Roommate #1 – A 66-year-old white male bookworm, compost fanatic, systems devotee, and community networker. Technically retired but excited to be involved in many projects. Community is my passion.
Roommate #2.0 – A funky woman in her mid-forties who loves cooking for folx, dancing, biking, being outdoors and, although I can be quite serious at times, playing the jester. My passions lie in food sovereignty, mushroom growing, gardening and bringing slow-medicine into our everyday lives. I help support our community working odd jobs, giving massages and occasionally teaching workshops on mushroom cultivation.
Roommate #3 – Almost 40 y/o white male. Works various gigs offering environmental education, volunteers as a nonprofit leader and urban farmer. Enjoys bike rides, dancing, dumpster diving and participating with a local artist collective. Down-shifting towards a slower, contemplative life.
Progressive (if not radical) and cooperatively minded. A good communicator and listener. You are interested (if not experienced) in living communally. This doesn’t mean you have to be the most social person out there! but you’re responsible, respectful, interested in participating in the community in some way (i.e. not simply looking for a room). You’re also financially stable, however, you make that happen. You’re compassionate and non-judgmental. You may be of any gender/sex/sexuality/race/ ethnicity/religion, and you respect those who align differently along those (and all) categories.
We are an income-sharing, egalitarian residence, and this differs from other collective houses (which can sometimes mean nothing more than sharing a big space).… But what does it mean? Basically, we pool the products of our labor, including monetary income, salvaged food, clothes, etc. helping insulate us from the corrosive and isolating effects of capitalism. Although scary to get into, once established, income sharing makes everything else we are trying to do easier. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.
As for the term egalitarian: Let go of the idea of justice and deserving. We’re making it all up anyway. What matters is that we’re being taken care of and that so is everyone else. Liberty, equality, community. By basing our economy on equal access to resources rather than an equal distribution of resources we celebrate and support differences and eliminate a lot of paperwork on our way to our post-scarcity utopia.
The three of us who are already income-resource-sharing meet every week, usually over dinner (or weekend brunch), to discuss and organize that aspect of our living agreements and general household concerns, norms, and ideas. Moving in as a non-income sharing participant, we ask that you commit to attending a house meeting every other week as a participant, while the alternate week you are welcome to observe, especially if radical sharing is of interest to you. We also want to be transparent so you understand that, although we are consensus-based, the income-sharing group may need to make some decisions that could impact you.
While we have yet to establish a schedule of household chores and responsibilities, it will be expected that you participate in the work of the house which could also include assisting us in developing communal norms and standards.
THE HOUSE & NEIGHBORHOOD:
Located at 21st Street and 30th AVENUE on the Astoria/LIC border, a short walk to grocery stores, post office, laundry, restaurants, banks, healthcare and cultural amenities including libraries, the waterfront, Socrates Sculpture Park, Rainey Park, Hallet’s Cove, Two Coves Community Garden, Noguchi Museum, Welling Court Mural Project, Boys and Girls Club, Astoria Park (& pool) and Hellgate Farm (where we bring our compost).
Transportation: Express bus at the doorsteps two stops to the F train and easy access to the W & N trains. Approximately 25 minutes to midtown transfers. Plus the NYC Ferry, Astoria route is 4 blocks away.
We share the basement and ground floor of a row-house (not a large apartment building) with 4 bedrooms and 1-½ bathrooms. A full, eat-in kitchen, separate and roomy living room, plus a bonus room downstairs that we are currently utilizing as a craft room and for visitor accommodations.
ROOM, RENT & EXPENSES:
Unfurnished (but we could provide shelving and/or a bed upon request) 14’x8-½’ and a closet with a south facing window. A wonderful blank slate!
Monthly cost: $950 (includes utilities!)
Move in cost (1st and last month’s rent): $1900
Couples are welcome, see question below.
RESTRICTIONS: Pets are negotiable, no smoking indoors.
Please complete this form
One way to think about community is as an antidote to the problems of contemporary society. A strong case can be made that deep sharing mitigates most climate disruption contributors. We see that highly intentional community helps heal some people’s mental health challenges. But the real allure of community is something larger.
If we look at living together and sharing our lives as a long lever for creating culture, then isn’t it possible to design a community in which the members become well harmonized and deeply mutually supportive? Community asks the question “How might we come up with a way to live together in which amazing, healing and transformative things are accessible to the people who live this way? How could we develop a set of rituals and communication patterns which helps members of these communities manifest their dreams? And if this is possible, what do we know about these types of successful cultures already so we can experiment with them?”
