Tag Archive | Planners

How long can you keep a secret?

[This is an old post. When i wrote it i showed it to the planners and was told that i could run it if i wanted, but one planner asked me to hold off til the issue was no longer topical, which i did.]

One of the myths in community is you can’t keep a secret here.  In fact, this place (i am thinking Twin Oaks, but to a lessor extent Acorn as well) holds a tremendous number of secrets.  What you can’t do is keep a secret when a lot of people know about it and other members know there is a secret being kept.

That is what is happening tonight.  The planners and the membership team had an unusual evening urgent meeting to talk about something.  There are 3 planners and 6 members of the membership team and there were a number of other people at this meeting as well.  The most plausible guess is that it is some expulsion level situation, the news for which has not broken to the membership.  You may well never know what is happening, but i and a half dozen other communards i spoke with this evening certainly will and probably soon.

secrets are heavy, especially when held by many

secrets are heavy, especially when held by many

The math goes terribly against secret keeping in this kind of circumstance.  In part because many of the people on these teams have romantic partners, who they want to tell about it and then need to be sworn to secrecy.  Yet with every leak to an intimate, a general leak becomes more likely.  As soon as a bit leaks out generally the rest can often be teased out, because people who know will feel the need to correct the inevitable rumors.

Also, it is only a question of time before the secret will have to be released because of the pressure associated with the existence of the secret being known.  For the people who know it, especially the planners, there will be pressure to release it to folks who are curious or concerned and there will be pressure to set a soon deadline as to when the informant will be put out in a mailbox, from members only to read.

What everyone does not know, will likely soon be revealed

What everyone does not know, will likely soon be revealed

By the following morning the commune was buzzing and the people who were at the meeting were doing a heroic job of trying to maintain the secret, but simply by looking at who was inside the loop and who was outside and by lots of members asking lots of questions, before noon a likely scenario was established.  But as i said, you may never know – because in fact the commune can keep some secrets, just necessarily from itself.

Tell no one.  Death keeps it's secrets

Tell no one. Death keeps it’s secrets

[It turns out the secret was soon revealed and was mostly about a controversial person who wanted to come to visit and was ultimately asked not to.  This secret is old and largely forgotten news now.]

Heroes and the 5 year plan

The current group of planners (the communities highest executive decision makers) are trying to do some long term planning.  They have created a couple of rounds of surveys and in good commune style are bribing people to fill them out with cookies.  They cover a large number of topics: Sustainability, infrastructure, culture, raising quota, shrinking the hammocks business, recruiting more families, giving residences more autonomy and on and on.  For each topic you are asked to give both the  desirability and the priority.

So it is quite likely that there will be a number of people, who for example, want to get the roof of the Ta Chai Living Room (TCLR) fixed.  This roof is already leaking and the insulation is missing in several places.  This project will get both high importance and priority marks.  But it may well still not get done.

We run on an all volunteer system, so often times the difference between us collectively desiring something and it actually happening is there being a hero who wants to make it happen.   In the case of this example it need not necessarily be someone who can physically fix the roof, it can just be someone who wants it done and is willing to organize the work.

Sometimes you just need a hero

And at the same time we are rough on our heroes.  You can get appreciated for getting something desirable done, there are thanks and respect and those good things.  But there are also lots of concerns, and challenges and suspicions around people taking leadership roles.  You need to have the right kind of personality to make championing a cause work for you in this environment.

Deborah used to joke that we worked on a system of reluctant leadership at Twin Oaks.  Members did not really want to be managers, or planners or responsible for larger things.  And people took this on (reluctantly) because this is what the community needed.  And thus we were somewhat protected for the less noble motivations that many leaders are driven by.

And it mostly works that way.

Answers to Planner Survey Questions

[Background: A group of 3 or 4 planners serve staggered 18 month terms and are my communities highest executive decision making body.  They are also the policy/political trash collection entity, in that many small and annoying issues role up to them.  The current group of planners have initiated a long term planning survey, these are my answers to their questions.]

