Two Socialist Communities in USA
If you are interested in visiting us, interning in our seed business and garden, or just learning more, e-mail us at email@example.com for more information.
Remember, this stuff is hard! Living and working together, having fun and running a business, making decisions together and sharing income, are all challenging every day. We are interested in meeting people experienced in community-building, communication and facilitation, and interested in building a dynamic, supportive social culture.
We always have need for maintenance and tech skills, home and land improvement, business management, tasty veggie cooking, alternative construction, seed saving knowledge, and people interested in organic gardening. Or if you just like to work hard, get things done, and to be surrounded by stimulating conversation, get to know us by scheduling a visit.
The Membership Process
Once you.ve come for a visit, the fun begins! If you are interested in membership, you will have an interview sometime around the 2nd week of your visitor period. The purpose of the interview is to help foresee and work out any potential problems, ensure that the visitor.s expectations are realistic, see that she or he is well-informed about the community, and provide the community with information relevant to making a membership decision. The questions are available in advance. In the final week, visitors have an open meeting called a .clearness,. where the visitor and community members can talk about what it might be like to live together, along with raising any potential concerns. After that, the community will attempt to decide by consensus to accept or reject the membership application. In some circumstances, we may offer internship or some other arrangement, rather than membership.
Occasionally a decision is made while the visitor is still here, but we make no commitment to that. You should make plans to leave for one week at the end of your visitor period. We will contact you when a consensus decision has been made. If either you or the community believe more time is necessary to make a well-informed decision, occasionally the visitor period can be extended, usually for one week.
Our general policy is .If it.s not an obvious .yes,. it.s not yes.. In other words, all members need to feel reasonably confident that you are a good fit for membership for you to become a member. If we are uncertain, or don.t feel like we know you well enough, we will not offer membership. We may ask you to visit again or offer internship or a position as an associate if that seems more appropriate. In cases where members don.t feel Acorn is a good fit, we may simply say no to membership.
We believe that visitors have the right to know why they were accepted or rejected. Reasons for accepting or rejecting tend to include things such as ability to get along with other people, willingness to accept feedback, organization and responsibility, completion of useful work, needs of the group at that time, dedication, respect of boundaries, ability to cope with existing mental or emotional issues, and commitment to nonviolence, community living and egalitarianism.
We strive to keep our membership as open as possible and are willing to consider any special needs (such as financial obligations, physical and mental health conditions, age, single parenthood, etc.). If you foresee potential concerns regarding your membership application, it is wise to bring them up as early as possible so that we have time to think about it and try to work something out. Similarly, if people here have specific concerns about you as a member, we encourage them to talk with you about it prior to the decision.
If accepted for membership, you are welcome to move in immediately if there is a room available or if you are willing to camp. Once you are a member, there is a provisional period of at least one year. In most ways provisional and full members are treated exactly the same. The main differences are that the community can decide to expel a provisional member for any reason at any time (although this is extremely rare), provisional members do not receive health benefits, and provisional members technically cannot block any community decision. However, their input is still taken seriously. Since we operate by consensus, any one full member may block someone.s provisional period from continuing or from moving to become a full member. However, except in cases of violence, abuse, or serious violation of policy, any member who has issues with another member is expected to make a full, good faith effort to work out the problems rather than force someone to leave the community.
c/0 Visitor Program
1259 Indian Creek Road
Mineral, Virginia 23117
The letter of introduction (1-2 pages, typewritten) should tell us:
· your age
· your gender
· the work or studies in which you are presently involved
· your work history
· your hobbies and interests
· how you heard about Acorn
· why you are interested in visiting community, and why Acorn in particular
· any physical ailments or limitations (e.g. back problems) which would prevent you from doing certain kinds of work
· any special skills you have or work you like or dislike, e.g. indoor work vs. outdoor work
· if you have any children, and their ages, even if you are not planning on visiting with them.
· your preferred dates to visit
· your permanent postal address (or .most permanent.)
· a phone number where you can be reached previous to your visit
· emergency contact information in the form of the address and phone number of a relative or friend whom we could contact in case of an emergency during your visit
Keep in mind, we cannot reserve a space for you until your visit and dates are mutually confirmed.
Twin Oaks Intentional Community
Twin Oaks is an intentional community in rural central Virginia, made up of around 85 adult members and 15 children. Since the community's beginning in 1967, our way of life has reflected our values of cooperation, sharing, nonviolence, equality, and ecology. We welcome you to schedule a visit.
