Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Soul of Soil

I’m here at a co-op house that I usually stay in when I’m in the Boston area and I was looking for something to read.  A novel perhaps?  But I couldn’t find any novels I wanted to read on the co-ops bookshelves.  I was finally settling down with a book on “libertarian paternalism”, when I happened to spot The Soul of Soil on an out of the way shelf.

There it was.  Soil chemistry.  Soil biology.  Compost!  I love this stuff.

I’ve written about soil stuff before (see particularly The Story of Soil, 3/13/10, and Soil Science, 7/20/13) but it’s always good finding and reading more.  This book is especially good because it takes a systemic viewpoint.   It talks about organic agriculture, and regenerative agriculture, and even permaculture, but mostly the authors (Grace Gershuny & Joseph Smillie) claim the title ‘ecological agriculture’ for what they do.

The only thing that bothers me is that they sometimes seem to not understand some basic biology.  For example, the authors appear to need to describe everything as either an animal or a plant.  They actually describe fungi as plants that “do not contain chlorophyll”.  This is a system of classification that hasn’t been used in biology since the 1970s.  But their knowledge of chemistry and the various soil critter seems sound and they even point out that the most common variety of earthworm in North America came with the Europeans and “turned out to be better adapted to cultivated conditions than its native predecessor.”

As far as I’m concerned, I can’t read too much about the soil.  I think that taking care of the soil is key to taking care of ourselves, especially when it comes to growing food or any form of plant life.  The authors use the quote: “Feed the soil, not the plant,” and go on to say “soil organisms will provide a balanced diet to crops.”  I’m willing to forgive a lot to anyone who cares this much about the soil a little mistake or two.  (Plus, this is a really fun book to read--at least if you like soil.)

Quote of the Day: “...to understand soil is to be aware of how everything affects and is affected by it.  We are all part of the soil ecosystem.” - Grace Gershuny & Joseph Smillie

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Tale of Another Two Cities

I’m currently staying in Somerville, MA, my old stomping ground, instead of Staten Island, NY, where I currently live.  And I’m thinking about my life shuttling back and forth between two major cities on the east coast of the US.

I’ve talked a bit about my strange feelings about being a New Yorker now.  (See my post, The New New Yorker, 4/21/15.)  It’s a bit weird for me to go back and forth between the Boston area and New York City, but I still do it.  And each place is different.

Boston is what I call a colonial town with reminders everywhere about pre-revolutionary days.  NYC is skyscraper city.  I mean Boston has skyscrapers and New York has early Americana but history is much more predominant in Boston and gigantic new buildings are what dominate in New York.

Boston is The Hub, the ‘Athens of America’, filled with universities, and hospitals, and high technology.  NYC is the Big Apple, the largest city in the country, home of Wall Street and Madison Avenue, high finance and advertising and the fashion industry.  Personally, parts of New York really scare me--especially midtown Manhattan which seems to vibrate, where things are constantly flashing at you (especially, especially Times Square).  

Both cities are walkable and bikeable and have fairly good public transportation.  (Although the T in Boston shuts down at 1am.)  But Boston seems more human sized and New York can seem overwhelming.  There’s a lot to explore in both places and a lot to recommend both places and some pretty wonderful people in both places.

I like taking the Red Line across the Charles between Boston and Cambridge (or biking across the Mass Ave Bridge) and I like taking the Ferry at night and seeing Manhattan and Jersey City lit up--and, of course, the Statue of Liberty--and looking down the hill from Staten Island across the bay to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn.  Both places feel a little like home right now.

Even though I’m living in NYC now, I grew up around Boston and lived much of my adult life here and I imagine (although I can’t know) that someday I’ll come back and start a community here.  Meanwhile, I’m enjoying what both places offer.  I might as well take advantage of the situation.  It’s just what I have to deal with now.


Quote of the Day:  “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Jane Jacobs

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Yuletide Comes

I missed writing a post on Samhain again this year.  Oh well.  I seem to remember at the winter solstice anyway.

And finally it’s getting cold in NYC.  After a December full of 60 degree days, temperatures in the 30s make sense.  While no one actually expects snow before (or even during or right after) Christmas,  it’s beginning to seem like winter.

