Archive by Author | paxus

November is “Gov. Gillum”

There is something especially reckless about making forecasts on close elections.

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What could go wrong?

Florida has better than average voter suppression techniques.  Current Governor Rick Scott has been an effective advocate of blocking poor people and especially people of color from being able to vote.

Thus betting that a charismatic young black first term mayor of the seventh largest city in the state would become Governor instead of the Trump protégé is especially dicey.  But if Tampa is any indication the enthusiasm with Andrew Gillum is impressive.  Every neighborhood I visit has Gillum signs up.  Suspicious faces break into smiles when I mention I am campaigning  door to door for him.  And then I ask “And Democrats all the way down?”

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Neighborhood Gillum Office in Old Town Tampa

And they often concur, democrats all the way down.  And this maybe the most important legacy of the Gillum run.  Bill Nelson is the current effective three term (that is 18 years) Democratic Senator from Florida.  Why have you never heard of him (unless you are one of the wonk/political hack readers of this blog)?  Because he is deathly boring.

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League of Extraordinary Gentleman

Due to term limits, current Governor Rick Scott is making a bid for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat and it is quite close (FiveThirtyEight.Com predicts shows Nelson up 51.3% to 48.7).  If Nelson prevails quite some credit should go to Gillum who has helped breaking early voting turn out records, overwhelming both the states racist history and powerful voter suppression techniques.

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Tens of thousands of voters have already been blocked in Florida

When I lived in Czechoslovakia I learned of the Slavic month naming convention that is different from the English language one.    This has been hybridized by a number of people I know into a personalized month naming convention, either on a regular basis, or where an extraordinary event  determines the month name.

We are pulling out all the stops to make true the month name “Governor Gillum,” and I am recklessly predicting a Gillum win.

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Canvassers of Team Tampa: Photo Credit: Calico

 

 

 

 

 

Want to Phone Bank?

People keep asking us how to volunteer to phone bank.

Schedule to Phone Bank for Florida  

This will hook you up to the collection for group we are working with on Florida’s critical candidates and referendums.

Nationally, these are the groups we think are doing some of the more accessible organizing for phone banking:

After weeks of being asked to take pictures with inspired citizens getting out to vote, Thumbs had only compiled a photo collage of garden gnomes and copulating dragon flies.  However, when Karen challenged him to put this tiny hat on a stray neighborhood cat, he delivered with this Fred Astaire feline putting on the ritz.

Yesterdays challenge action was Karen asked Thumbs to put this tiny hat on a stray cat and take a picture.  Our man was up to the challenge

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i never said i was beneath using cat pictures 

 

Come to Tampa and Sing

Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis are running for Governor of Florida and had a debate last night.  Gillum pointed out that his Republican challenger DeSantis was attending racists groups meetings to drum up support for his campaign.

“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum added. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

When he said this our team of organizers laughed because it was such a good zinger.

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We are canvassing or phone banking or both everyday.  Mostly door to door canvassing, since that is what is most desired by the local organizers.  While the heat is breaking a bit, it is still hot on the streets of Tampa Florida.

Here is a quick Canvassers Flow Chart:

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We have better buttons, but not better images.

It is an amazing group assembled here in Tampa.  Almost all of us have commune experience, which makes a number of things flow easier: meetings, meals and logistics specifically.  And while there have been some bumpy spots, overwhelmingly everyone gets along with everyone else and is pretty excited to be here.  We have created a temporary autonomous magical zone.

We also compare notes.  We track the number of doors we knock on and the number of people we talk to.  A high success rate for most canvassers is talking to 20% of the doors we knock on.  I  knocked on 83 doors this evening and was pretty stoked to get 17 real conversations out of them.

But Thumbs does better.  Much better.  Every day he has canvassed so far he has been getting over 50% of people whose doors he knocks on to answer.  We wanted to know his secret.  He shared it with us and fortunately Jenny caught it on video.

He sings.  It is brilliant.  It also proves that there are many more people home than we think and just this novel and clever approach will get us connected with them.  We will see how many canvassers can pull this off.  I am certainly willing to try.

