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.
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.
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.
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.
- Register for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference
- Register for the Cambia Labor Day Program
- RSVP on Facebook, either going or interested to get regular updates.
I am one of the moderators on an interesting Facebook group called the “Intentional Community Discussion Group“. A very typical posting is “I just bought X beautiful acres, and I want to start an intentional community. What should I do next?”
My answer is “Find a time machine and unbuy the land.”
This feels deeply counter intuitive to many. If you want to start a community and you have the capacity to buy land for your potential group, won’t it help the process along if you start by acquiring the land and then offer it to the group?
Sometimes it does, mostly it does not. The deal with starting a community, lots of people think they want to do it, but they don’t have all the friends and allies they want to do it with, so the accessible starting place looks like buying land. But as soon as you buy the land it stops being “We are starting community” and it becomes for everyone else “Should we join this existing project?”
Starting community is a fragile time. Some huge fraction (perhaps over 90%) of new communities fail. Most forming communities never get passed the “We are talking about it” stage. People want different things from community. And many people have huge hopes that community will solve a myriad of problems for them. “I will find my tribe.” “I won’t have to cook every meal myself.” “I will be able to live off the grid.” “I’ll have less stress.” “I’ll live with people who care for me.” “I will reduce my carbon footprint.” And dozens more. Starting community is an anti-gravity project.
The process of harmonizing the different needs and desires of prospective communards is the most important conversation you will have in your forming community. If one of the desires of a member you love is ” I want to reduce my time commuting”, then you have almost certainly chosen the wrong place if you have already purchased land. If their need/desire is “I want swim everyday” then your lack of stream or pond in your land purchase might be a deal breaker. If someone needs for their cat to roam free outside and you have chosen a beautiful piece of land near a coyote refuge, then you have already scuttled their participation.
The key point here is when you are starting up a community the most important thing is to build the group. And one of the most important decision for the group is which piece of land/buildings should you start with. If you make this decision for the group, the forming community loses one of it’s most important identity forming choices.
Paul Manafort is in jail. He was out on bail and had already violated the terms of his home confinement once. So when he was caught witness tampering (a crime especially agitating to judges) he was remanded to prison.
Legal titan Alan Dershowitz argues Manafort should not be imprisoned. “The government says he did it, he says no he didn’t do it. He didn’t know they were witnesses, and his conversation’s entirely innocent. Why does the government get to win without a hearing or trial?” Dershowitz recently told Fox and Friends.
Dershowitz knows thousands of mostly poor US americans are in prison having never been tried or convicted, in situations like Manafort’s. And while he decries the status quo, he gets media attention when it is the president’s rich white campaign manager being mistreated. He is a civil libertarian and “Trump whisperer” because of his frequent and legally compelling criticisms of the Mueller Investigation.
But Fox News is not just important because this lawyer who helped get O. J. Simpson off is critical of the special counsel’s investigation. Fox is the mouthpiece for Trump’s base and they rely on this story telling network for the talking points needed to justify his criminal and unethical behavior. After Fox News insufferable Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson perhaps the most important apologist for Trump. Carlson has been called Fox News’s “Master of Misdirection” by the Washington Post.
Please only listen to the first 3 minutes of this video
I don’t want to be responsible for your mental health if you take a larger dose.
Faced with the prospect of Manafort flipping on the president who Fox News loves, Carlson is pulling out all the stops in the above audio broadcast. The first moments of this Carlson monologue quotes one of the presidents better written tweets.
Then Tucker builds an amazing story in which Manafort crime become the crime of all politicians – that he did not register as an agent of foreign governments. Tucker falsely claims that this is Manafort’s core crime. Manafort has been indicted for many other more important offenses including: conspiracy against the US, money laundering, tax evasion, failing to report foreign bank accounts, lying to the FBI as well as witness tampering.
[For a much more amusing treatment of exactly this problem you should watch this funny episode of John Olivers Last Week Tonight’s building the case against Fox News https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3XTzVzaHQEd30rQbuvCtTQ]
You need to, very occasionally, in measured doses, watch Fox News, because so many people are being poisoned by it and believing it. With millions of dedicated viewers, you may well find yourself in an argument with one of the Fox News fans. If these deceptive stories are left unchecked, then we are well down the highway to authoritarianism and war.
I co-moderate a large diverse facebook group on intentional communities. Recently someone posted:
Gossip gets embellished as it travels. Things heard second hand should be verified with the speaker. Beware words taken out of context, even if the context is the room next door. Good communities practice all that.