The Yule (or Jul as they say in Scandinavia--as Wikipedia points out) is a celebration of winter--or rather life flaunting a ostentatious tenacity in winter--and the transformation of darkness back into light.  And we need it right now.  It’s important to remember that the cold and darkness and snow and ice are all part of the cycle of the year that we in temperate climates like so much and that spring and summer will come again.  And again. And again.  And we simply need to wait and appreciate what we have.

You can see all my other posts on Yule, the solstice, and the darkness and light but looking at what I’ve written in previous Decembers.  I think I’ve written a post on this every year that I’ve had the blog.  And I hope to write about this again next year.  Because we need to keep on hoping, keep on struggling, keep on building, keep on working to make a difference.  Through the darkness and cold, and celebrating through all of it.  That’s social alchemy.


Quote of the Day:  "So the shortest day came, and the year died,   And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world,   Came people singing, dancing,   To drive the dark away…”  - Susan Cooper

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Viruses, Lichens, and Slime Molds

Life is weird.  Biologists have a basic understanding of what life is, but then there are all these exceptions  There are all these things that refuse to fit into categories.  

Like viruses.  Are viruses alive?  Depends on your definition of life.  One source refers to them as being "at the edge of life."  Another gets around the question by defining viruses as “A submicroscopic infectious agent that is unable to grow or reproduce outside a host cell.”  It further points out that a virus “is non-cellular but consisting of a core of DNA or RNA surrounded by a protein coat.”  Viruses kind of mess up the idea that there is a big divide between living things and nonliving things.  And viruses are at least closer to life than prions which still manage to cause disease in spite of not having any genetic material.

And then there’s lichens.  Lichens are not plants.  Above all, they are not mosses, although they sometimes look like them and even occasionally have names like reindeer moss that would make you think they are mosses.  They are not even one particular kind of living thing.  They are a ‘mutualistic symbiosis’, a composite of a fungi and either an alga or a cyanobacterium, and these two organisms are so intertwined that they act like a single organism.  Sometimes the organisms can not live on their own and other times they can but they look very different. One lichenologist described lichens as “...fungi that have discovered agriculture".  Lichens blur the boundary between the different ‘kingdoms’ of life: fungi, plants, and animals.

Finally there are slime molds.   The slime molds also don’t fit in a clear ‘kingdom’ model.  But what makes them really interesting is that they are a single celled creature that occasionally aggregates into a multicellular being and ends up looking something like a slug.  They’re found on every continent and seem to get everywhere.  They can find things in mazes and imitate highway systems.  Scientist love them.  (And I wrote about them in my post on Emergence on 6/10/15.)

Alive?  One thing or a conglomerate?  Uni- or multi-cellular? Life sometime just refuses to fit into easy categories.

Life is weird.  Life is wonderful.


Quote of the Day: “Everybody knows what a caterpillar is, and it doesn't look anything like a butterfly.” - Lynn Margulis

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Top Four Learnings

So what have I learned from all these communities?

If I was going to build a new community (and I do hope to build a community here in NYC soon), I would love to have a place that combined the Radical Sharing from Twin Oaks, the No Blame Philosophy of Ganas, the Clearness Process that they use at Acorn, and the attitude of Openness to Experimentation that seems to hold at Dancing Rabbit.  I think that using these four things could help start an awesome community.

I know that there’s lots of other useful stuff on these lists, and I’m not sure that’s all that I’d use in creating a new community, but that’s where I’d start for community building.

I hope that you’ve found these lists useful as well.  As I said, each of these communities has been around for over twenty years (and in the case of Twin Oaks, almost fifty), so I’m sure there’s a lot that can be learned from each of them

As far as I’m concerned the most useful part of this exercise was focusing what I could learn from each community rather than worrying about what didn’t work.  Every community has some things that don’t work but I think it’s important to focus on what we can learn from each one. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives of a situation, and not notice all the good things that are being offered.

