Service and Activism in Intentional Communities

Service and activism go hand in hand with intentional community. In a sense, central to the intent of intentional communities is providing the service of modeling an alternative society. But it’s also common for intentional communities to engage in service and activism beyond themselves, and our history is full of examples.

The Lord's SupperAn early Cooperative Community, New Harmony, founded in 1825 by Robert Owen, created the first store where items could be purchased based on labor credits. One of the first self-identified intentional communities, Celo Community, founded in 1937 by Arthur Morgan, received criticism for its opposition to World War II, and many of its early members were Quakers and conscientious objectors. In 1940, Arthur Morgan was also one of the founders of the original FIC, the Fellowship of Intentional Communities (now, we’re the Fellowship for Intentional Community, a subtle but important difference), a mutual aid association governed by representatives from member communities. Catholic Worker communities began appearing in 1933, practicing radical hospitality, advocating nonviolence, and opposing economic inequality and social injustice. Koinonia Farm, an interracial Christian community, was founded in 1942 on the principles of the equality of all persons, rejection of violence, ecological stewardship, and common ownership of possessions. Members of Koinonia would eventually start Habitat for Humanity in 1976. The Farm, founded in 1969, is often credited with rebirthing the midwifery movement in the US, and in 1974 formed Plenty, which is well known for its four-year presence in Guatemala helping rebuild after the earthquake of 1976.

Newer examples abound as well. The Camphill Communities and Innisfree Village have created communities for adults with developmental disabilities. Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon is a community with city support for the homeless population. The now defunct Rhizome Collective, in Austin, Texas housed a local Food Not Bombs chapter, a books to prisoners program, and a bikes across borders program. The Baltimore Free Farm cooked food for hundreds of demonstrators during recent protests in Baltimore following police shootings. Various communities, such as Occidental Arts and Ecology, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and EcoVillage at Ithaca, run education centers and programs. I was recently contacted by a woman interested in creating an intentional community for returning veterans, and I know of a retreat center looking to convert to a transitional community for people coming out of prison. There are individual members in just about every intentional community I’ve visited who are involved in all manner of peace and justice organizations.

“No [person] is an island,” and no community is an island either. It’s not possible for a community to be completely self-sufficient and sustainable in an unsustainable world, and there is no freedom or justice until there is freedom and justice for all. Inherent to the creation of intentional communities is a desire for another way of living. Creating and maintaining another way of living will always be an uphill battle until that way of living is accessible to everyone. As a predominantly white, middle-class movement, intentional communities have some soul- searching to do. It is not possible to remove yourself completely from the global economic system at this point. At their worst, intentional communities can be little more than examples of white flight, and by taking advantage of their privilege to avoid dealing with systemic injustice they are tacitly condoning those systems.

I’m writing this just days after the murders of Anton Sterling and Philando Castile by police. The aftermath, including the shooting of police officers in Dallas, has made the need to address racial injustice more apparent than ever. There is a resounding call for white people in particular to start showing up for racial justice (check out SURJ, which stands for Showing Up for Racial Justice, for some great ideas on what you can do and find local chapters at www.showingupforracialjustice.org). This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should drop everything you’re doing, but it might mean some expansion of activities or a shift in focus, and it does mean that what you’re doing should be looked at to see how it can challenge systemic injustice, which disproportionately affects women, poor people, and people of color.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 7.08.06 PMAnd as I write, I’m attending CommonBound, a conference organized by the New Economy Coalition (NEC), of which the FIC became a member last Fall. There are over 150 members of this coalition, including Yes! Magazine, the Highlander Center, Code Pink, the US and Canadian Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Earth Island Institute, Equal Exchange, and on and on. What they’re helping make clear is that all these issues, from housing and finance, to race and culture, to criminal justice and militarization, to climate change and energy, are interconnected.

At the opening plenary of CommonBound, the NEC’s program director, Anand Jahi, shared the story of his cousin, who was unarmed and shot by an off-duty police officer two years ago (you can find a full article by Anand on Yes! Magazine’s website). His cousin had been visiting the apartment complex he had lived at before he had been fired from his job for filing a racial discrimination complaint and then been evicted. The officer tried to arrest him for trespassing, eventually shooting him. Anand talked about the need to understand the economic devastation, which disproportionately affects people of color compared to whites, that is often the backdrop for these shootings. It’s dangerous to be black in America, he said, but it’s even more dangerous to be black and poor in America.

The privilege to create and live in communities where you have a relative level of economic security and physical safety should be a right to which everyone has access. The power to have an equal say in the conditions of your life, for the decisions that affect people to be made by the those people, should be a right. A key theme of the opening plenary was sovereignty and self-determination for people and communities. Intentional communities are often seen as laboratories, and I’ve often thought that self-determination, through collective ownership and participatory governance, is a key aspect of what intentional communities are trying to develop and model. There are many forces working against this: the criminal justice system and prison industrial complex; the military industrial complex; corporate rule and neo-colonialism; systemic racism, sexism, and classism in financing, housing, and business; lack of access to basic resources needed for self-sufficiency. The right to self-determination and the access to the resources necessary for self-sufficiency were quintessential aspects of the commons, a social structure that has largely disappeared in today’s world, but was once the basis for livelihood for masses of people. The earth is the commons and all people should have equal access to the resources and decision-making about our common home. For those of us with the privilege to enjoy this access, at least to a greater degree than others, we have a responsibility to help make those privileges available to all people equally in a way that is sustainable for the planet

The nature of intentional communities is that those of us who live in them are in service to each other. As self-managed, self-governing entities, we are collectively responsible for meeting the needs of the community as a whole as well as the individuals, because the individuals are part of the whole community. An attitude of service goes a long way to creating harmony in community, and the world. As social experiments, those who live in intentional communities are essentially activists, and must be active in their responsibility both for the success of the community and in the impact the community has on the world around it. Being an activist is essentially about responsibility and accountability, and taking those on also goes a long way to creating harmony in community, and the world.

Taking Sharing Further: A Co-Oper’s Experience of Twin Oaks

Originally posted on The Commune Life Blog

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Until about a month ago, I called a housing cooperative in California my home. Affectionately named Cornucopia, it was a place of shared responsibility and benefit. Together we cooked meals, split the cost of common food, kept books, tended the garden, and so on. Though much was shared, each member still paid rent and board, many of us working nine to five jobs earning the money to do so. I wanted to contribute more of my energy directly to the community and less to the pursuit of a paycheck. Wanting to take the cooperative ethos further and, having been interested for some time in income pooling, my desire for radical sharing led me to Twin Oaks.