While this is true as far as it goes, it misses the tremendous complexity around the issue of gossip and how important it is to both the culture and success of a community venture.
What is gossip? It is certainly more than an opinion expressed about someone who is not in the room. “Trump is a misogynist racist,” isn’t gossip, unless you are close to him. It is just an opinion. “Cindy is gifted at fixing cars,” almost certainly does not qualify either, as most people think gossip is a negative opinion.
“Paxus is a poor driver.” What if this is something I have said myself and you are simply repeating it? Is it gossip if the target is the source?
Let me propose a harsher definition: Gossip is a critical judgment shared about a person or group, often in conspiratorial or secretive tones, while not directly communicating with the subject of the gossip.
Using this definition one might reasonably be concerned that gossip would have an acidic effect on the fabric of the community. One of the common anti-gossip norms that exist in the communes is if you hear something critical about someone you could ask, “Have you told this to them?” This is the antidote to gossip; being transparent with the subject of the rumor.
Back in the 80s, as I was just becoming aware of community living, when I was making a critical comment about gossip, my dear friend and mentor Crystal replied “Gossip is the fabric of the community,” and it took me a couple of decades to understand what he was talking about.
Even when using the negative it turns out gossip is important for a community to be healthy. Members need to confide in confidants about their frustration with others in the community. Ideally, this is less about spreading rumors and more about seeking advice. “How do I deal with this headachy circumstance?” or “Do you understand their motivations for this strange behavior?” or “I was so upset and they were clueless, what is really happening here?”
In the best light, gossip is the flow of self-critical and self-correcting messages which members share in the lead up to actually addressing the problems. [Where the “self” here is the larger collective one, rather than the individual personal one.] You talk about things which are on your mind with the people who you live with and they help you reflect back on what you should do about it. Recognizing that if you are being critical of another member of your community, you are obligated to get back to them with your concern.
In this way, gossip within a community is different from what happens in the mainstream. If I am being critical or concerned about another member, I have a larger obligation to do something about it than I do if it is a co-worker or random stranger. If you have a substance abuse problem and we live collectively, not only can it blow back on me in a problematic way, but I have made some level of commitment to take care of you. If we are part of the same intentional community and I am worried about your mental health, I can’t casually gripe about it to another member, we have to be considering what our course of action is regarding this problem. Even less dramatic problems other members are experiencing like a poor choice of romantic partners or headache with a boss are much more shared in a community setting than when living independently. Gossip in community has more obligation to it.
It is worth pointing out that Twin Oaks does not embrace this culture. In my large commune, if you don’t want to deal with someone you can completely shut down communication with them. This is terrible for clearing gossip but might make it possible for some people who really do not see eye to eye to be able to live together. And because the community is so large these estranged members (including me) just try to avoid each other.
It is worth pointing out that when ex-Oakers founded Acorn with financial assistance from Twin Oaks, this was one of the most important things they wanted to do differently. Acorn (and many other communes) have a communication covenant which makes it the community’s business when members are failing to communicate. When you are designing communities one of the thorniest issues is when do you give power to the collective over the individual members. And gossip is one of the few places you should seriously consider it.
I’m lucky. My upbringing was affluent and comfortable and basically trauma free. I come from an advantaged class background. I am white and male in a world which has been designed to privilege these attributes. I have a low maintenance body and fairly good genes. I went to fancy schools and learned how to play some of the games which support the existing power structures and inequitable distribution of wealth.
So if one cares about fairness, how do you justify this unfair advantage? Some of my peers, like Sara, do anti-oppression work. Decoding their class privilege, calling out racism, classism and sexism where they see it. I’ve done a small amount of this work, but it is hardly my focus. And sadly, I am aware because of regular mistakes, I am still not getting this stuff.
Instead what I try to do is to look at this set of gifts as set of obligations. If I have been lucky, much of my work should be focused on giving back to others. Early on this drew me to activism. I selected anti-nuclear activism because it requires a certain unlikely combination of attributes. You need to be able to argue with people who come from these advantaged class backgrounds about technical and financial things. You need to be able to pour energy into long campaigns, which you are almost certain to lose and then you need to not get discouraged and keep on doing it, and even encourage others to join you.
One of my gifts is optimism. It is easy to have it, given my background. And the obligation (in my thinking) around this gift is taking on nearly hopeless causes. Not because you want to waste your time, but because there is social and cultural value to fighting the good fight in a world where the bad guys often win.
