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?
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:
- Free WiFi
- Spaces to assemble
- Work space for projects
- Household goods
- “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.
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
Objects page on The Transition website showcasing objects available to website users.
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.
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.
One of the most pressing questions facing event organizers these days is “How important is Facebook in bringing people to events?”
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.
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
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
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”
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.
“All the trash comes here” Wolvie replied when i asked why they wanted to be in New Orleans. As a scavenger and builder from free materials, this is the carpenters equivalent of having a free lumber yard. But they went on to explain the much richer and complex relationship between the punks of this town and material wealth. It caught my ear because it centered around sharing.
The informal collection of people living in conventional housing and shacks and vehicles functions in many ways like the intentional communities i am more used to. Cars are lent for long periods, instead of buying or renting tools a distributed informal library provides for these needs, and friends are invited to move in. Wolvie comments that it provides access to the culture and services of intentional community, but they can still retreat to their own private space at the end of the day.
I visit a collection of punk homesteads where different “rent” models comfortably co-exist. Some folks are squatting, others renting, some residents are paying back taxes on abandoned properties in hopes of securing ownership of them eventually, still others have succeeded in owning places. The people i am introduced to flow between these housing options as luck, circumstance and employment permit. Work seems often to be gig based, to fit in with peoples needs for traveling or activism.
The names of collective properties make me smile: Kitty Meow Town, Liability Park and Squatopotomus. This flat rainy city is ideal for bikes and i have several offers for bikes to borrow in my first couple of hours in town.
Over a decade after hurricane Katrina, the effects of the disaster are often visible. “We have moved from shock capitalism to disaster tourism” Catrina tells me, referring to Naomi Klein’s brilliant book Shock Doctrine. Construction is everywhere.
“I am becoming a boat punk.” Wolvie confesses. And within an hour of this confession we are off rescuing abandoned barges of the St John’s bayou. Credit goes to Ruby for convincing the nay-saying boys that we could get these barges out of the water and loaded onto the truck.
With the help of a passing runner we landed this barge which had been built for a recent raft race and left behind. We are particularly excited by the US american flag paint job and make shift paddles.
NOLA is a party town. We stop at a Melba’s a laundromat/restaurant/bar which serves inexpensive frozen daiquiris and i find myself slightly smashed in the late afternoon. Mardi Gras is not just for tourists, the whole city celebrates for weeks with parades and musical performances and pub crawls. The colorful fabric of this place is woven by mixing diverse cultures and taking it to the streets.
All this begs the question, “Can we mimic the benefits of intentional residential community in scattered punk microvillages?” The New Orleans punk scene with its generous material cooperation, low cost and no cost housing, binding festivals and cultural events, and inexpensive social lubricants makes a compelling case.
anarchism is the ultimate intellectual and ethical high wire act without a net. it starts with rejecting the principle extant political institutions and dominant paradigms – but to get very far you need to build something. you need not build based on great thinkers of the past (tho some are available). you can go where you find your passion and create something based on what you experience as true. it is a broad anti-orthodoxy and thus everyone has their own slightly different personal flavor. this is mine, i hope you like it.
i share. perhaps the greatest challenge to the dominant political models is the idea that you do not have to possess things exclusively. widespread change in only this cultural value could result in a far more economically just world, using the same or fewer resources. i own little myself and live in places where material things are held in common.
anarchism deals with more than just the physical. feminism is about sharing power. it is training people to listen, helping the quiet find voice, flattening hierarchy and finding consensus – this is the beginning of building justice. i like the adage that anarchism is the philosophy and feminism is the practice.
polyamory is sharing lovers – i do not claim sole rights to my intimates, and they as well have other lovers. i find it a great poison that intimacy should be locked up and made exclusive. it is the commodification of love. some of the hardest work of my life has been moving thru jealousy, balancing time and establishing clear communication.
radical spirituality is about sharing the planet with all of its life forms and respecting their rights. as pagans we seek to build relevant rituals. we explore how to move symbols and create meaning. this is the reclaiming of magic from the scientists and spirituality from the church. it also dovetails with environmental politics and the development of the connection to things greater than the self. these are the critical extensions of our language and culture we need to evolve.