But what i love most is that Thumbs developed it in the first place and the thought that in the next election canvass organizers will be asking their volunteers if they are willing to sing.

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Our group is expanding.  Kelpie and Skylar from Twin Oaks arrive on Friday to join Thumbs, Karen, GPaul, Jenny, Calico, Carlos and myself.

Want to come and join this merry band?  Here is the check list:

  • Can you drop everything right now ?
  • Can you walk 5 hours a day for 6 days in a week?
  • Can you live in a tight highly collective house?
  • Can you get to Tampa?
  • Can you sing?

Then drop me an email.

But what likely makes far more sense than you coming all the way to Tampa is for you to phone bank from where you are. Here is a link you can go to on competitive races across the country.

And if you don’t have a favorite group to phone bank with (Indivisible is a good one, MoveOn will help you set up a phone banking party) we can hook you up.

If you can’t come, you can still support this group, we are still actively seeking donations through our  GoFundMe campaign.  And please feel encouraged to follow our adventures on Facebook.

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Team Tampa: After our morning meeting, before volunteering for phone banking

 

 

Why Florida?

“Are you sure Florida is the best place for us to be campaigning?” GPaul understandably asked me several weeks ago.

“No.”  I replied honestly.  “But I do believe it is the best place stop Trump in 2020.”

Some months ago I learned about Amendment 4.  There are 1.5 million adult Florida citizens who can not vote because they were in prison. Florida is unusual for blocking citizens who have paid their debt to society from voting.  Only 4 states (sadly including Virginia) maintain this racist policy, because a disproportionate number of incarcerated persons are people of color, especially African Americans.  Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution would restore these voting rights.

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Practicing Canvassing with Carlos at the Tampa Hard Knocks Office

We trained yesterday with the Hard Knocks/SEIU crew in Tampa.  Kevin lived in Venezuela until 18 months ago and had not spoken English in his life.  Now he is a trainer and office manager for SEIU, getting crews ready to hit the streets or phone bank for these elections as needed.  Clearly a quick study, his English was certainly strong enough to train us on the script, throw some curve balls at us, teach us how to use our tablets and the MiniVan program and get us dressed in our bright blue canvass shirts.

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Kevin, Carlos, Jenny and my scruffy self with our bright blue shirts.

While I was not sure two months ago Florida was the best place to campaign, now I am.

While we are fairly confident the Democrats can wrestle control of the US House of Representatives from the Republicans, flipping the Senate is much less likely.  The Florida race for the US Senate this year is one of the most critical ones.  Dems flip house.jpg

One of the most contentious Senate races pits incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson against outgoing Florida Governor Rick Scott. While the most recent polls show Nelson’s lead shrinking, increased spending and GOTV efforts appear to be holding Nelson’s thin lead. While this race does not bring the Democrats closer to taking control, because it is already held, losing this seat would virtually guarantee the Republicans would maintain control. Scott is a kleptocratic Trump Republican, famous for slashing VA benefits while enriching himself.  He reversed his campaign promise and cut 750K people from Medicaid and then privatized it for significant profit for himself and his friends.

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Andrew Gillum populist underdog running for governor.

Gillum was elected Mayor of Tallahassee in 2014, at the age of 35.  This summer, he won an upset victory where he was seriously outspent in the Democratic primary for Governor this year and is narrowly favored to beat Trump Republican DeSantos.  He is a self-described progressive and has a platform similar to that of Bernie Sanders. Sanders has campaigned for Gillum.

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While we were canvassing, Gillum was clearly the most popular personality we spoke with voters about.  Charismatic, progressive, young, and good looking, Gillum has drawn support from many corners of this diverse state.  He holds a narrow lead in the state polls for this race.

With a referendum which may well decide the 2020 presidential election, a hotly contested must-win Senate seat for the Democrats and a Sanders Governor’s candidate running against a terrible Trump clone, Florida is the place to be right now!

We are trying to grow our team and your generous contribution would make that be possible.  If you think these races and rights are important, but can’t make it to Florida, please help these gifted organizers and activists be the hands knocking on doors for you.