We do not have a group religion; our beliefs are diverse. We do not have a central leader; we govern ourselves by a form of democracy with responsibility shared among various managers, planners, and committees. We are self-supporting economically, and partly self-sufficient. We are income-sharing. Each member works 42 hours a week in the community's business and domestic areas. Each member receives housing, food, healthcare, and personal spending money from the community.
Our hammocks and casual furniture business generates most of our income; indexing books and making tofu provide much of the rest. Still, less than half of our work goes into these income-producing activities; the balance goes into a variety of tasks that benefit our quality of life - including milking cows, gardening, cooking, and childcare. Most people prefer doing a variety of work, rather than the same job day in, day out.
A number of us choose to be politically active in issues of peace, ecology, antiracism, and feminism. Each summer we are hosts to a Women's Gathering and a Communities Conference where we welcome both experienced communitarians, and seekers who are new to community living.
The Saturday Tour: We give tours of Twin Oaks almost every Saturday afternoon from March through October, and on most alternating Saturdays from November through February. Your tour guide will tell you about the history, culture and philosophy of the community and will be available to answer any questions you may have. The tour is from 2 - 5 pm, and much of this time is spent walking around the community. Please plan to arrive at 1:45. Please dress appropriately for the weather (it's very hot in summer and there's no air-conditioning, and can be cold in winter), wear comfortable walking shoes, and let us know if you have particular mobility needs. It can be a long tour for children--please consider the limits of their attention span when considering bringing them or not. Do not bring pets. Phone (540) 894-5126 Ext. 0 during regular business hours to make reservations. Our operator will double-check that a tour is being offered on the date you want. (Sometimes we don't offer scheduled tours for various reasons.) We request a $5.00 donation per person for the to
Twin Oaks Community
138 Twin Oaks Rd #W
Louisa, VA 23093 USA
Twin Oakers are involved in a variety of activist work. Some social justice activities that members have participated in include serving food to the homeless with Food Not Bombs, working at a battered women's shelter, going to demonstrations, animal rights work, protesting the School of the Americas/Assassins in Georgia, writing letters for Amnesty International, participating in Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Trans/Queer Pride marches, and more. While many individuals at Twin Oaks engage in activist activities, as a community we do not officially endorse any particular course of political activism (i.e. members do this work as individuals, not in the name of community).
We collectively own about 15 public computers, many of which are networked with each other and connected to the internet. They are available for both community work and personal use. Some members have their own personal computer (laptops and desktops) kept in their bedroom, which they can use for either community work or personal use. Most members have email accounts and use them for both internal (within the community) and external communication. As you've discovered, Twin Oaks has an extensive webpage and several members have their own webpages.
In any group of people living or working together, some amount of conflict is inevitable. At Twin Oaks, there are different types of conflict. Conflict can spring from values differences, from communication difficulties, from different assumptions of what's "normal" or "acceptable" and from having different perspectives on the same set of events. Some conflict is work-related, some is interpersonal. There are different ways we deal with conflict as it arises. Sometimes the people involved simply talk to each other to resolve differences. Sometimes the people prefer to have a mediated meeting, in which a third party is present either as a facilitator with skills in helping resolve conflict, or simply as a witness, creating a feeling of greater safety. Our Process Team offers support and resources for people in conflict, and also keeps an eye on "hot" issues in the community which might cause conflict to come up. We try to keep in mind that it isn't the existence of conflict that determines the health of a group, but rather the manner in which a group does or doesn't deal with conflict which determines it's health.
Twin Oaks culture places a much higher value on cooperation than mainstream culture. Sometimes, this can mean we need to learn new skills, and we strive to "raise the cultural bar" around communication skills. To a large extent, the expectation at Twin Oaks is that if conflict does arise, members be willing to engage in working it out,and to use respectful communication in doing so. The ability to see and understand (although not always agree on) more than one perspective of "the truth", and each of us being able to take responsibility for our own behavior in partially creating the conflict are skills that can go a long way in resolving conflict . We're still learning. Conflict resolution exists here along a spectrum; different members have different opinions. We find common ground in our hope that ultimately we can find a way to work out our differences and work together.
Connection to the Mainstream
Members can be as connected to the mainstream as they desire. A few prefer to live a quiet life on a farm, while many others are quite connected to the mainstream. We get newspapers from Louisa, Charlottesville, Richmond and Washington DC. Many members listen to the radio, especially NPR. We have chosen to not have television here, as we want to avoid it's influence in importing mainstream values such as consumerism, violence, pre-packaged "canned" entertainment, etc. However, we are not purists, and we do rent and watch various movies, including documentaries and independent and foreign films.
