Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, FIC!

Today's a party day!  

I'm in Carrboro NC (at Arcadia Cohousing) for the Fellowship for Intentional Community's spring organizational meetings—marking the 51st time we've gathered together a cadre of community networkers from around the country to discuss what we can do to build more cooperative culture.

Our first meeting was way back in May 1987—as in before email (talk about antediluvian)—at Stelle IL, where Charles Betterton succeeded in attracting about 30 people to explore the possibility of creating a national network focused on intentional community. While Charles didn't continue in a regular FIC role after the first year, that seedling nonetheless survived to become the robust community network we are today. 

It was touching that we received salutations and congratulations from Charles on this occasion of our Silver Anniversary, sent from his home in California. We also received a sweet note from Don Pitzer, who founded of the Communal Studies Association in the '80s and was the Director of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana when FIC was headquartered there 1989-92.

While there are only two of us here today who were present at Stelle a quarter century ago—Dan Questenberry (Shannon Farm) and myself, there are many more here in spirit (including my wife, Ma'ikwe, who is too stricken with chronic Lyme to travel right now). She has been active in FIC affairs the last 10 years, and sent homemade blueberry jam in lieu of her corporeal presence. 

The day consisted of a four part harmony:
a) Everyone shared what connection they had with FIC (and when), what it meant to them, and what role community plays in their life today.

1990: Published our first edition of Communities Directory 
1992: Took over as publishers of Communities magazine
1993: Produced the Celebration of Community, a six-day event in Olympia WA
1994: Launched
1997: Produced our first Art of Community weekend
1999: Took over Community Bookshelf from East Wind
2002: Launched
2002: Published Visions of Utopia, Vol I
2004: Offered the online Directory with a searchable database
2005: Expanded FIC's mission to include Creating Community Where You Are
2007: Created
2007: Created to chronicle media coverage of intentional communities
2009: Published Visions of Utopia, Vol II
2009: Launched an FIC presence on Facebook

b) Next we looked at what FIC has accomplished in 25 years, and explored the environment we're in today:

o  steady decline for print material
o  rise in popularity for video

o  demand for information about community is on the rise
o  hard to distinguish who really knows what they're talking about, especially when one takes into account how hard it is to explain what life in community is like to people who have never experienced it
o  FIC has committed to creating a new office in Missouri as part of Dancing Rabbit's new common house, to be built to the exacting standards of the Living Building Challenge
Communities magazine and our family of websites struggle to turn a net profit
o  While there is substantial friendliness, there is minimal collaboration among nonprofits with a core commitment to promoting community
o  There is a rise in interest about sustainability

o  The organized best poised to focus on sustainability—the Ecovillage Network of the Americas—is in disarray
o  There is a rise in formation of Transition Towns—local initiatives focused on preparedness in response to the issues of climate change and peak oil

o  Travel costs have been steadily rising and that trend will continue
o  There is increasing chaos and economic instability
o  There is simultaneously a need to increase local resiliency and a pronounced lack of local roots
o  There is increasing political polarization, and dissatisfaction with the status quo
o  Increased disparity between highest paid and lowest paid
o  There was surprising strength and staying power to the Occupy phenomenon last year

c)  Next, we asked what FIC should be focusing on in the future, and identified these themes in the replies:

—Recruit more people under 40 years old to get involved.
—Create stronger experiential offerings (as opposed to lectures).
—Generate a stronger income flow.
—Hold as goal reaching the point where everyone seeking more information about community would know to contact FIC for assistance.
—Do more with video on our websites.

d) Finally, we enjoyed a Happy Hour commingling with our hosts, which led to dinner and celebratory cakes (one vegan and another gluten free), ushered in with no less than five distinctive renditions of happy birthday songs. The day ended with everyone replete with scrumptious food, merry spirits, and camaraderie.

I can hardly wait for our 50th.


Charles Bettertown said...

Thank you Brother Laird for sharing such a heart-warming report (as you always do ...). I too am there with you all in spirit, AND I am deeply grateful for the gift of living in intentional communities for over 25 years.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to have enjoyed working, playing, sharing, and serving in and through community with you, Dan Questenberry, Don Pitzer, David Thacher and the other cofounders of the revitalized FIC when we met in Stelle.

Perhaps you haven't yet seen yet on Facebook that I am seeking donations for the FIC as my "cause" for celebrating my birthday which is April 27th.

And I can guarantee at least $25 to the FIC because I was proud to be the first to make a donation.

While your statement that I did not remain active in the FIC, my dedication to and support of intentional community and the field of Community Economic Development, are as strong and as central to my life as ever before.

Blessings upon you, your dear life partner and her perfect healing, the FIC, the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, and the international community of intentional communities.

Charles Bettertown said...

Hi again Laird.

here is the link for the Facebook invitation for folks help celebrate my birthday by donating to help support the great work of the FIC.