TaChai

For those who may not be familiar with it, Twin Oaks is an income sharing community in rural Virginia, home to around 85 adults, as well as some children. It is well established, approaching it’s 50th year. Twin Oaks is relatively structured compared to some other income sharing communities, sporting labor sheets assigned to each member and visitor weekly and a robust collection of policies. The visitor program at Twin Oaks is also relatively structured, designed to give those visiting the community (and possibly applying for membership) the best possible look into how the community works and what daily life at Twin Oaks is like. The three week visit is packed full of orientations (or “oreos”) to various aspects of life at Twin Oaks, covering topics such as the labor system, social life, and governance structure, among many others. Outside these orientations, visitors spend their time at Twin Oaks much in the same way a member of the community does: engaging in the community’s various areas of labor, eating two meals a day at the steam table, attending community events, or otherwise spending their free time as they wish. Visitors even live in their own small living group (SLG) at the visitors cottage, much as members of the community live in their own various SLGs at the different residential buildings. Coming from a housing co-op, this three week visitor program was my introduction to life at a commune.

It was immediately apparent that Twin Oaks had a lot in common with the cooperative community I arrived from, and so I felt comfortable as a visitor very quickly.  In many ways it felt like I never left home. A day spent at Twin Oaks shares much with one spent at a housing co op: both are filled with gardening, small construction projects, cooking, cleaning, and generous amounts of time spent with community-minded people, either over work, a shared meal or just enjoying one another’s company. Cooperatives and communes have similar atmospheres, being built around similar values and sharing community as their center point.  It would actually be inaccurate to say Twin Oaks is not a cooperative; it is even more so a cooperative than a housing co-op.

ZK

Degree of Sharing

Sharing is the main uniting factor between co-ops and communes, but they are set apart by a difference in the degree of sharing.  Housing co-ops are places where some time, space and resources are shared, whereas communes are places where nearly all time, space and resources are shared. Few Twin Oaks members own their own tools, instead using the community’s. Bike racks located throughout the community are full of bikes, available for use by whoever happens to take them. Members of Twin Oaks even share clothing, borrowing from and returning to their collective closet as needed. Most importantly, Twin Oaks shares its income, generated through community owned businesses, including the manufacture of tofu and hammocks, as well as others. One need not leave the community to participate in these income generating businesses, and work in these businesses is valued the same as domestic work, such as gardening or cooking.

This generation of shared income through cottage industry creates a blur between home life and work life not present in housing co-ops. Members of housing co-ops often split costs, but the money used to pay those costs usually comes from outside jobs that members work. Consequently, co-op members must budget their energy between their community and their jobs. At Twin Oaks, this split need not be made. Members are always at home and always at work, since their home and their work are the same. Eliminating the need to earn income elsewhere means members of Twin Oaks can focus energy more intently on their community, but it also means they cannot leave work when off duty and have less opportunity to take space from personal conflict. A community without cottage industry allows members to escape work at home or vice-versa, but this is not possible at Twin Oaks

For me, the blurred line between work and relaxation at Twin Oaks, had a therapeutic effect: I found myself to be more relaxed, even though I was just as busy as before I arrived at Twin Oaks, if not more so. My personal theory is that I was experiencing the recovery of energy that would otherwise be wasted on the tension between work and home life. While working at Twin Oaks I was not anxious to be done, and while relaxing I was not stressed about work. I found myself better able to put my energy into the moment at hand, since I didn’t feel I had someplace else to be. Where else was there to be, besides at Twin Oaks? While the combination of work and play may feel claustrophobic to some, I enjoyed the merge since, in my eyes, a life of work-play is more desirable than one with an artificial divide between these aspects of life. While living and working in the same community may be difficult when conflict occurs, such conflicts may provide opportunity to develop new relational capacities. Though combining work and home may come with challenges, I believe many would find the challenges outweighed by the benefits of increased continuity between career and community

TO Bikes

Labor and governance systems

Aside from its increased level of sharing, Twin Oaks also differs from a housing co-op in its labor and governance systems. Very little labor at my previous co-op was assigned, most being done on a voluntary basis, and our governance structure followed what I would consider a fairly standard model for a non-profit, featuring a board of directors and a handful of committees that advise that board. In contrast to Cornucopia’s minimal assignment of labor, members of Twin Oaks must meet a weekly labor quota of 42 hours. Some creditable work can be picked up anytime, such as weaving hammocks, but most is scheduled each week by labor assigners, who take the schedules and work preferences of each member into consideration. Labor balances are tracked such that members consistently working more than the required 42 hours accumulate vacation time, and those consistently working less than quota fall into “the labor hole,” which can be grounds for expulsion in extreme cases.

The governance system at Twin Oaks, a unique planner-manager system modeled after B.F Skinner’s novel Walden Two, is closely coupled to it’s labor system. The internal economy of Twin Oaks contains around 100 labor areas, like garden, dairy or tofu, each area with a manager or managerial team. Each manager leads decision making in their particular labor area, determining how to allocate available money and labor in that area while keeping within yearly financial and labor budgets. Managers at Twin Oaks have considerable decision making power, but they operate transparently, with community input, and unpopular decisions can be overturned by appeal or popular veto.

Unlike within the decentralized, planner-manager system of Twin Oaks, most decisions at my co-ops of origin were made by the same body: the entire group. Some members were entrusted to oversee particular tasks, for example the house bookkeeper, but such roles came with very little decision making. Instead, house level decisions would be made by the entire residency using consensus, and organization level decisions would be made by the board of directors (also using consensus), with input from its various committees.

Since most decisions at Twin Oaks are made by its numerous managers, its central leadership can afford to be very small. The top decision making body at Twin Oaks is its board of planners, built of three planners on rotating 18 month terms. The planners do not micromanage the managers, but instead are only responsible for affairs that fall outside any managerships or arise in an emergency, such as long term visioning for the community or mitigating unexpected damage to a building. In comparison, the non-profit corporation that Cornucopia belongs to houses a number of people similar to Twin Oaks, but has around 15 directors on its board. This is partially because the governance structure used is less decentralized than at Twin Oaks, so proportionally more decisions fall to the board of directors.

