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Three Levels of Transparent Communication

I have not done a single Transparency Tools workshop on the current PANYC trip.  I have however been working with Ogtar who has so far done two of them.  In trying to explain the technique to him there are some things which I observed that I think are worth commenting on.  The first is that I see as the three levels of transparency.

The first level is simple self revelation.  Most common among the our tools for this are “If you really knew me” and hot seat (where others deeply question someone in the group).  While people are encouraged to be a bit daring in these exercises, you are always at choice as to what you reveal and how much.

What really winds you up?

What really winds you up?

The second level is empathy building.  This is when instead of a self revelation you reflect experiences or emotional states you have had which are similar to those of another member in the group.  This type of transparency frequently comes out while the crosstalk tool is in use or “i have a story about you”.  After some transparency exercise (and especially after “if you really knew me”) we ask for cross talk, where the share of one participant has sparked an empathetic or other emotional response from someone else in the group.  By sharing this (in crosstalk or some other tool) it builds bridges between the members of the group who have similar histories.

"Don't just sit there"

“Don’t just sit there”

The third level is emotional housekeeping.  When a member of the group tells another something which is standing in the way of clear and complete communication.  This is most regularly done using the Withhold or Unsaid tools.

It is this last level of transparency which I refer to as the sharp edge of this tool set.  This is because it is where some of the most important healing and connecting work is done.  And it is also the tool in which it is most easy for people to mess up and hurt each other.  In part because of this it is the tool I most often introduce new groups to, without having them try it on each other.

This-Sign-Has-Sharp-Edges-Funny-Signs

Often, if the group consists of people who don’t know each other, it is an inappropriate tool to use, because there is not anything important for people to clear with each other.  But even when there are things to clear among participants, in the first or second transparency tools session the group may not yet have built up enough trust for it to make sense to try.  And again this week while we were introducing a NYC collective house to the full Transparency Tools set, someone grabbed this tool after it was explained and used it to get stuff off their chest which was bothering them about another person in the group.  [This also happened with the Catalyst Ecovillage group we trained in February.]

Don't try this at home

Don’t try this at home

There is something deeply satisfying to me as a purveyor of these tools when new users feel so excited about a tool they are introduced to that even when they are discouraged from using it, they daringly grab it pick it up and try it.  So far the results have been impressive and positive.

New Propaganda Tools – The Point A Foldie

Before there were zines, there were fingerbooks. An 8.5” by 11” sheet of paper cut in half and then folded into half small booklets, with high graphic content and relatively few words. I made a lot of these on different topics while I was working in Europe.   There was one on consensus, one on reactors and the most popular one on open relationships which got translated into several languages.

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I’ve sat at a whole bunch of tables in my day handing out propaganda. I watch people and what they reach for and pick up. From a collection of full size flat pieces of paper, a tri-fold and a fingerbook, a surprising fraction of the time, a typical curious passer by will pick up the fingerbook first. Often people will only take one thing and if you are in the propaganda business, you want to be first.

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There was a Point A pamphlet, I did not have much to do with it, I really did not like it. The font was tiny, there were hardly any graphics, it was folded into an 1/8th of a page with some strange cut pattern which was confusing. As someone who had made a lot of fairly popular fingerbooks, it offended my sensibilities.

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Recklessly, Trip left her email open. I fired off message to GPaul pretending to be her, complaining about the Point A pamphlet and asking if he and Lily would fix it. Not noticing that I had spelled incompetently wrong (a dead give away since Trip would never do such a thing), GPaul was both fooled and took the request seriously. A beautiful thing resulted from this spoof.

In the type of last minute scramble indicative of so many things in the Point A project, Drew [link blog], GPaul [link something] and Lily [link MatchMaker bio] pulled together a Point A “foldie” which is a kissing cousin of a fingerbook (no cutting thank you) in time for the DC Point A introductory event. Which was conveniently a few days before the PANYC Community MatchMaking event this weekend.

The world is a better place.