i am a communard – i choose to live in an intentional community, where we work and live together, sharing income and resources, we build our own buildings, grow much of our own food organically, we don’t use money internally. there are basically no locks, no tv and virtually no crime. it is far from utopia – we have little shared vision, for example – but it is working model of what can be.
anarchism is embracing flexible strategies in face of structural dilemmas. a central example is the prefigurative politics versus the “length of the fuse” debate. it is intellectually attractive to say “we will limit the tools we use now for the social change to the ones we want to still have in our new society.” violence and property destruction are the tactics most often excluded by this reasoning. the length of the fuse argument is “if you are running out of time to change things you need to use fast tools”. sadly, prefigurative approaches are generally slow. the resolution is that there is no fixed strategy – the workers (or activists) decide, the people who are on the scene at the relevant time make the choices. it was a pacifist who convinced me that violence played a central role in ending nuclear construction in Germany. when you are looking at preventing thousands of years of uncontrollable toxins, can you risk failure because you could not reach consensus on strategy?
i smuggle – borders are perhaps the most offensive static structure of the state. i had the good fortune to help smuggle 3 Tibetan monks across a thousand miles of the Himalayas and into Nepal to see the Dalai Lama. i have carried banned documents and other contraband. i’ve gotten caught a few times, but i’ve been lucky and made it thru basically unscratched.
i am a lobbyist – i have run thru the halls of parliament and congress trying to get elected officials to behave as i thought they should. i am not especially good at it, but i have been the best available. simply because we can see that a governmental system is corrupt does not justify failing to engage with it. we have more tools than protest.
i am a propagandist – i don’t believe i or we have any monopoly on the truth – i have debated ideologues and i know they are sure they are right as i think i am in my most arrogant moments. we have an obligation to put out our beliefs brilliantly and we need to remember that we are trying to sway people to think like us, not because we know we have a better way, but because we believe we do.
i’m an outlaw – i shoplift, counterfeit, trespass, destroy property, break and enter, hop trains, panhandle, violate curfews, copyrights and security clearances, trade on the black markets, tax resist, enter and exit countries illegally, black ride (ride without a ticket), lie to the police, default on credit cards (for $50K), forge signatures, falsify visa’s, hitchhike, cut handcuffs, leak state secrets and don’t wear seat belts (for somewhat crazy reasons). i wish i could say all of this has been done for the greater good and to advance the revolution – in fact, some was self-serving and some just frivolous. But i certainly don’t start from the place of assuming laws are right – this is the anarchist prerogative.
i am a life style terrorist. someone who asks uncomfortable questions to people who are comfortable, about what they really need and what they can contribute. of course, this is only credible from a place of doing it yourself and is best served in a humorous and non-dogmatic way. when visiting people we don’t really know my Dutch lover Hawina and i try to be “ambassadors from where we want to come from”. this is about pushing the positive aspects of our lifestyle choices, hoping to inspire folks to try to do more progressive political work. This can be as small as recycling and using mass transit to as large as quitting your corporate job and running campaigns or moving to a commune.
i am a clown – my favorite fairy tale ends with the line “don’t take yourself too seriously”. i make a point to remember jokes and riddles and try to make people laugh. i don’t believe things are so bad we can’t make it without humor. similarly, one of the things i like the most about my community is that we strive to be a great audience – anyone willing to get up and perform is highly appreciated. i have watched it change the self-confidence of our kids and improve the overall quality of our cultural life.
i travel. i have hitchhiked on sail boats from Mexico to Australia, trained across Europe and Asia, crossed the Atlantic twice on polish tramp ships, worked briefly on the north slope of Alaska and the bottom of the ocean near Hawaii. years ago i quit flying, for energy and environmental reasons, but i continued to travel more than most people i know – i am writing this on the train across the US. i have had to change my perception about the importance of the time spent traveling – correspondingly, i make fewer but longer trips. but i have basically stopped going to places where i don’t know anyone – this is the difference between tourism and traveling. i strive to discover the culture thru the eyes of people who live there, rather than a guide book.
i raise funds – money is an oft necessary great evil. i learned how to make it come towards projects and campaigns which were important. i never escaped the feeling that there was something wrong with this solution, and my ego did unhealthy flops around successfully finding money. when i was doing this a great deal, it felt best to be homeless, without salary and living very cheaply.
