Going to the 2018 CA Co-op Conference

Great newwwwws…  I will be attending this conference to learn some great info to share:

2018 California Co-op Conference, hosted by the California Center for Cooperative Development.

It’s this weekend, April 29‐30, in San Diego.  Conference website

I’m excited to learn more from the workshops:

Legal Entity Options for Worker Cooperatives

Directors Roles and Responsibilities

Making Meetings Awesome

Six Steps for Cooperative Housing Development

Cooperatives in the Age of Social Enterprise

Mediation in Co-ops

Tending to Power Dynamics in our Teams through Democratic Communication and Decision-Making

And the pre-conference session on Sociocracy led by Sheella Mierson, The Sociocracy Consulting Group.  Sociocracy is a whole systems approach to collaborative decision making and governance.

Thanks LATCH Collective for registration funds, and CA Center for Coop Development for a scholarship!   I’ve joined the co-op team of LATCH Collective (LA Tiny Co-built homes). The team is on a path to form an official co-op by this summer.  Will keep you updated on the progress.

 

Should we think about “de-colonizing” our movement?

I recently attended a tele-seminar hosted by Transition US, an organization dedicated to living locally, cooperatively, and with a fossil fuel-free future.  It was called “Decolonizing Resiliency Movements.”  The speaker, Susan Juniper Park, is an Oakland-based activist and community organizer engaged at the crossroads of food, ecological and economic justice efforts.
Susan challenged us to think about the following in our projects: whose ancestral land are we on?  What are these people’s struggles?  Are we building relationships with them?
The information participants learned included many examples of people taking knowledge from indigenous or communities of color and using it without its cultural context or for financial gain.  For example, problems with Permaculture can include:
“…losing the context – whose “technology” is it?  When the knowledge is branded and commodified, who profits?  Is proper recognition and reciprocity provided?  Are relationships built with the communities?”  – Susan Juniper Park, Transition US tele-seminar, Oct 17, 2017.
The information also included being sensitive to terms like “homesteading,” which was how colonists physically claimed the land in North America.  Now, it’s used to refer to producing food and working your land, but the term has been removed from its history.
These problems also extend to housing, when people with more privilege are purchasing land in places where indigenous communities are also struggling to have rights to their homelands.  This is not a topic that comes up when talking about creating our own housing, it can be difficult to think about, and we may not feel we have privilege.  However, this makes sense to me that our work should always be in step with marginalized communities in LA.  Working together ensures that we learn from one another and build strength together.  If we don’t take into account the history of the place we are in, we will not be able to create change in the world the way we envision.

As a person with privilege, I know I have a responsibility to include and support the work of communities of color and indigenous peoples.   I hope members will join me in that goal and share their own insights and energy.

Why are new forms of housing important?

Recently I was asked, “Why is it important to have these new types of housing as an option in LA?”
Things are changing.  People young and old don’t want to drive as much, and want to work in the community in which they live.  We want to collaborate and do things together, rather than try to be involved in many places and wear ourselves out.   Cities need to allow us to be creative and make the solutions that work for us.  The previous models don’t work for the current problems that we have.  We won’t be able to reduce our use of resources, get engaged in our communities, and have social support if we all need to purchase our own million dollar homes.  These things are all goals of cities, and we can make them happen if we are allowed to drive the planning.

Home is where the Art is

Several group members attended the LACMA Exhibition “Home—So Different, So Appealing: Art from the Americas since 1957.”  It was so moving and powerful, and I felt it on a personal level in a way I don’t with many other types of modern or classical art.

We got to talk with urban planner James Rojas and friends about the exhibit and what is home.  A couple of things that struck me from the discussion:
“home is different for everyone, and can even be a state of mind and not a place”
“when you move around, you realize you have a piece of each city with you”

We talked about having an idealized home in mind which does not exist, but always seeking it. And feeling at home outdoors, in a book, on the subway, or in a park.

Here is the description of the exhibit, which is still going on if you’d like to visit:
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Home—So Different, So Appealing: Art from the Americas since 1957, a groundbreaking exhibition on the universal concept of home, and the first group show at a major Los Angeles museum to focus on Latino and Latin American art since the 1950s. Offering an extraordinary look at one of the world’s most basic social concepts, this exhibition explores the differences and affinities within artworks relative to immigration and political repression, dislocation and diaspora, and personal memory and utopian ideals. Home—So Different, So Appealing features approximately 100 artworks by 40 Latino and Latin American artists. This expansive exhibition will include painting, sculpture, installation, performance, photography, film/video, and public sculpture by U.S. artists from the largest historic Latino groups—of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban origin—plus artists from Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, and Uruguay, among other countries. Included in the exhibition are works by internationally recognized artists Antonio Berni, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Leon Ferrari, Beatriz González, Felix González-Torres, Guillermo Kuitca, Daniel Martinez, Gordon Matta-Clark, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, and Doris Salcedo, as well as emerging and established Los Angeles-based artists Laura Aguilar, Carmen Argote, Christina Fernandez, Ramiro Gomez, Salomón Huerta, and Camilo Ontiveros. Among the many large-scale works in the exhibition, María Elena González’s participatory sculpture Magic Carpet/Home (2003/2017) will be presented outdoors on the LACMA grounds.