We have more than a dozen public computers, all linked to the internet, and many members read news, surf the net and email with friends. There are almost daily trips to town for social, volunteer, or political activities, to go to the library, to visit friends, to take a day off, etc. We shop at local shops and know the people there. There are also quite a few ex-members who have settled in the town and city near us, and so we are further spread out into the larger community in that way. Although we are interested in creating a culture that is distinct from the mainstream, we are not interested in isolating ourselves from the mainstream.
We have a mixed diet at Twin Oaks--some members are vegetarian, some are meat-eaters, and some are vegan (people who consume no animal products at all e.g. no butter, no eggs). Diet can be pretty fluid at Twin Oaks; members often follow their dietary instincts, and eat differently at different times over the months and years. We produce a significant portion of our own food including vegetables, fruit, beans, and meat, and this means some people make diet choices based on knowing they are eating organic, free-range, locally-produced food.
Twin Oaks incorporates a variety of ecological practices. Our choice to share houses and cars reduces our footprint on the earth; our 18 vehicles and 7 residences for 100 people are both well below the national average, and use substantially less resources per person. Because we work in our community-owned businesses on our land, our commute involves a short walk through the woods instead of using fuel. When we do drive (for business or social reasons), we carpool extensively.We build our own buildings, and although our building techniques in terms of structure of the building are fairly conventional, we incorporate a wide variety of alternative energy features. These include passive solar features (large south-facing windows to light and heat the building), super-insulation, skylights and suntubes for natural lighting, cellulose insulation in some places (instead of fiberglass), wood heat (using wood from our own forests and scrap from our sawmill) in almost all of our buildings, solar hot water, photovoltaic solar electricity in one residence, multi-use of most spaces, permaculture landscaping around buildings, and more.
Growing a significant portion of our food in our organic garden also helps us be more sustainable, by not using pesticides, and by reducing the amount of food we buy that needs to be transported by trucks. We also buy most purchased food in bulk, thereby reducing packaging.
Twin Oaks feminist values manifest on at least two different levels--systemically and culturally.
Systemically: Much of the organizational infrastructure here is classically feminist in nature; for example, our decision-making process is egalitarian (as opposed to hierarchical) and the community.s labor system equally values traditionally women.s work (cooking, cleaning, laundry, some amount of child-care) whereas in the mainstream this work is often undervalued when done as paid labor, and/or is done over and above paid labor.
Culturally: We have much less division of labor based on gender. Women and men both do traditionally women.s and men.s work. Both men and women prepare food, fix cars, do child-care, use power tools, etc. Unlike the mainstream, there are no cultural barriers to being a manager or being involved in our system of self-government. It.s assumed that personal boundaries will be respected and that all people (especially men towards women) will be sensitive and tuned into interacting with and treating each other with appropriate respect. We largely ignore mainstream values of clothing choices, make-up, hair (including body hair), etc., instead opting for a fashion of self-determination. Whereas in the mainstream, certain relationship styles tend to be socially and economically rewarded (most notably a man and woman married to each other), at Twin Oaks a much wider range of relationship choices are accepted as normal and are not remarked upon.
Twin Oaks is sufficient in size to have developed our own holiday culture, including rituals and ceremonies which are unique to our village life. We have one member who serves as our Holiday Manager, who coordinates the organization of each holiday activity. Read about specific examples.
One of our primary values is non-violence. Our culture is one that values resolving conflict in a cooperative, peaceful manner, and living one's daily life in line with those principles. We do not tolerate physical violence at Twin Oaks, and verbal violence (this can mean different things to different people) is discouraged. We have members who have been involved in the war-tax resistance movement, and our choice to not have television here is partially rooted in wanting to avoid importing the violence often found in that medium.
We have a quite wide variety of intimate relationship styles at Twin Oaks. Some members are single, some are married, some are in non-married but long-term committed relationships, some have a series of relationships over time, some people are celibate, and some are polyamorous (in relationships with more than one person at a time). We have bisexual, lesbian, gay and heterosexual people living here. (plus some who would refuse to be labeled). There is no community norm about relationship choices--it's up to the individual. Unlike mainstream culture, we tend not to have social or economic rewards for choosing a particular relationship style.
