How to Build a Community

During the recent Permaculture Voices conference there was a workshop and a group question: How do I connect with the right people, how do I properly communicate, and how do I create/find community? Not a perfect question but that's okay.

Here's my mostly off the cuff response:

Building community: Don’t let others inform your reality in terms of who you connect with…toss the net out far, wide, and deep! The more diverse the people, the more diverse the views, the more complete and accurate picture we have of the world around us. Have a GoPro camera view of the world rather than a Polaroid. A rich, dynamic, full color, gazillion pixel view!

And going a bit deeper:

The whole question of community and how do we “create community” can be a loaded question:

  •  Your idea of community and my idea of community might be completely different. Community to me in simple terms is a network of people who create a web of support. We do not have to love each other and in fact it’s great if we disagree from time to time and live very different lifestyles.
  • The question behind the question of community (or under the question or lurking in the back room) can be around diversity. What do we mean by diversity? This is a tough one and in the interest of not getting anyone too fired up….let’s just say we need to toss the net far, wide, and deep and accept all of the people as part of learning about being human on earth.
  • The word “community” has seemingly become code for inner city, disenfranchised, low income, underrepresented, emigrant, haven’t gotten with the program, and problem. Or community is mistaken for a free loving commune or some group of willy, nilly, hippie-dippie freeloaders.

Now, we can talk until the cows come home. Ride the roller coaster of agree, disagree, agree, disagree. But let’s just jump right in! Permaculture Velocity. There will be mistakes, failures, and learning along the way. Be alert, attentive, and agile to make adjustments. 

Here’s what we did:

We experimented with community during the Permaculture Voices conference. We wanted to demonstrate care of people and care of the earth as well as return of the surplus.

We hosted eight permies and somehow we all shared one kitchen and one bathroom plus a humanure toilet. That’s a total of ten adults including Dale and  me!

We didn’t select any of the permies. We didn’t know any of the permies before the pop-up community. We didn’t filter. We didn’t require applications or references or even identification! For three weeks we worked getting everything organized and designing to prevent issues, problems, confusion, and so on: charger station (check), additional seating and relaxation areas (check), shower sign-up board (check), additional towels, hand towels, wash cloths, plates, bowls, mugs, and silverware (check), rearranging the furniture (check), toiletries in case someone forget a toothbrush or sun screen (check), menu and food (check), beer and tequila (check)…seriously the list was three pages long. And just when you think we’ve lost our minds… here’s some of the bounty we received from the permies who stayed with us:

  • 15 fresh goose eggs from Texas. Thank you, Triple!
  • A connection to another urban homestead in the LA area. Thank you, Janice.
  • A connection to one of the PV2 speakers I admire…and a great conversation with him! Thanks again, Triple!
  • Help cleaning up and putting things away after the pop-up community. Thank you, Darren!
  • A personal revelation and moving moment over a piece of gold mining core. Thank you, Adrienne!
  • And finally, working the same property for 7 years can lead to the inability to see solutions…Adrian revealed so much about how we can address the drought conditions further in our landscape, saving me hours and hours of work! Thank you, Adrian.

We composted kitchen debris and humanure, conserved water, carpooled and rode bicycles, and enjoyed organic food. Extra food was shared with other permies, friends, and neighbors.

And based on the feedback survey responses, people enjoyed the experience.

Side note:

As a participant in the inter-human breakout group at Permaculture Voices, I would like to point out that the three-part inter-human question resulted when we were not able to distill the community question further in the time allotted. It’s my impression that “right people” was not intended to imply some people were wrong but rather how do I find people for real connection rather than a passing fancy. I’m not entirely clear what “how do I properly communicate” meant to the contributor so I passed on addressing that aspect of the question.