i have not been writing about it, but it has been a pretty stressful week and a half. i have been going thru two parallel approval processes in the last 10 days. One was for the position as stand-in planner, which is Twin Oaks highest executive decision making job. The other has been Twin Oaks’s approval of my dual membership with Acorn.
The processes for these two community decisions are quite different. And slightly curiously, the one which mattered most to me (and had the least impact on the community) had the most selective unpredictable decision process – this was my dual membership status. For the plannership, the existing planners took a couple of preliminary steps, they asked members of the community for their non-binding input. This was preceeded by this call for my own Twin Oaks Member clearness and this clarification of why i called a clearness on myself.
Dual membership is approved using the “negative minority centric” decision making model which the membership team uses on visitors who want to be come provisional members. This means a very small number of well reasoned “no’s” can stop either a visitor from becoming a member or an existing Oaker to become a dual member with anywhere else. How small? Probably 5 would do it. But what if 30 or 40 or even 50 members thought i would be a great dual member, well these dont matter at all. As hard as this is to imagine, the thinking is that (especially for visitors) lots of under informed yes’s should not overrule a small number of well reasoned “no’s”.
And this was the source of my paranoia. I am a big personality, i try to move gracefully and respectfully, but with some regularity i upset people off. Generally for reasonable reasons, sometimes it feels a bit frivolous to me. When i realized the threshold for reject was so low – and no number of positive votes could counteract these negatives, i started to worry about my dual membership process. 4 negative inputs came in during my planner input, and perhaps someone who did not want to hear my rationalizations would just wait until the final input process and pop up and block this important (to me) option.
So the results? 3 yes’s and 3 no’s. i was granted provisional dual membership status. I still dont know about my planner results, but that takes 20% of the full membership to block it, which would be something like 16 vetoes. i am not that paranoid.
Twin Oaks does not use the same clearness process that Acorn does. At Acorn clearnesses are mandatory and common – you do one with every other member face to face at least twice per year. At Twin Oaks years can go by without using this personal process tool which shares the same name but has a somewhat different function.
The Acorn clearness has two parts individual clearnesses followed by a group clearness. Twin Oaks only does the collective clearness, and by missing the one-on-one versions the most important aspect (in my evaluation) is missing.
Only one person with concerns came to my clearness today, lets call them Fuliano. Fulianos concerns were:
- Dual members are not really at either community
- i already live outside the Twin Oaks property code, dual membership will worsen this
- As planner i will want us to take on more, without dropping things
- Fuliano struggles with my class and privilege
- They dont want me to be recruiting more people like me
Parts of this are a quite a reasonable critique actually. I have watched other dual members struggle with responsibilities at both communities splitting their time and attention and in some cases frustrating them and causing them to drop dual membership.
Members at Twin Oaks get $75 to $85 per month. This does not typically afford the amount of traveling i do. Fuliano looked at this and felt like it was not fair because it was not accessible to other members. It is an egalitarian community after all, we are striving towards fairness and these privileges make me different from other members. And while this is true, a perhaps a violation of the spirit of the property code. The letter of the property code is that members can get gifts. The travel i do that is not for the community functions (college speaking tours, sales trips, Monsanto protests, etc) is often paid for by gift money. The commune has a very liberal policy around accepting gifts and ultimately Fuliano was forced to admit that i was inside the letter of the policy. Though they thought i was not inside the spirit of it.
One of the things i want to do as a planner is dust off the most recent long term planning survey and see what pieces of that brainstorm we should realize. Fuliano is worried about this, because we are already over extended in commitments from the community and adding more plans on top of our existing demands will worsen things. While i completely understand this argument. It is in essence the argument for embracing the status quo, which i am not willing to do.
The class and privilege stuff i need to examine more.
Fortunately for Fuliano, i find very few people like me. But there actual concern was that i would seek out others who looked for loopholes and wanted to live in community as i do. Here again, this is not what i am seeking in new members.
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 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.
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.”