Some of the Point A folks went to NYC recently. It was quite an educational trip for me. And at first on it I was quite discouraged. If seemed like the idea of starting urban income sharing communities was nearly impossible.
On one hand you had the real estate developers. Especially in New York City, real estate prices are so out of control this often unsavory profession takes on especially monstrous dimensions. They have money to invest, tremendous motivation and their eyes everywhere for a bargain or opportunity.
On the other side you have the ugly force of gentrification. This is where often well meaning folks looking for inexpensive space inside the urban environment set up their artist’s lofts in economically disadvantaged areas, only to make these areas desirable and trendy. This in turn raises property values and ultimately they get themselves and, more importantly, their poor neighbors kicked out by the real estate developers described above.
I did not see a way around these vexing forces when we started talking with folks about the Point A project. And while I am nothing like confident we can figure this out, I am now feeling more optimistic about doing something we can be excited by and proud of.
[This was written over 3 years ago, since then the Point A project has made quite some progress in finding real anti-gentrification allies. More on this in my next post.]
There were three different parties last night as warm ups to tonight’s New Years Eve event at Twin Oaks.
- Acorn’s Annual New Years Eve Eve
- Cambia’s “Quite Party” and hot tub
- Christian’s Going Away Party in the Compost Cafe
Acorn had a small sober party with a new puppet show by Purl and live music by Acorn artists. There was a vast cash of cookies from a members prolific mom.
Just as i was driving the last (but early) shuttle away from Acorn a minivan full of Oakers showed up and tilted the party just the right way.
Because Acorn did not want to be over run by all the unknown (to them) guests who are already here for the Twin Oaks New Years Party, they understandably asked that their New Year’s Eve Eve guests be folks who had been there before. But this left us with the high class problem of needing another “open” party for all the lovely guests who are already here.
Cambia stepped into the breach. Since many of these unknown (to Acorn) guests were Craftees from Tufts who were already staying at Cambia or Simple House, it made sense to have the party here. There are a dozen Craft House affiliated folks coming to these events. If you are wondering why all these students and ex-students, the current manifestation of the feeder school strategy.
Three Generations of Feeder Schools: The idea is over a decade old, but we never have been able to pull it off with any longevity. The idea was to find a cool school, a college or university, where clever progressive students were already enthused about students coop communes and select this option over corporate America, because it was more fun and lively, despite the terrible pay.
It started with GPaul who was at Saint Mary’s and excited about the communes. Over time 3 other St Mary’s grads became members of Acorn or Twin Oaks. But then we sort of lost contact with the school.
We then did an infamous TOAST gig at McDonough prep. Three different members/interns came out of this visit, all of whom happen to be here for this New Years Eve party.
We deepened our relationship with the Craftees this fall by attending the Honk Festival largely with them. It was then we started lobbying the Craftees to come to New Years. I thought “Let’s add a bunch of young, sexy, colorful, non-conforming, high energy, artists and musicians into your party mix” – What could go wrong?
The last party I attended last night was Christian’s going away party in the Compost Cafe. This is a tiny smoking lounge off the main courtyard at Twin Oaks. The space is so small that 6 people can barely dance in it and we have well over that at points. This was a loud, excited party, with Christian spinning his favorite classic tunes and lots of singing, not all of it on key.
My room is filled with most lovely guests, now after too long, but too lovely a day, i will go find a suitable couch.
Below is the program to the most elaborate New Years Eve system of parties we have ever attempted. Don’t ask if you can come, you can’t. If you were not already planning on attending, this is not your year.
NYEE & NYE Celebrations – A cross-community NYE project
7 to 9 PM Transparency Games – TCLR at Twin Oaks – This is a facilitated collection of exercises which are designed to help people reveal more about themselves, build empathy and trust with others in the group. These games are simple like “if you really knew me _______” and “i have a story about you” and participants are always at choice about being involved.
10 PM meet at Cambia – Applied Dumpster Diving Workshop: Maximus will lead a group of intrepid dumpster divers to Short Pump and the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods dumpster. Dumpster techniques will be critiqued on a 28.6 point scale. (extra points for creativity).
2 to 4 PM at Acorn – Regenerative Agriculture Workshop: Rachel from East Brook Community Farm will present on ECBF’s efforts to repair soil and reverse climate change. To rebuild soil takes more than simply avoiding pesticides. Presentation and questions and answer. Acorn asks that people attending this workshop either be FEC affiliated or have an Acorn host.
