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What do you want out of the Monday Communities Conference Clinic?

It is just a couple of weeks before the communities conference and we are putting the finishing touches on it.  I believe this will be the best Communities Conference of the 10 I have helped organize.  Some amazing presenters, many interesting participants and robust and relevant content.  We have a number of options for the Monday program with is Communities Clinic.  If you are planning on attending the Monday program on Sept 1st, we are hoping you’ll write us and give us an idea of what kind of issues your group is dealing with and what kind of help you’re looking for. There are 10 common topics described below with various questions to help you think about what might be useful to you.

zylaphone surreal

Financing and development: Almost every community needs money. How can you secure funding for improving your community?  What type of fundraising options have worked for other communities and are they exportable to you?  Under what conditions can you borrow money from banks or run a successful crowd funding campaign?

Ownernship and legal structures:  Well before you move in, you will need to figure out what type of community you are in a legal sense.  Is it a land trust, a residential worker coop, a 501D community, LLC or other structure.  Come discuss what these all mean and which models would work best for you and your forming group.

i want you uncle sam

Recruiting and outreach:  If you have the right members, you can do almost anything.  But how do you find these people (if they are not already working with you)?  Many communities reach other through FIC websites and publications, others write articles in periodicals which appeal to their value sets, some buy advertisements, others speak at colleges or festivals, still others blog or recruit thru social media.  What is the right mix for the people you are trying to find?  What is cost effective or no cost?  What places should you avoid?

i would agree with you

Relationships and conflict resolution (problematic people and expulsion):  Many European communities have no expulsion process, almost all US ones do.  How do you maintain personal and emotional relationships with your membership?  What do you do when relationships inside the community sour to the point where it might be necessary for the group to split or someone to leave?  What have long lived communities done to successfully deal with problematic or high negative impact members?

Decision-making:  The US cohousing movement has widely adopted consensus (including sociocracy models) as the way they make decisions.  Some communities use voting models including super majority models.  Do you have what it takes to be a charismatic leader for your community (hint this includes tremendous patience and a willingness to listen)?  Does your decision model change as your group gets larger?  If you can’t agree to change something are you always stuck with the status quo?  These and other questions will be addressed in this participant driven workshop.

dominos decision makingLocal relations/involvement:  Does it matter if you shop in the town closest to your community?  Does it make sense to invite the neighbors over for tea or will it just leave them more scared than they already are? What about political protest in your own town – will this distance you from your neighbors or bring you closer?  Should members doing controversial things try to avoid the community being affiliated with their work to maintain local harmony?  Is it considered community work to be part of the local volunteer fire department or volunteering to teach kids to read?

Cottage industries/Cooperative business: We have started calling them “income engines”Choosing the right business is one of the most important decisions a community can make.  If you rely too much on the skills of a minority of the membership (for example web development) the community economy can collapse if these people move on.  Should you be looking for something that any new member can be trained in?  Is the cottage industry open to all prospective members?  Can the community hire people who are not members?

The range of membership statuses:  Full member, provisional member, associate member, child member, intern, guest, ward of the state, lover of member – there are many different ways someone can be at a community for a while.  Especially egalitarian communities try to limit the number of membership types to try to preserve fairness.  Other communities have more flexible membership policies to try to be more inclusive or more versatile for members.  In this workshop we’ll discuss how all these status’ have been used and which ones might be right for your community.share apple

Different levels of  sharing:  Many student coops share a few meals a week, a clothes washer, and not much else.  Their academic, economic and social experiences are largely independent.  Some communities try to share everything from bank accounts to businesses to boyfriends.  The more you share the more benefits you’ll see but the stronger your systems and communication needs to be.  This workshop will look at some of these systems and how they combat internal hording and envy.  It will also help forming communities decide what they want to share – are cars too big? are clothes to personal?  Can we swing a public computer?  Do we want to buy box seats for the games?

culture creationCulture Creation:  Communities can create their own holidays and rituals.  Often these cultural aspects are the most bonding aspect of the community members life.    Should we buy instruments to help catalyze a more musical community?  Should our parties be mostly us and our close friends or should we invite a wider audience?  How does the community value and promote artistic expression?  Do we strive for transparency in our feelings or privacy?  There are dozens of aspects of cultural creation that communities can consider and often influence.  What you choose to focus on will determine how most people perceive you and in many cases whether you will grow and thrive.