Quote of the Day:   "The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well." - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dancing Rabbit: Ten Learnings

I was only at Dancing Rabbit for one three week visit, but there were a bunch of things that impressed me.  Here’s my list of things anyone could learn from DR:

  1. Commitment to Ecological Living Everyone at DR follows six Ecological Covenants and they’re pretty strict about it.
  2. Openness to Experimentation They have a wide variety of housing from immaculately constructed strawbale and earth-bermed houses to fanciful domes and old school buses and grain silos.  They talk about the fact that they are “housed in a variety of living arrangements, eat a variety of foods, and work on varied projects.”  They also talk about being flexible, and they are.
  3. Land Use Planning  I attended a workshop on their land use planning (see my post on Land Use Planning, 5/31/13) and it was fascinating.
  4. No Flush Toilets At least no water based ones.  Although almost all of the toilets at DR are humanure (see my post on Humanure, 1/10/13), the The Milkweed Mercantile (see #10) has a more conventional looking toilet that is actually a composting toilet.  At DR nothing goes to waste.
  5. Skill-Based Classes in Visitors Program  The numerous workshops (see my post on Thoughts as I Leave Dancing Rabbit, 6/14/13, for a list of them) were all focused on things you need to learn to build an ecological community.  Great for anyone who wants to become a member there, but also really good for anyone interested in building community anywhere.
  6. Women’s and Men’s Groups  Important and helpful.  I participated in a men’s group while I was visiting DR and found it very useful.  I mentioned this in my post on Some ‘Software’ Tools, 10/23/15.
  7. Work Parties  In addition to all the skill based classes they hold for visitors, they also have work parties where, in addition to practicing skills, you help build needed stuff there.
  8. Four Communal Cars  That’s it.  Four.  For 70 people.
  9. Connections with Very Different Local Communities It’s cool that Dancing Rabbit, an ecovillage with a variety of lifestyles shares the small town of Rutledge, MO, with an agricultural income-sharing commune from the 1970s (Sandhill Farm, see my post of 6/8/13) and a community that is basically a patchwork of homesteads (see Red Earth Farms, 6/4/13).  The three communities cooperate and work with each other and they are only 40 miles away from another, quite different community: the Still Waters Sanctuary (also known as The Possibility Alliance, which I wrote about on 6/11/13) which they also occasionally cooperate with.
  10. Ecological Inn  The Milkweed Mercantile is a strawbale constructed building powered by solar and wind with a cafĂ© and general store and a couple of very friendly inn-keepers.  Since Dancing Rabbit hopes to eventually be a small town, this inn is one of their early businesses.

Next: My top four learnings from this series…

Quote of the Day:  “Dancing Rabbit is an intentional community. That means that we are a group of people working together toward shared goals. … The communities movement is a rich subculture, emphasizing creative approaches to living, cooperative systems and culture, and deliberate consideration of the impact on others (and often the planet) in how we live our daily lives. - from the Dancing Rabbit website



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Acorn: Ten Learnings

I’ve been to Acorn several times during the last three years, for two or three weeks at a time, and I’m always impressed with the energy and creativity of the place.

  1. The Clearness Process This is related to but different from the Quaker process.  At Acorn this is a way to make sure that people are ‘clear’ with each other by checking in with every member.  I think it’s pretty effective.
  2. The Seed Business  Acorners run Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which is a company focused on selling heirloom seeds and ecologically grown seeds.
  3. Young Energy  While there are some folks there in their forties, fifties, and sixties, there is a significant clump of folks in their twenties who bring a lot of ideas and enthusiasm and willingness to try new things.  
  4. Consensus Decision Making  I’ve heard folks complaining that consensus is difficult to do in groups larger than a dozen and that it’s not done in newer communities (they’re talking about anything not formed in the sixties and seventies).  Acorn has thirty members and was formed in 1993 and makes all decisions by consensus--and has done very well with this.
  5. The Rec Collective  A cute little building where someone put six bunks on the wall to house short term folks.  (See my post on Becoming MoonRaven, Sleeping Submarine Style, and Other Tales from the Communes, 3/21/15.)
  6. The New Seed Building  This houses SESE and has all the offices and packing and picking facilities.  Plus it has a gorgeous mural that was created with help from members of the Little Flower Catholic Worker house. I think it’s a great looking building (and the photo shows the building, mural, and a bunch of Acorn members).
  7. Goats & Pigs & Chickens & Dogs & Cats & Rabbits  If you like animals, they have them at Acorn--all of the above plus a lonely cow that wandered into the place and they house with the goats.
  8. Using Bamboo  They planted bamboo as a privacy screen and it got out of control (as it often does).  As a result, they’ve used bamboo to create all kinds of structures, from canopies above stages to bike sheds.
  9. More Options for Non-Members   Where most places just have visitors, and Twin Oaks has two categories: Visitors (who are in a structured visiting program) and Guests (who are people hosted while they’re there by members), Acorn has both of these plus Interns (who stay for longer periods) and Associates (who are semi-members that are at Acorn part time)
  10. More Open to Non-Member Involvement  Acorn is also more flexible about what non-members can do.  For example, at Twin Oaks, only members are supposed to be able to use ‘Commie Clothes’, but at Acorn, it’s open to visitors, guests, etc.