 

 

 

Communards to Florida for Voter Rights

“You live in a bubble, I could never do it.  I need to be more connected to the real world.”  People visiting the communes often say things like this.  Often with praise for what they perceive as our prosaic and even idyllic life style.  It is a completely understandable criticism and it still rubs me the wrong way.

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But communards are often quite connected to the “real world” and some are working actively to influence local and national politics.  I am proud to say many more communards have stepped up during the time of Trump.

I am happy to be traveling with a group of capable organizers all of who hail from intentional communities from across the country which are supporting this campaign to restore ex-con voting rights in Florida, to help maintain the Democratic Senate seat and elect the states first black Governor.  Here is some of the key information:second chances banner florida.png

If Florida Amendment 4 passes, it will restore voting rights to 1.5 million Florida residents.  This represents over 10% of the states total population and over 20% of the African American voters.  As a voting group, ex-cons are most commonly Democratic, African American voters are overwhelmingly Democratic voters.  If this amendment passes it becomes extremely difficult for Trump to take Florida in the 2020 election. Without Florida, it is extremely difficult for the Republicans to win the Electoral College. Florida is one of only 4 states which basically permanently restricts ex-cons from voting.

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 (1) Dark Green–convicted felons always retained the right to vote; (2) Medium Green–right to vote after prison term completed; (3) Light Green–right to vote after prison term and parole completed; (4) Light Red–right to vote after prison, parole, and probation completed; (5) Medium Red–certain felons never regain right to vote; (6) Dark Red–no felons regain right to vote

If you want to support such an effort, please visit our GoFundMe page and donate to help cover our travel and living costs.  Stay tuned to this blog for regular reports from Tampa and Orlando.

Surprising Discoveries – Riot Bayit

Just when you think you know all about your “area of expertise” something new surprises you.

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Riot Bayit at dinner circa 2017

During a recent visit to Crafts House at Tufts someone said, “You should go visit Riot Bayit; they are an income sharing community, right here in Somerville.” I was surprised to hear of an income sharing community we did not know about in an urban region in the North East. What a surprise!

As it turns out, this ambitious group of former Tufts students created a collective house a couple of years back. And after living together that way, they decided they could practice their anti-capitalist politics and support each other better through income sharing. What a reasonable thing to do, which very few folks do in the US.

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handknit hanukkah socks! 15 socks for 14 feet

We spent a lovely evening chatting with them, listening to their origin story and what they were working on as a group.  Like most start up income sharing communities, they are not currently participating in a cottage industry.  Instead, like Compersia in DC, they all have day jobs and pool their income to cover their expenses and give each member some personal savings each month.

The word Bayit in their name comes from the Hebrew word for “home” and they like the rhyme that Riot Bayit creates. Most of the members identify themselves as Jewish but it is not a requirement.  There is a desire to observe Jewish practices such as shabat, and the holidays and celebrations which are not observed in the mainstream are much more actively a part of the life and discussions here.  Some members more actively study Jewish history and philosophy and bring their discoveries back the the larger group.  As with the name of the house, some Hebrew words are part of the regular vocabulary.

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Portraits of members on the wall

They are activists, organizers, fundraisers, and public advocates.  Their politics are on both sides of the front door: at home and in their workplaces.  Posters on the stair well wall invite refugees, while conversations recognize their relative privilege.  It is also clear that they are already doing things about this unfairness and have intention and momentum to do more.

One of the core values of the collective is addressing income inequality with redistribution.  To this end, they give 1/10th of the collective income to organizations who are doing political and cultural work they support. This tithing money is not going to religious organizations; it goes to political non-profit organizations which align with their greater values.

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Building the new commons in Somerville

Riot Bayit enjoyed the Point A propaganda and stories and when they encouraged us to return to do workshops with them in the future.  My surprise quickly shifted to joy.

Photo Credits: Riot_Bayit@instagram

Unity in the Communities Movement

This post is one in a series on workshops being offered at this years Twin Oaks Communities Conference. Nicole Bienfang of The Transition will be presenting a workshop entitled Where’s the UNITY in the Communities Movement?