4 to 6 PM in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Consent Workshop: The Louisa Communities have a strong Consent Culture orientation especially at parties. This workshop is designed to help participants at these parties understand fully and participate comfortably in saying what is true for themselves, protecting themselves without apology and connect intimately and/or romantically in a way which is safe. Anyone who has not been to a consent workshop before or who is new to this idea is strongly encouraged to come.
5 to 7 PM at Cambia – Video Editing for the Revolution: Maximus from Cambia will facilitate a discussion and presentation of community-focused video making and distribution. How to edit videos effectively and inexpensively. Making a youtube channel boosting its popularity.
Dinner at Cambia 7 to 8 PM – a big meal in a little place. Dumpster and donated food expertly prepared will feed as many people as show up.
8 PM to whenever at Acorn – New Years Eve Eve party at Acorn: If you really want to enjoy the New Years Eve party you need to pre-game for it by staying up late the night before at a different lovely event and then sleeping in the next day. [The TO NYE party goes unusually late for the communes]. Acorn throws a New Years Eve Eve sober party which has all the kick of significant festivity without the alcohol. Come enjoy live music, puppet theater, dancing and more with the anarchists from Acorn. If you have never been to Acorn before you are encouraged to go to the quiet party at Cambia instead.
8 PM til whenever – Quiet Party at Cambia: Cambia is hosting a number of people who are new to the area and some long experienced folks as well. But don’t confuse “quiet” party with not fun. Cambia has been the host for numerous interesting and enjoyable events. Stories, party games, and other kid friendly activities will go late into the night.
10:00 to noon at Appletree at Twin Oaks – Canadian EcoVillages
Jacob is from Manitoba and started the EcoVillages.CA website, newsletter and network. He has been involved with Myriad Village in Manitoba and has toured extensively examining sustainable intentional community solutions and has presented an EcoVillages 101 workshop in various places. This will be a more advanced workshop, looking at sustainability successes and obstacles, especially in Canada.
10-:30 – noon Bijou at Twin Oaks – The Last Day Singing Soirree facilitated by Cleo & Craig in the Bijou
Let’s get our voices hearts and minds in tune and in rhythm for the New Year! Craig and Cleo will lead songs about cycles and seasons, beginnings and endings, changing and returning. This is an inclusive vocal convergence. If you’ve got a song to share in this spirit, come ready to lead it.
1 -3 PM TCLR at Twin Oaks – Foolery Presentation
Spot (X Acorn, X Woodfolk) is a multiple who practices and shares comic arts often with a political twist. This Foolery workshop has an emphasis on Fetch u, personification, paradox and paraphilia. This workshops starts with presentation and then moves to question and answer.
1 -3 pm Bijou at Twin Oaks – Co-Authoring a More Beautiful World, with the Imaginarium Consort
This workshop will be a brief yet memorable foray into the art and science of co-authoring our lives. With stimulating prompts, queries, conversational interludes and communal reveries we’ll exercise our higher callings. By boldly expressing our aspirations we’ll build alliances and generate the courage needed to bring forth a more beautiful world in 2018.
The Imaginarium Consortium is a group of activists and gadflies drawn from four central VA communities. We’ve been meeting weekly for 3 months to discuss Charles Eisenstein‘s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.This workshop is an expression of insights and inspirations we’ve gained thru our reading and conversations.
1 to 4 at Modern Times at Twin Oaks – Art Bike Workshop: Converting broken bikes into something fun and beautiful. Kunle from Boston has created dozens of art bikes and will facilitate this workshop. Come and stay for any amount of time and create something beautiful or bizarre.
4 to 6 PM at Cambia – The Future of Urban Communes: There are Point A influenced communities which have started in DC and Queens. How do we support these new entities and where does the effort to bring income sharing to east coast cities look next? Baltimore? Boston? Philly? Folks from the Point A Circus will wrangle an engaged discussion about how to move forward.
4 to 6 PM in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Consent Workshop: This workshop is a repeat of the one the day before. The Louisa Communities have a strong Consent Culture orientation especially at parties. This workshop is designed to help participants at these parties understand fully and participate comfortably in saying what is true for themselves, protecting themselves without apology and connect intimately and/or romantically in a way which is safe. Anyone who has not been to a consent workshop before or who is new to this idea is strongly encouraged to come.
