Friday, October 16, 2015

‘Hardware’ vs ‘Software’

One night at Ganas, we had a discussion about sustainability and someone started talking about the difference between what he called the 'hardware' and the 'software'. (Obviously he was a computer person, but we all started using the terminology.)  The hardware, in this case, is all those cool eco-things: solar panels and gardens and greywater systems and ... (the list is very long).  The software is the people and relationships (and community).

Twin Oaks doesn't focus much on sustainability. They have a few solar panels and (as I mentioned) one half of one house that's off the grid. But when someone did an energy audit on them, they found that TO produces almost 80% less carbon emissions than what the average American produces--and that's because they share so much. On the other hand, I recently went on a tour of a 'community' that had tons of amazing 'eco-groovy' stuff. I was pretty impressed with all of it and learned about a bunch of things I didn't know. But I noticed that, other than the folks on the tour, there was no one there. Someone asked about how many full time members there were and the tour guide admitted there were two, him and his wife. Obviously they weren't doing well with the 'software'.

So communities that succeed, are communities that get the software right.

One of my interests in communities is as laboratories for social change.  In a sense, you could look at the whole Soviet Union as a social change experiment that demonstrated that communism doesn't work--at least if it's done from the top down. On the other hand, communism seems to be working very well at Twin Oaks (and Acorn, etc). Someone wrote a comment in an article about Twin Oaks (that they didn't seem to have read very well) that Twin Oaks wasn't going to work. But this kind of communism been working at TO for nearly fifty years
and they're going strong. It works there and Twin Oaks works.

I think of intentional communities as small enough experiments so that if something doesn't work, the community simply comes apart, people move on, hopefully we learn something, and few people are hurt. (Contrast that with what happened with the USSR.)

This is why I see community building as my social change work. I want to be part of creating working alternatives--to see what works and what doesn't and to create those simple systems (communities) out of which we can grow a new society.   But one thing I do know, getting the ‘software’ (the people and relationships) working is as important (if not more important) than getting the hardware to work.  The best designed community won’t work if it doesn’t attract and take care of people.

Next: Some ‘software’ tools.

Quote of the Day:  “Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”  - Margaret Wheatley


vera said...

Looking forward to your software post. :-)

MoonRaven said...

Thank you, Vera.

It's taking me longer than I thought (mostly because I'm also working on a lot of other stuff) but I am working on it and hopefully I'll be publishing it soon.