Next, ten learnings from Dancing Rabbit

Quote of the Day:  "An egalitarian, income-sharing, secular, anarchist, feminist, consensus-based intentional community. Supporting radical sharing, positive communication, compassion, consent culture, sustainability, and anti-oppression activism. Living free of hierarchy and coercion." - Description of Acorn Community from their website


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Twin Oaks: Ten Learnings

I’ve been through two three-week visitor programs at Twin Oaks and then guested there for nearly a month.  I’m almost always inspired by all that they’re doing.

Here’s ten things I think any community could learn from Twin Oaks:

  1. The O & I Board This is a set of hanging clipboards which is one of the main methods of communication at Twin Oaks.  Someone puts out a proposal and other people comment on it.  Members read these faithfully to know what’s going on and these highly influence decision making.
  2. Radical Sharing  If it can be shared, Twin Oaks will try to figure out a way to share it.  Income, cars, tools, workshops, musical instruments, clothing, bicycles, among other things.  
  3. Public/Private Options   For clothing and bicycles at least, TO allows you to share or not share.  If it’s public, it’s maintained by the community.  If it’s private, you need to maintain it.
  4. Separate Building for Visitor’s Program  At Acorn and Dancing Rabbit, I stayed in tents when I was visiting.  TO has a building (Aurora) just to house visitors, so all visitors stay together in comfortable quarters
  5. Visitors as Small Living Group  The visitors all arrive together and are encouraged to see themselves as a little mini-community.  Many of the houses at Twin Oaks are thought of as ‘Small Living Groups’ (and a couple of the houses have two different SLGs), so TO suggests visitors form a temporary SLG while they are there as a way to experience community.
  6. Lovely, Big Dining Hall  TO has a spacious central dining facility known as Zhankoye (or ZK).  They also use it for parties and celebrations.  It’s a focal point for connection at the community.  They try not to do too much business stuff there and have one table devoted to having fun conversations (also known as ‘the fun table’).
  7. Diversity of Businesses Unlike Acorn (with its seed business) and Ganas (with their thrift shops) TO has a true diversity of ways they bring in income: hammocks, tofu, tempeh, indexing, ornamentals, wholesaling seeds for Acorn, and contracting services (and probably a few I’m not aware of).  They started off dependent on hammock but have really decided not to put all their eggs in one basket.
  8. Music!  TO also supports member’s creativity.  As far as music goes, I mentioned that they have public instruments anyone can practice on.  They also have many bands and groups, including lots of rock bands, singing and choral groups, and (until recently) even had a community klezmer band.
  9. Organized gardening  The community has many greenhouses and gardens and has regular gardening crews.  They grow a large percentage of their food.  Pam (the garden manager) has written a book on Sustainable Market Farming.
  10. It’s the oldest, most successful secular egalitarian income sharing community in the US  I often start talking about TO by mentioning the myth that all those communes from the 60s are long gone.  Started in 1967, they have around 90 adult members and 15 children and a waiting list to get in.  I think they are an example of what a community can look like after nearly fifty years of evolving.

Next, ten learnings from Acorn.

Quote of the Day: “Bumper Sticker for an Income Sharing Community:  ‘My other car isn't mine either’ “ - From the Twin Oaks website

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ganas: Ten Learnings

This list was the start of this series.  I was thinking about what positive things you could learn from Ganas (after living here for a bit over six months) and without thinking too much about it I came up with ten things.  Here they are:

1)  Openness to Dealing with Conflict and experience doing it Conflict is going to happen at any community but I’m impressed with the fearlessness they have about dealing with it at Ganas.
2)  A No Blame Philosophy Ganas likes to think about problems and solutions to them, rather than trying to figure out who’s to blame in a situation
3)  Abiding by just four rules On the Ganas website they claim: “Since we deal with problems daily in open discussion, we are able to limit ourselves to only 4 rules:
1) Non-violence to people or things; 2) No free rides (everybody is required to work productively or pay their expenses); 3) No illegality (including illegal drugs); 4) This rule requires that people bring their complaints about the community or people in it to the group, where the problems can be discussed and resolved with the people involved. The reason for Rule 4 is that the community suffers when negativity is presented as non-negotiable fact in private or public venues.
People breaking one of these rules will be asked to leave.”
4)  Visitors Dinner  Every Friday night they invite visitors to come and talk about themselves and ask questions about Ganas
5)  Residents Dinner On Wednesday nights, Ganas holds a forum during dinner where people can talk about issues.  They often use a ‘question bowl’ where people write down a questions they have and one is pulled randomly from a bowl and discussed.
6)  Regular Birthday Celebrations  This is a major fun activity at Ganas.  When it’s your birthday, you can design the festivities and Ganas will try to accommodate.  (Limitations apply, naturally.)
7)   Food Chain  Every Tuesday night dinner is interrupted by this community building activity.  It makes me really feel part of a cooperative effort.  (For more on this, see my post Food Chain! on 4/27/15.)
8)  Courtyard/Gardens/Inter-house Layout  From the street, the Ganas buildings don’t stand out, but there are non-obvious walkways between them in the front and a big shared yard and gardens behind them.  It’s very well done.
9)  Businesses  The clothing, furniture, and book stores are all pretty different from one another and yet very similar.  As someone pointed out, these all focus on recycling as they sell donated and used items.  The businesses are part of the commercial area of the ‘North Shore’ of Staten Island, and so connect Ganas to the larger community.
10) Most successful community in NYC New York is the largest US city and while it has many little collectives and cooperative households in it, as far as I know this is the largest, longest running secular community in the city.  They’ve been here 35 years, have more than 70 folks, have a long waiting list, and seem to be going strong, all in a challenging urban environment.

Next, ten learnings from Twin Oaks.

Quote of the Day:  “Our purpose is to bring reason and emotion together in daily problem solving, in order to create our world, with love, the way we want it to be.” - from the Ganas website

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Community Learnings, an Introduction

In my last post, Some 'Software' Tools, I wrote that I was focusing “on tools used at Twin Oaks, Acorn, Ganas, and Dancing Rabbit because these are all places  I've spent some time at and all of them have been running 20+ years and all  seem to be going strong.”  Having spent a bit of time at each of these places, I’ve been thinking of what I could learn from each of them.

Part of my thinking is that it’s easy to be critical and look at what’s wrong with places (and I could find fault with any one of these, or any place else for that matter) but I think it’s more important to look at what works.  Part of this is a follow up from my last series, again focusing on what works at successful communities as a source for people building communities to think about.  And one of my inspirations was something Paxus talked about long ago when he was considering starting a new community.  His idea was to use what he called Best Practices.  In a sense I started thinking about the Best Practices at each of these communities.

I started with the community I’m now at, Ganas.  I sat down one afternoon and without thinking hard I came up with a list of ten useful things I think any community could learn from Ganas.  Then I went on and listed ten things for Twin Oaks, and Acorn, and Dancing Rabbit.  

So my posts for the few weeks will be these lists.  Since they’re already written, I promise they will come quickly.  (Not my current weeks or months.)

Quote of the Day:  “The human condition is that we are individuals in relationship, and there are tensions between individuality and relatedness.”  - Jone Johnson Lewis

Friday, October 23, 2015

Some ‘Software’ Tools

In my last post, I talked about the need for communities to deal with the ‘software’ (people and relationships) as well as the hardware.  I still hear a lot of people who are planning community worrying about things like money and property more than how they will find and keep community members.  But I think that many communities never succeed because they don’t have the people power.  In my last post I also mentioned a community attempt that had all sorts of great stuff, but basically consisted of two people, a couple.  I personally know of at least two other situations just like this, where a ‘community’ with great ideas was basically a heterosexual couple and having difficulty growing beyond this.  My sense is that there are hundreds of situations like this, where there is either one person or a couple (and I know of at least one situation where it was a gay male couple).  Lots of them have great ideas and even the know-how to do the hardware.  But how do you go from ideas to community?

I’ve recently been reading a book on Twin Oaks, Living the Dream, by Ingrid Komar--one of three books on the community and the only one not written by Kat Kinkade (a founder).  While this isn’t my favorite book on the subject, I did notice that Ingrid Komar devoted a chapter to ‘The Many Support Systems of Twin Oaks’.  One reason that I think Twin Oaks (and other long term communities) do well is that they provide support for their members, ‘software tools’ so to speak.