We are very social creatures at Twin Oaks. We have all kinds of different social and cultural activities. We have innumerable on-going, weekly activities that are at least somewhat social in nature, and over time have included a singing group, a band, yoga class, juggling group, knitting group, art night, scrabble night, video nights, women's and men's groups, political discussion groups, etc. Events of a more purely social nature (dances, parties, games nights, etc.) also happen frequently. We also tend to socialize throughout the day, during work and at other times.We chat with each other, lay in the sun in hammocks, read, email, canoe on the river, play music, go to church, do political activism work, etc. However, members also take alone-time as needed, walking in the woods, spending time in their room, and other solitary pursuits. People can be as socially engaged or as solitary as they like, according to personal preference.
As a community, we purposefully have no one specific spiritual direction/path; the choice is left up to the individual. As a result, we have quite a variety. Many members practice no spiritual path or religion at all, and would be identified as atheist or agnostic. Our membership also includes Buddhists, Pagans, Christians of several (mostly progressive) varieties, and general "New Age" types.
In terms of religious observances: the community officially celebrates the Solstices and Equinoxes, usually with a day off of work, a party and an informal ritual. (all optional) There is a group of Pagans who gather throughout the year for more involved rituals. We host a local Quaker meeting, we sometimes have Friday night Shabbat gatherings, we sometimes have a meditation group, and sometimes members attend services at a nearby country church.
Twin Oaks collectively runs several community-owned businesses. This is how we earn the income needed to purchase that which we cannot provide for ourselves. Most members work in at least one of our businesses, and a good portion of members work in several of the businesses.
Our largest business is Twin Oaks Hammocks, in which we make and sell hammocks, both retail and wholesale. We sell them through our mail-order business, our webpage and at crafts fairs. Our second-largest business is Twin Oaks Community Foods, in which we produce and sell tofu, tempeh and soymilk. We sell primarily through organic/natural food distributors. Our third-largest business is Twin Oaks Indexing, our book indexing business, in which publishers send us a manuscript and we create the index for the back of the book. In addition to these three main businesses, we have many smaller businesses--our Women's Gathering and Communities Conference, herb workshops, we are hired by the Fellowship for Intentional Community to distribute the Communities Directory and magazine, we teach reading classes in town and more.
Twin Oaks is an income-sharing community. Members keep all assets they come with (they are frozen during membership), but all income from our community businesses goes to the collective; no one earns individual "wages" or a "salary". We all work approximately 40 hours in our community businesses and domestic areas (for example, cooking, gardening, building maintenance, etc.) and more or less in exchange for our work, community members receive everything we need including housing, food, clothing, health care, etc. That is the economic agreement between the individual and community. The money received from the businesses is pooled and each year we collectively decide how to allocate it to our various community budgets. Also, each member receives a small personal spending allowance ($75 a month) to cover items the community does not provide (e.g. chocolate, a trip to town to see a movie, etc.). Our tax status reflects our income-sharing--we are a 501(d) entity which is based on having a shared treasury, and is similar to a monastery. In addition to being a working model of a more equitable and just distribution of wealth, pooling our income allows us to be able to afford amenities that can benefit the entire community that would be difficult for one or two people to afford on their income alone.
Twin Oaks collectively owns a fleet of about 18 vehicles (including cars, pick-up trucks, cargo vans, and a mini-van) for our approximately 85 adult members. Members do not have personal vehicles. One of our core values is resource-sharing, and we're able to get all of our transportation needs met with vehicles shared by all of us. Most of our day-to-day interactions take place within the community. We don't need a car to commute to work since most of our work is done here. We have a group-shopping-and-errand-running system where one person goes into town every day and shops and does errands for people here, so that 15 people aren't taking 15 separate trips into town. We carpool a lot. Our vehicle-sharing is also related to our value of egalitarianism. One of the most concrete ways we do this is by creating a system where members have equal access to resources. Access to transportation is a powerful tool and we don't want some members to have access to their own transportation while others don't.
The community provides for all our basic needs--food, clothing, housing, health care, etc. Each member has their own private bedroom. The community will provide furniture (bed, lamp, dresser, etc.) or members can bring their own. Members bring their own clothing when they move here, and we also have Community Clothes aka "Commie Clothes" which provides additional clothing as members need it over time. Members can bring personal possessions with them (e.g. books, musical instrument, camera, stereo, CD's, computer, etc.) and whatever they keep in their room remains theirs. Other personal possessions can either be stored elsewhere (usually at family/friend's house), donated to the community, or lent to the community for the duration of the person's membership. Please also see our Property Code for more information.