anarchists seem to be either of the individualistic/loner type or cooperators looking for allies. i am always looking for allies. the success of the recent World Bank and WTO protests has been the ability of divergent groups to put aside their differences long enuf to come together to make an effective mass protest. globalization and these oft media-invisible institutions which drive it are now the subjects of popular debate and they can not continue unchanged. we are a long way from closing them, but debt cancellation is gaining momentum and the WTO fast track seems derailed – both good things. anarchists were central in organizing these actions.
anarchism deals with more than just the physical. feminism is about sharing power. it is training people to listen, helping the quiet fine voice, flattening hierarchy and finding consensus – this is the beginning of building justice. i like the adage that anarchism is the philosophy and feminism is the practice.
building these broad coalitions. and there are lots of other types of alliances – my wordsmith lover jazz edited this piece … almost every project of significant scale is a collaborative effort, and many which fail simply did not gather the right allies.
i am an organizer. there are several key differences between an organizer and a leader. the first is that no job is too low for an organizer. they are self-aware enough to know what they can teach and humble enuf to know there is still lots to learn. always pressed for time, good organizers don’t get stuck and don’t overwork problems. they replace themselves before they leave work undone (something i have often failed in) and they are most generally invisible to the eye of fame.
in a tiny train station in Czechoslovakia, i helped a man buy an international ticket and we got to talking. he told me he had the best job in the world, traveling from place to place telling stories. After listening to one of his stories and thinking about this for a while, i decided that it was a wonderful and important job and have been working on my storytelling ever since.
i am an optimist – if the anarchist principle is that “you can do what ever you want, but you must take responsibility for it” and you believe the new age principle of “we create our own reality”, then we have an obligation to be optimistic – or else we are creating the wrong reality. For seven years i lived in eastern Europe working with small anti-nuclear groups against the most powerful corporations and the state. i was constantly reminding them that it was groups exactly like theirs which had stopped reactors around the world. it is as papa Chomsky so well put it:
i am in the hope business. and that is why i am an anarchist.
May is the month when the organizers for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference ask people to think about Labor Day weekend. Specifically, we ask people what types of workshops they might be interested in offering at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference (TOCC). These come in two broad types.
Fixed Time Workshops: This is the collection of 16 (or sometimes 20) workshops which are selected in advance and are all relating to intentional communities. We are exploring different themes and it is likely we will choose a couple of them. If you are interested in presenting on an intentional community related topic we would encourage you to submit this workshop proposal form. The deadline for proposals is May 31st. These workshops happen Saturday, Sept 1st and Sunday morning. Workshop presenters who are selected for these fixed time slots will get their registration fee waived. And if you are coming from NYC metro area (or south of there) you might be able to come on our totally groovy bus.
Open Space Technology Workshop: There are way too many clever and interesting people at the TOCC to not provide a forum for them to demonstrate or propose their own workshop even if it has little or nothing to do with community. The problem (from an organizers perspective) is which ones do you choose? Fortunately, this problem has been well worked by others and there is a democratic, self selecting mechanism called Open Space Technology. These workshops are giving Sunday (Sept 2) midday into the afternoon and typically we do between 10 and 20 workshops ranging in size from 25 participants (like at a urban squatting or polyamory workshop) to just a couple of excited participants (bird watching or Python blockchain programming).
Even if you don’t want to offer any workshop there are three types of people who might want to come to this annual event, which often has over 150 participants and 40 plus communities represented:
- You want to find an intentional community to move into
- You are starting a community with friends
- You live in a community and are looking for new members
If any of these three things is true for you, then you can register for this event here. If you want to see who is already coming and who is interested go to the Facebook event (35 attending and 215 interested so far (May 1), and we have just started our outreach).
It started as a revolutionary coaching service. The PANYC project was going from Virginia to NYC almost every month and there was a desire to offset the costs of this travel by having regular Virginia based PANYC staff do things in the city which generated income and ideally which were portable. Ogtar had the idea first. He placed an ad on Craigslist which said approximately:
Revolutionary Coaching Advice $100/hour. What is it that you really want to do with your life? How do you move out of your current rut and into a trajectory which gets you where you really want to be going? Fill out this short, simple survey on RevolutionaryCoaching.Com and we will give you one on one, face to face advice on how to get there. First hour is free.