6 PM at ZK dining hall – Full Circle Community Intro: A forming new income sharing community committed to elder care adjacent to Twin Oaks? This is more than a dream a few of us have had, this is increasingly becoming a reality and if this is a project you are interested in or want to join, come and talk with Corb and Aurora over dinner. Participants will be encouraged to share their visions of building a Full Circle Community
6 – 7 PM at ZK dining hall – Angel Training
So you want to be an Angel? Angel’s make sure everyone is comfortable and happy at the party. Angels wear wing arm bands, when they are on duty. Angels work as a network and take care of three types of problems. 1) A party goer is having a bad time and need to talk to someone and perhaps chill. 2) There is an altercation and the Angel may separate people or take someone out of the party space. 3) There is an emergency which requires driving. If you can do anyone of these three tasks for some part of the party, come and get oriented and get your wings. Angel work is labor creditable.
8PM in Temple of Oracles (Tupelo upstairs North Wing): Ritual casting Sacred Space. In this ritual we’ll set intentions for what we hope the party will bring us and will cast sacred space and grounding energy for the party. Open to all who like ritual, singing and being intentional.
8:30pm until late: Temple of Oracles (upstairs North Wing)
The intention of this space is to foster self-exploration, and create a quiet space for reflection (in the bustle of the Twin Oaks New Year’s Party) where anyone can consult the oracle, formulate a question and get external mirrors that help clarify feelings, thoughts, fears, resistances, hopes, dreams, intentions and future plans.
8 PM until whenever at Tupelo at Twin Oaks- New Years Eve Party at Twin Oaks: With a bit of luck this party will change your life. Perhaps it will be at the kissing workshop or connecting with someone new in the cuddle loft. Perhaps you will be transported by the music of our talented DJs or the live shows in the Music Room. Including puppet shows at 8:30 and Handpan. \ Perhaps the theme and decorations will teleport you to exactly where you need to go. You might finally get to express yourself at the 2 AM burlesque show. Or the Infinity Room will allow you to see yourself in the midst of all things. All manner of experiences and exotic treats await you at one of the reliably best parties of the year.
Kissing Workshop – Cuddle Loft 11 PM? Janel will facilitate this tutorial on technique. Bring a partner on not and lower your inhibitions. And this is a high consent space, so no surprises
Burlesque Review – 2AM main dance floor – Belladonna will MC a burlesque review. Party participants are strongly encourages to don their sexy undies and be prepared to strut and shout. If you are interested just come and if you want couching or more info find Belladonna at dinner at ZK on the 31st
Open Mic – We are blessed at this event with a number of folks who live or have lived at Crafts House which is connected to Tufts University outside Boston. Crafts House manages a free art space on campus and is rich with artists and performers. They will run the Open Mic in the Music Room, beside the Infinity Room
Whenever you can make it after the party. At Tupelo – Clean Up: Start the new year putting back together the residence which hosted the previous night’s bash. Don’t worry that you don’t know the place or where anything goes. Helpful Oakers will direct you and make you feel useful and righteous for having returned to normal the house which was converted temporarily into a most fantastic space.
Brunch: at the ZK dining Hall at Twin Oaks [Time not confirmed]
1pm Closing ritual in temple of oracles (tupelo north wing -upstairs). We’ll ceremoniously close the circle, reflecting on our gifts and lessons. Then we’ll devoke and clean up.
2 PM to 4 PM at Acorn – Can pirate radio save the world? Come explore the limits of internet media and radical propaganda. Belladonna Took is the host of What would save the World? on Radio Free Brooklyn. How to operate a radical radio show without a budget. How to promote your podcasts and land interesting interviews. What are the limits and possibilities of pirate radio. A lively and interactive conversation.
4 to 6 PM at ZK dining hall at Twin Oaks – Funological Review: What makes a good party? What could we do differently in the future to make it be a better party? What aspects were pulled off well and what got forgotten or underworked? Did it change people’s lives? Did people fall in love or decide to quit Babylon? Come review the event and help figure out how to build the better party.
7 to 9 PM at Cambia or perhaps in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Crafts House Performance: The gifted and talented kids from Crafts House at Tufts will do an edge exotic theater piece for the delight and thought-provoking amusement of the local communards.
10 AM to noon in ZK at Twin Oaks – The Future of Commune Life Blog: This prolific blog has been running for over a year, producing 3 blog posts a week of visual and written works from all the FEC communities. Who are the new writers and editors for this potentially potent piece of digital media.
1 to 3 PM at Cambia – East Brook Community Farm: The newest FEC community in dialog is expanding its membership and its successful CSA business. Come learn about this new rural commune and opportunities for working there this spring (and beyond).