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Nicole Bienfang – Presenter

When you look at the writings of many founders who started ICs their intentions were to create a concept that grew to global proportions, but how does that happen when there is no unity of vision on how to grow the communities movement? How can we build a global system that supports our growth on a grassroots and global level when each IC acts as an isolated silo? Nicole’s workshop intends to dig deep into these questions and many more like them. Through group participation attendees will find out what other participants are currently struggling with, what is working for them, how neighboring communities can better support each other, and what overlapping issues resonate with everyone  present.

Through the workshop you will find practical advice and resources with opportunities for self-reflection using group participation to illustrate workable examples and determine the focus the workshop takes.

Things that will be covered:

  • How each individual can contribute to the global growth of the IC movement
  • How to prevent founder burnout
  • How to create partnerships between individuals and ICs that are mutually beneficial
  • How to tap into an IC mutual aid network for tangible items and skills

Nicole’s  workshop is right for you if you are:

  • Struggling finding IC members that meet your ICs needs or criteria
  • Need resources or funding to get your IC off the ground
  • Would like to reduce your stress in founding your IC
  • Could use some sage wisdom from people who have “been there done that”.

Are you yearning for community?   The Transition serves social change makers (including ones wanting to form intentional communities) and provides them with support, space, and resources they need to succeed in the work they do, through an Action Plan, personal development, training and and most importantly an online and offline mutual aid network. Through their research The Transition knows when you can connect and share assets, people and ideas, everything changes for the better. You can help them create the world’s largest database of assets and resources, owned and cultivated by social change makers from all over the world, by registering on their website www.thetransition.org. When you join The Transition and become active and engaged with their online and offline community many resources are made available to you as well, by taking part in their global family. The more registered users that are enroll on the site the more assets and resources become communally available to all who are part of their mutual aid network. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Land
  • Free WiFi
  • Spaces to assemble
  • Work space for projects
  • Household goods
  • Tools
  • Training
  • Education
  • Volunteers
  • “Blueprints” and Case Studies (crafted from input from individuals who learned the hard way and  what not to do)
  • Funding to support projects or get new ones off the ground

Map with registered The Transition website users spanning multiple countries.

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Living in Community?

The Transition website is useful to people in many different situations-those who live communally, those trying to create social change groups, alternative living situations or those already involved in growing networks of activists.The Transition can help your community by:

  • Matchmaking (matching communities with specific needs, with prospective communards, interns, or volunteers who have those skillsets)
  • Screening prospective community members to make sure they are qualified leads with aligned values
  • Training (Non-Violent Communication, Conflict Resolution, Meeting Facilitation, Community Governance etc)
  • Cross-Promotion, PR, Outreach  for your community and your community’s cottage industries
  • Syndication for blogs, podcasts, video, music created by your community and individual communards
  • Providing access to mutual aid (tangibles,skill-sets, travel accommodation)
  • Updating our “Community Brain” with the newest and latest information to benefit your community’s longevity
  • Promoting your events (Open Houses, Work Parties, Parties, Speaking Engagements, Conferences etc.)

A page from their member’s skills searchable inventory which includes expertise rank, and expandable details for more specifics

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Objects page on The Transition website showcasing objects available to website users.

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Some things they have in the pipeline in various stages of development are:

  • A radio show that can help elevate and create a positive image for the IC movement in Babylon.
  • A benefits program (life Insurance, legal counsel, exclusive discounts and sign-up incentives for everyday and monthly expenditures online and in local communities etc)
  • A “People’s Bailout Program” to help get individuals out of financial debt (so they can invest in creating communities and positive social change projects)
  • A crowd-funding platform called The Cooking Pot built within their website, that will offer a match contribution for all funds raised
  • Alternative Spring Break programs for Teens & College Students
  • Alternative Scouts program for youth
  • Emergency/Relief Fund

Their organization and website is co-created and 100% volunteer run meaning that every registered user is part of the transitional process from our current zeitgeist to the a more idealized version of what we want the future to be. By relaying their newly acquired resources and findings from their social change work made “in the trenches” every individual using the site is strengthened and can eliminate pitfalls other activists and organizers made before the dawn of the internet.