TO Greenhouse

Written versus spoken culture

The last point on which I will compare Twin Oaks with my co-ops of origin is a significant difference in their cultural mediums. While communication at Cornucopia and many other communities I’ve visited takes place though conversations and at meetings, Twin Oaks has a largely written culture. It is rare to find any majority of Twin Oaks members gathered in a single meeting, a fact made possible in part by the decentralized planner-manager system. One of the few times this does happen is during “feedbacks,” when a member has broken an agreement and the entire community offers their feedback to that member. More frequently, small groups will meet to discuss some shared interest or work area, but most community wide conversations take place on the O&I (opinion and idea) board, located in the main dining hall at Twin Oaks.

Two dozen or so clipboards hanging on the O&I board act as a forum for just about anything members of Twin Oaks want to discuss as a community. The O&I is home to proposed policy changes, commentary on community projects, ideological debates and articles members would like to discuss. Members read and comment on each other’s papers posted to the O&I, often discussing topics more thoroughly than would be possible in the space of a meeting. Even when announcing an event to the community, asking to borrow something or communicating one to one, the culture of Twin Oaks is uniquely written. The main dining hall at Twin Oaks contains a prominently displayed board designed to hold 3×5 cards, on which members make announcements, call for help with projects, seek community around a shared interest, and so on. Older cards are slid to the right and eventually removed, or cards denoting an event are moved to the “today” board on the day they occur. The Twin Oaks dining hall also has a wall of  pouches, one for each Twin Oaker, where members can leave each other personal notes on 3×5 cards

The written culture of Twin Oaks, decentralized governance system and sparsity of meetings make it easy for members to ignore conversations not relevant to them, and even makes it possible for members with different areas of focus to generally not interact with one another. While some may see the option of avoidance as a weakness to the Twin Oaks system, ignoring one conversation can allow a member to focus on another more intently. Forced participation is unenjoyable, both for reluctant participants and those working with them, so allowing members to choose their own areas of engagement is universally more fulfilling, and does not create needless tension. Still, there are clear benefits to being well informed about happenings in the community, and many members choose to remain widely engaged, even though nothing forces them to.

TO Card Board

A co-opers conclusion on communes

I came to Twin Oaks for the same reason I first joined a cooperative: to live a deeply held belief that society should be based on sharing and cooperation, instead of on cutthroat competition. Those who joined cooperatives for a similar reason may find the move to a commune such as Twin Oaks a natural one to make, and the similarities between these two types of communities are abundant. Communes hold the same basic values as housing cooperatives, but they go further to live them. Sharing income may be an alien and somewhat frightening concept to some, but if we wish to create an economy in which resources can be shared fairly, sharing resources fairly among ourselves, as is done in a commune, is an important place to start.

Some challenges may arise in an income sharing community, but ultimately I believe these challenges have the potential to make us better people. Living and working with the same group of people may make it difficult to escape from personal conflict; let it be an opportunity to solve our personal conflicts. Some people may prefer to keep their home and work lives separate; let their combination be an opportunity to have fun with our work and be serious about our play. Sharing decision making with 100 other people may feel like a sacrifice of personal freedom; let it be an opportunity to be kind to one another and find common ground.

Visiting Twin Oaks was a superb first experience of commune life, and I now find myself at the start of a journey exploring other income sharing communities, both urban and rural. Housing co-ops are wonderful, and I am so glad to have lived in one, but if I may make a suggestion to current co-opers, it would be this: go further; join a commune.  

Trumpeting the Revolution: or what I see as the radical potential of community

 

Content warning: discussion of trauma, institutionalized racism, mentions of sexualized violence

 

 

 

 

With the Communities Conference hurtling around the bend, I’ve spent a good time digging through how I relate to community. Online articles have not been a particularly helpful reflection. Surprise, surprise. It’s easy to sensationalize the unfamiliar, and writers tend to haphazardly throw snake people into the mix. We are the ultimate paradox of a generation, simultaneously problems and martyrs.

Thankfully, my internet experience has been blessed by a Google Chrome extension that swaps “snake people” for “snake people,” which leads to charming titles such as “A Snake Person Named Bush” or “The Snake Person Commune.” In the case of the latter, the image of a New York high-rise filled with entitled, lizard overlords feels incredibly apt. (In the case of the former, the image of a family of lizard overlords steering the nation into disaster is also on point.)

Look at the photo that opens the article. There’s literally a print that says Wall Street. I’m not going to mess with that. (photo by Brian Harkin for The New York Times)

 

With Purehouse’s website, the parallax scrolling might be sleek, but the description is incredibly coded: “An intentional way of life for adventurers and creators alike.”

The archetype of the young adventurer and creator is intimately knitted with the dynamics of neo-colonialism and the myth of individualism.  Focus is centered on how an individual’s drive and how their individual actions hinder or cultivate success instead of the structural inequalities that govern what labor people perform, what resources they are given, as well as how their bodies are policed. The realities of class, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability, and race are erased in favor of ‘will power’.  Beyond the elementary conversation of privilege – who gets what because of systems of power – there’s the consideration of harm.  The archetype of the adventurer might be better recast in the role of the thief. The main page of the website used to feature two photos of a white man, back to us, surveying the rolling clouds and the sea. He’s probably going to go “discover” cooperatives (see: Columbusing), and this narrative of the plucky white adventurer leads to nonsense like a white man saying that, “Brooklyn lost its whole sense of adventure for me,” before skipping off to gentrify Detroit.

Who can afford this type of housing? Who is doing the labor of caring for the domestic space? It’s not the tenants for sure. Maid, laundry, and sometimes food service are included in the rent. It works because there is a team of curators who are actively building and maintaining this communal space, as well as others who are carrying the domestic labor.  (GPaul Blundell, one of our workshop leaders, has already penned a pretty incisive critique of the packaged group-living situation and its snuggly relationship to capitalism.)

The creative class, which Stage 3 industries – mentioned in the original article “The Snake Person Commune” – actively caters to, is a class. It exists because lower classes complete the labor necessary for society to function. Entrepreneurs – and this should surprise no one – come from money.  Where did that money come from?  How was that money maintained and invested?

Why am I so relentlessly picking the bones of a short description? What does unfurling the narrative to peer at the sinews of the adventurer, the creator, and the creator have anything to do with cooperatives, group living, and communes?

Well, my academic training is in parsing apart stories. Narratives are our batteries: they power us forward and give energy to our action. The archetype of the adventurer, of discovering a “new place” (read: a place where folxs of color already live), feeds into a larger system of social power, and cooperatives and communes, by their very design, aim to disrupt that power.

