Friday, December 23, 2016

Why I Support FIC and Why You Should, Too

Today I'm making a $1000 year-end donation to the Fellowship for Intentional Community and I want to tell you why—in the hope that it may inspire you to write a check of your own.

FIC has been around since 1987, when a group of dedicated individuals with fire in their bellies came together from across the continent to explore a common dream: to promote a more cooperative world. Out of that modest beginning—perhaps 20 people with high enthusiasm and no bank account—over the course of three decades the Fellowship gradually built a viable network, founded on the premise that the intentional community experience can be a beacon of light in dark times.

Though only a small fraction of the population will ever live in intentional community, where property is jointly owned by a group that has coalesced around common values, I am convinced that there is a broad-based societal hunger for a greater sense of community and belonging in our lives—something that we used to have in greater abundance and that has been degraded over the course of our lifetimes. (If you question that conclusion, just reflect on the enmity and lack of civility that characterized our recent Presidential election. We are a seriously fractured society.)

Thus, FIC operates at two levels: a) serving in the trenches, making available the hard-earned lessons about what distilled from those who have gone before, and helping groups find prospective members who are a good fit; and b) repackaging those lessons so that they can be exported and usable wherever people want more community in their lives.

While FIC estimates that there are perhaps 100,000 people living in some form of intentional community in the US today, there are easily 100 million who are the audience for the larger mission. Because FIC makes do on annual budget of around $150,000, they've gotten exceptionally clever at stretching dollars. Their budget has no fat.

o  Though I retired from front line work with FIC a year ago (my only remaining task is a pleasant one—convening the Award Committee that organizes nominations for the annual Kozeny Award for lifetime achievement) my heart remains solidly behind its efforts to promote cooperative culture based on the cutting edge work of intentional communities to puzzle out what it means to be socially sustainable. Is this work crucial today? Do we need a better response to society's challenges than Donald Trump?

o  My work as a group dynamics instructor and consultant is rooted in over 40 years of community living. Just as soldiers refer to battlefield experience as "on the job training" there is no more grounded way to understand group dynamics than total immersion—it's not a hobby for me, it's been my life. And I know of no richer or more complex classroom in which to learn my craft than membership in a secular income-sharing intentional community (in my case, Sandhill Farm)—where everything is on the table and you have to work it out with everyone you live with. If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere.

o  If you are an individual, FIC makes available the resources needed to better understand the options available in group living: why people do it, what challenges they face, and what the rewards are. Their Communities Directory can be an invaluable aid in helping you find out who's doing what and where.

o  If you are an intentional community, FIC's Directory provides lifeblood support—both through its free listings, telling the wide world that you're out there (the online Directory supplies information to over 100 different people every hour around the clock), and by helping you locate those who are on the same path as you—groups who may have already weathered similar challenges. (In today's world you no longer have to go it alone.)

o  If you are part of a cooperative group, the Fellowship is pleased to supply you with in-depth information about how your organization can function better, based on workable solutions pioneered in intentional communities. (Though my 30-year-old consulting practice has been centered around helping communities, I field an increasing number of calls to assist nonprofits, churches, schools, and workplaces, where there's burgeoning interest in the nuts and bolts of how to develop and sustain cooperative culture.)

Communities magazine was launched in 1972 (FIC took over as publisher in 1992) as the accreted pre-internet vision of seven cooperatives scattered across the US who saw the need for chronicling what's happening in the protean world of community living. Though this periodical has operated at a deficit almost every year, it has survived on a shoestring circulation of around 1000 paid subscribers and the rock-solid dedication of an underpaid staff and a publisher who thoroughly believes in its mission.

o  I almost died of cancer last winter, and paying for my extraordinary medical care almost killed my bank account (even after the substantial cushions of Medicare, supplemental insurance, and the generous support of friends were brought to bear on my situation). While my cancer is currently in remission (knock on wood) it can come back at any time and there is no crystal ball that can tell me with any certainty what kind of savings is prudent to accumulate against that possibility. Though it's awkward knowing what amount of money I can reasonably afford to free up from my limited supply without jeopardizing my health, I know that FIC needs my support now, so I'm writing that check.

o  Amazingly, today I have prospects for some period of high-quality time in front of me. As someone who was recently dancing close to death (and who may suddenly find himself again on the brink at any moment) I have given serious thought to how best to use this gift of additional time. I believe I am called on to continue my work to build a more cooperative world, and to give back as much as I can to all who will follow.

o  When done well, donations are a collaboration, matching the donor's dollars, skills, and connections with the recipient's energy and know-how. Everyone benefits. I am not asking for a handout; I'm asking for a partnership. 
o  With 30 years in the field FIC has amply demonstrated that it knows how to build connections, how to be discrete with sensitive information, how to be even-handed when representing the incredible breadth and diversity of the Communities Movement, and how to represent to the media the relevance of the community experience to a culture that is sick with adversarial dynamics and unjust practices.

o  In these extraordinary times the Fellowship needs extraordinary support. I invite you to give like your life depends on it. That's how I'm seeing it. To make an unrestricted donation click here. Donations are tax deductible. To become an FIC member as a show of baseline support (and receive benefits in return), click here

If you're looking for a meaningful last-minute holiday gift—either for yourself or a loved one—consider a gift subscription to Communities magazine. To subscribe or renew to Communities, click here.

Any and all of these steps will help.

Together, we are making a difference.

No comments: