Sunday, October 20, 2013

The O&I Board

My blog buddy, leavergirl, wrote me last month that someone that we both know who visited Twin Oaks (also known as TO) "described a large bulletin board at TO that helps people stay connected and talking, and to bring up issues. I was wondering if maybe you'd do a post on how that works?"

I replied that I was a bit preoccupied at that point, but would write a post about it in the future.  I also described the board and its uses in my reply to her and I will quote liberally in this post from what I wrote her.

Twin Oaks has a decision making system which is incredibly complex, involving planners, managers, voting, and all kinds of checks and balances, but most things start when someone is concerned about something and they post a paper on the O&I Board.   According to Kat Kinkade, in her book Is It Utopia Yet?,  O&I stands for Opinion and Idea.

The 'board' is actually large three wooden screens with a number of clipboards hanging on each one.  If you've got an idea or a concern, you can write a paper up detailing the issue.  People sign their papers and leave several sheets of paper behind what they wrote.  Other folks read the papers and leave comments on the blank sheets.  (All comments need to be signed as well--TO folks don't like anonymous stuff on their board.)  The planners read the papers on the O and I board to know what's going on in the community.  The comments are very important to giving them a sense of the reactions to these issues--is this something others really approve of or something that there's a lot of different feelings about?  Actually, many members, visitors, and guests, constantly read the O&I board just to get an idea of what's going on.

What makes this work is that this is a norm at Twin Oaks--people are always posting things on the O&I board.  Most of the time all the clipboards or all but one or two are filled, each with a different topic.  In many ways, this is the heart of how communication as well as decision making occurs at Twin Oaks.  I don't think a system like this would be necessary in a much smaller community, but it works well at Twin Oaks.

For more on TO, see my posts Real Models 1:Twin Oaks, 9/30/10, Update 6: Life at Twin Oaks, 12/4/12, and Snow, Darkness, and Fire, 3/13/13.

Quote of the Day:  "We have several communications devices, but the most important by far is called the O&I Board. ... This bulletin board has been in use since 1970. ... Members read the O&I the way many people outside of Community read the daily newspaper, though in our case the 'newspaper' is mostly one big editorial page, with many editors.  It is our custom to attach blank pages to the backs of our papers, so that others can comment on our ideas.  ...  No one has ever declared a limit on the length of a comment, and sometimes they go on for pages.  The norm is shorter than that, and many people limit their comments to a sentence or two, or to ditto marks under someone else's comment.
"Some O&I papers are proposals which will eventually go to the Planners or relevant managers for decision. Planners customarily watch the O&I Board, and if they can see a path of useful action, they will add the current issues to their agenda." - Kat Kinkade