 

Small Gems – The Big Ta Chai Video

There are some tremendous pop culture holes in my life experience.  Turns out the 10 years i was out of the US living in eastern Europe were the 10 years that the wildly popular TV show Seinfeld were airing.  Socially critical pieces of cultural information – like who is the soup Nazi – are lost on me.  I did not see Fight Club for many years.   And it was not until the Twin Oaks parody of The Big Lewbowski trailer came out, did i actually see the real thing..

This video was being shown off last night at a small party at the far edge of Bed Stuy last night and i realized it is just too good to leave it unpromoted.  There are lots of in-jokes for the commune, but if you have some experience with us, you might laugh as hard as i did.

 

Ambitious Parties and Missing Last Shuttles

One of my favorite aspects of life in the commune is that we are constantly trying new things.  This is especially true in the arena of party design.  Ali threw a new DJs party last night.  We have a cache of regular DJs who know what we like, can get an empty dance floor hopping with the right sequence of songs and serve us well.  With no disrespect for this collective resource, Ali wanted to explore some of our less conventional and newer music selection talent.  She did it at the warehouse.

not our warehouse, but there are similarities

not our warehouse, but there are similarities

When designing parties, one has to make a bunch of decisions which affect the event.  One of the critical ones is how much space do you create for the participants.  Too little and people will leave because it is too crowded. If you create too much, the party will feel under attended and people may drift off or cluster in some smaller area.

The warehouse is huge, the night was rainy, there were three nice spaces created – the dance floor, the hangout room and the smokers lounge outside.  All of the spaces had some folks, but the party would have been well served by another twenty people. Technical difficulties prevented us from hearing a few of the 30-minute sets that our alt-DJs had prepared; time to head to Acorn.

After all the sets that worked, the Acorners left en mass and we scooped up a few Oakers who were interested in continuing the evening.  We considered a couple of places at Acorn to play and ultimately decided on the Rec Collective – short for Recreation Collective – a lovely single-room straw bale building which currently has no residents.

Considerably smaller, only 6 or 7 people could dance at the same time here. One person felt comfortable enough that they were able to for the first time to dance topless, earning the party at least a B grade if not an A.   But the right combination of music and people who did not want to go to sleep made for an event which did not end til 4 AM when I drove home the last shuttle.

When I examine it thru a funological lens and ask “What made this after-party so charming?”  Of course, part of it was the choice of music and the people interested in dancing.  But as I look deeper, some of it was also that the participants all knew each other well enough to trust each other, but many had lots to learn and share with the other participants in the conversations which went on amongst the people who were not dancing.

For myself at least, there was a feeling of having taken a chance and gotten lucky.  Sometimes the after-party does not really work out.  Especially if they are in a different location that the original, the new site needs to be prepped, technical difficulties can derail the effort, the group needs to hold together while things are being set up and not drift off to bed or to the arms of some romantic interest they have been chatting with.

Skip the sleep, organize during the day

Skip the sleep, organize during the day

Ali is capturing funological principles & adages:

“What is the best way to run the last shuttle from the party?”

“To not do it because no one wants to go home.”

And while some people ultimately did go home at absurd o’clock, this after-party definitely had a dreamlike quality to it.