Communal living can be a mode for survival under capitalism. The finances of it are pretty intuitive: you’re sharing resources and labor with a group of people, so you can do more for cheaper. What I’m interested in, however, is the emotional connection of community.

My long-term aim is to work as a psychotherapist specializing in trauma and bodywork, who dedicates her time to working with queer, low-income folx.  (I use the term “folx” instead of “folk” to mark a politicized identity, similar to how Latin@ marks a politicized identity.) I want to find some way of integrating the model of residential and transitional living homes with cooperatives. Especially with marginalized folxs, their traumas are tangled with state and societal violence. It’s difficult to climb towards healing when you’re treading water, when your wages are being stolen from you, when your body is marked as a site of violence.

I chose to focus specifically on trauma and not coping mechanisms (such as addiction, eating disorders, self-harm) and mental illness as a general category. Trauma, and the construction of what is deemed traumatic or not, is a political enterprise. To recognize trauma is to acknowledge that something is wrong.  Acknowledging the horrors of police brutality, of the prison industrial system, of sexualized violence, of homelessness is to be forced to action. Denial is a magnificent coping mechanism. It’s easier to erase an experience than come to terms with its full implications and then choose inaction.

This plugs right back into the idea of narratives.

The wide-scale treatment of trauma requires a political environment capable of holding the traumatic reality. With the Anti-Vietnam War movement came a fuller understanding of combat trauma. With Second Wave Feminism came the validation of children and women’s domestic reality and sexualized violence. There is more work to be done, however. When Americans think of PTSD, they tend to think of combat veterans and not womyn+, femmes, children, formerly incarcerated folxs, trans folxs, native folx, disabled folx, or folxs surviving poverty. Being in community, especially politicized community that educates itself on trauma and the dynamics of oppression, is a great way to safeguard ourselves and children especially against traumatic stress. Bad things will happen. They always do. But they don’t have to be absolutely life crippling if handled with compassion and stability. (The model of the isolated nuclear family is a disaster. We need to be more accountable to children and their experiences.)  Trauma is serious business, and the buck doesn’t stop with the individual carrying the traumatic experience(s).  It crawls into the family dynamic and might even impact the genetic material of children.

Communities have the marvelous potential to become sites of personal and political healing. To build systems that can feed, house, employ, and nurture people is therapeutic work. Having a place where your labor is valued, your needs are met, and where you have friends shouldn’t be as revolutionary as it is. At the most basic level, being in community makes me happy. When I’m in the whirlwind of school, overscheduled and underslept, being able to cook, clean, and share space with a co-op keeps me sane. I’m happier when I can work alongside peers and not for a boss. One of my favorite things of the moment is working with a student-run experimental college where we can follow our initiatives, trust each other, and have an astonishing amount of autonomy. I do better work when I’m engaged and responsible. Let’s make worker-owned everything happen, please.

Of course community is not going to work for everyone. It’s not a prescription but a possibility. Each person’s recovery looks different. What I would really love to see and help mold is an explicitly therapeutic cooperative model that can help launch people into other prospects.

This is why the packaged model of cohousing rubs like sandpaper. If what you’re doing isn’t challenging the main power structure and creating spaces for those who are marginalized, you’re maintaining the status quo. When you actively marketing narratives of capitalistic success and neocolonial exploration, you’re entrenching the status quo.

I don’t really care whether or not the packaged co-living model works. As critical as I’ve been, I feel tenderly towards the goal of creating a community that people can plug into. It breaks my heart slightly. If I hadn’t been lucky enough to be shoved down the avenue of co-ops and intentional communities, which only happened because I had enough privilege to land me in an expensive liberal arts college with a large co-operative system, I’d totally be hype about Purehouse and the chance to have friendly people asking me about my day. Loneliness and isolation suck. At least Purehouse is real with what they’re trying to do. They’re not trumpeting the revolution, and – at the very least – having a community to come home to is going to vastly improve the quality of life of its tenants. They can have that (as long as they’re paying their staff living wage).

 

Note: For those interested in reading more about trauma, Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery is a gem.

Ride Sharing is Caring

 

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Amazing. Most trips are better with company, and sharing transport is a great way of reducing emissions, pooling labor, and trading playlists.

The forum is divided by regions. The basics can be found here.

You don’t need to make an account to be able to post, but if you’re iffy about sharing public information (such as email addresses or numbers) on a public forum, making an account allows you to private message other account holders.

Any questions, concerns, problems? Go ahead and post them in this forum, and we’ll try to help you out!

Best,
Tanya

An Ecovillage With Ambition

If you haven’t heard about Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage you probably will soon (in fact, you just did!) For the most part, people unfamiliar with intentional communities might still have heard about The Farm or Twin Oaks, which have both been around nearly 50 years and gotten a lot of press and study. By contrast, DR has only been around 17 years, but has become one of the most well known communities. Why? Because it’s on a mission!

PhotobyAaronMurphy4First off, it’s one of the few communities to make some serious commitments to ecological sustainability. It’s ecological covenants require it, among other things, to use virtually no fossil fuels, and only use electricity generated from renewable sources. It’s aiming to grow to a population of 500 – 1000. It also has a clear education and outreach mission, and the community incorporates an educational non-profit, DR Inc., to coordinate those activities.

In addition to running events and programs at the ecovillage, DR Inc. has been working with academics and researchers. One project is to create a carbon footprint test that works for communities (those that exist are all based on individuals or families.) Media interface is also key to DR’s work, and DR Inc’s Executive Director, Ma’ikwe Ludwig, has been on a national speaking tour following a wildly successful TEDx talk she gave. Also, DR has maintained a close connection with the Fellowship for Intentional Community over the years, with numerous if it’s members serving as Board members or Staff for the FIC.