One of the things we know for sure is we can not be supportive without being communicative. And the more we can trust, the more we can share what we find to be true, the more profound our ability to advise and ally with people.
Cambia is reviewing how we dream and vision. The community is small and reforming and old traditions are being reconsidered by new members as well as founders with new eyes. For me the piece of greatest interest is the exploration and manifestation of personal dreams. I believe this is a rich place for meme craft and hopefully deep personal satisfaction.
We are tinkering with the parameters of a dream alliance. The basic idea is simple, I tell you my dream and invite you to support it and then we switch roles. If you don’t have a dream, or it feels incompletely formulated (“i want more music in my life”) then your ally will guide you through an exploration to help refine and define it more.
If your dream is ambitious (“we need to deconstruct industrial capitalism”), your dream ally might help you identify the next piece (“let’s start a worker coop”). If your dream is sprawling (“i want to get people to think!”), then perhaps your ally makes you look on a focused part (“let’s start an inspiring book club”).
But more important than suggestions from your ally is a willingness to help manifest. “I would cook and drive for a local Food Not Bombs chapter, if that was your calling” or “You need to stop Trump, I will go door to door with you before the next election”. Or perhaps simple logistics “I’ll watch your kid while you meditate/exercise.”
I was excited about this thinking and I brought this rough idea to the Thursday night book club at Cambia. We are reading Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible”, one chapter each week and talking about it. And after my enthusiastic description of dream alliances, Craig was uninspired. “I am not excited about exploring people’s individualistic dreams, what would make this interesting to me is if we were seeking and building our shared dream.”
This is consistent with Eisenstein’s thinking. That we need to move past dualism and find a new story which connects everything. Craig gets this, which is why he has been pushing this book, and the concept of InterBeing. InterBeing, as close as I can tell, is a sort of secular enlightenment, where you feel and react from a place of being connected with everything and seeking some type of harmony with it all.
I don’t get it. I am a dualist. This is slightly challenging to the book group I think. Perhaps it is a bit like having a libertarian in your anarchist discussion groups. You are all talking about getting rid of government, but are way out of line when it comes to what happens next.
And even though I don’t quite get it around Interbeing, Craig’s challenge feels like a friendly amendment. There is something very powerful about seeking our shared dream together. The alliance is richer, when it is our dream instead of you supporting mine in exchange for me supporting yours.
And I am again grateful for Cambia which thinks these are the questions we should be pondering and energy well spent exploring and cultures worthy of our efforts to design them. I think a carefully constructed dream alliance could be super memetic. And that is my personal holy grail.
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).
One of the best parts of living in community is getting to design the local culture. I am spending a lot of time at Cambia Community these days which is just 2 miles from Twin Oaks, where I hope to become a dual member (but that is a different story).
Every morning at 8:30 we are getting together and plan our day. One of the things we organize is who is going to write a love letter that day and who are they going to send it to and a bit about why. The community has committed to writing at least one every day.
We are using the broad definition of love letter, where anyone you feel strong affection or appreciation for is an acceptable recipient. Thinking about someone who we have not sufficiently expressed appreciation for is one of the tools we use to figure out which letter should get written next.
Who should you write today?
When you go through customs at the Havana airport, you see this digital screen of an analog clock.
To be convincing, the sweep second-hand jerks a bit every time it moves. And thus you are introduced to the temporal paradox which is Cuba’s capital.
The vast majority of cars on the streets of Havana are from two eras, the last decade and the period immediately before the revolution and US embargo, around 1959.
The time machine affect has numerous positive aspects. The old city streets often have wide parks running through the middle. A crippled economy means there is little traffic. High gasoline costs mean that vehicles rarely have just one person in them. Huge trees line the streets.
There are some innovations which other places would do well to mimic. Stop lights on major intersections count down the number of seconds before they turn either red or green, to better inform drivers.
The city streets in Havana are named in a novel and clever way. The main dividing street is Avenido Paseo. To the west the streets are increasing in even numbers. To the east the streets are lettered. Perpendicular to these, running parallel to the coast the streets are odd numbered. Thus you can tell uniquely where you are by just knowing 10th and 11th or C and 9th. No confusing East and West like DC or Streets and Avenues like NYC.
The architecture favors balconies, flat roofs and porches and the social structures take advantage of these. Many doors down the street are left open with people inside and outside often visible. Most buildings were built before there was air conditioning and the architecture encourages placing people in breezes.
When you create community, part of what you do is create language. Here at Twin Oaks, we have a tremendous collection of acronyms for places and things: OTF, CMT, TCLR, TOAST, OTRA, MHT, CPs, Hx, CVP, and there are much more.
