Archive | Communities RSS for this section

GivingTuesday – Rustling Roots

First things first, we are running a crowdfunding campaign for Rustling Roots, which is the sustainability education project of my favorite small community and part time home Cambia Community.  Please donate generously if you can.  And so we know it came from this source please donate a dollar amount with a single penny added (so $35.01 and the like).  Here is the link.

This is the lovely promotional video for the project which was made with some of my favorite kids (From Twin Oaks, Cambia and Mimosa communities).

These communities are all different and important models of sustainability.  They have tiny carbon footprints, home schooling programs and a vision of a better world.  In an often insane world, these places and projects are a ray of hope.

Please support us if you are able.

 

 

Mega development in Louisa

A couple of months back I learned of the shadowy plan in which the Louisa county supervisors had purchased options for several large tracks of land within the county for a proposed mega development.

mega development map

Over 1000 acres of proposed development – now stopped

Local citizens from across the county (not just the ones from the affected areas) started organizing, specifically bringing people to the supervisors meeting and demanding public input on this proposed plan.  It was clear that the supervisors were expecting this proposal to not get much public attention and that they could simply pass it while no one was paying much attention.  The supervisors, who normally have little public interest in their work, were surprised to find over 100 locals at their meeting upset about their proposal and decision making.

Louisa Sups at round table

Louisa Board of Supervisors – Photo Credit: CBS19 – News

When pressed about why they were advancing this proposal, the answers the supervisors gave were contradictory and thin.  They promised jobs, they promised the $50 million city funded water and sewage system would not raise taxes, they promised this would not be like the several other Louisa industrial park development projects.

These contradictory promises hurt the case for this development and the locals continued to organize and opposition to the development grew.  At the same time the supervisor position on it seemed to harden.  At the first vote on the project, 3 of the 7 supervisors voted in favor of the development and 3 against, and one was not in attendance that evening, but appeared to be in favor of the plan.

 

city monster eating the rural.jpg

Cambia and some of the other local communities got involved.  Cambia set up the Facebook page and made calls to the supervisors.  One supervisor got 347 different people calling them and only 7 were in favor of the project.

mega development protest

Protesters at Louisa Supervisor Meeting – Nov 20 – Photo Credit: Me

This time, despite the odds, the good guys won.  The county supervisors hearing for the fourth straight meeting how locals were furious about this proposal reversed themselves and voted unanimously to kill their own project.  Now it is time to get locals together to talk about what type of development we do want, to help the supervisors do the right thing.

 

7000 Doors

Bringing 10 people, all from out of state to Florida, to work on an ambitious political campaign for 3 weeks is a rich logistical tapestry.  On the day after the election, GPaul (who was the flawless finance minster for the team) reminded me by text that I needed to send thank-you letters to our donors.

Shortly after this my cell phone started buzzing like crazy.  “We are heading for a recount. We need to contact all the people who submitted votes by mail or provisional ballots and confirm these were received,” was the message we got from Organize Florida, the organization for which we had been volunteering.

Florida Recount Graphic.jpg

Now it was not just Senator Nelson facing a close election needing a recount, but the Gillum/DeSantes governor’s race as well.  And we were back to phone-banking.  Our team, now spread across the country, were phone-banking from airports in California and collectives in Oregon, and folks at the Virginia communes also started calling.  We helped burn through two lists of over 7,000 people in a few hours.

Normally, one would not know who had voted by mail, because one would not have their phone numbers.   Hard Knocks was the group we canvassed with and it was set up by the very politically active labor-union SEIU.  In the Tampa Bay area our canvass knocked on over 1.5 million doors.  We helped thousands of people get their vote by mail ballots.  We brought people to the polls for early voting and educated  them on a number of down-ballot items, including those for the State Senator Janet Cruz and the initiative to restore felon voting rights.  In the end our 10 volunteers, mostly from income sharing intentional communities, hit more than 7000 doors.

At each door that answered, we gathered information about whom they were planning to vote for, including what method they would use.  When the recall became imminent that same database gathered in the months leading up to the midterms could now be employed to reach back to those voters and see if they were actually being counted.

At this writing both the Senate and Governor elections are being recounted.   There is some chance that either of these Democrats will win, and if either does it will be further proof that we made the right choice to go to Florida to work on these elections.  A couple of my anarchist comrades have written long essays about how it is wrong to be involved in these or any elections.  Most of the crew in Florida self identifies as anarchists and is doing this work because the threat of staying on the sidelines is too large.

titanium feather.jpg

Titanium Feather

What of course would be grand would be for us to be the titanium feather which tips the balance.  But even if we don’t I certainly feel good about trying.

45898386_10156029759407914_9189932765812883456_n.jpg

November is “Gov. Gillum”

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

Dewey beats Truman Newspaper.jpg

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?”