At this point DR is up to about 70 people. There’s still lots of room to grow, and there’s also existing houses for sale, for those who want to jump into this lifestyle but aren’t up for the challenge of building a home themselves. Interested in more? Here’s a couple opportunities:

9-Day Permaculture Design Course at an Ecovillage
permacourseshareWhat do you get when you mix an ecovillage and a permaculture design course (PDC)?  An unparalleled adventure in sustainable, solutions-oriented living! Your ticket to adventure is right around the corner, when Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage hosts it’s first ever Permaculture Design Course, August 29-Sept 6, 2015. This PDC blends theory and inspiration with practical, hands-on, how-to activities, in a classroom that’s been a living experiment in sustainable human habitat for the last 17 years! http://www.dancingrabbit.org/permaculture/
Come Begin Your Life in an Ecovillage
robiniaWant to live a low-impact earth-friendly lifestyle? Want to live in a community where others share your values? Does creating a culture of sharing, communication, and support sound good to you? If you answered yes, then check out Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage’s Visitor Program to find out if living at Dancing Rabbit might be right for you! http://www.dancingrabbit.org/visit-dancing-rabbit-ecovillage/visitor-program/

The Global Ecovillage Network

I became an international networker last week. I didn’t mean to. But apparently unexpected things happen at Findhorn Community, in Scotland. I was there for the 20th anniversary summit of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), and it was the first event I’ve attended with my new title of Executive Director of the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC).IMG_0272

I’d heard about GEN, and its regional counterpart, the Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA) soon after moving to Twin Oaks in 1999. GENs gestation began around 1991, when the newly formed Gaia Trust funded a study called the Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities Report. A seminal event, also at Findhorn, was held in 1995, 20 years ago. Apparently the creation of GEN, while in discussion, wasn’t even on the agenda for that event, but arose as a clear desire of those who attended. From the beginning the purpose of GEN has been to network and facilitate support for communities and the individuals working to develop them.

Twin Oaks Community has been an important node in the network of communities for a long time, and this network is a global network. Most Twin Oakers don’t realize this. But pretty much everyone I met from Europe, Latin America, or Australia/New Zealand, and some from other parts of the world, had heard of Twin Oaks.

IMG_0345While Twin Oaks has never identified as an ecovillage it certainly could. There’s no strict definition for ecovillages, and the definitions that exist act more like a vision of where we’d like to get to, as well as qualities to embody. Ecologically, Twin Oaks almost certainly has a smaller footprint than many self-identified ecovillages, at least in the developed world. And while many ecovillages may espouse sustainability, they’re not necessarily actively working towards it any more than Twin Oaks. But I’ve always appreciated how unpretentious Twin Oaks is. We’re not going to call ourselves something unless we’re willing to back it up. Also at play here is that the term intentional community already filled a certain niche in the US before the term ecovillage came along, whereas the term ecovillage filled a gap in other parts of the world. So, to some degree is just semantics, and Twin Oaks is seen as an ecovillage in the international network, and is certainly part of this global family.

IMG_0358A feeling of family on a global level was one of the most powerful things I got out of the summit. There were people from communities from dozens of countries on every continent, and it was amazing to experience the cultural affinity between people from such a diversity of cultures.  These are people working so hard from a deep reverence for the earth, a deep compassion and love for humanity, seeking balance. The passion and caring I heard in everyone’s voices and in their stories was awe inspiring. This is what they’re dedicating their lives to. It was humbling and an honor to have a place amongst these people.

IMG_0373There were some particularly poignant stories. A woman from China talked about how their ecovillage had been destroyed by the government three times. Apparently one time they were told that the reason for the displacement was that their ecovillage was too advanced for China.  At this point they’ve figured out that if they only have a few people actually living together and present it as eco-tourism they can get away with it.

There was a woman from Palestine, who lives part time in Tamera, an ecovillage in Portugal. She’s working on developing an ecovillage network in the Middle East, which is made difficult in part because, as a Palestinian, she has an Israeli passport, and the only countries in the region she is able to travel to are Lebanon and Egypt. She’d also like to support connections between arabic-speaking and Israeli ecovillages, but she said that in some places in Palestine she could be shot as a collaborator if she works with Israelis.

IMG_0343There were several people from Africa. It sounded like their governments are more friendly and embracing of the ecovillage concept, but again, it gets mixed up with eco-tourism, and the governments tend to want to exert some control. Also, the telecommunications infrastructure I so take for granted is so much further behind. They talked about trying to have meetings using Facebook messaging, and it sometimes taking hours for a message to get through to someone in another country.

It was interesting to hear how in developing countries, the development of ecovillages is as often about transitioning traditional villages and creating new ones. The Sarvodaya network in Sri Lanka, a GEN member, includes thousands of villages working to become sustainable.

It’s important to understand what GEN means by sustainability. It’s a multidimensional concept covering ecological, economic, social, and spiritual aspects of human life and habitat. At this point GEN embraces a wide range of different kinds of projects working towards sustainability, which is in part because the regions, most recently CASA, are embracing a broader range. This is something that has always been true for the FIC, and was a point of discussion in the last couple years in the conversations about the FIC participating in GEN activities.

IMG_0269Like Twin Oaks, the FIC is also well known in GEN. GEN is made up of regional networks, Europe, Africa, Asia/Oceania, North America, and South America, with work being done to form a network in the Middle East. Those networks are often made up of national networks, and the FIC is one of the few national networks to pre-date GEN. ENA was one of the first GEN networks to form, and a number of the people who helped form ENA were also involved with the FIC. In turn, some of the key people in ENA were key in the development of GEN in the first decade.

A funny thing is that this summit is where I first met a couple of the key people involved with GEN in North America. Jeff Clearwater has been involved with this stuff for a long time, and was active in the FIC quite a while ago, and is a name I’ve heard for over a decade. He turns out to be a really great guy, with a new initiative called Village Labs. Russ Purvis is one of the main organizers of the Ecovillage Network of Canada (ENC), and has been virtually engaging in discussions between the FIC, ENA, and ENC. I’ve heard his voice and read his emails, and now I know him as a real person who cares deeply and passionately about this movement. Diana Christian, a superstar in the movement, is someone I had the opportunity to met when I brought her to a Twin Oaks Communities Conference something like 12 years ago, but haven’t seen since. I also got to meet Alberto Ruiz, who has been an important figure in the movement from Mexico, and who the FIC just awarded it’s Kozeny Communitarian Award. He came with great credentials and recommendations, and as a Board member I took it on faith that he was the right person to give the award to. Now that I’ve met him, it’s abundantly clear that he was the right person, and gives us an opportunity to redevelop ties with our Mexican family.

