Administrator's blog

Radical Resource Sharing

Announcing this years theme for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference!


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,, 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.

More conferences on community, cooperation, and sustainability

dome web the far

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!


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

Schedule for the Monday program

C.T. Butler will be facilitating this dynamic program.  Check out the schedule here!


Image by Faruk Soyarat

7 reasons to come to the Communities Conference instead of Burning Man

by Paxus

Tragically for some of us, the Communities Conference and Burning Man both happen over Labor Day weekend. Burning Man is a 50,000 person festival which happens in the middle of the dessert in Nevada and is transformational for many of its participants. Here is a comic review of why you should choose the Communities Conference instead.

1) You dont want Playa dust in everything you own for the next month. Try as everyone does, the incredibly fine desert sand follows BM participants home and gets into everything they own.

2) It turns out sleep is important to you. The party goes on 24/7 in Nevada, and the blaring techno music can be heard across the entire temporary city.

3) You can’t get tickets to Burning Man. The event is sold out, and it is extremely hard to get tickets. The Communities Conference still has plenty of spaces and you can register here.

4) You can actually afford to go to the Communities Conference. Registration is still a unusually reasonable $90 – $130 for camping out. Burning Man is $400 for the ticket alone, and easily more than $1000 to get there and be equipped]

5) You don’t need to figure out a complicated costume to come to the Communities Conference, though feel free to bring one if you want!

dont forget your batteries

dont forget your batteries








6) This month you are more interested in building sustainable collective connections than energy intensive art expressions.

7) If you have seen one massive pyrotechnic explosion demonstration you have seen them all.

New Registration Option – New Economics Monday Program

If you can’t come for the whole weekend you can now register to come just for the New Economics Symposium on Monday, September 2nd!  $40 gets you access to the day’s program as well as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Local currencies, barter networks, Time Banks, co-operative businesses: the New Economy has been around for a long time.  With peak oil, climate change, and casino capitalism looming large, more and more people are seeking and creating a system based on cooperation and sustainability, people before profits, social justice and equality.

Join presenters Lyle Estill, Carol Peppe Hewitt, Solidarity Piedmont, the Baltimore Free Farm, Casa Alma and others for the Monday program of the Communities Conference at Twin Oaks Community.  It will be a dynamic and high powered day exploring the big picture of new economics, stories from the front lines, and topics such as financing and development, mapping and networking, and neighborhood integration.

Register here, either for the whole weekend or just for the New Economics Monday program.

Urban Homesteading or Transparency Tools? YOU decide!

Howdy folks!  We here at conference-organizing central are putting the final touches on our awesome workshop lineup.  Its getting quite tight and we will need to make some tough decisions.  Since this conference is for YOU, we thought we’d seek your input as we finalize the workshops.

So here the deal.  Urban Homesteading Panel, or Transparency Tools Workshop?  There’s a bit more info about each below, and a poll for you to weigh in.  Thanks so much for your help!


Urban Homesteading An all-star panel of local and non-local folks who are on the front-lines of this exciting movement!  Topics may include: urban gardening, raising chickens (meat or eggs), tapping into waste streams, seed starting, fall gardening, soap making, canning and putting food by, etc.

Transparency Tools Build on the Friday night teaser and add to your toolbox of relationship-building skills.  How do you build and strengthen relationships in a community context, or amongst a group of people who are interested in creating a new community?We will give you the tools and some first-hand experience of how to use them.



4 Kinds of Participants and the Questions to Ask Them

by Paxus Calta
Generally speaking there are four different types of people who go to the communities conference:

  1. Communards (who are likely seeking new members for their communities),
  2. Prospective community members (looking for places they might live)
  3. People starting new communities
  4. People are are curious about communities (but are stable where they are)

Communards:  Perhaps 1/3 of the people who come to the communities conference are already members of formed communities.  Last year 27 communities were represented at this event, mostly located in the North Eastern portion of the US with a smattering of other locations including Costa Rica, California and Germany.  The communards often come to recruit for their community and talk shop with communards from other communities.  The first place you will likely see communards (who you dont already know) is the Meet the Community gathering on Saturday morning.  Where they will present about their home in 90 seconds.  If you are talking to people who are in community, regardless of your status, the two most useful questions you can ask are:

  1. What is great about your community that causes you to stay there
  2. What needs changing in your community and what is your strategy for change

These questions will not only give you insight into this specific community, but they will help you to understand how communities work and fail and what type of things bring satisfaction and trouble to community living.  The other thing about these questions is that everyone who has lived in community for longer than a couple of months usually has well thought out answers to them.  These questions allow you to jump in and start a deep conversation with people who are living experts in this lifestyle.