New Communities in Washington DC?!

We are constantly guessing when and what type of events we should be organizing in order to spark the new communities movement. This time we clearly guessed right.

Triple Threat organizing discussion groups

Triple Threat organizing discussion groups

We had about 70 people at this quickly organized event.  We crowded the Keep with enthusiastic and chatty folks. Many were experienced community people but for most of the group this was relatively new stuff.

John Keep describes his collective house and their trajectory towards income sharing

John Keep describes his collective house and their trajectory towards income sharing

Lovely food and engaging conversation were had. After GPaul did a wild and woolly version of open space technology, we broke into working groups talking about:

I was in the healing discussion group which was held in part in an empty Jacuzzi tub.

There were a lot of people richly chatting in the Keep kitchen

There were a lot of people richly chatting in the Keep kitchen

It was a lovely warm up for our content in NYC this coming weekend, the Community Matchmaking (see Facebook Invite) event. Here is the evolving program for that event, being held at the Brooklyn Free School.

GPaul at the helm

GPaul at the helm

All photos by Dragon

Which words can we still use? Commune? Communism?

There are all manner of messages which we want to get out to the world and recently myself and my comrades working on the Point A project have been thinking about what messages people are ready for.

Anarchist_Communist_Flag_by_TapiocaDeath

These messages, perhaps?

On our most recent NYC trip we realized that we were making it sound harder than it really is to become income sharing.  “They don’t need to have a cottage industry.” GPaul said, “They don’t even need to live together.”

Indeed, the only thing which stops people from becoming income sharing is a lack of trust.  If you trust each other, you can change your agreements and begin taking care of more needs cooperatively almost immediately.

We started thinking about a workshop that would explain this. But what do we label the workshop?

I wanted to call the workshop “You can become income sharing now!” But GPaul and others thought it was not compelling enough or it was too abstract.  GPaul even questioned whether people would know what income sharing is. GPaul’s rework was “Communism Now! Why wait for the revolution?”  Alarm bells went off in my brain.

Can we reclaim this damaged name?

Can we reclaim this damaged name?

I wrote GPaul:
Communism is dead.  Sorry, it is a political non-starter, worse than anarchism actually (tho not as bad as Stalinism and Fascism).  Many progressives and almost all liberals do not associate it with a quasi-utopian desirable state.
Nothing jumps to mind to salvage the title, since I get your meaning and there is not an obvious substitute (Utopia Now!, Equality Now! Community Now! all don’t work).
In his provocative way GPaul replied:

I both agree and disagree: Communism is dead to some people, perhaps even most people, but communism is not dead.  The question here is “who is our audience?”.    We have many possible audiences.  One audience could be radical leftists.  When giving tours and explaining the communes to folks I’ve been leading with “anarchism” and “communism” for years and getting surprisingly little shock or pushback.  Radical leftists are one demographic that is more likely than others to be interested in what we are offering.  We can aim a workshop at them.  They will respond differently to the word “communism” than other people.  For other people we might have to rebrand this workshop.  For other people this might not even be an appropriate workshop (we might have to begin with “why should you want to share income?” in any of its various permutations).

I remain skeptical, but I am curious what my readers think. you say commie like it is a bad thing Some readers will be glad to hear that this blog is finally getting reorganized.  Specifically, the portion of the blog which is about community life (including the Point A work, the Virginia egalitarian communities, Freedonia and other underground efforts, Commune Snapshots [images with few words], the Communities Conference and advances in sharing techniques) may be spun off and turned into its own blog with its own domain name.

I was thinking of the name CommuneLife.org – but other experienced communards thought the name “commune” was too dated, too distant and too misunderstood and untrusted.  When we talked to twenty somethings, they had no baggage around the word commune and thought it might be cool.  The Fellowship of Intentional Communities actually uses the word commune as a name for income sharing communities and lists 166 of them under this category.

Again, feel encouraged to weigh in and discuss your thoughts about this.