IMG_0330ENA has been through quite a transformation over the years, and this summit appears to be an important turning point. Albert Bates, from the Farm Community, where he created the Ecovillage Training Center, and has been involved in all manner of networking and organizing, was one of the main emissaries from the formation of GEN to catalyze ENA. From the beginning it was clear to him and the people he pulled in that it needed to not be a white man’s network, based and most active in the US, with Latin America a supporting character. One of the first gatherings of ENA, while held in the US, included delegates from 19 countries. Over the years, much of the regional organizing was focused on Latin America. Another factor in the evolution of ENA was that the FIC was already on the scene doing regional networking in the US, and to some extent Canada, with important but minimal connections in Mexico. As the network in Latin America developed it became clear that as a culturally and linguistically distinct region from the US and Canada it needed it’s organization. In 2012 they split off and formed CASA, with Mexico joining them. Around the same time ENC formally left ENA, due to some conflicts and disputes. The GEN Constitution actually mandates that a global region of GEN must consist of at least 3 countries, and a special exception was written in to allow the US and Canada to constitute a region.

A couple years ago now, the FIC was invited into discussions with ENA and ENC in the reformation of the North American network. While what was left of ENA had been very active on the International stage, they hadn’t been doing much in the US, and were interested in shifting that. The ENC was also keen to partner with the FIC, to build the network in Canada and between Canada and the US. At some point it became clear that lingering tensions between ENA and ENC were hampering forward motion, and the FIC pushed for mediation, which it offered to facilitate, before considering further collaboration. This process largely took place before the summit over video and phone calls, and, in effect, continued during it. It was clearly useful to have people in the same place, talking face to face, and, again, it is ironic that we had to come across an ocean to make this happen.

At this point, the conflicts, while perhaps not fully resolved, seem to be resolved enough, and allowed for some key shifts to occur. One, ENA is going to rename itself GEN-US. Questions were still raised as to the point of continuing it as a distinct entity from the FIC, as opposed to a merger, but we’re taking it one step at a time. And now there is a serious proposal on the table to create a new GEN North America (GENNA) council, consisting of reps from GEN-US, ENC, the FIC, NextGEN North America, and possibly also CASA Mexico. These important shifts all come at a pivotal moment for GEN as well.

Just a couple weeks before the summit, Gaia Trust made an earthshaking offer to GEN. It proposed to almost triple its funding of GEN over the next 3 to 5 years, to support GEN creating a new strategic plan and business model, to both further the development and professionalism of the organization, as well as to move towards greater financial sustainability. GEN has been lucky to have a major funder for all these years, but it’s also meant that it hasn’t worked on developing diverse income streams and the ability to endure should Gaia Trust support decrease or evaporate. It’s a tricky proposal to increase this support in the service of helping GEN decrease its need for it. But in particular, this increase means that GEN will be able to adequately pay key staff people, which has been a barrier to developing the self-sufficiency of the organization.

This is the right time for this to happen. GEN and it’s regions, particularly in Europe and Africa, have had success in interfacing with a broad range of government agencies as well as NGOs, and are being consulted more and more often as leaders in transition strategies to sustainability. Strategic partnerships are on the rise, particularly with Gaia Education, another project funded by the Gaia Trust. Media attention is increasing (for example, in the last 10 months Twin Oaks has been visited by Al Jazeera America, CNN online, Yahoo! News, and, next week, by ABC Nightline news). A clear shift has happened in the public consciousness: an increased recognition and acceptance of the problems facing humanity followed by a desire to look for positive solutions.IMG_0382

One of the keynoters at the summit was Ross Jackson, who founded Gaia Trust with his wife Hildur. He talked about the importance of long range planning, and offered a quote about anything worth doing needing at least 40 years to come to fruition. We’re 20 years in, and we’ve built so much. It’s exciting to imagine what the next 20 will bring.

 

From Kiddie Capitalist to Co-op Crushes: Hello from your intern

The ubiquitous question what do you want to be when you grow up directly translates to how do you want to sell your labor? It’s a cliché that has little to do with personal growth, and at five years old my answer was that I had no plan of selling my labor. I wanted to be a businessperson, which was code for rich and successful, who ran a sweatshop à la Nike, Gap, or any other mega behemoth. The basic fact that sweatshops, with their criminal wages, unsafe working condition, long hours, and position within the larger global market of exploitation, were evil was quickly reasoned away with kid logic that held exploiting people was the best way to make a fast buck and that anyone saying otherwise was being stupid because they were sacrificing profit.

May 2015: Pig Roast at Tank, one of the living and dining co-ops of OSCA.

May 2015: Pig Roast at Tank, one of the living and dining co-ops of OSCA.

Obviously I don’t believe that anymore. I wouldn’t be spending my summer at an egalitarian community working as an intern for Twin Oak’s 2015 Communities Conference if I did, but it is absolutely terrifying that as I child I had internalized capitalist thinking to the extent that oppression felt not only like the natural end but the smart solution to the difficulties of production. It’s beyond terrifying that a good portion of adults still cling to the misconceptions of five-year old me.

I fell into community and co-ops by sheer luck and a massive mound of privilege. (I had the privilege to shop around colleges, to know that I was going to college, and to be able to foot the huge tuition bill. Yikes.) When I was college-touring in my junior year of high school, I visited Oberlin College and for the first time heard about co-ops and a large basis for college decision. The Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA) sounded like an absolute dream, and I didn’t find any other school that seemed to have an Experimental College (ExCo), where students, community members, and teachers can teach and take classes for credit. I’ve just completed my second year of study, and am involved in both of my giant swoons. I cook and eat in OSCA and am a committee member at ExCo. Both have prepared me well for Twin Oaks, which feels like OSCA with industry. Their labor sheet is our workchart, the quotas might be different but I don’t have to manage a full course load and other activities here, and their kitchen is beautifully organized. I swooned so hard when I saw it on the tour.

Look at this beautiful organization system.  Things are labeled, easily in reach, and have plenty of space to dry.  It's not a bunch of utensils shoved into an unorganized drawer that doesn't get cleaned often enough.  I'm in love.

Look at this beautiful organization system. Things are labeled. I’m in love.

Capitalism narrows our vision. Tanya at eighteen would have bristled at the idea of communal living and income sharing because it seemed impossible to fulfill her hungry ambition outside of the corporate ladder, just as Tanya at five thought dehumanization and oppression were the only options in fulfilling her needs of connection, security, and comfort. The nice things I want are fresh goat cheese, warm food, infused balsamic vinegar, homemade ice cream, good friends, contra dances, an endless stretch of hammocks, a mountain range of books. I could get some of these nice things at some ritzy store that’s slowly corroding a neighborhood and stealing homes through gentrification. Or I can drizzle fresh produce with fancy handmade salad dressing when cooking in a co-op with my friends. More than anything, the nice thing I want is time.