Solidarity/New Economics Symposium

These seedlings will be planted in the garden soon!

The Monday program is starting to take shape!  This is going to be a high powered and dynamic day covering a wide range of topics about Solidarity/New Economics. We’ve got a range of presenters confirmed that we’re very excited about.  We’ll get to hear stories from the front lines by groups including The Baltimore Free FarmCasa Alma, and The Midden.

Community Autonomy_1We’ll get a regional perspective from Solidarity Piedmont, who are doing some interesting online mapping of the new economy in their region. We’ll also have a presentation by Lyle Estill, author of several books and co-founder of several businesses, who will help give us the big picture.


The program will be a mix of presentations, panel discussions and knowledge cafe-style interactions by presenters and participants alike.  While we will have some straight ahead presentations we also want to draw out the wide range of wisdom and experience that we know many of the participants will bring.


Workshop Lineup

DSC_0001Our lineup of workshops is shaping up to be a pretty exciting range of offerings this year.  Here are some titles to intrigue you.  Click on the links to see the descriptions and presenter bios:


How the Five Principles of Sharing Housing Leads to Happy Housemates and Connected Communities  By Annamarie Pluhar

Online Storytelling: How to Build Your Community or Cause with Modern Tools  By Janel Healy,  Online Communications Project Manager at Occidental Arts & Ecology Center in California


Zones of Intimacy Understanding Personal and Group Social Dynamics in a Permaculture Context   By Lee Walker Warren, Co-founder and Co-director of the School of Integrated Living at Earthaven Ecovillage in NC

Permaculture in Community  By Kimchi Rylander of Earthaven Ecovillage

Transparency Tools–Conference Kick-off!

I think that there are two extreme philosophies of community building. The first is the Field of Dreams Model: if you build it (buildings, infrastructure, gardens) they (community members) will come. The second is the Take Care of the Relationships Model. The relationships between the people building the community are the most important thing, and the strength of the community depends on the strength of these relationships and their ability to successfully work through conflicts. If the relationships are strong, any other problem is manageable by the group. This is of course an incredibly reductivist view of community and naturally both elements are crucial to successful community building. But I think that the elements of the Relationships Model tends to get overlooked more frequently than the elements of the Field of Dreams Model. People get excited about a shared vision and shared values, and in all the excitement this vital piece can get overlooked; often with detrimental results down the line.

ListeningSo how do you build and strengthen relationships in a community context? Or amongst a group of people who are interested in creating a new community? That’s what the Conference’s Friday night teaser will start diving into. We will give you first-hand experience of these tools, and start building our little weekend Communities Conference Community right off the bat. There will also be an entire workshop block dedicated to this topic, and likely some Open Space options as well. To get your juices flowing, here are some examples of relationship building tools for a community context.

Communities Conference Inspirations

Thanks Nexus (ex-Twin Oaker) for creating this video for us!

5 ways to get the most out of the Communities Conference

by Paxus

1. Reconsider your living situation.  If you let it, the Communities Conference can really shake you up.  Daring people who are trying new or untested lifestyles are presenting or in attendance.  Step outside your comfort zone a bit and start from the assumption that you could live somewhere else, or with other people and see what this event has to offer and demonstrate.  Let go of the assumption that your next year has to look like your last year and go back to your own personal values.  What do you really care about?  How could this be better experienced in your daily living situation?