Twin Oaks has lots of support systems, as does Acorn (especially their clearnesses but they also use transparency tools and parties and games) and Ganas (which focuses on ‘feedback learning’ but also has lots of birthday parties and the occasional NVC or transparency tools group) and Dancing Rabbit (where they talk about ‘inner sustainability’ and have women’s groups and men’s groups among other things).  I will focus on tools used at Twin Oaks, Acorn, Ganas, and Dancing Rabbit because these are all places I’ve spent some time at and all of them have been running 20+ years and all seem to be going strong.  And they all use some of these tools.

Here’s a list of some tools.  This list isn’t comprehensive but it should give folks who are interested in building communities some idea of what’s available to help with people and relationships. Take this as a beginning, and know that there’s lots more stuff available.  Remember: you can’t build community without people.  It sounds obvious, but I have seen so many places where folks were worried about everything else.  And then they wondered why no community was happening.  Maybe the most important thing is to support and encourage people and to have fun.  If you’re dour and intense and discouraging, I don’t think you’re going to succeed.


  • Listening  I think this is the first and most important tool.  I believe even that if you only are able to listen well to each other, it will take you a long way.

  • The Clearness Process  I’m referring to the Acorn version where people check in with each other to make sure that things are okay between them.  Simple but very useful.

  • NonViolent Communication   It’s more than the four step process that many people learn first and it begins with the desire to really understand and connect with another.

    
  • Twelve Step Groups  Again, a peer approach, this one primarily useful with addiction and dependency issues, but really looking at the human condition.  (Like it or not we are all more powerless than we care to admit.)
    
  • The Seven Habits  I’ve written in extensively in this blog about the Seven Habits, ending with the posts Synergize!, 9/15/11, and Sharpening the Saw,  2/21/12.

  • Transparency Tools  This is a collection of techniques for getting to know people better.  It may simplistic, but often it’s more revealing than expected.
 
  • ZEGG Forum This comes from the ZEGG community in Germany and is a process that has influenced many communities, including Ganas and the Network For a New Culture.

  • Parties/Dances  Having fun is important.  Parties, dances, etc, let people relax and interact--often to great music.  Why would you join a community where no one has fun?

  • Games  Another way to have fun.  Games played as a group--both competitive and cooperative--can help build community.  These can include team sports, board games, and role-playing games.  Ultimate frisbee is popular at Twin Oaks and Magic and Dungeons and Dragons are often played at Acorn.  I think the game Pandemic is a great community building game.

  • Team Building  Games (as above) but also specific exercises and particularly the experience of working on a project together can be very community building.

  • Women’s Groups/Men’s Groups  They have these at Dancing Rabbit and Twin Oaks and are helpful building safety as well as cohesion.

  • Other Identity Groups  Particularly for social category that’s a minority within a community (queer folks, people of color, etc) having a group restricted to folks in that category can, again, build safety and cohesion.  You want to avoid an us vs them mentality but use the groups to build strength to work within the community.  Sometimes fishbowls are helpful to help others outside the group learn what it’s like for people within the group.

  • Spiritual Practices These include prayer, meditation, chanting, Sufi dancing, Jewish and Pagan Rituals, Quaker and church meetings and services, and even humanist/agnostic gatherings.

  • Discussions  Acorn has two meetings a week, the business meeting, and an evening discussion where they pick a single topic and discuss it but make no decisions.  Ganas has had some success with a Residents Dinner where folks ask questions and the group tries to answer it.  What’s important is that these aren’t business meetings.   People just get to hear each other talk about things they think are important.

  • Intentional Community Organizations  There are a bunch of these including the FIC, FEC, the Cohousing Network, GEN, NASCO, and Point A.  I’ve also written about the phenomena of Communities of Communities, 6/9/12.  Because even communities need social networking.

  • Group Works  A deck of cards with each card giving info on a different group process.  You can use them systematically to learn a whole lot of group techniques or randomly for inspiration.

As I said, this is far from all of the possibilities.  Perhaps it’s only a beginning.  But I’m hoping it’s a good place to start, particularly if you have a group focused on all the ‘hardware’ of community building and ignoring the ‘software’.  

Quote of the Day: “The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation -- or a relationship.” - Deborah Tannen