To paraphrase R.A. Washington – poet, musician, founding member of Guide to Kulcher, a volunteer-run bookstore that operates Cleveland Books 2 Prisoners and Guide to Kulcher Press: time is the enemy of the poor because the day becomes a cycle to survive. Even in my position as a white-passing, economically comfortable woman completing a college degree, I need all the time I can get. All through high school I packed activities into every spare moment with the end goal of crawling into a good college. At Oberlin, I pack my schedule with classes, activities, projects, committees, and forty-five minute chunks of friendships that my friends sign up for on my calendar so I can hopefully get some type of job after graduation. It’s unsustainable. What I see as the magical potential of intentional communities and cooperatives is they can ensure survival by meeting at least the bare basic needs. Community allows people to reclaim time. It seems simple. In OSCA and Twin Oaks, you know that there’s going to be food for you. You don’t have to cook your own meals, buy individually packaged groceries, or clean each and every dish you do. At Twin Oaks, you can live your life, which is a marvelously underrated thing.

Speaking of nice things: I love garlic more than I love most things.  This is heaven.

Speaking of nice things: I love garlic more than I love most things. This is heaven.

I am beyond psyched for the opportunity to plug into this work and continue learning and growing from those who have existed in community before I have. It was at the NASCO 2014 Conference that I heard about this income-sharing community that made tofu and hammocks and expanded my perception of the purpose and radical potential of community.  When folks get together to share knowledge, experience, and challenge each other, wondrous things can happen. I’m absolutely gushy and ridiculously excited. The five-year-old Tanya who said she wanted to be a businessperson was ambivalent about exploiting others and perpetuating harmful systems. It seemed to be the only way to meet goals and needs that she couldn’t even articulate at that point in her consciousness.  At this point, I’m already grown up and I don’t have an answer to the question of what I want to be.  I’m weary about having to sell my labor.  Finding alternative economic systems and alternative questions to ask ourselves and each other seems like a better investment of time.

 

Beyond my questionable childhood goals, here are some fun facts about me:

  • I also want to recreate Jim Hodges’ “Untitled (one day it all comes through)” (2013) on the back of my jean jacket.
  • I’m going into my junior year at Oberlin College, where I’m studying Comparative American Studies and collecting a ridiculous amount of minors.
  • I crochet scrap rugs and have been collecting hammock scraps to crochet waterproof rugs.
  • One of my close friendships was legit formed on a mutual love of garlic.
  • I can recite all of Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass.
  • I grew up in Thailand and recently discovered one of the members of Twin Oaks went to the same middle school as me.
  • Because of cooking in co-ops, I have no sense of proportion.  Absolutely a meal for two people needs five onions and a pitcher full of lentils.
  • One of my life goals is to get good enough at embroidery to start doing ‘needle paintings’ of classic paintings.  Some on the list include Frantisek Kupka’s “Study for Petals” (1919), Joan Semmel’s “Green Heart” (1971), Winslow Homer’s “The Fox Hunt” (1893),  and feminist reinterpretations of John William Waterhouse’s “Ophelia” (1851-2) and “The Lady of Shalott” (1888).

 

What does community mean?

Community is an important buzzword these days. People recognize that social structures are deteriorating and that people want more of a sense of connection with others. Suburbia is almost perfectly designed to keep interaction to a minimum. Consumerism and capitalism are other important factors. We’re bombarded by messages promoting individual ownership, which is supported by laws and financial institutions.

all-of-acorn-web1-450x432

Members of Acorn Community, founded 1993.

Intentional communities have been working on this problem since the early nineteenth century, and since 1987 The Fellowship for Intentional Community has been their primary resource and proponent in the US. The term Intentional Community dates back to at least the 1940. There’s the communes from the 60’s. Housing co-operatives have been around since the industrial revolution, with the current branches being the North American Students of Cooperation and the National Association of Housing Cooperatives. Ecovillage is a more contemporary, and international term that many groups have adopted. Cohousing is a popular model of intentional community in the US, and was created in Denmark in the 1960’s. There are lots of new experiments popping all the time that don’t necessarily have a connection to these other models or the history of the movement, and may not even want to be associated.

Intentional community (IC) can serve as an umbrella term for these different forms of collective living. But what is it that connects these groups? What defines an IC?

strip mall town center

Is this community?

Before I deal with that I want ask, what does community mean? I’ve seen strip malls called things like The Springfield Community Center. There are online communities. Is a city of one million people a community, or is it a collection of communities? I want to offer a definition of community:

A community is a network of social and economic relationships and the places where those relationships interact.

This is a broad yet restrictive definition. It means that just living near each other, as in a suburban neighborhood, doesn’t mean you’re in community. There’s no economic exchange, and, for most, little social engagement. Classic condominium developments are more like what I would call community, because there are public facilities that are financed by fees, usually in the context of a Homeowners Association (HOA). But usually the social engagement is so thin that calling it a community feels like a stretch. Community is often used in conjunction with a group of people in a city or locale that are struggling together against some form of oppression. In these cases there usually is a strong network of social relationships, and often quite a bit of non-monetized economic exchange (e.g. sharing childcare duties so people can go to meetings or demonstrations.)

I’m on the fence as to whether online communities count. There are social and sometimes economic relationships, and they interact in certain places, even though those places are virtual. But I don’t think they serve some of the same functions that real life communities serve, at least not as well, but they are very important in many people’s lives.

Community is tangible; community is cohesive; community brings people together in ways that allow them to do things they couldn’t have done in isolation.

Within this context, this is how I would define an IC:

An IC has a shared purpose and set of values; the people who live in it are economically entwined to some degree; there is a definition for membership in the community and a process for becoming a member.

flowers_storefront2

The People’s Food Co-op in Portland, OR, which operates as a consumer and worker co-op hybrid – a kind of intentional community?

There’s a lot of leeway in this definition of ICs as well. I think it’s important that a group articulate their purpose and values, but this doesn’t need to be a formal Vision/Mission statement. It could be entirely oral, but it needs to be present and understood in the discourse and culture of the community.

