF Skinner (the author of the book Walden Two, which was a major influence on the founding of Twin Oaks) and his visit to the community. Here’s what they had to say:

“In 1978 the Nova TV program documented Skinner’s visit and in 2016 the complete program was posted to YouTube. It’s an amazing look at a moment in the past of Twin Oaks, showing many people and scenes from that era.

“Many things portrayed are the same, and of course many things have changed.

“Start watching at 10:41 to see Twin Oaks content.”

BF Skinner and Twin Oaks

Mixing It Up

by Raven Glomus

We are creating an unusual model of community here at East Brook Community Farm.  We have started a small income-sharing community (Glomus Commune) which we are embedding in a larger, more diverse community (which we are calling Glomus Community).  In the larger community we have long-term income-sharing members, long-term non-income-sharing members, long-term part-year members, and seasonal members, all of whom work together and all of whom are valued members of the community.

Glomus income-sharing group: Raven, Cicada, Theresa, and Rachael

I wrote a post last fall about Associate Status.  Rin (aka Ryn) has an Associate Status at East Wind community, which allows them also to spend part of their time with us.  Another member here at Glomus is pursuing a dual membership status with Twin Oaks. We are intentionally creating a space where people can really be here while they are here and still come and go (when there isn’t a pandemic occurring).

We are also creating an income-sharing community where people don’t need to share their income.  We have a status we call residential members. In many cases, this is a temporary status, from when someone is accepted as a provisional member to when they join the income-sharing group, but we also have the possibility of  a person continuing on as a long-term residential (non-income-sharing) member, and still be an equally valued member of the larger community.

Monica, a long-term Residential Member

This kind of flexibility allows us to offer several different options for possible membership to the people who come here: full-time, part-time, income-sharing, non-income-sharing.

I love the idea of creating a large, diverse community which offers a variety of possibilities to attract a variety of people.  This is our path toward growth and economic stability.

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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! 

Mixing It Up

Questions of Gender

This is yet 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  the fifth and this is the sixth one that we published two weeks ago.

In mid-January, I (Raven) brought up a question related to some policies that a few of the communes had:

I believe that it was Rejoice that responded with an actual policy:

Unfortunately, since these are photographs of the Facebook page, the next link doesn’t work. Here is a link that does.

Pretty soon we were well into the question of non-binary folks. Fortunately, Rejoice had some answers.

And that, of course, gave folks even more ideas about gender ratios:

Questions of Gender

When Does Consensus Work?

by Raven Glomus

I have long been a subscriber to Communities magazine.  In Issue #155, way back in the Summer of 2012, Diana Leafe Christian wrote an article that started a multi-year, back-and-forth disagreement that played out in the pages of the magazine.  It was called “Busting the Myth that Consensus-with-Unanimity Is Good for Communities Part I”.  Consensus consultants Laird Schaub, Ma’ikwe Schaub Ludwig, and Tree Bressen were apparently shown the article before publication and wrote responses that were published in the same issue.  The cycle of articles and responses played out over several issues spanning a couple of years before Diana settled down into writing articles about how sociocracy works.

I have a memory that in the last article before she moved on, she wrote what I will call a ‘truce’ piece. (Although maybe I imagined this article because I can’t find it in my collection of Communities and didn’t see it in the online collection.)  What I recall is that, after there were many stories of consensus working published, she admitted that consensus could work under certain circumstances.  And even if that article was only in my imagination, she sort of said something similar in her very first article when she pointed out that consensus consultant Tim Hartnett noted that “the smaller and more homogeneous the group, the easier it is to reach agreement using consensus-with-unanimity”.

Basically, I think that the reason Diana Leafe Christian knew of so many communities that were having trouble with consensus is that most, if not all of them, were large, diverse cohousing and/or ecovillage groups. I know of many communities that have used consensus for years with little difficulty, but these have almost always been either small communes or co-op houses.

Consensus, in many ways, requires a large degree of trust among the participants and it needs folks who have deep commitments to shared principles.  Especially since one of the few reasons that you can block a decision is when it violates a community’s core principles, you need to have people who share a commitment to and understanding of those principles.

As Diana Leafe Christian points out in a later article (“Consensus and the Burden of Added Process”, in Communities Issue #158, Spring 2013) there are lots of people who didn’t come to community (especially cohousing or ecovillage community) to build deep connections with others and don’t want to spend lots of time doing process.  Folks in these communities often joined for things like neighborliness or to live more ecologically or sustainably. Consensus works far better in a group that is committed to working through process with each other.

I believe strongly in consensus decision making and I have been advocating that we use it in our community, Glomus Commune.  However, I am not a believer that any method works for everyone or every community.  

I don’t have a real problem with sociocracy, for example, although I wouldn’t say that I completely understand  it. I do know that Ms. Christian advocates sociocracy for better decision making and when I studied it, one guide said to start by creating a couple of circles in your group and then find a way to intersect them.  A circle, apparently, should consist of about six people. However, when your whole community consists of six people, it seems hard to imagine creating two separate circles. It seems that sociocracy works better with larger communities.

In summary, I believe that if you have a small commune or co-op house, that is based on some shared principles, consensus decision making may work very well for your group.  I am certainly not saying that it’s the best thing for every community.

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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! 

When Does Consensus Work?

Coronavirus Responses from the Communes

I’m interrupting the Questions republication, to publish some of the posts from around the internet that show how the communes are dealing with the pandemic.

From the Twin Oak’s Instagram account:

From the Commune Life Instagram account:

This is from Boone Wheeler’s Facebook page via the Commune Life Facebook page. The caption we wrote on our Facebook page was: “Boone Wheeler shared these photos of ‘Social Distancing’ at East Wind:”

And finally, although it was published in my piece on Communes and the Coronavirus, I am reprinting it because it is such a classic piece. This is a customer from Acorn’s seed business putting a personal response in the comments line on their order. It reads: “Everyone laughed at me for spending money on seeds, but WHO WILL BE LAUGHING WHEN I HAVE FOOD AND TRADER JOE’S IS STILL A WARZONE, KAREN?”

Coronavirus Responses from the Communes