Twenty years ago. when the pioneers of Acorn were designing a different membership and decision making structure than the parent community Twin Oaks, they decided they wanted to create something called a clearness. It is two distinct things actually – or perhaps most precisely two parts to the same clearing process.
The first part is a face to face conversation with everyone who is a member of the community. So for the last week or so i have been catching Acorners, going for walks, chatting while packing seeds, chatting over making dinner or quietly in someones room. And with the exercise i finally learned all of the names of all of the members and the guests (because to a new person it is occasionally hard to tell who is who). The purpose is for people to share concerns, specifically about my membership. Overall, these were wonderful conversations in which genuine appreciation and what felt like quite transparent communication took place.
Some members were concerned that my motivations behind joining Acorn were indirect, in that i have been clear that part of my reason for wanting to be here is to work with Acorn on starting up Chubby Squirrels. But to a member, these concerns were secondary to the nearly universal desire to expand the communities movement and specifically to strengthen the eco-system of income sharing intentional communities in central Virginia.
Ira said “I never know quite what you are doing.” To which i had to confess was my own experience with myself with quite some frequency. ”I have nothing to say to you, Paxus.” a generally taciturn Abe told me, followed by “and i mean that in the nicest way”
The second part of the clearness is everyone getting together in the dining room and talking about whether you would be a good fit in the community. i had my community clearness and people were very friendly and supportive of both me and Acorn fostering the Chubby Squirrels project as well as my recent efforts in the picking room. The facilitator started the round of check in’s with asking people what their favorite band was when they were 12. The Beatles and In Sync both got more than one vote each.
The last community meeting Acorn will have about my provisional membership will be the Sunday after this one in which the community will meet without me and make a decision if i can join. Given what people said in the meeting which just took place, it is unlikely a hidden concern will derail my effort to become a dual member. And as several people jokingly reminded me, these types of last minute concerns do pop up.
The clearness process is a sister to the transparency work i have already been doing, but is clearly something which i would mimic in a membership process for a new consensus based community.
When i told Angie there were no real concerns about my potential impact on the community, her reply was “they are not paying careful enough attention.”