Similarly, the economic exchange could be minimal. It could look like a tool lending library and monthly potlucks, though that would be pushing it, and in itself would not constitute an intentional community (though I might call it a community). Generally, ICs are typified by shared ownership of property. In many communities it’s just the land that’s held in common, with individuals holding title to the actual residential structures. Usually there are some kinds of common facilities that members contribute to monetarily, and usually with some amount of labor.

The membership aspect is perhaps the key distinction for ICs. As opposed to a suburban neighborhood where you just buy a house and move in, intentional communities have a process by which they decide who gets to move in, or at least who becomes a member and what it means to be a member (i.e. rights and responsibilities). Again, condominiums with HOAs are much closer, and to some degree Cohousing, where the community may not have control over who moves in, could be seen as just an extreme version of the condominium model.

So, what’s the point of all this? Well, people want more community. Why? Because contemporary life in mainstream America (in particular; it’s certainly not limited here) is incredibly dissatisfying for most people. When people get more satisfaction from their interpersonal relationships they seek consumption and entertainment less. This has both an ecological and a financial benefit. It’s cheaper and wastes less resources.

Intentional community also has the potential to be a model for elevating poverty and homelessness, though currently the financial barriers make IC’s inaccessible to people below middle-class. It also has the potential to model how people can increase the power they have over the circumstances of their daily lives. This is a big deal if we can figure out how to make the model of and lessons learned by ICs more accessible and relevant to the broader public.

It’s time to bring community to the masses.

EarthDeeds: Carbon and Cash

danielI’ve known Daniel Greenberg for a while now. He pioneered the Living Routes ecovillage education program, which I was a big fan of. He’s also been involved with the Ecovillage Network of the Americas and the Global Ecovillage Network for a long time, not to mention a long time friend of the FIC. So when he contacted me about his new initiative, EarthDeeds, I immediately paid attention.

Money’s been on my mind for a while (don’t worry I’ll tie this back in). My efforts to revamp the Communities Conference kitchen had me do my first crowdfunding campaign. I’m working with a forming ecovillage that’s looking at a multi-million dollar development cost. The FIC is actively looking at how to increase revenues to expand programs. Money is a challenging thing, but it’s essential to all the amazing things we want to do. We don’t want to deal with it but were constantly trying to figure out how to get more of it. This is part of why we decided this year’s Monday program would be Money in Community.

earthdeeds logoEarthDeeds is working to funnel money towards eco-minded projects, while also addressing one of the core conundrums environmentalist organizers face: burning carbon to go to great events. Not only do a lot of the great things we want to do cost money, many of them involve burning fossil fuels. We’re working on creating a sustainable world, and organizing on national and international levels is an important part of that.

We decided to partner with EarthDeeds this year to help address our corresponding contributions to climate change. EarthDeeds is pioneering the concept of onsetting (as opposed to carbon offsetting). The idea is pretty similar, but with a much more grassroots approach.

Participants will be asked to calculate their carbon emissions from travel on the EarthDeeds website. This will give them an amount of money they’re asked to contribute or raise to go towards a project. There will be a crowdfunding aspect in that the participants can raise the money from others rather than donating it themselves, i.e. anyone will be able to donate.

We’ll be accepting project proposal until July 1st. By July 15th we’ll announce the finalists. At that point we will create a multi-voting system by which 3 projects will be selected for funding. Voting will end on Aug 15th, after which the 3 projects to be funded will be announced. Donations will be accepted until the end of the conference on Monday, Sept 7th.

 

West Coast Community Ramblings

I don’t know how to take a vacation. Maybe it would be different if I went to a typical vacation location. But even then I don’t think I’d know what to do with myself.

My vacations consist of visiting family and friends, which invariably means I end up visiting communities, and on my recent pilgrimage back to my native land of California I had the opportunity to visit several.

groundswell group shotA key goal in the trip was to visit the newly founded Groundswell Institute, which will be the site of the West Coast Communities Conference, October 9 – 11. This community, about a 2 1/2 hr drive north of the Bay Area, was started by a group of radical faeries from San Fransisco last August. They managed to purchase a full functional, permitted and certified summer camp, complete with commercial kitchen and cabin space for 80 people. The land is gorgeous, with a year round creek and spring (incredibly valuable in drought ridden California). They’ve already hosted 5 events since occupying the site and have a bunch more planned for this year.
oaec guest house for real

While in the neighborhood, I visited my good friend Janel Healy, former Twin Oaks Communities Conference manager, and now Online Projects Manager for the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. This community is heavily focused on educational programs. Janel showed me around their beautiful, brand new guest cabins, which were built to help accommodate more high profile supporters, like movie stars and politicians. It was interesting to see them and what they represent. In another context, the FIC and Dancing Rabbit, in considering a joint fundraising project, were faced with the concept of the culture of philanthropy. Basically, what do you have to do to be friendly to major donors? It’s a big question intentional communities with education and outreach missions need to face. Here I saw a direct manifestation of that.

tryon yurt group shotI made my way up to Oregon and made a quick stop at Tryon Life Community Farm, where I lived for a few months back in 2008. Tryon has been devloping it’s 6 acres and two large residential buildings into an education, demonstration, and events center for 10 years now. One of my favorite parts about the community is that they are surrounded on 3 sides by a 750 acre state park, but are only 5 miles from downtown Portland. You can be in the woods, gardening at this incredible community, and a 45 minute bike ride later you can be in the heart of possibly the most progressive city in the country. I got to catch up with my old friend Jenny Leis, a Tryon founder, who I’d first met when she did a visitor period at Twin Oaks in 2001. We’ve had the good fortune of staying in touch and getting to watch and cheer each other on as we’ve each grown as movement builders.

fullbloom1 copyAfter picking up Marta and Roberto, a couple more dear friends and former Twin Oakers, in Eugene, we drove down to visit Full Bloom community in the Little Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. A couple we’d met two years ago at the Communities Conference, Victor and Elena, had just moved there for a trial period and we wanted to check it out. Full Bloom has possibly the most beautiful common house I’ve ever seen. And for a community that is organized around individual finances has some of the strongest emphasis on shared facilities I’ve ever seen. There’s a steep buy-in ($150K) but that primarily goes towards building you a home. fullbloom2 copyThey’re looking to expand their educational activities and are actively looking for new owner/members.

Everywhere I went I shared about what’s going at Twin Oaks these days, talked up the West Coast Communities Conference, and generally got to talk shop and compare notes on the nuts and bolts of community living as well as what’s up in the larger movement. It was an exhausting yet inspiring vacation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.