No bosses, No sunroofs

Outside of Eugene, Oregon and the intentional communities movement, pretty much everyone has a boss.  There are some acceptable bosses, but overwhelmingly people are, i observe, dissatisfied with their bosses.  The miracle of the income sharing communities, is that we are largely able to run our cottage industries without the oppressive or disagreeable part of the boss role.  At Twin Oaks we have managers, who have labor and money budgeting responsibilities, but they very rarely tell someone that they need to do something.  They often request people do things, but this is not what bosses do, they tell people.  At Acorn we have even ditched the title of manager all together, and things run just fine thank you.

bosses be like

When Occupy sparked, there was much conversation at Twin Oaks as to what Occupy Twin Oaks would look like.  What would be our demand for a more fair and just society in the already fairly idyllic world of the commune?  As we got further into this investigation, we realized again who wonderfully fortunate we were.  “Seconds at 6:15″ was one rallying cry that dinner seconds should be available earlier rather than the current 6:30 PM time.   If this is what we are demanding, then things must be pretty peachie.

There are of course trade offs.  To not have crime, we have to give up living in the city,   To share cars together we have to give up access to the sunroofs in our cars.

sunroof

Don’t even think about it

This might sound odd at first, or perhaps even unfair.  But when we get a new vehicle which has a sunroof in it, one of the first things we do is disable the sunroof.  We do this because if we don’t some member will leave the sunroof open and the interior of the vehicle will get soaked.  So the least responsible of us dictate the self protective behaviors we embrace that strip us of personal freedoms.

This irks me until i remember that i am one of the people most likely to leave a sunroof open.

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Digital Nomad

When i was growing up, one of the most transformative adventures one could take was walking off the land you knew with a small bag and a daring attitude and sticking out you thumb and hitchhiking away.  This is still true, except the clever traveler will add to their small bag an internet connected device.

There is a growing knowledge base of digital nomads and the first and perhaps most important piece is hitchwiki.org.  If you have ever hitched much you know there are places that are hard to get through, good spots where drivers are likely to pick you up and routes to avoid.  The problem is that regular maps and guidebook almost never tell you where these places are.

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state - source hitchwiki

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state – source hitchwiki

Hitchwiki tells you not only what the laws are in different regions but also what the local customs are and how to best catch a ride.  It also has user edited maps of the roadway system, including stories and advice for how to have a successful journey.  Knowing the hitching culture and hot spots dramatically increases your chances of getting where you are going.

But what if you don’t know where you are going?  What if your adventure is not highly scripted and you are looking for like minded people who might put you up, without asking you for money?  Many people have heard about couchsurfing, but there is a better radical hospitality system called BeWelcome.org.  It is better because the people who are involved in it are more interested in connecting with travelers in a meaningful way and less about being party tourists.  While BeWelcome is far sparser than couchsurfing, it is designed to accommodate hitchhikers and it makes sense to populate this democratic and transparent site with new people, rather than continue with the for profit beast.

bewelcome-rev-bw03

It is also worth pointing out that the software developers who created BeWelcome built much of the Couchsurfing site, before leaving the WalMart of peer to peer hospitality for ideological reasons.

But lets say you have no money and want to eat.  Enter TrashWiki.  Another site which has content contributed by many users, it is dedicated to finding food and other valuable things which have been thrown out.  In some cases this is where the good dumpster are.  In other cases it is where pre-dumpster things can be found or where you can find dumpster diving partners.  Better than OK Cupid if you this is your area of interest and you are looking for a match.

Digital nomadism is about using the power of the internet to take a step away from conventional lifestyles and instead trust strangers, rescue waste and see new parts of the world.

 

 

 

Paul’s Plausible Proposterous Proposal Party

What do you give to the person who wants nothing (for themself)?  Perhaps  you would give them an idea.  Ideally it would be an idea so novel, funny, daring, newsworthy and crazy enough that it just might work.  This is where i need your help.

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

This Friday is GPaul’s 30th birthday and we will be in NYC continuing with our community building Point A work.  I am responsible for his under organized birthday event.  Pleasantly, he personally wants little, demonstrated by (among many things) his willingness to stay in a tiny shoe box room in the barn at Acorn for years after he could have moved into a nicer one.