Part of the reason we need to abbreviate and contract is that we need to write down these things for other people to understand thousands of times a week, literally. One of the people who have to do this the most is the labor assigner.
Twin Oaks has an amazing labor-scheduling system. A single person, with the help of every other member, assigns the labor the community does for the coming week. This job takes about 20 to 25 hours each week. It starts on Monday; people turn in their labor sheets and the tofu assigner (which is a different person) gets the first crack filling the 88 shifts which make up a full tofu production week. Some members have regular shifts: Saturday – start up Kettle at 5 AM or Tuesday – late-night tofu pack at 9 PM, for example. Most members, however, instruct the tofu assigner as to how many shifts they are willing to do this week. Most of us, including me, take only one shift.
After tofu is complete, the regular assigning begins. Two large notebooks; 91 labor sheets for members, guests, and visitors; dozen-plus masters and 40 or so requests for labor drive this process. When it is done, 49 dish-cleaning shifts, bread-making and cow-milking shifts for every day, dozens of childcare shifts, hundreds of visitor-labor and orientation requests will have been assigned—thousands of assignments in total. The labor assigners will make the first pass and then, at dinner on Wednesday, return the sheets to members for “revisions.” Members can then revise the schedule the assigner has created, asking to be taken off of things or resequencing labor to make things flow better (Please don’t give me a garden shift and a tofu shift and a dish-washing shift all in the same day, it is too much physical labor).
On Thursday afternoon, the labor assigner gets a few hours to rebuild the careful schedule they built and the members just demolished, filling all the holes and making sure everything gets covered. I love this job. It is crazy headachy and I have made lots of mistakes at it (especially on Shal‘s sheet).
There is an inside joke which comes from when I used to labor assign more often. My friend Coyote was on our labor system at the time, and when I was assigning I would put on his labor sheet that he had a dump run at midnight with someone whom he could not stand. Dump run is one of the many jobs we do here that are assigned. The first time I did it, Coyote got agitated, not wanting to work with this member. Then he realized, for a number of reasons (not the least of which is that the dump is never open at midnight), that it was a joke. But the term lived on, and “Midnight Dump Run” became the name both for labor assigners’ mistakes and for the unusual power this position has in the community.
My recent labor-assigning effort was rescued by Dev, who caught a bunch of mistakes I would have made, though perhaps not enough to permit me to keep the job. I put “Midnight Dump Run” on about 30 people’s sheets and this time it was code for a party happening at our dining hall, ZK. It was a perfect, small event, with Acorn participating in just the right way.
Update: I got fired.
Spoiler: This post has no descriptions of graphic sex.
“Can I kiss you?” it seemed like a perfectly reasonable question. It was asked across a cuddle pile in the midst of a party up at the conference site where several people were making new romantic connections.
“I don’t really know you very well.” Was the reply I was slightly surprised to hear. But then something really powerful and slightly profound happened. Nothing.
The mood did not change. No one got embarrassed and felt like they needed to leave. No one laughed at the rejection or felt sorry for someone. The party just moved on.
We think and talk a lot about consent culture in the communes. We do orientations for visitors and guests so they don’t make cultural mistakes around initiating intimacy, which is easy to do if you are just mimicking what you see others doing. We explore new types of agreements around boundaries. And the reward for our efforts is we get to take some types of risks, like my friend who got rejected from the make out session.
What this does is create comfort and safety. It makes people feel like their boundaries are going to be respected. This in turn often helps them to push limits out. This reveals new possibilities and new connections.
And thus the party drifted right up to the edge of becoming an orgy. As a funologist, this is something I want to understand. For when you push aside all the sophomoric jokes and embarrassment about what orgies are, assuming they are done in a healthy consent environment, they are daring and liminal events. They change peoples lives.
And in this case, the “almost” does not really matter. Everyone could feel the possibility, we had created the space that was that safe and daring.
Some of us who live in established successful communities regularly get questions about how to start new communities. There is pretty standard advice which is worth sharing in this format.
Before you start a new community you should:
- See if there is an existing community which meets your needs
- Live in an existing community before you start one
Starting a new community is crazy hard work. Even if you have a clear vision, excellent people to start it with, a place to move into and ample resources to start it, your chances of success are low. And the chances that you are starting with all these advantages is pretty low.
For all manner of reasons, many people feel that community life would be good for them. Perhaps they have fond memories of living collectively in college. Or maybe they miss a close knit family and wish to reproduce this environment with friends and intimates of their own choice. It is easy to imagine an isolated life in the mainstream which makes people long for something richer and more interconnected.