You can listen to a podcast overview about the organization @ https://tinyurl.com/yc3h7pj4

If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved in any capacity start Your Action Plan.

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Nicole Bienfang: As a co-founder of The Transition, she has dedicated her life to increasing the positive impact social change makers have on society. She is a research driven, lifelong learner, who uses that knowledge to build stronger relationships among communities with individuals from around the world.

Ecovillage Design – An experts perspective

We are lucky to have some very talented folks presenting at this years Communities Conference.  In the coming days there will be several workshop highlighted on this blog.

If we are going to change the way relate to our environment, we are going to need to build new types of buildings and entire ecovillages.  Fred Oesch has been doing exactly this for years now.

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Charlottesville Ecovillage Design Proposal

 

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Acorn/SESE Seed Office design

This is the workshop Fred is offering at this years Communities Conference.

Ecovillage Design – Principles and Practices

Presented by Fred Oesch of Oesch Environmental Designs and Openworld Villages

We now have significant experience designing ecovillages both in rural and urban settings and this workshop will take stock of what has been learned over the last 30 years.  There are sustainability elements, aesthetic aspects and design components connected with high degrees of sharing which all go into making a high functioning ecovillage. In many cases these are not elements which are taught in architecture school.  We will explore conversions of existing non-ecovillages as well as designed from scratch solutions. The workshop will start with presentation and then go into question and answer.

Fred Oesch Head shot

Fred Oesch – Architect/Ecovillage Designer

Fred Oesch is a licensed architect who designed the seed building at Acorn and lives in Schuyler VA.  He has also been involved in several ecovillage projects, both urban and rural as well as new builds and conversions.  He serves on the Ecovillage Charlottesville Board and throws a mean quarry party.

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Site of ecological design and excellent parties

Some of what is covered in the workshop is Principles of Regenerative Environmental Design:

1] Design as a Way of Life.

2] Reflection of Evolving Regional Society, Tradition, Culture, and Religion

3] Utilization of Indigenous Technology, Materials, and Labor Skills

4] Direct Response to Microclimate / Seamless Site Integration

5] Minimum Inventory / Maximum Diversity Systems

6] Direct Designer / Builder / Inhabitant Participation

7] Net Resource and Energy Production

8] Self-Regenerating ‘Living’ Systems

 

It is still possible to come and participate in the Twin Oaks Communities Conference on August 31st thru Sept 2.  You can RSVP here in Facebook.  Or simply register for the Communities Conference

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Acorn/SESE Seed Office Actual

 

Nomadic Communitarians

I have written here about Shooting Stars, members of community who come through for a while on their way to other adventures.  The trick with shooting stars, is that you need to appreciate them when you have them close, and let them go gracefully, because you never really could hold them anywhere.

It was just this last winter that Thumbs joined Cambia and updated our notions of astrophysics.  Thumbs is a peripatetic communard.  A person with a mission (in his case the promotion and construction of yurts) who travels from place to place educating and demonstrating.  When i told him he was a shooting star, he corrected me and said he was more like a comet, swinging back to the places he loves.

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Thumbs is a person you can stand on

And he is coming back.  To do two workshops for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference and the Cambia Labor Day workshops.  At the Twin Oaks event, he is presenting on being a traveling communard and the sacred economics of it.  Here is a description of that workshop:

I live a vibrant life of travel, adventure, and spend copious amounts of time working on my invigorating passions, yet I make almost no money and am figuring ways to move money out of my bank account. I would like to host a workshop educating others on how to use the unorthodox wealth of communities to liberate themselves from the drain of personal expenses and dedicate more of their time to their passion projects. Communities are a unique place to explore gift economics, MOU’s that don’t entail USD exchange, and alternate currencies.  In doing this people will not only benefit themselves but may serve the communities movement by connecting communities and finding out in what ways each of them are abundantly wealthy and how they are in need. Movement Games, heart shares, and intellectual discussion will be involved. 