What we want collectively is at the other end of the accessibility spectrum:  High visibility, inspiring,  urban based, income sharing, intentional communities.  And what I am asking from you, even if you can’t join us for this post Pride Friday night party in NYC is exotic memes.

 

Taxi harness at Burning Man

Taxi harness at Burning Man

What  preposterous yet plausible proposals do you have for how to spark new urban communities?  Some examples might help.

Party til Occupation. Both  the mainstream media and progressive activists were surprised by Occupy.  A call was made for a broad protest, as thousands have in the past, and people showed up in Zuccotti Park and ultimately across the country and started building political community.  What had not been expected was that people from different classes and races could work intimately together using consensus to improve the treatment of the poor and the homeless and highlight corruption in banking and politics.

What if (after finding a suitable site) we decided to hold an open ended party.  Different collective groups from the city take responsibility for making sure there are people and party goodies for some specific set of days for perhaps the first month or so.  Then if it turns out that people are enjoying the party, renew the invitations and simply start pretending that permanent occupation of the site is a desirable and possible outcome.

startup community

CommunityCupid.org.  Instead of a one on one dating site, this new social network helps people find others to live in community with.  This does not need to be a single place based residence, it could be buying clubs and other aggregate discount services.  And the structure of the site and the data is such that it is designed to bring people who are looking to spark community into the conversation.  A relatively simple solution for starting up such a project might be as a Facebook plug in.

These are two examples of unlikely, but desirable projects.  I am hoping you can add your own to be part of the birthday fun.

On Friday we will gather all the cards and all the participants we have and each person attending the party will draw 3 or more cards and choose the one which they think they can defend to the group the best. Then they will present the bold proposal of their selection and the rest of the group will evaluate the proposal to see if it is worthy of pursuing.

If you are in NYC this Friday, then email me and I will tell you where this event is in Brooklyn.  If you can’t participate, but would like to submit a preposterous plausible idea you can either email me or leave it in the comment field.

 

 

 

Shuttle Driver to the Perfect Party

When i was in Death City getting Willow a second passport, i got 4 text messages asking if i could drive the shuttle home from Trout’s bachelor party (which was 100 miles away in Louisa VA).  Showing not surprisingly that people have trouble keeping track of where i am. It also shows that i am a first responder shuttle driver.    A reasonable assumption actually.

i need to get one of these cool hats

i need to get one of these cool hats

Earlier in the week i had been a shuttle driver for Fox’s bachelorette party.    Mostly, this is the short but menacing drive from Twin Oaks to Acorn.  Menacing in that getting home after the party can be tricky somethings, trying to guess how long the party will be fun, if this person flirting with you is going to stick around, if you will like the next band of DJ as much as you do the current one, if you can stay later and still get up early for that shift you probably never should have scheduled yourself for.

Which shuttle is best?

Which shuttle is best?

And i am the first responder principally because i am generally willing and often available on short notice.  It does not take long, it is highly appreciated and i hardly drink at all, making me a great designated driver.  I am also on the insurance of both communities as a dual member and have access to both fleets of vehicles.  I am a like a universal donor.

Building Better Parties: Fox and Trout got married.  They did up the celebrations quite right, if you ask me.  They had two ceremonies and 2 pre-parties.  One of the ceremonies was a mainstream legal wedding, with family and close friends and a minister.  The second was held at Acorn with all the significant number of commune friends this popular couple have (pictures in a pending blog post), but it was hardly legal.

Luna at the party after the wedding

Luna at the party after the wedding

Before the commune wedding there was a bachelor party and a bachelorette party.  The communes often struggle with exclusion and especially around gender binaries.  The question of came up “Can i go to the bachelors party as a gal?”  The stock answer is “You should be at the party if you think you should be at the party.”  Gender is a personal choice.  You can be girl enough to go to the bachelorette party, even if your chromosomes think differently.

Sometimes there is no right answer

Sometimes there is no right answer

Many attendees were impressed by these events.  I was happy to get people there and home.

 

 

 

 

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