Call for Workshop Proposals

We’re looking for workshops presenters for this year’s conference. The focus of the event is of course on intentional communities, although workshops sometimes cover a broader array of topics in cooperative and alternative lifestyles. The theme for this year’s conference is Radical Resource Sharing.

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We are looking for dynamic presenters who can offer interactive and/or engaging workshops. Workshop blocks are usually 1.5 or 2 hrs. The conference site is rustic and mostly outdoors. There is limited electrical access; presentations requiring projectors or other electrical presentation tools can be accommodated if requested in advance.

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Presenters are encouraged to participate in the whole weekend. Camping is the standard accommodation; indoor accommodations are available for a fee.

Please send a one to three paragraph workshop description with title and a little bit about yourself to conference(at)twinoaks(dot)org.

Worker Cooperatives and Intentional Communities

Worker Cooperatives are an important sister movement to intentional communities. Depending on how you define things they are intentional communities, and whereas traditional IC’s have focused on the residential aspects of community living, worker co-ops have focused on the commercial. But if you use a broader definition of economy, one that incorporates all the productive human activities, they are two sides of the same coin.

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A couple weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending the Worker Cooperative National Conference, hosted by the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives. The event was held in Chicago and attended by about 450 cooperative enthusiasts. More people would have participated if they had not hit the venue’s capacity and had to turn people away.

The Federation has been around 10 years now. I attended their first national conference in NYC in 2004, with maybe 200 participants. Since then they’ve created the Democracy At Work Network, a peer-to-peer advisory group for new cooperative ventures, and they’ve recently created the Democracy At Work Institute, a non-profit organization that can accept grants for research, education, and movement building.

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Not only was the conference expertly organized, the quality of content was very high. Friday night was a showcase of local initiatives, including an amazing spoken word performance by a collective of young men working on restorative justice and part of forming group called Grassroots Ecology. The evening was catered by a new startup catering and restaurant cooperative in Chicago. I attended an amazing workshop on project management by members of the Isthmus Engineering Cooperative. Equal Exchange, a cooperative and forerunner of the fair trade movement, co-hosted a great workshop on Boards and cooperative governance. Tours were organized to look at cooperative endeavors and movements, both present and historical, in Chicago. There were a number of keynotes, including a presentation on the cooperative movement in the Emilia Romanga region of Italy, which rivals the more well-known Mondragon cooperatives in Spain in size and scope.

There were also people at the conference from housing cooperatives and collectives, as well as other kinds of cooperative projects and community organizations. I was at the conference to a large degree as a representative of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Many FEC communities incorporate businesses and residences, along with many other resource sharing systems. Part of why I live at Twin Oaks is because I see this as a model for what a full-featured, integrated cooperative economy could look like. Of course, I also realize that not everyone is going to live like we do at Twin Oaks, nor could they. We need a multi-faceted approach in transforming the social and economic aspects of society, as well as the infrastructure, to a basis of cooperation, justice, and sustainability.

What I found very gratifying is that while the focus of the event was on worker cooperatives, there was a keen understanding of the need to address all aspects of life and society in developing a cooperative culture. This is what we’ve been trying to do with the Communities Conference as well, focus on this particular branch of the movement, but keep in mind the larger picture of the cooperative movement that we’re all part of.

Chop Wood, Carry Water, Check Email

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The Gooseberry leasehold of Red Earth Farms

This is what life on the modern homestead looks like. Collecting fire wood for the wood-fired cook stove of an outdoor collective kitchen. Carrying a couple buckets of water over from the neighbor’s cistern. Then heading back to my host’s straw bale house to check my email and write a blog post.

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One of the scenic avenues in Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

I’ve had the pleasure the last couple days of staying at Red Earth Farms, one of three communities of what’s known as the tri-community area of northern Missouri (along with Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and Sandhill Farm). The area is a hot spot for natural building and other aspects of sustainable living. And part of what I find particularly compelling is their selective application of industrial technology.