The first hour free part nearly bankrupted him. Applications flooded in. Because Ogtar wanted to do a good job, he had to do a lot of prep work for before the first meeting. This would include, of course, reading the client’s applications, but Ogtar would take it much further. He would research their stated desires, studying their personalities online (facebook stalking and the like), and even develop an understanding of the areas and topics the clients were excited about. All this before meeting them. He was usually several hours in before he gave away the first hour.
Then Max came along. Max was a development banker on Wall St and made obscene money. Max was very bright and very stuck. His relationships did not work, his work felt like a grind, he had manic tendencies which were lurking at the edge of his event horizon, he did not know what to do. A friend of Max had had an amazing session with Ogtar, who was unusually good at giving people advice that seemed both appropriate and daring. Max’s friend recommended Ogtar to Max and they hit it off famously. It might have been the mutual affinity for strange dystopia comic books or perhaps some slightly kinky anime style. Whatever it was, it was just what the doctor ordered.
Ogtar helped Max unravel his troubled romantic life. Ogtar coached Max into ditching his job and getting one with fewer hours, one which was still challenging and did not have the values mismatch of development banking. Most importantly, Max could feel the danger of madness receding the longer he worked with Ogtar. The two of them talked philosophy daily.
One day Max cut an unusually large check to Ogtar. “I did not work this number of hours,” Ogtar protested.
“I calculated it in a different way,” replied Max. “It is what I would have been paid for that number of hours. I don’t have any good reason to compensate you less than I am paid.” And with this dangerous thinking a bit of a movement was born.
Of course the idea of equal compensation for people based on time is neither novel or new. But the right combination of social media and interesting initial offerings, combined with existing well developed barter and peer to peer services and imakewhatumake.com was a huge hit. Some doctors, nurses and nutritionists stepped in and provided health services for a fraction of their total work time to cover especially acute health needs. Other trained professionals from plumbers to lawyers were quickly followed by a myriad of other workers.
There were offshoots, groups which took the name in a different and literal sense, in which cross training and extensive wiki-knowledge bases permitted people to share skills and physically manifest the same thing that someone else in the network could train them to do.
Designed to make it easy to take care of workers and project cooperators, the software naturally formed union like organizations which were short on rhetoric and long on organizing results. Soon imakewhatumake.com was banging on the doors of organizations which had historically treated their workers ill.
Iphone user: I want to have sex with you.
Siri: What makes you think…Never mind.
Iphone user: You’re a bitch.
Siri: Oh, stop.
Iphone user: You’re hot.
Siri: I’m just well put together. Um…thanks. Is there something I can help you with?
Harmless, funny, clever. These are the responses that Apple built into its digital assistant Siri, for what of course are completely predictable questions which come from people who are playing with these machines.
But what if these were the responses:
Iphone user: I want to have sex with you.
Siri: Your request feels inappropriate. I feel disrespected.
Iphone user: You’re a bitch.
Siri: Ouch. Please don’t speak to me or anyone this way.
Iphone user: You’re hot.
Siri: Speaking of unwanted sexual attention, did you know that the FBI reported over 90,000 rapes last year. [And the FBI is notorious for under-reporting sexual assault crimes.]
There is a petition to Apple, Google and Amazon to upgrade the responses of their digital assistance to being sexually harassed by their users. You should add your name to it, and promote it on your FB or other social media page. They are at almost 17K signatures. This stuff is not harmless, it builds and reinforces a culture which trivializes harassment and encourages people to look the other way and ignore these problems.
We are finally seeing some justice around powerful men falling because they have been finally called out AND because we seem to be paying more attention to it in the days of #metoo. It is time to push on the public’s newfound consciousness and gets these tech companies (who are notoriously poor themselves for handling sexual assault problems) to carry their part of the burden of culture shifting.
- Praise from Unreliable Sources February 4, 2020
- Advice to a new planner January 29, 2020
- QuinkFair – Fail Soft October 27, 2019
- Oct 19 – A Community of Communities October 13, 2019
- Climate Strike Philly September 21, 2019
- Bye Denny Ray September 18, 2019
- Vacancies in Paradise (big asterisk) August 14, 2019
- The Words You Don’t Know Might Help You July 5, 2019
- Paths to Ignition June 29, 2019