IMG_20181104_143756.jpg

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.

obama_gillum.jpg

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.

voter suppression cartoon.jpg

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.

team tampa

Canvassers of Team Tampa: Photo Credit: Calico

 

 

 

 

 

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.

bubble-burst

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.

convicted felon.png

 (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.

riot bayit dinner

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.

riot bayit socks

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.

riot bayit portraits

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.

riot bayit reclaim the commons poster

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?

Nicole head shot

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.

members worldwide map

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

member skills

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

member list

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.

transition logo
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.

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.

35766660_10156462787468851_5270951300656267264_o.jpg

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.

thumbs bending bamboo on head

Yurt Construction in Process

 

 

Love Letters to Strangers

One of the most pressing questions facing event organizers these days is “How important is Facebook in bringing people to events?”

social media is changing everything

But how and how much?

I asked an experienced promoter “If you have 100 people saying they are ‘interested’ in my event (as opposed to ‘going’) how many can I expect will actually come?” They replied “Zero”.  Which begs the question “Why bother working with Facebook at all?”

The answer for the team working on the Twin Oaks Communities Conference is that we can reach out to people who say they are considering the event and encourage them to come.  Or in other words, we are writing a bunch of encouraging letters to strangers.

love letters bundle

For this event which is happening over the Labor Day weekend, it is still possible for many people to make plans to attend.   Rather than crossing our fingers and hoping those who are interested might come, we are using all the information which we have from Facebook to try to engage and encourage unsure possible attendees to come.

Even if we are not friends, the public information about you on your Facebook profile will help me assure you that this might be a good event for you to attend.  If there is a picture of you with your children on your wall, we can point out we have a great childcare program at this years event

child care at comm conf

Child Care at the Communities Conference

If your Facebook timeline shows you are interested in inclusion and racial justice, then we can alert you to the thread (sequential related workshops) on this topic, including the workshop by returning presenter Crystal Farmer

33965087_1583518495089907_8157859829755412480_n.jpg

Crystal explores implicit bias & how to build diverse communities

If it is clear you are interested in renewable energy or electricity independence, then we are happy to announce that Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm is presenting on “How to make your community 100% energy self sufficient

LEF rainbows

Rainbows over Living Energy Farm

Turns out even strangers like love letters.  People are writing back. We are coordinating transportation for organic farmers with families in Michigan.  Racial Justice activists from Baltimore are asking us questions about work exchange to make it be possible to attend.  Folks from various egalitarian communities are saying they are interested in our panel discussion on the advantages of income sharing and the Federation.

What about you?  Is your community looking for new members?  Are you looking to change your life and join an intentional community? If so, then this might be the right event for you to be at over the labor day weekend.

If so come visit www.communitiesconference.org or show up at our Facebook event.

Communities building Co-ops

I want you to come to this years Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  Not just because I am one of the organizers and we would love for attendance to be high, but because there is some excellent content at this years event and I would love more people to get exposure to it.

One of the threads I am most excited about is communities creating worker co-ops.  The nature of community changes dramatically when you have your own income engines.  You become more flexible.  When members of your community have to work outside jobs they are pulled away from community life everyday, their work issues are separated from the collective life.  When you build a collective business, you are working with the people you live with, your bonds deepen, your flexibility increases, your motivation for work improves.

challenges ahead.jpg

But starting businesses are fraught with mishaps and hazards, which is why we have brought in experts to help guide those who wish to attempt this noble quest and increase your chances of success.  Below is the description of one piece of this thread.

Communities building Cooperatives – C2C

3 interlocking workshops for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference

And the Cambia Labor Day program

 

Intentional Communities and Worker Owned Cooperatives are sister initiatives, which can certainly cooperate more.  The 2018 Twin Oaks Communities Conference (Aug 31 thru Sept 2) will have a theme of how intentional communities can initiate and expand worker coops and how collectively controlled businesses can spark and support residential communities.  The Cambia Labor Day program (Sept 3) will focus on reviewing co-op business plans with an eye towards revising or polishing them.

These different collective ventures both require building trust between members and effective group decision making and visioning.  Intentional Communities which embrace starting cooperative work environments strengthen their financial foundation and expand the options for their members.

solidarity
This three day program will develop new ideas into proposals and then format them as draft business plans.  Some of the different workshops in this theme are described below:

Sept 1:  Visioning a co-op inside your community.  You already live together, what would it take to work together?  Is it possible for your collective to agree on a shared income generating venture and what are the deal makers and breakers for your members?  What type of time frame makes sense for this venture? Who are the in house champions that are going to prioritize this venture, including shepherding it thru community process and hopefully consensus.

Sept 2: Drafting a Business Plan.  Worker co-ops are businesses.  For them to succeed they need to be economically viable and serving a real need.  Real startups require business plans and new co-ops have some special extra considerations when crafting their business plans.  This workshop uses the Business Model Canvas technique to represent the key elements in developing a new venture and directing further research.  It will also use PEST Analysis: Political, Economic, Socio/cultural and Technological  considerations in refining the draft business plan.

coffee and pie charts.jpg

Coffee will be provided, pie charts will not

Sept 3 (Cambia Labor Day program) Worker Co-op 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.