Work is a significant part of life at Twin Oaks. People often invest a lot of their identity in the work they do here. Members work 42 hours each week, both in our collectively-owned businesses and also our domestic areas (see below). No one earns individual "wages" or a "salary"; in exchange for our work, community members receive everything we need including housing, food, clothing, health care, etc. That is the economic agreement between the individual and community.
We use a labor credit system to track our work. Every hour of work a member does is worth one labor-credit; each member needs to earn 42 labor credits each week (this system is adopted from Walden Two, the book on which we were founded). Every week we each get a labor sheet, which we each fill out ourselves with our own work preferences, and then hand in to the labor assigner, who makes sure that all the workshifts are filled for that week. The only work each member is required to do is one two-hour kitchen cleaning shift each week; all other work is decided by each member, according to personal preferences (indoor/outdoor, physical/sedentary, day/evening, etc.). Each day as we complete our work, we record it on our labor sheet, and at the end of the week we turn our sheets in to the Labor Manager. This both helps ourselves to keep track of how much work we've done, and also tracks labor as it relates to our community budgets.
There are many different types of work available at Twin Oaks; in addition to our community businesses, there is plenty of work in our domestic areas which include gardening, milking cows, building maintenance, office work, plumbing/electrical projects, cooking and baking, cleaning, childcare, computer work, bike repair, yardwork, sewing, carpentry, farmwork, forestry, as well as serving on the teams that manage various aspects of life here (Membership Team, Health Team, Child Board, Planners, etc.).
Membership & Visiting
We give tours of Twin Oaks almost every Saturday afternoon from March through October, and on most alternating Saturdays from November through February. Your tour guide will tell you about the history, culture and philosophy of the community and will be available to answer any questions you may have. The tour is from 2 - 5 PM, and much of this time is spent walking around the community. Please dress appropriately for the weather, wear comfortable walking shoes, and let us know if you have particular mobility needs. Do not bring pets. Phone (540) 894-5126 during regular business hours, or email us at our main email address, to make reservations. We will double-check that a tour is being offered on the date you want. (Sometimes we don't offer scheduled tours for various reasons.) We request a $5.00 donation per person for the tour.
Twin Oaks puts a lot of time and energy into our Visitor Program, and we haveThree-Week visitor periods scheduled throughout the year. We welcome people who think they might be interested in living at Twin Oaks as well as people who just want to spend three weeks experiencing the community but aren't interested in living here.
During the three-week program, visitors live together in our visitor building, work alongside members doing the work of the community, and attend orientations about the systems, policies and culture of our community, including the financial, legal, health, labor and governmental structures at Twin Oaks.
Visiting Twin Oaks is good way to learn an incredible amount about the workings of a thriving intentional community, and to meet a wide variety of people with quite diverse life experiences and knowledge. It's also a lot of fun! Lastly, a visitor period provides an opportunity for community members and people who think they may want to live here to get to know each other, and start to explore how good a fit there is between the visitor and the community.
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.
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 available 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.
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.
Systems & Policies
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.
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. (eg. 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 (eg. 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 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 co's abilities, to everyone according to co's 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.
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.
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.
Families & Kids
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.
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.
Twin Oaks was founded in 1967 by a group of people who were studying psychologist BF Skinner's book about a fictional behaviorist community, called Walden Two. They were so impressed and intrigued by his fictional community that they decided to create a real-life community modeled after it. A supporter leased the land to Twin Oaks for 3 years for $50 with an option to buy at the end of that time if the group was still in existence, which it was and which we did. After a few years, we stopped defining ourselves as a "behaviorist" community, although we still use the labor credit system and the Planner-Manager system of self-government originally described in the book. We have also bought more land since that time, mostly contiguous but also about 50 acres of non-contiguous agricultural land up the road. Our current total acreage is 465 acres.
Twin Oaks was founded in 1967, based on the book Walden Two by BF Skinner. The book described Skinner's vision of what a community would look like if his principles of behaviorism were practiced. The book was the blueprint for the original forming of the community.
The community has changed significantly since we were founded. We no longer identify ourselves as a "behaviorist community", and haven't for a long long time. However, we have kept several of the features from the book, most notably the Planner-Manager decision-making model and the labor-credit work system. Some of our members have read Walden Two, but the majority are not very familiar with it. BF Skinner did visit Twin Oaks twice. When he was here in 1979, his visit was featured on the PBS program "Nova".