Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Update 8: Building New Communities

This will be the final post in my update series; I'm going to try to tie together much of what I learned and talk about my directions from here. 

When I was visiting at Acorn I began to realize that I didn't really want to settle down there and just be part of an established community.  I really enjoyed Acorn, and Twin Oaks even more, but by the time I visited TO I was sure that what I wanted was to be part of helping to build new communities.  (Which is why I didn't apply for membership there.) Acorn and Twin Oaks are wonderful, but I wanted to see more of them.  Both communities have population caps (Acorn doesn't want to grow beyond 30 members, TO beyond ninety-something) and both now have long waiting lists.

On the other hand, I have learned from my experiences.  I don't want to try to start another community.  Instead, I want to help others who are trying to start communities.

I am well aware that the majority of community start-ups fail.  I'm not sure what the numbers are, but let's pretend (for the sake of my argument) that ninety percent of new communities don't make it for more than a few years.  You can look at this two ways.  One is to say, 'Why bother? It's not likely to last very long.'  The other is to think, if we want to have more communities we're going to need to build a lot of them.  If nine out of ten of them don't succeed, then if we get a hundred new communities going, chances are ten of them are going to work and that's ten more new communities.

Someone at Twin Oaks confronted me with the arrogance and egotism of starting new communities (as opposed to just joining one).  Yet if no one started TO, she wouldn't be able to be there enjoying the place.  In fact, one of the founders, Kat Kinkade, helped start three successful communities: Twin Oaks, Acorn, and East Wind.

I'm trying to learn from people like Kat and from communities that are going strong about what works and what doesn't.  One person at Acorn told me that Kat's recipe for community was to grow it fast--get lots of people in and see what evolves.  Another person there suggested that, in order for a community to last, it needs at least five dedicated communitarians (and maybe more like ten).

Living Energy Farm (see my post of 12/8/12 about them) is an example of a community that I suspect will make it--mostly because it has the support of Twin Oaks and Acorn.  As I said in that post, it's rather desolate looking--but it makes me imagine what TO looked like when it started.  I'm also interested in Chubby Squirrels (which I've mentioned in my posts on Communities of Communities, 6/9/12, and The Twin Oaks Community Conference, 9/9/12) and I was able to be part of at least one discussion on it, but currently Paxus (who is the person wanting to build this) is in Europe and won't be back until January.

However, at the Communities Conference I also found out about a community in Pennsylvania that a couple of folks are trying to build, focusing on radical simplicity and eco-sustainability.  After my visit to TO, I went to the small city that they're living in and hung out with them for a week.  I really liked what they're trying to do, but I'm a bit skeptical that they can make it work.  Still,  it's intriguing enough that I'm planning to go back there in March and stay for at least a month or two to see if this could be a place I could help build.

In addition,  Vera (who runs the blog 'Leaving Babylon' and has been visiting the northern Missouri communities--Dancing Rabbit, Sandhill, Red Earth Farm, and the Possibility Alliance--again, see my post on Communities of Communities for more on them) has connected me with someone who wants to build an ecovillage in New England.  I'm planning on meeting with him next week and learning details.

When I told my brother-in-law that I might be spending my next little while traveling between New England, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, helping out with communities here and there, he said that I sounded like one of the old circuit-riding preachers.  I sort of feel like that, too.  It's not what I planned on, and I'd still like to settle down in an FEC style community in New England (if I can help one emerge), but meanwhile, I'm facing a life on the road for the foreseeable future.  I just think that if I can add my energy to some of these endeavors, it might make a difference.  I can only try.  Hopefully, I'll report here how things turn out.

Quote of the Day: "Living or working with people does not guarantee community; it takes intentionality and developed skills to build and maintain ongoing community." - Harvey Baker, Barbara Lee, and Jeanne Quinn

1 comment:

Austan said...

Go for it, Moony. Intentional communities are today's pioneers. I'm sure you'll find "the one" in the new year. Good luck and blessings.