2. Chat with a rock star.  There are a bunch of inspiring personalities at the Communities Conference and they are more accessible in this relaxed 3 day event than they are at most times in their busy lives.  Seek out the people who say something that excited you and ask to have lunch or a more private chat with them.  If this is your first time attending, read the entire set of workshop descriptions upon arrival and find out which presenters sound like they are doing stuff you are excited about and then get any of the event organizers to point that person out to you.  This conversation might just change your life.

Another Neighborhood Is Possible

dsni logoMy mission to seek out interesting examples of innovative community building recently brought me to Boston where I was fortunate to be given a tour of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Wow!

By 1984 over 20% of properties in the Dudley Neighborhood triangle were abandoned.   Many had been burned by their owners for insurance money, and many had become trash dumps.  The neighborhood had also suffered from divestment, and redlining. DSNI was created to empower the diverse residents of the neighborhood to take control of redevelopment so that it served the people and not the interests of developers.

dsni property map

Early Bird Discount extended – New workshops added

IMG_2850 copy

We’re extending the Early Bird discount.  Prices will now go up on June 16th.  The jump will be about $15 per night/option.  Basically, if you’re staying Friday and Saturday nights the rate will go up $15, and then add $15 more for Sunday and Monday nights each.  But you’ve got two more weeks to take advantage of the lower price!


We’ve got two more confirmed workshops for ya!  Annamarie Pluhar, author of Sharing Housing will give us a workshop on the Principles of Happy Housemating.  Also Twin Oaks’ own Paxus and Roberto will lead a workshop on Transparency Tools.

Other workshops in the works are Urban Homesteading, Activism and Community, andFossil Fuel Free Living.

Rates go up in 17 days!!

The last day for our Early Bird Discount will by May 31st, so if you know you’re coming you should register by then!

Current rates can be found here.  Basic rates for staying Friday and Saturday nights are $75 for camping, $155 for the Sophia House retreat center, and $175 for the Aurora Visitor Cabin.

IMG_2956 copy

This is how you may look if you miss the Early Bird Discount.

Rates will increase by $15 on June 1st! That’s $15 more Friday and Saturday nights.  The additional fees for staying additional nights will also go up by $15 each.

Rates will go up again 1 week before the event.

Up-coming Likeminded Events

The Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy is in July!

Held in Philadelphia, July 26 – 28, their theme this year is, “Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities” – Democratic Community Economic Development Through Worker Ownership.

“We have a voice in our own communities’ economic development through democratic workplaces!  Democratic workplaces – such as worker-owned cooperatives – are growing in many ways as a viable alternative to a society that lacks meaningful humanizing jobs and democracy in everyday life.”

And one more event, up in Vermont this June!

Connecting Community Visions

June 15th at Wheelock Mountain Farm in Wheelock, Vermont

A gathering to explore politically and socially focused intentional housing communities.  Come join us for a day of workshops and storytelling.  Come share your ideas and skills to make us all stronger. Everyone invited to come early on Friday night June 14th for informal storytelling, potluck dinner, networking and socializing.  There are several indoor places to sleep and lots of space for camping. An additional donation of $10-$15 and a head’s up to is requested of people staying Friday night.

Call for Workshop Proposals

Help us put on an amazing conference!  Got a great idea for a workshop to present?  Send us a proposal.

We are looking for dynamic presenters who can offer interactive and/or engaging workshops.  The focus of the event is on intentional communities, but we also have workshops on other forms of cooperative living and working, as well as other alternative lifestyle topics.  There is of course limited space in our schedule of workshops, so if you’re proposal is not selected you can also present it in our Open Space sessions on Sunday.

Resource-sharing panel discussion

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.

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.


The Baltimore Free Farm!

sign3510Sky and I went up to the Baltimore Free Farm last week to share our communities slideshow and drum up excitement for the Communities Conference. We left feeling super jazzed and inspired, enough that we gave a strong invitation to the BFF folks to come down and present at the conference.  No final word on that yet but we’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, here’s their story; or hopefully enough of it to get YOU inspired and excited about them too!


We showed up blind on Wednesday evening and right away it was clear that there’s a lot going on here. A little crew of folks hung out in the bikeshop area, and remnants of Free Food day lingered in front of the door. Across the street was a large garden and a cluster of 3 row houses.

Syndicate content