Birthing Communities: Pending events in DC and NYCKeep

As regular readers of this blog know, we are trying to start urban based income sharing communities in cities in the Northeastern US, specifically NYC, Washington DC, Baltimore and Richmond VA.  We have different strategies in all these towns and friendly competition between the organizers as to what the best approach is to get these new communities off the ground.

In NYC, where we knew fewer people who were interested in this lifestyle, we have been doing public events for the last year.  We have one coming up the weekend after this one called Community Matchmaking.  Please consider coming if you are excited about intentional community in the NYC area.

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In Washington we have a group of people who are willing to seriously investigate this style of living.  Cities make things more complex and for the last year this DC group has been working on its agreements, strengthening its social fabric and doing the first round of recruiting to people inside our networks.  DC is now ready to step up its outreach efforts and is having its first public outreach effort on March 24th.  If you are in the Washington DC area and have a strong interest in intentional communities, this is certainly the place to be.  Dinner and introductions start at 6PM.

Next Stop DC

What you should know about this ambitious DC group:

  • The plan is to launch this new community within a year.
  • There are 6 to 8 people planning on being income sharing members and another dozen and a half who are considering it.
  • Most of these folks are currently living in group houses in the DC area.

The event on Tuesday is reaching out to people with collective living experience.  Later events will focus differently and reach out to different audiences.  Do you find collective living enriching and strengthening?  Want to talk about ways to make collective living a lifelong option for more people rather than the transitional living situation that it so often is?  Want to talk about ways to accentuate the positive and ameliorate the negative of living with a bunch of people in close community?  Come out on Tuesday and join the discussion!

When the Acute needs to be treated as Chronic

Crow screwed up.  They recently acted out in a way that had made people feel uncomfortable and some even unsafe.  It could have been any of a number of kinds of things:  An intoxicated incident, a minor consent violation, a petty crime, even an especially poor choice of guest.  The specifics don’t matter.  Crow knew that they had created a problem for themselves with Acorn and they were coming to me for advice.  What could they do to make things better?  How could they mend their frayed relationships with other members? At Acorn this answer is easy, you do what we regularly do, you have a clearness.

flying transformative person

And it turns out that this is a very good thing.  Many communities have self care mechanisms that feel punitive.  As i have written, the Feedback system at Twin Oaks very often feels punishing, even though it often need not.

But because Acorn does regular individual clearnesses, adding another one to normal rotation almost always feels accessible.  The clearness format is the same as a routine clearness (meetings with each individual member, checking in about their experiences of each other, and then a group clearness which summarizes all the individual clearnesses).

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The lesson is clear here.  When you are designing self corrective systems within a community, you need to consider how they feel to the users.  It is not enough to insure the community is taken care of, these systems need to feel non coercive to the members who are going through them.  The best way to have that effect is to have a familiar and non-threatening group communication facilitating tool.  I think the clearness process is one of the better ones.

A week later i talked with Crow.  They had done a bunch of clearnesses and felt much better about their connection to the community. They felt better understood.

Clearness Directions

The most common complaint about community clearnesses is that they take a lot of time.  “Do i really have to talk to everyone else in the community one-on-one?”  Only if you want there to be cohesion in your community.  Only if you want to be able to fix significant mistakes people make and successfully rebound from it.  You only need to do this if you want a healthy community.

For many people this is too much work and i think this is central to why so many communities fail.

Commune Snapshot – Acorn edition

Yes, we have a pet cow, called Pandora

Yes, Acorn has a pet cow, called Pandora. Though she is most frequently referred to simply as “Cow.”  These friends include Dragon, Falcon, Mac and Rejoice.

This chalk board elephant is being used to develop a new language at Acorn

This chalk board elephant is being used to develop a new language at Acorn

Falcon and Irena picking orders at Southern Exposure

An alternating text and picture game we play

Exquisite Corpse: An alternating text and picture game we play

Canoe in a truck

Stephanie and Elan off to places which don’t require seat belts

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