Beyond this, people like to create. They want to build something new, craft something with their preferences and identity built into it. This is fantastic. But because community creating is so difficult, your first step in this adventure should be a serious review of the communities which already exist. It is far easier to join an existing community than it is to start a new one. (This does not mean that it is easy to join a community; this can be an ordeal in itself.)
And even if the community you find is not perfect for you to live in long term, there is a strong case to be made for trying to live in an existing community before you build your own. My own failed thinking might be instructive in demonstrating this point. Before I came to Twin Oaks, I really wanted to start my own activist-oriented community in eastern Europe. I had been fighting Russian-designed nuclear reactors which were being completed by Western companies after the Berlin Wall came down and I was convinced that a community of organizers would be a powerful tool in preventing dirty energy solutions from spreading.
I also thought I knew what was critical in making this proposed community succeed. Specifically, one needed to have a good decision-making model and a carefully selected income engine. I guessed at the time that consensus would be the governance solution. I also thought the business should be something that it was easy to train people in, which was not a classical assembly line situation. I visited Twin Oaks nearly 20 years ago now, with a focus on these specific aspects.
What I found was that I was wrong. Twin Oaks did not use consensus and while I often complain about our decision-making model, it functions reasonably well and there are lots of different models which serve different communities (sociocracy, voting models, charismatic leaders, councils of elders, boards of directors, etc). What I see now is that members being cooperative and flexible, is more critical than what specific decision format you select.
Consensus does have advantages
It also turns out that there are lots of different ways to pay the bills. And while I thought what I was looking for was a well-structured community owned cooperative business, in most cases, new communities don’t have this and the individual members pool income from straight jobs. Businesses which support income sharing communities (the income engines) come in all manner of different shapes and as long as you have some people who are willing to do sales work (often a problem in communities) you have a chance at building a culture around your business and being viable. It also helps tremendously that income sharing communities are very cheap to run because of the high degree of sharing which is happening.
What I did not realize was how central a role internal communication culture and especially managing gossip would play in the survival of communities. This does not come up in most guides on how to start communities. But if you get it wrong, it will be more important than if you selected voting over consensus. Because of the intensity of community living, you need to be able to recover from events where trust gets damaged, or the fabric of your community will likely unravel. This is why some of us spend so much time working on things like Transparency Tools.
I would not have known this if I had not lived in a community. I would have prioritized solving the wrong problems. The lived experience of being in a community will also help you find out what about community living does not work for you. Like it or not, community life will almost certainly push your buttons. Learning this about yourself before you take on the giant task of starting your own community is basically a necessary prerequisite for success.
Having kids in your community is also clever.
This article first appeared in the Commune Life Blog
This post originally appeared on CommuneLife Blog.
We got to Binghamton via MIT. It was one of the first presentations of the Communities in Crisis materials. It was a small crowd, perhaps half a dozen people not affiliated with the Point A project in the room.
“But they are the right people,” Raven said, and not knowing much about the Boston coop scene, I was happy to defer to him. Turned out he was right.
Rachael from the audience said we had to talk with Maximus and put Genome Collective on our agenda. And with Genome came our growing connection to Binghamton University and David Sloan Wilson and the birth of the Chloroplast Research Institute.
It is from these connections that we have started seriously exploring the thesis that living in community is more sane than not and that people who join heal with time. A radical, if not obvious, notion. There is quite some chance that Maximus’s PhD thesis will be working with the income sharing communities in an effort to prove this. Which would be wonderful for us.
We have been working with Genome Collective in Binghamton for over a year, with several Point A visits. We did some strong group process work in our early visits to Genome and, at one point, even hoped they would morph from being a group house into being an income sharing community.
The house itself has a number of positive attributes. A large separate meeting space over the garage called “the temple” is ideal for workshops, meditation or yoga classes. The house has the beginnings of a thriving culinary mushroom business. Genome has both numerous bedrooms and a top floor which can host several sleepover guests.
Maximus gave us a full schedule of classes and workshops while we were there. We presented on a number of topics including climate change, polyamory, income sharing communities and sustainability. Our classes spanned the range from large freshman lectures to small grad student seminars. What was universal was that we got thoughtful and insightful questions from every group of students and several students interested in visiting and/or studying our cultures.
It is also clear that, while we are welcome in Binghamton to do more speaking gigs at the university and to stay at Genome, the house has decided that they will be a group house instead of an income sharing community, and will not be needing the services of Point A to help them go in that direction. Our future visits will be more connected to the Twin Oaks Academic Speaking Tour (TOAST) instead of Point A work.