I don’t think we really have any idea of what sustainable means. Twin Oaks has managed to cut out something like 70% of the junk industrial society produces. At Red Earth they’ve cut out maybe 90%. What’s left? Molded plastic cisterns fed by ABS plastic piping (less toxic than PVC) from a corrugated metal roof, all of which should last 50 years or more. A couple computers with a high speed internet connection thanks to local electrical cooperative. Lights and a small refrigerator powered by their wind turbine and PV solar panels. A ceramic/carbon Berkey water filter.

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Hand pump from the underground cistern into the Berkey water filter

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Computer on the left, rocket stove on the right

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Mark designed these trusses, made of reused pallet wood. None of the boards are longer than 4′.

There are no wells at Red Earth and no electric pumps. All the water comes from rain water catchment in cisterns or ponds, and is either gravity fed or hand pumped to where it needs to go. Alyson (staff and board member of Dancing Rabbit, Inc. and Board member for the Fellowship for Intentional Community) and Mark’s house, in the Gooseberry leasehold of Red Earth, was built with almost all locally sourced materials, either natural in origin or reclaimed (the trusses on the house are made exclusively from reused pallet wood). With the reductions in carbon this represents could the internet and the molded plastic actually fit into a sustainable society?

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Solar panel with a 12 volt battery wheeled carrier. The other box is a boom box.

 

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The Milkweed Mercantile, a pub and B&B, is a straw bale building, and was Dancing Rabbit’s first solely commercial endeavor.

 

Dancing Rabbit has been working with some researchers recently to start getting credible data on what this lifestyle represents when it comes to combating climate change. There are various online ecological footprint tests you can do, but these tests are assuming a predominantly mainstream, individualistic lifestyle. We’re only starting to see the metrics being developed and applied to these alternatives.

But what we do already know is that this is, as Helen and Scott Nearing told us decades ago, living the good life. Ma’ikwe, Dancing Rabbit, Inc. executive director, articulates this well in her TEDx talk. The land, despite previously being misused by conventional agriculture, is beautiful, and the folks at Red Earth and Dancing Rabbit are using a sophisticated understanding of ecology to rehabilitate it. The pace of life makes the peacefulness and beauty impossible to miss. And there’s a community of people enjoying each other and creating culture and staying connected to the larger society, because we are, like it or not, all connected to larger society. The folks here understand that and far from escaping are an active, engaged, and living demonstration of what a satisfying and sustainable society might look like.

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A cluster of buildings in the Dandelion leasehold of Red Earth, including the collective outdoor kitchen shared between them and Gooseberry.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Program: Communities Clinic

Are you part of a community or organization that is new, recently formed, redeveloping, or considering redeveloping?  This one-day follow-up to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference on Labor Day, Mon. Sept. 1st, will provide a platform for these groups to consult with experienced community builders, connect with resources, and troubleshoot with other groups.  image08

The format for the day will be dynamic and highly interactive – no long series of boring lectures here!  We’ll provide opportunities for groups to work with experts on their particular issues.  We’ll create forums for discussion on particular topics.  And we’ll engage groups with each other to share about their successes and challenges.  Topics for the day will cover a broad range of issues from legal/financial to cultural and logistical, and will be guided in part by groups who register early and tell us what they’re looking for!

Radical Resource Sharing

Announcing this years theme for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference!

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Radical (Resource) Sharing:

Sharing is daring!

…or, From control to access

Sharing is no secret.  It’s well known that sharing can make your life better, whether it’s from an economic, social, or environmental perspective.  But sharing is daring. It requires trust. It requires communication. It requires a whole set of skills and attitudes not taught to us in our hyper-individualized, capitalist economy.  In the mainstream economy sharing is inconvenient, discouraged, or even illegal. Community is about sharing. It’s about changing to notion of ownership from one of control to one of access. Its about the systems and the culture that make sharing possible and make it a force that can solve the biggest problems facing the world today.

For some interesting perspectives on sharing, check out shareable.net, kindista.org, and Resilience Circles. We’re also interested in reaching out into the Maker Movement and Makerspaces, so if you’re tapped in let us know who to contact. There’s also the rising concept of Collaborative Consumption.

