Acorn Clearness

Twenty years ago. when the pioneers of Acorn were designing a different membership and decision making structure than the parent community Twin Oaks, they decided they wanted to create something called a clearness.  It is two distinct things actually – or perhaps most precisely two parts to the same clearing process.

The first part is a face to face conversation with  everyone who is a member of the community.  So for the last week or so i have been catching Acorners, going for walks, chatting while packing seeds, chatting over making dinner or quietly in someones room.  And with the exercise i finally learned all of the names of all of the members and the guests (because to a new person it is occasionally hard to tell who is who).  The purpose is for people to share concerns, specifically about my membership.  Overall, these were wonderful conversations in which genuine appreciation and what felt like quite transparent communication took place.

Some members were concerned that my motivations behind joining Acorn were indirect, in that i have been clear that part of my reason for wanting to be here is to work with Acorn on starting up Chubby Squirrels.  But to a member, these concerns were secondary to the nearly universal desire to expand the communities movement and specifically to strengthen the eco-system of income sharing intentional communities in central Virginia.

Ira said “I never know quite what you are doing.” To which i had to confess was my own experience with myself with quite some frequency.  “I have nothing to say to you, Paxus.” a generally taciturn Abe told me, followed by “and i mean that in the nicest way”

The second part of the clearness is everyone getting together in the dining room and talking about whether you would be a good fit in the community.  i had my community clearness and people were very friendly and supportive of both me and Acorn fostering the Chubby Squirrels project as well as my recent efforts in the picking room.  The facilitator started the round of check in’s with asking people what their favorite band was when they were 12.  The Beatles and In Sync both got more than one vote each.

The most common comment was

Several Acorners said “When i have just one call from jail, i am calling you.”

The last community meeting Acorn will have about my provisional membership will be the Sunday after this one in which the community will meet without me and make a decision if i can join.  Given what people said in the meeting which just took place, it is unlikely a hidden concern will derail my effort to become a dual member.  And as several people jokingly reminded me, these types of last minute concerns do pop up.

There is virtually no paper used in the Acorn clearness process.

There is virtually no paper used in the Acorn clearness process.

The clearness process is a sister to the transparency work i have already been doing, but is clearly something which i would mimic in a membership process for a new consensus based community.

When i told Angie there were no real concerns about my potential impact on the community, her reply was “they are not paying careful enough attention.”

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

21 responses to “Acorn Clearness”

  1. Keenan Dakota says :

    Acorners, be warned: Accepting Paxus will change your community! There will suddenly be massive multi-day, very disruptive New Year’s parties. The very members of your community will travel to earn thousands of dollars at work elsewhere. He may talk radical, but he is very devious in increasing sales for businesses. You will all be working harder! The place will become riddled with political activists! And lots of guests from totally foreign countries! There will suddenly be a huge influx of young women members! Save yourselves! Don’t accept him for membership and send him back to Twin Oaks where we are already used to his ways.

  2. Alex Barnes says :

    Given how much Acorn’s membership has changed over its 20 years I am surprised that its membership process has not.

    • Paxus Calta says :

      Dearest Alex:

      You might be right, i should research more and figure out how much it has actually changed, perhaps not much – but it could have. I may have over spoken.

      Paxus at Acorn
      26 Acorn Viz 2013

  3. GPaul says :

    The clearness has been a part of Acorn’s membership process for a very long time but the exact form of the clearness has changed frequently during my 8 years here. Also, the clearness is not so much a chance to share concerns as it is a chance to check in about the state of your relationship which includes concerns, appreciations, excitements, observations, etc. At minimum it needs to include all concerns that the member plans on raising with the group about the focus person but it can be much more than that.

  4. moonraven222 says :

    When I was a member of Movement for a New Society in the nineteen-eighties we used a clearness process that I think was originally from the Quakers. I wonder how much of Acorn’s process was adopted from either MNS or the Quakers.

    I think the double clearness (individual and group) that Acorn uses, however, is a bit different and very useful. I found the process both probing and transparent when I went through it. I liked that I got to meet with every member and then part of a group query. And then I wondered why I had to go through the membership questionnaire at all when the clearness process seemed so thorough.

    Congrats on going through your clearness at Acorn and I do hope that you get dual membership.

  5. germanbini says :

    I wish East Wind would do something like this ‘clearness’ – maybe we’re too big. But I love the idea of members actually spending time personally getting to know prospective new members, and vice-versa. It seems to me that much of the time visitors here may only spend time with people their age/social group/work partners. Conversely, members may not feel they have anything in common with the visitor, or are too shy or jaded or withdrawn to get to know another new person. I think this adversely skews our voting process on visitors. 😦

    Congrats and well-wishes to you, Paxus! 🙂

  6. Tree Bressen says :

    Oh, this process is indeed different from the 1990s. Back then, the one-on-one dialogues actually took place IN THE MEETING in front of everyone! Talk about transparency! It was terrifying, naturally, but also very loving. The crux of each dialogue was: “What helps me feel closer to you? What pushes me away?” These clearnesses took place when someone applied for membership, again at 6 months, and finally at one year which was when full membership was decided.

    While the name “clearness” and perhaps some of the intention is shared with Quakers, the Acorn process (old or new) is very different from anything the Quakers do. I just checked the MNS booklet currently in my bathroom reading stack and the Acorn process is an obvious direct descendant from MNS.

    Those MNS folks sure got a lot of things right. The advice on p. 18 about giving prospective members who aren’t a good fit a clear No instead of a wishy-washy answer exactly matches my own experience and beliefs. Here’s their example of “fudging” it: “We all really like you and hope that you will be a person who will visit us and spend time here often, but perhaps you shouldn’t live here right now. Maybe we’ll consider it again in a few months.” Classic! When i was the outreach manager at Walnut St., i was up front with applicants about the reasons if we rejected them, but once i passed that job on no one else was willing to be honest with them, which i thought was very unfortunate.

    And by the way, Angie is right.

    • paxus says :

      @Tree – there is still a summary of the F2F clearness in the group clearness, people spoke there concerns, but they are already discussed by the time the come to the group. Funny you should mention MNS, there was an out loud reading of a book by an old MNS person about their process.

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