Normally, when the community is full and has a waiting list the job of those who do recruiting (like me) becomes to attract people to the movement in general, rather than our community in particular. There are exceptions of course. Ali was one of these.
i did not have much interaction with her until the last couple of days, but several people came to me and said that 1) they liked her and 2) they thought she would be a good member and 3) i should actively recruit her for us collectively. As much as i can, when people ask like this, i try to deliver.
i pulled Ali aside and we talked several times actually. What i do as a recruiter is i look for obstacles, the things people think are in the way of membership. In Ali’s case she quite understandably thought it was the unpredictability of our long waiting list. A completely reasonable belief given everything she had heard from people living here.
But almost everyone living here watches the waiting list like child watches the night sky for shooting stars. i have a high powered radio telescope. i know something about every person on that list and i have asked them all what their probability of returning is and i have flirted with many of them (not in a personal romantic way, but as in a “wouldn’t it be nice if you lived here” way).
i know, for example, that right now we have blown a hole thru our 11 person waiting list and were Ali to say she wanted to come back as soon as possible, she could be here by November, instead of waiting the usual 6 months. I know that there are actually 3 holes, one for my departure, one for Janels and one for Robertos. This will mean there likely some room choices, which is good for Ali, because she is mold sensitive and Twin Oaks wrestles with mold. The waiting list information was surprising to Ali and somewhat influencing of her thinking. The decreased probability of being in a moldy room further increased her chances. i pressed further.
What are your obligations or obstacles which keep you from coming back? What things did you like about Twin Oaks? What might you do if you returned?
It soon became clear that she did really like it here and that there were not any real obstacles. Except her ex-partner Myles. Ali and Myles were set to go to Boulder. Ali feels a strong desire and some obligation to go out there with him. This would put her over 2000 miles away when Twin Oaks called and told her to come back. Despite their being broken up, her being here without him was not super desirable.
So i came up with a plan. What if when Ali came back to be a member in November, Myles came back to be part of the visitor group? Ali loved this plan. So i trotted over to Myles, who i had never me before and asked him if i could pull him from the camp fire and talk with him.
We have a pleasant conversation, he concurs that Twin Oaks is a fabulous place for Ali. And then i start talking about her wanting him to come back in November and do a visitor period why she is starting her membership. He stops me
“Are you trying to recruit me?” he asks
“Absolutely.” i reply
“Wow. No one has ever done that before, it feels nice.” Myles responds.
i am tickled of course, but we dont get stalled. He says he will certainly consider it and is happy to be asked to come back.
And i go off thinking that this is why i earn the fat labor credits.
We have over 100 registrations for the communities conference (the most we have had at this point in my nearly 15 years here) and the best set of panelist i think we have ever had.
I am excited about the spirituality panel which is answering the question “How can secular communities and spiritual communities work more cooperatively?” What we agree on is that for many spiritual communities, there is huge overlap with the mission and projects of secular communities. Yet despite this overlap, we let our differences (or perhaps our culture) prevent us from having meaningful collaborative projects.
I want you to come because we are bringing folks from Occupy in to talk about what he next generation of activism is an how it might engage the communities movement.
I want you to come, because we are talking about how existing communities can help new communities like LEF and Chubby Squirrels get started.
And i want you to come to push yourself around the question “Can i live in community?” With representatives from perhaps 30 communities in attendance you can learn more a bout a bunch of communities you might be interested in joining, or find allies how will help you craft a new community from scratch.
The program has open space slots where no regular workshops are schedule so you can present your own material assuming it is interesting enough to the large number of other participants
And with a bit of luck we will have a Mockupy role playing game together by Monday.
When Twin Oaks is full we change our recruiting direction to try to draw to the movement in general, rather than our little experiment.
And perhaps most important, as funologist, this is going to be a great event, the comm conf dance party is one of the best in the year. Consider bringing your friends.
When i heard that the folks from Open Circle community in Culpeper had asked Kassia, Sky, Roberto and Marta for advice about recruiting is simultaneously annoyed and pleased. Pleased because i love the folks being asked and think they are very clever and annoyed, because as much as i love them i think they are not really recruiters for intentional communities and i have been fairly successfully for over a decade and the Open Circle clan knows this. But i recognized this annoyance as a pointless luxury emotion and put it aside.
On my way back from Death City about a month back i stopped by for a blitz meeting with the Open Circle clan and some local friends of theirs and did a quick intense brainstorming meeting with them.
i asked “What are you looking for? Or how are excited about in growing your community?” They replied they wanted 0rganic growth and to incubating new communities. To become and facilitate multi-generational community.
All these things were music to my ears, since i am interested in developing these things also and in search of allies. I continued my sociocratic style quick go round questioning. “What are the obstacles or binding assumptions you have about this expansion? Could you merge with another community? Could you leave Culpeper?” They had surprisingly few binding assumptions. They would merge with or foster independently a new community. They would consider moving if they had an offer more compelling than what they had. They were excited about local connections both in terms of food production and modeling localism.
I told them that i wold happily volunteer to help them. That my recruiting obligations for Twin Oaks change when my community is full and we then focus more on helping the movement grow than looking at just how to add to our already heavy waiting list. I talked about my own hopes to foster multi-generational community in the central Virginia area, based on consensus and transparency group technology. They were open to exploring further.
They asked me about income models for small communities, i shared my opinion that income models mattered much less than getting the right people. That the collection of people which join will find either cottage industry positions or add new jobs to those done by members of the community. Focus on choosing communards carefully and leveraging your membership into something wonderful. Especially if organic growth means not forcing expansion and them feeling spacious about the process, they could interview dozens of people without adding one, if it were not a really strong fit.
Even though it was a short visit, it was intense and rich and i appreciated these fine generous folx letting me conduct this curious rushed conversation.
Post Script: For the last week Sara and i have been out at the Open Circle Red Cabin, which they generously offered to help us figure out what we are doing next.