Saturday, November 7, 2009

Funding Community Where You Are

Last Wednesday I was in Yellow Springs OH. For a couple hours in the evening I was the featured presenter at an FIC House Party—which is a gathering of folks interested in community, where everyone gets to hear from me what the Fellowship is up to, hear my pitch for why that's important in the world, and is then asked to write a check in support of our work. At the end of the night I had garnered about $800 and had fun in the process, getting folks pumped up about our efforts to build a more cooperative world.

It's the third House Party I've done (the other two were in Seattle and Ann Arbor) and it's one of my favorite activities as the Fellowship's chief fundraiser. In addition to help balance the budget (we can always think up good ways to use money faster than ways to earn it), I'm building personal connections with our constituency, learning first-hand what's exciting for them and how community touches their lives. In short, I'm building community in the process of promoting it. How good can it get?

In Yellow Springs, before I gave my 20-minute spiel about FIC's history, its current program, and the opportunities for everyone in the room to take up an oar on the Fellow Ship, we did a Go Round where I invited participants to speak briefly about their connection with community. The answers were touching—both to my heart, and to other threads in my life:

o Many lived in Yellow Springs, and connected with community that way. Though a small bedroom village in the outer orbit of Dayton in western Ohio, Yellow Springs has always had a special feeling of community by virtue of being the home to Antioch College since 1852 and the residence for many years of Arthur Morgan, author of the seminal work, Small Community, which advances the premise that small communities are the essential building block of a healthy society. While Arthur did not limited his focus to intentional communities, he was definitely promoting the idea of developing local communities with intention. Since 1940, Yellow Springs has been the headquarters of Community Service (CSI)—now styled the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions—a nonprofit devoted to the promotion of Arthur's thinking. The House Party was being held in the home of Faith Morgan & Pat Murphy. Faith is Arthur's granddaughter, and Pat is the current Executive Director of CSI.

Yellow Springs has developed a rich community heritage by virtue of a citizenry motivated to Create Community Where You Are (which has been part of FIC's core mission since 2005). This reputation has attracted others who have been Finding Community Where You Are. In both cases—whether one is a community pioneer or a community settler—residents are cherishing what they have.

(Faith, incidentally, is my age, and it's awesome for me—who has lived in community for 35 years—to have a contemporary who is not just a fellow lifer; she's third generation community.)

o One participant had attended the Arthur Morgan School a Quaker-based boarding school for grades 7-9 in Celo NC. My daughter had gone there in 1999-2002.

o Three people in the room (Ray & Pat Olds, and Don Hollister) had been part of the founding of Communities magazine in 1972. FIC took over operational control of Communities in 1992, and I'm the publisher of that periodical today.

o Faith, in conjunction with CSI, produced the video The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peal Oil, which is a terrific example of a society responding with creativity, dedication, and optimism to the challenge of drastic changes in their access to energy. It's the inspiring story of how one culture built community in response to crisis. FIC is a purveyor of hope as well, especially when anchored by community building.

o One attendee lived for years in Argenta BC, an alternative community enclave nestled in the Kootenays of southeastern BC. I have a dear friend who owns land there and used to be on the staff of the Argenta Friends School. She has been regaling me for years with stories of life there.

The House Party happened because two local people—Faith Morgan and Don Hollister—agreed to put it together. They sent out the invitations, they promoted it locally, they provided the refreshments… they took time out of their busy lives to make it happen. While FIC provided the names and addresses of people in the area with a known interest in community, all I had to do was show up and make the presentation. It was a partnership, and successful House Parties—not unlike successful communities—aren't possible without partners.

Inspired by Faith & Don's example, Raines Cohen & Betsy Morris have signed up to host a House Party in Berkeley next year. Does anyone else care to put their hand in the air?


Maureen Carruthers said...

I wish I'd have known you were so close. J. and I live in Dayton Ohio now and would have loved to hang out with you over a bottle of wine!

Unknown said...

Don and I enjoy hosting house parties occasionally, so put us on your possibilities list.

I've been getting nibbles here lately on the idea of a 3-cohousing meeting process training... will keep you posted if they turn into bites.