Ready

Changing the way we live and altering our daily lives is a big step.  Many of us look with awe and intimidation at the established eco-villages with gardens bursting with produce and cohousing communities expertly designed with architects.  If we could transport ourselves right in place in our new home, we would.  But whether we are joining a community or creating one, the steps to making that life a reality take work.

I went through a process of learning on my way to readiness.  A very wonderful process of reading books, meeting people, and seeing places which changed my assumptions about what I really needed and what was most important.  Over time, I realized what mattered to me most was not a private house, but the chance to be outside more of my day.  And that I didn’t need to choose my neighbors based on having all the same interests as I do, but instead on their desire to be in a community.

At the beginning, there were so many questions.  With all the barriers, is this possible?  How does the group planning process work?  Am I being realistic about what I want?  How do we agree on a plan, or even have enough meetings to talk about a vision!

Visiting and being welcomed by other communities answered the question that this is possible. The people living and building communities in Southern California are inspiring!  Also learned that the process is different for every community, and it’s more about the bonds and communication within the group than any external factor.

I didn’t know that it would take me 2 years to decide I was REALLY ready.  It took many nights of writing in journals and asking myself the questions in Diana Leafe Christian’s books.  Many conversations in groups where we could think out loud and see how our ideas sounded.  And many events hosted by like-minded organizations, where I could see the connections and strength of these many groups with values that support community.

After lunar new year celebrations with friends, I joked that since it is now the Year of the Rooster, it means it will be the year I will realize that idea of the community with the chickens in the yard.  Another friend promptly gave me a poster of a rooster from her home, so I hope that means I am on my way.  I feel so grateful that I have been able to meet my coworkers, neighbors, organizers, leaders, and artists that have been part of this journey.  I can’t imagine living any other way but in community, so I will keep learning and pushing forward.

At Home plans – we need you!

Here is what we have been discussing for next workshops:

Community-centered housing 101 course
We are putting together a short course for people interested in cohousing, cooperatives, and communities, but are new to the issue.  This course will cover the basic terms, examples of communities,  activities to determine what you are looking for, and discussion. Contribute your knowledge and questions to this effort!

Submit events
What have you been wanting to see, but haven’t gotten there?  Are there places where we could learn more about design, community, culture, or our other topics?  Send any places you’d like to visit together, those are great for the Meetup group.   Also let us know if you have a related event where you’d like to invite the group. Examples include events at Environmental Changemakers, LA Ecovillage, Transition, Learning Garden, or any public event in your neighborhood.

Participate by emailing the group, or posting on the Meetup page:
https://www.meetup.com/You-Are-Here-Intentional-Community-Los-Angeles/messages/boards/

The meetup group is great for the social gatherings, events that are open to the larger group, and things that are building community more generally than housing. Use the discussion board, or the “suggest a meetup” feature.

Where we’ve been

This seemed like a good time for a recap of what this group has done over the last year and half. We started in early 2015 as a few people interested in a way to live more cooperatively.  We had many questions: what are cooperatives and cohousing? Is this possible to do here in Los Angeles? What have other groups done? How do we learn about types of decision-making and planning processes?

We visited several other communities, which we learned about through the knowledge and initiative of group members. These were LA Eco-village, Regen Co-op in Pomona, and Emerald Village in Vista. I felt very fortunate to hear from members of these communities about their goals and how they operated.  We also benefited from hearing group members share their experiences living in community at cohousing and other types of communities previously or in other parts of the country.  Through discussions and activities, we listened to each other describe our goals and visions for a community.  Through a great collaboration with the Meetup group “You Are Here: Los Angeles: Intentional Community,” we explored fascinating types of design, ways of holding thoughtful discussions, and collaborating with other amazing groups around the area. Also, through wonderful expert speakers and members contributing articles, we started to put together a list of resources available to the group as well as anyone interested in the topic.

Group members discovered we had many shared goals, as well as a lot of enthusiasm for a different way of living. However, several barriers to planning are apparent, including the time that people have available to meet, different expectations for what the group was doing, leadership capacity, and a lack of formal structures such as an organization. I have learned a lot about myself through these experiences; I found that my ideas of what community housing could be were greatly expanded after seeing other examples. I learned that my strengths and interests include reaching out to others, connecting this with different issues, and finding tools to research and document the individual, group, and policy changes that may come.

It is time to take the next steps and shape what the next year will look like. Members, it’s time to weigh in! 

Stay tuned for the next post: where we are headed.