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Intentional Communities have been on the cutting edge of sharing for decades, and continue to push ideas of what’s possible. What do IC’s have to offer this new interest in sharing, and how are they relevant to this possible sharing revolution happening in larger society? These are some of the ideas we’ll explore this year. Hope to see you there!

More conferences on community, cooperation, and sustainability

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The Meeting Hall Dome at The Farm

While you’re making plans to come to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference you should also plan on attending two other important events.  The Farm in Tennessee is having its conference on Community and Sustainability May 23 – 25.  The US Federation of Worker Co-operatives is hosting it’s bi-annual National Conference the next weekend, May 30 – Jun 1, in Chicago.

The Communities Conference at the Farm is a unique opportunity to tour Green Homes of all types, see Sustainable Food Production at work, over 89 KW in Solar Installations, learn about Alternative Education, Conflict Resolution, Land Trusts, Midwifery and so much more.

The Worker Co-op conference will bring together the U.S.’s leading lenders, funders, educators, and businesses supporting the cooperative economy. International guests bringing their wisdom and perspectives. As worker ownership breaks into the public consciousness on an unprecedented scale, this will be a gathering for popular education and brainstorm sessions, keynotes, and much more:

  1. logo us workershare best practices,
  2. identify (and shape) emerging trends,
  3. form relationships with allied organizations, businesses, and economic developers,
  4. have a blast building a liberatory economy!

 

Living the Dream

This is a story sent to me by ex-Twin Oaks member Koala, in response to a fundraising email.  Thanks Koala for a your support, kind words, and your story!

In 1976  I had  graduated high school, barely, and was looking to  join Twin Oaks. My teen years had been VERY rocky but I was committed to one thing. JOINING  and LIVING AT TWIN OAKS. That was my dream and that  was why Ingird Komar (my mom) wrote  LIVING the  DREAM, (even though I adamantly disagreed with her  conclusions about Twin Oaks in the book.)

Back to  T.O. There was a waiting list. I was impatient. There was a  July 4th Weekend Communities Conference and I thought, “well at least I could  see the place I have  been  dreaming about for like three years.” I had actually spent the last  2 years of high school at a community  free school in northern California  so I could graduate and live in a commune. I CALLED it “COMMUNE  PREP”  rather than college  prep.

After graduating I wrecked a friends car and it took a year to pay it off. But now I could head to Twin Oaks. I was convinced this was the  right thing for me and  IT WAS. So I went. So did Gareth. We  were both 19. Tamar and  Piper among others  were  doing a radical  shift to start another branch and ran a whole series at the conference and we volunteered.  It was called Tupelo.

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An early assembly of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Koala is on the near left.

We  stayed on after the conference  and started  next door on Tommy Anderson’s farm.  There was a lot of controversy about this but hell, I was  at Twin Oaks!  Yeah!! We  had to leave for a month and then came back as members, living in a shack (Old Tupelo) that  formerly been used as  a barn. We patched the place together  with old  parts from cars and such,  froze our asses off  in the winter and  lived the life. IT WAS GRAND.

Twin Oaks  changed my life and  I learned  to be  a  socially  responsible businessman by working management and sales in Hammocks and starting (or cranking up ) Fairs and  other  ventures. THIS WAS NOT MY EXPECTATION WHEN I CAME AT ALL. I have been  employed in my own business, with many fits and starts along the way , in energy efficient lighting ever since  I left Twin Oaks in ’82.

WE may have not done enough to avert  Global warming AS A PLANET so far but I sure have  done my part! My business has  saved enough energy to power  a  city of 50,000  homes or more.  Not  bad.

The conference  was key .

I will always be grateful.

Wisdom from a great communitarian

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ira Wallace recently.  When I told Ira about the fundraising campaign for the conference site kitchen she was excited and more than happy to help spread the word.

In this video she talks some about what community means to her, why it’s important, and how she came to it.

Images from last year’s conference

Here’s a selection of pics from the 2013 Communities Conference.

2012 Conference in Photos

Take a look at photos from last year’s conference to get an idea of some kinds of connection you can experience next weekend. A new set of 69 photos has been posted at http://www.communitiesconference.org/images/?wppa-album=4&wppa-cover=0&wppa-occur=1