Summary Recommendations

  • Develop a 5 year plan to get the community off the grid
  • Increase population to 110 adult members by 2015 (it is currently 93 Adults)
  • Initiate process for new residence or expansion of existing one
  • Fix the TCLR and Tupelo roofs
  • Make it easier for members to make money thru Outside Work
  • Expand TOAST and recruit for the communities movement
  • Recommit and actually do something about mold problems in residences

Do i think i will be here in 5 years?  Possibly, it depends a bit on how the community chooses to grow and deal with some of the issues touched on in the survey.  I love Twin Oaks, i have been here for a while, perhaps i should move on.  I am interested in starting new FEC communities in the area – beyond LEF.

Valerie and bliss

Population:  We have been at pop cap for 3 years now and the community has not had any serious discussion about either building additional housing or starting a new community (as we did with Acorn when we were in this place 19 years ago).  While it would be impossible to break ground on a new building now, we are (as we often do) ignoring that it would take at least a year of process to build a new building.  The planners could initiate this process or direct the Pop Gang to poll community sentiment.  In 2004 Recruiting did a survey in which 41 of 45 members wanted the community to increase its population with time.

Alternatively, Twin Oaks (possibly in conjunction with Acorn) could work on building a new community in the area.  This does not need to be done in the expensive and slow manner that Acorn was started ($250K and a big new building construction project).  This could be done by simply helping provide cottage industry opportunity (Satellite hammocks, Seed business support, or other more exotic solutions) along with providing labor credits to interested members to explore this option.  Approving Pioneer PALs could go a long way towards making this happen.

Anja and Hoop

Allowance/Money:  The community allowance linked into profitability is an adequate fix from my perspective.  I think the community should prioritize making income generating work be available to members who need more personal money than is generally available.  This could be done thru Outside Work (which is currently largely dormant because of the communities labor shortage) and by changing the OW/VE ratio back to 50/50 as it was for years.

Mushroom and Snake

Standard of Living:  This is perhaps addressed on a more specific way in other answers.  We could do more to deal with our deferred maintenance projects.  Specifically TCLR roof, Tupelo Roof and mold in many community buildings.

Sustainability:  The community should develop a plan to get us off the power grid by expanding our renewable energy resources, especially solar PV and thru the micro hydro at the mill.  The CPs should ask Keenan to report on the possibilities of mill micro hydro as he is already working with George Payne on the restoration of this building.  We should be putting resources aside to expand our renewable energy solutions.  The community has consistently wanted to go this way, but has lagged in our performance.  And energy prices are quite likely to increase significantly with time.

Purl and Art

Community Growth:  It is unclear to me how this differs from population in the above question.  I think the community should grow by expanding the existing housing stock or increasing the number of SLGs.  I think we should look to being about 110 members by 2015.

Movies and popcorn

Outreach:  During periods of high population community outreach efforts (usually coordinated by recruiting – which Valerie and i manage) are oriented towards promoting the communities movement in general, rather than Twin Oaks specifically.  We could be doing more in terms or writing articles for magazine or newspapers, encouraging magazines or websites to do articles on us and putting energy into a Twin Oaks members community blog.  TOAST could be expanded as an income area method for increasing outreach.  We could also do more to recruit for a more racially and culturally diverse population of the community.

New Years party Circa 2004 - Elona shaves head

Infrastructure:  We have several deferred maintenance problems which we are not addressing.  Specifically, TCLR roof and Tupelo roof, both of which are leaking or badly in need of repair.  The planners have promised to work on the campus wide mold problem but have so far been stymied in this effort (or perhaps not reported back yet).

Social/Cultural:  The commune has a rich and uneven social and cultural experience.  The planners could take a more active role in finding out what types of social and cultural activities are desired by the members.  This is not often a planner initiative, but it could be.

These photos were all taken by ex-member Aaron Cohen and can be viewed and purchased at his website.