At Cambia on Labor Day he will be doing his yurt thing, which is describe as such:

Forget everything you know about conventional western architecture, and prepare to learn the genius of ancient nomadic design.  The lifestyle of traditional peripatetic cultures demanded the invention of structures that could endure the harshest climates in the world, both barren deserts and -40 degree winters, yet still be packed up on livestock and transported thousands of miles!  The Mongol Empire, the world’s most prolific nomad culture once spanning the largest land empire in the world, designed the ingenious collapsible home known in the west as a Yurt.

This workshop is a comprehensive and experiential study of yurt building that you will walk away from with the skills needed to build beautiful yurts for any climate and out of any materials you have access to.  The skills you’ll be learning to build these artistic structures like wood bending, mortise and tenon, dynamic knotwork, and textile pattern design will also unlock new creative potential in your other building projects.  We will also be talking about how these structures are part of modern culture, from the current state of nomadic Mongolians, to how you can avoid building codes with small, collapsible yurts.

For many people in the West, who value sedentary homes that sit in place for hundreds of years and private ownership of small plots of land, the lifestyle and architecture of nomadic people is an invigorating new perspective on what it means to call a place “home”.  

There is still time to register for both of these events.  We may have lost some shooting stars, but this comet is coming back and shining bright.

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Yurt Construction in Process

 

 

Labor Day Workshops at Cambia

Immediately after the Twin Oaks Communities Conference in Central Virginia, less than 2 miles down the road is a set of three workshops at Cambia Community.  These are happening on Labor Day, September 3rd.  These workshops are:

 

  • Yurts: While these inexpensive dwellings are applicable in many settings, they are especially appropriate for intentional communities because of their DIY nature and their flexibility citing and mobility.
  • Sustainability Exhibits: Intentional Communities are by their nature demonstrations of sustainability. Cambia’s museum trail and demonstration site is an access point for the public to interact with the why and the how of communities leading the way for sustainable future.
  • Business Plans:  Intentional Communities need to make money to survive.  If you want to start your own worker coop there are known successful steps, including business plans.

 

Let’s go into some more detail about all of these Workshops

Theoretical and Applied Yurt Construction

yurt under construction

This workshop is a study of yurt building that you will walk away from with the skills needed to build beautiful yurts for any climate and out of any materials you have access to.  The skills you’ll be learning to build these artistic structures like wood bending, mortise and tenon, dynamic knot work, and textile pattern design. We will also be talking about how these structures are part of modern culture, from the current state of nomadic Mongolians, to how you can avoid building codes with small, collapsible yurts.

This single day workshop has two parts.  The shorter morning session will focus on the theoretical side of yurt history and design.  The longer late morning and afternoon session will get participants out building different aspects of a real yurt on site.

Complete description of yurt workshop and presenter bio click here

Sustainability Education Exhibits and Experiences

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This workshop harvests key accessible sustainability principles and presents them in fun and interactive exhibits. We will tour our outdoor museum trail and participate in a hands-on workshop focused on natural building, passive solar design, and alternative building technologies. You will learn key sustainability concepts, get your hands dirty mixing cob or clay plaster, balance your carbon footprint and use fun gadgets.

This workshop is for anyone interested in sustainability, but especially educators, curators of sustainability presentations, and people interested in building their own homes.

Sustainability Exhibits full workshop description and presenter bios

Worker Coop Business Plan Review & Clinic

While this workshop is designed to stand alone, it also fits into previous workshops offered during the communities conference.  

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Worker Coop Business Plan Review & Clinic.  Business plans will either be submitted in advance or developed over the previous two days at the Twin Oaks event.  This workshop will review briefly each of the business plans which are being worked on both by the facilitator/experts leading the workshop and by the other start up designers.  Based on this input a collection of recommendations will be made for how to improve the business plan, what kinds of support possibilities (financial and technical) exist and how to connect with them and what the best next steps might be.

Complete workshop description and presenter bio

You can attend these events for an additional $50 if you are going to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  Register for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference normally and then after you select your ticket the Cambia event will appear as an additional option.

If you want to attend these events without going to the communities conference, the stand alone ticket costs $80