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Twin Oaks Intentional Community
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Frequently Asked Questions - All FAQs

FAQs - All FAQs
Internships

The primary internship that Twin Oaks offers is that of Conference Organizing, which involves helping to organize our two conferences (Women's Gathering and Communities Conference) which take place in late summer. That internship usually runs from spring to early autumn, although there's some flexibility. More details are here. Some years we offer other internships; contact us for specifics for this year. If you are interested in interning here during another time of the year, or aren't interested in conference organizing but would like to spend a few months here, you might be interested in our Residency Program. Residents live in the community 2 – 6 months and participate in various aspects of life here. Please contact us for more information, and specifically mention that you are possibly interested in Residency.

Becoming a Member

Basically, in order to become a member, a person needs to be willing to abide by the agreements of the community (e.g. no personal cars, our income-sharing agreements, and lots more). They also need to be able to fit into our social norms which, because we live so closely together, are quite particular (e.g. being sensitive to people's "personal space", being able to pick up social cues, being able to be cooperative and share control, etc).

The process for membership involves an interview with the Membership Team during a Three-Week Visitor Period. The interview consists of telling one's life story, and answering questions about how one deals with various aspects of community living like conflict, anger, people with different values, etc. Then there is an input period during which all visitors leave Twin Oaks for some time, and have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and decide if they really do think they want to live here. During this time, each member of the community has an opportunity to give input on the visitor (Accept, Visit Again, or Reject for membership). If there are outstanding health (including mental health) issues those will also be taken into consideration. The Membership Team makes the final decision about a visitor becoming a member.

Leaving / Being Asked to Leave

There are many different reasons people choose to leave the community, although they can be broken down into a few main categories. Sometimes the person wants to pursue a different life path (e.g. go back to school, travel, follow a certain career path). Sometimes the person has felt dissatisfied with their life for a while (like everyone does everywhere) and something happens to tip the scale for them to decide to leave (e.g. a relationship break-up, a difficult community issue, etc.). Sometimes the person decides they want a different lifestyle than we live (e.g. private housing, more individual money, etc.) and so they pursue that elsewhere. On very very rare occasions we will ask a member to leave, if repeated instances of unacceptable behavior have occurred. (e.g. consistently not working enough, violent behavior, etc.) However, many steps are taken to try to address the behavior before asking someone to leave, and often a member who is having repeated difficulties will choose to leave before being asked to leave, when it becomes evident that it isn't working to live in the community.

Basic Values

Our basic guiding principles are cooperation, egalitarianism, income-sharing, and non-violence. We are a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, which is an organization made up of communities which share those values.

Decision Making

Our decision-making model is based on the Walden Two Planner-Manager system combined with our egalitarian values. Managers are responsible for the day-to-day decisions for their area. For community-wide decisions and larger issues, the Planners (3 rotating members) make decisions by looking at our bylaws and policies, and by soliciting community input by posting papers for comment, holding community meetings, putting out surveys, talking with members (especially members that are closely involved in the issue or have strong feelings), etc. They don't make decisions based on their personal preference, but rather by gathering information and determining the larger will of the community on a given issue. Any member can appeal a Planner decision they feel is unfair, although this rarely happens as Planners generally do a pretty good job at considering all the aspects of a given issue. The community as a whole does not use consensus for making decisions, but some decision-making bodies within the community use consensus to make their decisions (e.g. the Membership Team).

In keeping with our egalitarian values, we all have a voice in making the decisions about how to spend our collective money and labor during each year’s economic planning. The Managers and Planners put out their proposed economic plan, and each member can alter the plan according to their values and preferences (e.g. I can cut the office budget, and shift that money/labor to the garden budget instead, if I want). Once every member who wants to has done this, the Planners synthesize everyone’s changes to create the final budget.

Egalitarianism

Egalitarianism is one of our primary values. Each member here has equal access to our decision-making process; we all have a voice in making decisions, unlike hierarchical communities where a sub-group of the community or a single individual makes decisions for the whole.

This value also plays out in how we share our resources. We all have an equal opportunity to access our resources; there is no individual or group here that has access to community resources that others don't. We have no structured inequality as can be found in the mainstream (one example: there is no disparity here between what women and men or new members and long-term members receive as compensation for their labor). However, we also balance this with our creed "From everyone according to cos abilities, to everyone according to cos needs." ("co" is our gender-neutral pronoun that means "s/he".)

We are a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, an organization of communities that value egalitarianism, income-sharing, non-violence and cooperation.

Health Care

Once someone becomes a full member of the community, the community provides for all basic healthcare needs. Our Health Team oversees all health care issues, and we support both allopathic ("western") medicine as well as alternative healing modalities, as our annual budget allows.

The community stocks all sorts of remedies for common problems—everything from aspirin to homeopathic remedies to tinctures made from our own herbs. We also provide some on-the-farm alternative care such as massage, reiki, etc. Because of our income-sharing, our members often qualify for state-subsidized health care at medical facilities in the area. Sometimes it will happen that we have a member who is a health-care practitioner, and to the extent that person is qualified and willing to treat members, that can be an option for those members who feel comfortable with it. We are also part of a larger mutual aid health care program for intentional communities.

Housing

We live collectively in residences of approximately ten to twenty people. Each member has their own private bedroom, and the living rooms, bathroom and kitchen are shared public space. We have a total of 7 residences (each named after a historic community) and they each have their own distinct style. New members are assigned to a room wherever space is available, and as other people move and rooms become available, the member can find a room in a residence that is suited to them.

Child Care

We started out with a completely communal child-care system modeled after the Israeli kibbutzim, in which children lived in a special child house and were cared for in shifts by "metas". However, the system eventually proved unsatisfactory to parents, who wanted more contact with and responsibility for their children. So now a certain number of childcare labor credits are allotted per child, more for infants and less for older kids; parents generally take some of these credits themselves and give the rest to other adults who help. Non-parent adults who commit to spending regular time with specific kids are called primaries. Depending on the preferences of individual parents and kids, some kids are cared for almost solely by their parents and some kids spend much more of their time with primaries. There is no one who just does childcare and housework. Both parents and primaries frequently bring kids with them while they work; for example, in the hammock shop, the kitchen, etc.

Education

Children at Twin Oaks have several choices for education. Some attend public schools in town. Some are home-schooled by their parents and other community members. In the past some of our children have gone to an alternative private school (Montessori), and, just like any family, we had to make decisions based on what we could afford and how much financial aid we could receive. The choice about what type of schooling each child will have is up to the parent(s) and child to decide.

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