New Visions for the Communities Movement with Daniel Greenberg
Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 023
As we close out 2023, it’s time to take stock of the Communities Movement and consider where we might be headed in the future. In this episode we are joined by new FIC co-director Daniel Greenberg, who brings his deep experience from the ecovillage world, as well years living in and researching international communities like Findhorn and Auroville to his visions for what is possible for collaborative culture, communities, and the people who live and grow inside them.
In this episode
- Intentional community and eco villages. (0:00)
- Community experience and sustainability leadership. (3:46)
- Community, interconnectedness, and evolution. (8:01)
- Manifesting divinity and community values. (13:39)
- Eco-villages and sustainable living. (19:11)
- Community building, values, and sustainability. (26:55)
- Community building and overcoming barriers through spiritual growth and collective decision-making. (32:27)
- Collective consciousness and community evolution. (41:07)
- Community growth and partnerships. (46:22)
- Community building and collaboration. (50:35)
- Funding and supporting the FIC and its initiatives. (55:06)
- Community support and volunteer opportunities. (59:16)
- Community and collaboration with Daniel Greenberg. (1:04:23)
About Daniel Greenberg
In 1999, Daniel Greenberg founded the non-profit Living Routes, which partnered with UMass-Amherst to run study abroad programs based in ecovillages around the world. Over 1,500 students were transformed by these immersive experiences. Daniel left Living Routes in 2012 to start a new social venture called Earth Deeds, which offers online tools for individuals and groups to “onset” their unavoidable CO2 emissions and support meaningful sustainability projects.
Daniel has been a leading advocate for sustainability within international education and the ecovillage movement. He chaired Sustainability Task Forces for NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Forum for Education Abroad, is co-founder and past Board Member of Gaia Education, served as President of the Global Ecovillage Network from 2015-2019, and is currently co-director of the Foundation for Intentional Community.
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Thanks from Rebecca, your podcast host
Daniel Greenberg 0:00
What if the truth is that we’re at the very beginning of that journey of that awakening to what it really means to experience ourselves as part of collectives. I, I think we are at the very, very beginning, like even those of us who’ve been living communities and eco villages for most of our lives, I think we we still only have a dim awareness of what that could look like. You know, what does it Thich Nhat Hanh once said that the next Buddha Maitreya, he said, maybe the next Buddha won’t show up in the form of an individual. Maybe the next enlightened being will be a community.
Rebecca Mesritz 0:44
Hello, friends, and welcome back to the inside community podcast. I’m your host, Rebecca Mesritz. Well, we are officially in the holiday season, a time of reflection on the past year, visioning for the new year and hopefully a time of generosity to if you are a regular listener of the show, I’m sure you’ve by now heard the donation plea from the new co director of the fic Daniel Greenberg, and wondered who is this guy? What’s his story and what is really going on over there at the fic. As we wrap up the year, I thought it would be a great time to hear directly from Daniel and get a sense of what his new vision is for the foundation for intentional community, as well as learn a bit from his deep and broad experience in the international eco village movement. Maybe you’re familiar with that 2015 Michael Moore documentary where to invade next. I really liked that film, and I loved the concept of harvesting lessons from communities abroad, and seeing what we could learn and bring back to the US communities movement. Daniel has spent loads of time visiting living in and researching international communities and he’s bringing some of that vision and experience to us today. So cozy up to your hot cocoa or pumpkin spice latte. Maybe grab yourself a gingerbread cookie while you’re wrapping up some gifts. And let’s dive in with Daniel Greenberg.
Rebecca Mesritz 2:17
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Rebecca Mesritz 3:46
In 1999, Daniel Greenberg founded the nonprofit living routes, which partnered with UMass Amherst to run study abroad programs based in Eco villages around the world. Over 1500 students were transformed by these immersive experiences. Daniel left living routes in 2012 to start a new social venture called Earth deeds, which offers online tools for individuals and groups to unset their unavoidable co2 emissions and support meaningful sustainability projects. Daniel has been a leading advocate for sustainability within international education and the Eco village movement. He chaired sustainability task forces for NAFSA the association of international educators and the forum for education abroad, is co founder and past board member of Gaia education, served as president of the Global eco village network from 2015 to 2019, and is currently co director of the foundation for intentional community. Daniel Greenberg, welcome to the Inside community podcast. Thanks for joining me today.
Daniel Greenberg 4:53
Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Rebecca Mesritz 4:57
Well, I am Very excited to sort of introduce you to my audience as the new co director of the fic. And you come with just bucket loads of community experience. And I’m wondering if you could just give our audience our listeners just a little bit of a snapshot into your relationship to communities?
Daniel Greenberg 5:22
Sure. Okay. So I’ll ladle out the bucket a little bit. How far back I guess I’ll start when I did my graduate work in child development in School Psychology, and I was dreaming of creating a school for kids in a community setting. Which honestly, I can’t tell you where that idea came from. Because although I was born in Ithaca, upstate New York, which was very progressive, from six to 18, I lived in the suburbs in Delaware, so very anti community or lacking community, maybe I felt what was missing in my life. Anyway, I had this idea of creating a school, studied the topic of children and communities probably two years and then hopped into a campervan with my then partner, now wife, Monique, and we traveled to about 30 communities across North America. And that was transformative. I like to say that I think I learned more the first day I stepped foot in an actual community than probably those two years I had spent studying them. It was almost like, like they were singing a song or telling a story that I couldn’t quite hear until I was immersed in it. Then I got to spend a year at the Findhorn foundation in Scotland doing a school psychology internship, came back a couple years later moved to the serious community in Western Massachusetts series like the Dogstar SR IUs, not so serious. There’s actually a nearby community called frivolous community just for a sense of balance. And then I started a nonprofit called living roots and our living routes. And we partnered with the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and we ran study abroad programs in Eco villages. So we took students on Semester summer January programs to Findhorn Oroville, an amazing community in South India, Senegal, Israel, Peru, Mexico over because great work. I did that for quite a few years along the way. I also got very involved in the global eco village network, and served as president for a couple years also was part of the creation of Gaia education, which was originally the sort of the education arm of Jen and became its own organization. Yeah, I’ve been living at Sirius are two daughters grew up here, and then we moved to Canada, then we moved to Oroville in India. And then I moved to Finn horn to take on the role of education director there. And you may have heard Finn horn has been going through a lot of crises the last few years, and actually just wind it up just a few days ago. So I left the position in mid April, and the community in July, and now I’m back at the serious community and exploring next steps. That was pretty quick. That’s good.
Rebecca Mesritz 8:02
That was that was a good snapshot. So, you know, as someone is coming on to help shape what the community’s movement might be able to become here in the US. You know, I’m I want to hear a little bit about your perspective on community as a whole. And why is community and why is intentional community and collaborative culture? Why is this important? Why is this important right now?
Daniel Greenberg 8:34
Well, it’s especially important now. And I really do feel like we’re at this threshold moment, not just in planetary history, but really in human. It not just in human history, really, I meant it but in planetary history that we have come to a point where I think we either change our core story, or we will go extinct. And so I think we’ve as a species gotten pretty far along the road of this story of separation of that you and I are separate that we’re separate from the environment. And you look around, and it’s almost a perfect manifestation of that story. And all the challenges and crises that are entailed with that. And I think to get through this, I mean, we have climate change, we have all these other crises. I’m not convinced we’re actually going to make it through. But I am convinced that if we do make it to the other side of climate change, we will be a different species. And part of that difference will be a different core story we will embody, we will viscera realize the awareness of our Inter beingness with each other and all life. And I see Ecovillages as the cutting edge of that evolution. I mean, it happened for me when I started traveling, there was this light bulb that went on when I was doing living routes and bringing students to communities. So many of them, they just sort of woke up to like, oh my god, this is actually Very deep. I mean, I think it’s in our bones. It’s in our genetic history. And I think the last couple 100 years, we’ve sort of been living in amnesia. And we’ve essentially forgotten what it means to live in community. And so experiencing intentional communities and eco villages, it’s not like we’re putting anything on in terms of or adding anything new to us. It’s more like we’re stripping away the illusion of our separateness and remembering it’s a sense of coming home a sense of remembering who we are, essentially, in this world and in this universe. So that’s the biggest why, and I just see communities and all of its shapes and forms like facets of that gem of how do we wake up to that inherent sense of interconnectedness and interbeing?
Rebecca Mesritz 10:52
That’s really a beautiful perspective on it. I’m wondering, you know, do you see this as being something that can be brought to more mainstream culture? You know, and what is the story? I mean, when you talk about the importance of community and that interconnectedness, like, what does that mean to you? Like, what does that look like? Really, for people that maybe haven’t experienced community firsthand?
Daniel Greenberg 11:19
It’s tough, you know, like, I remember when I was running living roots, and I would go to college campuses and speak in some big classes. And I would often ask the students, it’s like, so what do you most want out of life, I mean, make a list, right. And then I’d have them popcorn and brainstorm. And of course, the usual suspects were like, I want a good job, a nice house, a loving partner, maybe opportunities to travel or learn. Very, very rarely did I hear anyone speak of, hey, I want to be part of something, I want to be part of a community, I want to have that sense of belonging. And I think the idea of community isn’t even on most people’s radar, it’s not even something that people are thinking of looking for. And if, when it comes up, it has sort of vaguely religious or maybe old order kind of connotations to it. And it’s something I think people avoid, especially in our very individualistic society. So, it is hard. And I also remember running living roots programs. And after the programs ended, many students would come up to me and they say, you know, I had no idea how spiritual the program would be. And by that they mean sort of that immersion into that those deeper questions of why and who are we? And then they would go on and say, like, if you had told me how spiritual and how transformative it would be on that level, I probably wouldn’t have come, because it would have felt too threatening. But now looking back, that’s what had the most power. That’s what I most appreciate about the programs, which puts us in an odd position, right? Like it’s almost a Trojan horse. It’s like, how do we promote that in a way that people can hear. And I’ve been talking about this for 30 years, I think people are slowly waking up to it. But I still think it’s off the radar of most people. One of the things that I want to do, I did this while I was at Finn horn. And before then is a digital storytelling course. And I did this in the run up to Finland 60th anniversary last year, and had people who were connected to Finland just tell a poignant moment, a story from their connection to Finn horn. And that was wonderful. And then they shared those stories during the 60s and it kind of put flesh on the bones, it helped people sort of feel it a little bit. And so I’d love to do that more and hear stories of like, what was it for you? When was that moment when that light bulb went off for you? And I think that’s a way to bridge to the mainstream to when they say Oh, I can kind of put myself in that position. Yeah, yeah, I could go on but that’s, uh, I think that clamps
Rebecca Mesritz 13:49
I’m just curious because I see this this time in our cultural life, this this, this particular moment that we live in right now. Seems really fraught with people with very widely disparate values, right? And I see things on you know, I’m on social media, kind of, not I’m not great at it, but I really I try. I see these things coming through my feeds that feel like they’re from another planet, you know, it’s it, they’re, they’re designed for people whose values are exactly that, you know, staunch individualism, that I’m going to do it myself. I’m, I’m my own person. And I mean, the values of like consumerism and capitalism and like, what is important is the nice new clothes or the shiny car or the big nails or the whatever the thing is, and that feels, you know how to Do you start to infiltrate that belief system in a way that says, hey, like, there’s actually this other way of being that might be beneficial to you? Or the planet or our our race? Yeah,
Daniel Greenberg 15:17
well, first, I think we have to recognize that those aren’t new belief systems. They’ve been around for a long time, social media and other forms of communication have raised them to consciousness, which in some ways can be a good thing. I mean, because now we can actually see them and respond to them. And I do think that people change, they think that people often make big changes through crises, right. And I think we had a preview of what’s coming with COVID. And so many people that was a life changing experience for them, where they got to sit back and say, Whoa, what am I doing in this life? Is this really what I want to be doing? Am I going to be just doing this for the rest of my life? And so what did they call it, there’s the great leaving and stuff, and people really reevaluating. So I think that’s an opportunity for people to wake up. And I think, again, it’s sort of the small wave with the bigger waves coming with climate change already here. But I think we’re going to be seeing more and more the impacts of that. And even beyond that, I mean, this is, maybe I would call it my myth of choice. This is my faith. My faith is that we are all on the same journey. Every person, every blade of grass, every atom in the universe, essentially, is on the same journey, which is manifesting, for lack of a better word, divinity, I realized that has a religious connotation, but I’m not I’m not saying it that way. But how do we manifest all of that spirit into the material world? And whether it looks like we’re doing that or it looks like we’re doing the opposite? In a sense, it’s the same thing. I think everything is either an expression of that, or call for that. And so, yeah, it’s hard to do that with even like people like Trump, but I even with him, when I step back, step back far enough, I can say, thank you. Thank you for raising the consciousness. So that we can see that and that’s part of being our teacher. Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Rebecca Mesritz 17:16
Oh, well, you know, you’ve had a lot of experience over the years visiting and participating in international communities, which I imagine gives you a little bit different of a perspective. You know, you spent a lot of time in Oroville, which I think for our listeners who are not familiar with Oroville, you should definitely check them out. And Finn horn as well. They’re both doing really amazing projects on huge, huge scales with just really big, devoted visions. And I’m wondering, you know, what have you learned from your time studying different communities and in particularly these international communities that you think you can be, you know, what, can you harvest and bring back?
Daniel Greenberg 18:06
Rice here? It’s a hard question, because there’s no like collective they, I remember when I was doing my doctoral work on children, and growing up in communities, I thought, Okay, I’m gonna go out, and I’m going to come up with the grand theory, or the grand model of intentional community education. And every community I went to was completely different. I remember I was knocking my head against the wall, and like, how do we make sense of all this? And then it finally dawned on me that it’s actually the diversity, which is the magic, right? I mean, in mainstream, you have relatively few options around how to raise your kids, and educate your kids, right? In communities. If there’s the resources, you can do anything from, from daycare, to elementary school, homeschooling, travel programs, it’s really much more malleable to the values and inspiration of those communities. And so that’s true internationally, as well. I think you know, so most of my professional career has been involved with eco villages. And so I have a very simple definition of eco villages that I think can lead to a response to this question, which is, I see an eco villages is simply a group of people that are trying to live high quality, and yet low impact lives together. How do we live well and lightly together? That’s it. To me, that’s that that is what an ecovillage is that and I like that definition. Because there’s no threshold. There’s no criteria, like, Oh, you’re an ecovillage. You’re not it’s all aspirational. We’re all in the journey. There’s no utopias, but thinking about it that way. It shows that there are actually two directions toward ecovillages. Those of us in Western countries, North America, Europe, particularly, are typically doing this top down. It’s like they are we’re already living in fairly well. High quality lives, right? We are well resourced. We have lots of options, opportunities. And we’re saying how do we maintain that lifestyle, but reduce our ecological footprint? Right? There’s a whole other direction, which is among indigenous communities and villages that are saying, hey, wait a minute, we want to develop, we need to develop, we need access to shelter, health care, education, medicine, water, right. I mean, there are billions of people on this planet living very resource deprived lives. And so they’re saying, how do we increase our quality of life? But at the same time, how do we preserve our resources, our culture, right, but essentially, they’re all going to that middle ground of how do we live well and lightly together. And so I think there’s a lot of lessons particularly to be learned from those communities and villages that are trying that bottom up direction. And you mentioned Oroville, which is this amazing community, in South India, 3300 people 60 nations trying to build a sustainable city. That’s the only place I’ve discovered yet on the planet that is actually doing both of those at once. There. The about half of the population is from India, to many from the surrounding villages. But there’s also 59 Other nations represented there. And so it’s really interesting to see both of those directions from top down and bottom up happening in Oroville.
Rebecca Mesritz 21:28
And what is like, what does that look like? You know, functionally like how does that actually manifest
Daniel Greenberg 21:37
for them? Well, for them up in your thinking in particular, Oroville or anywhere. Yeah,
Rebecca Mesritz 21:42
for Oroville, for some for community that is trying to find that middle like Where where are they finding that? Right.
Daniel Greenberg 21:50
So the top down is a lot of the ecological activities that were familiar with. I mean in Oroville, they came to a land that was as one person described a dying back into a moon. The overgrazing of cattle. Monsoon rains was literally washing the topsoil into the Bay of Bengal by the 1000s of tonnes a year. So a lot of the early years was just regeneration of the land and stopping the water, helping it percolate into the aquifers and planting almost over 2 million trees now. Bringing back the tropical dry evergreen forest, windmills, solar batch tuts you know there’s this, there’s this wonderful kind of combination of Asian and Western architecture kind of using Buckminster Fuller with these thatched huts combination that’s sort of the top down and then bottom up. I think there’s a lot of learning there around how do these Western cultures really immerse and integrate into India. And in the early days, they didn’t really know what they were doing. It was particularly a lot of Americans that went to Oroville in the early days. And they were, they were kind of they wanted to help. And so they started supporting the villages. And the ill will build you a well and stuff. And of course, those kind of relationships don’t don’t really serve much in the long run. But over the years, there’s been very sophisticated initiatives, village action, and really trying to help identify those nascent leaders within the villages, and helping them identify the issues and finding resources. What happens a lot in India is people who have a particular skills or aptitudes are likely to go to the cities or abroad because they can earn more money and support their families. And so there’s a brain drain. And so I think Oroville has been very supportive in helping a lot of that talent stay local as well. That’s just a glimpse to answer your question.
Rebecca Mesritz 23:51
Yeah, I, you know, I wonder, I’ve had people on this podcast, who, you know, when you think about this sort of top down of how do you maintain your high quality of, of life, high quality of Western life, yet create less of an ecological footprint? Who might argue that that’s actually not possible? That you I mean, you kinda can, but really an OT, like, in order for us to find balance. We can’t keep all the things that we that we’ve basically, the only reason we have is because of colonialism and, and luck, or something like that, you know, and I’m curious to know, you know, what do you think about that because it feels in some ways, I feel like that’s true and in other ways, as someone that has a pretty high quality life at this point, thank God and I feel very blessed. And I also do strive to have less of an ecological footprint but I also see See that in order for it to be really, in the middle, there would be so much sacrifice and what, you know, where do we fall in that? That’s
Daniel Greenberg 25:09
the fear, right? Oh my god, I’m gonna go to a coffee. I’m gonna live with eating straw in a cave or something. And of course, that’s the, that’s the epiphany that people often have. And, like here at Sirius, which is a spin off of Finn horn, which you may know, it’s a beautiful community. One of the mottos at Finn horn is work is love and action. And so there’s a lot of effort to make things beautiful and aesthetic, and you just walk around. And there’s the sense of like, people were paying attention here, people were really trying to bring this higher vibration, this higher consciousness into the material world. And I feel that it’s serious, too. And so I can’t tell you how many tours I’ve given where people were like, Oh, I could live here. This seems okay. And it’s and it really, I think, is this constraint of imagination that our mainstream societies keep us in that this is what quality of life looks like. And it’s commercial, right? It’s, it’s how do we, it’s about buying more stuff. And if we step back and think, what is quality of life really mean? What’s the feelings that I want? On a day to day basis? It’s much more about connections, meaning, you know, how do we live in the world? That feels enlivening, I was recently at Twin Oaks, they have an annual gathering. And on an individual level, they’re each living far below the Parvat poverty line. But they’re living wonderful lives, they have access to all this nature. They have wonderful work, life balance, you know, they they officially work 42 hours a week, but that includes cleaning and cooking and, and doing all your errands. And so most of us think we have a 40 hour week, but it’s actually more like a 50 or 60 hour week. And so there’s a lot of free time. Hundreds
Rebecca Mesritz 26:54
if you’re if you’re a mom, what’s that? I said hundreds if you’re a mom or a parent? Yes, exactly.
Daniel Greenberg 27:01
And actually childcare, even massage is considered time tileable I don’t know what the what the time billable hours, right? So it’s part of their 42 hours. So it comes back to I love how they frame it. They’re like, what do we value? And then let’s support that. Let’s incentivize that to say, yeah, that can be part of your work here, even if it’s not necessarily revenue generating. And so communities have that opportunity to create worlds that are really manifesting their core values. And I would say 99.9% of them are one of the some of those core values are around belonging and supporting and really helping each other become the best versions of ourselves, essentially, and together.
Rebecca Mesritz 27:47
I just love that idea of the distinction between revenue generating and value generating. Yeah, and what’s possible inside of community or collaborative cultures in terms of generating value, that that might not equate to revenue, but it equates to quality of life deeper connection more meaning. I’m curious if you have thoughts about how that message might begin to percolate out into into the world more,
Daniel Greenberg 28:22
you know, a thought game that I often play with myself, is what would I do differently if I didn’t have to do this for money? Or if money wasn’t even involved in this? And it changes everything? Really? Because so much of what we do or don’t do revolves around that question. And I do think I hope, I mean, we have a couple forks in the road as a species coming up. I mean, climate change is a big one. And also AI is a big one and AI I think is going to create incredible wealth, I mean, unimaginable wealth on this planet. The question is, what do we do with that? Well, if it goes to a select few, we’re just going to entrench into these stories of inequity. And I think it’s going to lead to disaster. If we can wake up as a species and say, let’s distribute that well, to a point where some or all of our time is held within our economy. And we can get to some sort of universal basic income or supporting. I mean, I think that would be a complete Renaissance on this planet, if people could do what they most love.
Rebecca Mesritz 29:35
Thank you so much for being with me today in this conversation with Daniel and I hope you’re enjoying the episodes so far. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share these kinds of conversations with you. We’re having a spectacular second season and I’m so glad that you’ve been able to follow along as we dive into a lot of the messier aspects of life and community well whether we’ve been talking about death and dying cults raising children, placemaking, or aging, the inside community podcast strives to bring diverse experiences and perspectives for you to learn from, regardless of where you are on your community journey. I hope you’ll consider in this season of giving making a donation to this show, I will put a link in the show notes or you can go to icy.org/podcast and make a contribution to help cover operating costs and keep the show alive. Every little bit helps. But if you’d like to make a larger donation, you should know that the fic is a 501 C three and would love to be included in your end of year giving. Thank you so much friends, and I hope you have a truly blessed holiday season. catice is not your everyday architecture firm. Their interest and regenerative and community supportive design has cultivated an expertise in intentional and cohousing communities, with the focus on rich and healthy human experiences. Design Excellence and pragmatism are at the core of their work, as is an ethic of service to the client and natural or urban environments. caddis is a leader in sustainable design, Zero Energy homes, passive house and delightful neighborhoods. They are experts in grassroots community engagement, and apply attention sophisticated design and creative solutions to every project. If it’s worth building, it’s worth building it well find caddis on Facebook and Instagram. And at Catus pc.com. That’s CADDIS pc.com. You talked a little bit about Syria’s where you are right now. I’m wondering, you know, in terms of the just coming back to Findhorn Oroville, some of these other international communities that you’ve visited, and then harvesting the lessons to bring back to us communities, you know, where are their caution Aries that you’re aware of? Are there places that that you see, we want to as a movement, we want to avoid that maybe you’ve you’ve either seen in person or that you’ve even seen just in communities here in the US? Yeah, like where are the pitfalls that we need to be looking out for? I guess? Yeah,
Daniel Greenberg 32:33
I mean, there’s, there’s a concept or there’s a model called spiral dynamics that I suspect many of the listeners have have connected to otherwise you can easily Google it’s been around for 50 or 60 years. And it’s looking at different kinds of styles of worldviews. And it’s also looking at sort of an evolution of consciousness. And so it goes from like survival to sort of more power oriented to more truth and almost doctrinaire, to more success entrepreneurial to sort of the green meme around community, environmentalism, all of those in spiral dynamics would be considered first tear. And one of the things that that means is that all of those worldviews think they’re the only or at least the only valid worldview. And so a lot of us come to community, and we’re even trying to do the same thing. Right. I mean, I see this in Oroville in particular, I mean, Oroville has struck a very strong Bell, in terms of this is who we are, it’s about it’s an experiment and conscious evolution. It’s about building a city, the earth needs a city the for human unity. I mean, it’s very clear what Oroville was trying to become. And so for years and years, I thought, Okay, this is great. This is going to attract people who resonate with that completely. The challenge is, is that people can have that same ultimate vision, but see it through a very different worldview. And right now, there’s a real division in Oroville between the people who are rather doctrinaire and saying, Well, if Mira alfalfa, one of the founders known as the mother said something that is absolutely true, it has to be done exactly. As she said, even if it means like, we want to build this circular road that happens to go through the youth center or through this ecologically sensitive area. And then there’s the more ecological green folks who are saying, what, that’s crazy. It’s like, let’s try to like we can just move it a little bit. And they’re all trying to do the same thing. Right? They’re all there for the city. And so it’s really sad and depressing when there’s this huge fight happening. And so part of my work there was trying to help raise the consciousness, like, look, we’re here doing this, trying to do the same thing, but from very different worldviews. And can we actually step out of all of our worldviews and recognize that they’re all important for various various reasons, instead of saying it’s an us versus them? How do we put them all into a pot and say, Yeah, you know, thank you for seeing the value and really honoring the sacredness of the vision that Oroville is based on. And thank you For really wanting to live in harmony with the local environment, and how do we, how do we draw bigger circles? How do we draw ways that we can all come together? So I think group mind both within worldviews, and then sometimes it happens in communities where they’re thinking the same way, in ways that actually prevent them from communicating clearly or effectively, outside of their communities. I think these are some lessons, it’s like, we’re all on a journey to sort of expand and evolve our consciousness. I think community is a wonderful campus. It’s a wonderful cauldron for that growth, if we allow it. But we have to sort of step into that, because it’s just as easy to get into echo chambers and just listen to what we want. I mean, certainly, we’re seeing that in the mainstream communities can do that as well. And so I think it needs some conscious intention to say, hey, let’s use this as an opportunity to really deeply see each other even, especially when we disagree or seeing or seeing things differently, and recognizing that it’s all part of that larger hole.
Rebecca Mesritz 36:12
Do you see that as something that can be solved with governance? Or is that something that’s more of a spiritual pursuit? I mean, how do we overcome those those barriers? Or is it both?
Daniel Greenberg 36:28
It is both? And I mean, I take a broad perspective on spiritual and I see everything is spiritual, but then again, everything is politics, too. Right? So I mean, they’re both, they’re both everything. Yeah, and I think it’s, it’s important to always raise the consciousness, how, certainly the structures of our, of our environment and our collective, how they model or contravene our core values. So and a lot of that is how do we, for lack of a better word, operationalize our spiritual values. So like, I’m remembering it Findhorn. In the early days, especially, you had to show up at meditation in the morning, that was just part of it. And there was a strong, there’s still a strong emphasis on what they call attunement, which is really kind of going into silence and listening to that group mind. And I was listening to a podcast a few months ago, with some cutting edge thinkers, and they were talking about the future of decision making. And they were saying, look, it’s not democracy, we kind of know that it’s not even consensus, or sociocracy, or any of these other up and coming models. They were talking, they use the term resonance. And when I heard that, I was like, Oh, you’re essentially talking about Finn horn. And also Sirius has been doing a lot of this as well. Of how do we, at the same time, manifest our full potential? How do we show up fully as the best versions of ourselves? And at the same time, how do we see ourselves? How do we experience ourselves as parts of that larger hole? How do we see ourselves and feel ourselves as cells in that larger being? And so I think there are ways that communities can do that through I mean, meditation and spiritual practices, ritual celebrations are wonderful ways to do that. But even very practical things about how we do food, you know, going back to Twin Oaks, because I was just there, they they do a lot of it’s an income sharing community. And so a lot of just living there is in this field of egalitarian ism. And the structures support that as well. But ultimately, it’s like, how do we create models that help us live into that? That larger collective? I’ll say one more thing, there’s, you know, if you think about life, okay, here’s another big perspective. I mean, there are these nested hierarchies of life, it’s everywhere we look, I mean, think of ourselves as humans, right? We are individuals, but we are made up of subsystems we have our organs and sub organs. And that goes all the way down right to the molecules and atoms. And further. If you look at any level of that system of that nested hierarchy, you look down for function, and you look up for purpose. And so if again, if we think of ourselves in this way, all of our organs, our heart, our lungs, all of those are functionary to us, we are their purpose. It’s not like the heart is saying, oh, gotta make sure Rebecca is doing well, right. I mean, it’s not. It’s it’s just doing what it loves to do. And but in the process, it’s serving your being. Right. And the question that I think communities implicitly ask is, why would that end with us? And so the question is, To what a we functionary of what is our purpose? And that’s what I’m talking about when I think of communities, experimenting with how do we live into this idea of ourselves as cells in this larger being. And we don’t when we feel it when you feel it, again, it’s, it’s this awakening, it’s an it’s an experience, it’s not a conceptual thing. It’s like, Oh, I get that. And sometimes it’s in those moments of flow in a community, when things are just happening. And you just feel like we’re here together, we’re doing this together. And the challenge is that it’s easy to sort of attach to that and say, Oh, we have to do this together, it’s about this or that. It’s really just kind of feeling and it’s a flow, because it’s actually both of those, I think we kind of we pendulum swing between this idea of ourselves as individuals, and this larger hole. And I think the dream is to actually have both of those at the same time.
Rebecca Mesritz 41:07
I love that framing of this thing that we’re doing on so many levels. I mean, I think about my most ecstatic moments in my community experience, and they are when you’re in that. I mean, it is flow, but it’s also when it feels like oh, we are so grounded in our purpose. When you have this feeling of of, I mean, I don’t want to say divinely ordained, because it makes it sound very grand. But it feels that way. Like in your body, you’re like, we are doing what we’re what we’re here to do, we are our little work on this little project, whether that’s planting a garden or hosting an event or taking care of animals or children, or whatever that thing is, feels like it’s really in service to something that is greater than not just yourself, not just your community, but something even bigger. And that’s why I love doing this podcast, to be to be honest, is it will say like, oh, this is really communicating something bigger than just community, like the idea of community, it’s communicating a whole other way that we can possibly be in relation to each other.
Daniel Greenberg 42:21
Exactly. And what if, what if the truth is that we’re at the very beginning of that journey of that awakening, to what it really means to experience ourselves as part of collectives. I think we are at the very, very beginning, like even those of us who have been living in communities and eco villages for most of our lives, I think we we still only have a dim awareness of what that could look like. You know, what does it take not Han once said that the next Buddha Maitreya, he said, maybe the next Buddha won’t show up in the form of an individual. Maybe the next enlightened being will be a community. And when I heard that I got goosebumps, I was like, Oh, my God. What would that is that kind of just expanded the balloon of my thinking of like, oh, this is actually much bigger than I was thinking. This is this is part of, we’re at this, this threshold, we’re at a moment where we could take an evolutionary leap in our consciousness. And or we we could perish along the way. And I think it’s actually the challenge is it’s, it could be one in the same, like, it may need a challenge of this magnitude, to actually push us into that way of being like, I mean, honestly, I don’t think we have a choice like because I don’t, I don’t think we will make it through the coming decades, the coming century, with the same mentality, the same attitudes, the same worldview that we have now. So we either change, or we die so that earlier and I truly believe it would, but that’s exciting, too, right? We’re going to see amazing changes. And so it comes back to each of us. Like, where’s my threshold around that? How much do I think of myself as purely an individual? And where does that come from? Where do those narratives come from? And can I deconstruct them? Can I? Are there alternatives? What am I scared of? What would it look like if I at the same time, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t be fooling ourselves, I actually think we should become more and more of that. But at the same time, there’s this surrendering there’s, there’s like, Oh, if I’m only a part of that, if I’m a heart in that larger being maybe I can’t know what that is, or maybe I can only dimly know like right now. Finn horn is going through a huge crisis because the foundation is closing up and so the community is doing fine and there’s a lots of there’s a There’s a ecosystem of businesses and things going on there. And but they’re like the mothership is gone. And so they’re like, who are we now? What are we doing? And my, my take on it is like, Let’s relax. It’s almost like it is that when the foundation closed up, it’s there was this like mitosis of this cell. And I’m like, maybe we’re in this process of differentiation. If we use that metaphor of a cell growing, and maybe what is to each of us, it’s just a follow our bliss, to follow how we feel we can manifest that impulse, the angel if inordinate, as it’s sometimes called. And then over time, maybe we can get to a blastocyst for those of you who’ve taken biology, and maybe then to an embryo, and it’s only then we can start imagining, start seeing, like, what is this thing going to become. But it can only become that by us doing what we feel we’re called to do. And trusting, trusting that together, maybe none of us can understand or know that larger level of emergence, but that it will come through our collective wisdom. That’s what really excites me, in the communities movement. How can we do that? And if I can go on, I mean, one of the things that I’m excited about with the fic is looking at how can we create a council of communities across North America, this exists in Europe. And there’s a couple other networks like this. But we’ve many of us have had this experience of coming into community and saying, Oh, wow, this helps expand who I think I am. And I think there’s another level that is in its early infancy, which is that community of communities, and to say, like, who are we together collectively, because many people come to a community. And they’re like, Oh, this is awesome. This is a nice place to live. And they maybe they’ve never even visited another community, they visit one of the community, and it sort of like pops them out of their bubble. And they’re like, Oh, this is not just where I am. This isn’t just a unique experiment. There’s other places doing it and to see whatever you’re doing in the context, not only of your community, but in a community of communities within the whole planetary transformation. That’s where I feel deep motivation, deep inspiration comes from. And so I like to see the community’s movement and fic being part of that awakening, to say, look, you’re part of something big here. This is, let’s we should, let’s let’s claim this, let’s celebrate this, let’s lean into it, because it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to put each of us individually and also collectively onto our growth edges. And those are often very difficult places to be. But ultimately, it’s where we’re heading.
Rebecca Mesritz 47:45
So I like this idea of the community of communities. I’m wondering, what are some other possibilities that you see for for the fic? And, you know, moving forward in terms of partnerships or programs?
Daniel Greenberg 48:03
Oh, lots. Yeah. I mean, again, most of my adult life has been more involved with eco villages than intentional communities. I was definitely I was connected with fic, like 2530 years ago, in fact, I have my email@example.com email, which many of you are welcome to reach out and contact me if you’d like. I’ve had that since like, 1989. I think it’s kind of crazy. But yeah, being connected Ecovillages around the world has been, has been phenomenal. And so in the early days, so there’s many people have heard of the global ecovillage network. And that started at Findhorn in 1995. And there were three regions we in here in the states would be in what was then called the ecovillage, network of the Americas and, and then the Latin American network showed up, which basically left North America, the US and Canada. And the fic is also taking stronger stances around certain things, particularly around diversity, equity, inclusion issues, and also sustainability as well. And so over the last couple decades, the fic, and what was called Gen North America, the global ecovillage network of North America have essentially kind of converged. And so one of my dreams, and I’m saying this, as these are ideas that I’m really holding, I’m not saying absolutely we’re doing this or that and I, I don’t want to promise anything in this podcast, but I just want to let you know, this is the state of my thinking that I’d like to see the fic and Jen, North America really combined forces and effectively become the North American node of the global ecovillage network. Not only would that allow the fic to focus more strongly in it with its core constituency, which is North America, but it would also allow more connections to eco villages around the world through the Global eco village network, and so on. Other ways to do that is through membership. And I know that the fic revised its membership about a year or so ago. But I think there are bigger opportunities that we are exploring now that we could be looking at on an individual basis, that could allow people to connect to the resources within fic, but also resources in other regions of the global ecovillage network, having like a global individual membership, and then also really energizing a community level membership. That, again, we could even be thinking about this council of communities. My dream is to have an inaugural annual general meeting next year of at least a dozen representatives from communities where we could start looking and dreaming into Who are we together, lots of people are excited about exchange programs for youth and expertise and programs. We could be doing joint fundraising, there’s research opportunities, like a decentralized network of research, there’s so many things that we could be doing together. I’m actually, you know, just on a on an exchange level, we were 14 of us from Sirius went down on a train to Twin Oaks, which was a wonderful experience in itself, and going down and coming back 10 hours each way. And now inviting a bunch of people from Twin Oaks to come up to Sirius, so that we can be talking about events next year, looking at this council and I also there’s a couple people at Twin Oaks that are quite expert in creating, like adventure playgrounds and we’re wanting to do that serious, I’m like, Wouldn’t this be wonderful? Could you guys come up, and we’ll get the materials and we can host you and help us put together this, this playground, there’s so many things that we could be doing together. A few years ago, there was some efforts made toward creating sort of like a community made section of the bookstore. And I’d love to explore that some of this requires some platform development. And it may take a little while. But I would love for people to be able to go to the bookstore, and be able to see things that are made in communities and maybe even drill down I want to see what’s made at this community of that. But just to feel like it’s almost like the Etsy of communities in a way. So there’s so many possibilities around all of that. And we want to really support seekers. I mean, I think 60 to 70% of the people who come to fic are looking for communities. So how can we help them do that better? How can we have advanced searches, one of the things that I’d love to see, which will take some some development. But I’d love to see just like a little percentage next to each of the listings of a response rate, like this community responds with a 90% within a week or something. This one doesn’t at all. And I think that’s wonderful from a seekers perspective, because I want to I want to communicate with the communities that are going to communicate with me. And it’s incentive for the communities to say, Hey, folks, we’re not getting that much people because we’re not really responding. Well. So you know, how do we make those flows visible? How do we create the incentives that work across? networks? These are these are some ideas. Yeah, there’s more, but that’s just some ideas. Those
Rebecca Mesritz 53:12
are the I mean, yeah, I love all that. I mean, especially as a, you know, communitarian and person who’s lived in built community lived in and built community. It felt a little like, we were an island. It felt a lot like we were an island, even though Yeah, at the Emerald village. You know, we were there were definitely other communities, but in terms of actually sharing information, and, and problem solving, and how how do you deal with this issue right now? How do you deal with, you know, when it’s time for someone when someone’s not working out, and it’s time for them to go? Like, these are tough questions. And, you know, I’ve talked with people in the past as part of the reason for doing this podcast again, it’s like, I need answers to these questions that were not answered. And in my experience thus far, but I love the idea of having these councils in these places where you’re, you’re able to share information, and you’re also able to just dream bigger into what’s possible.
Daniel Greenberg 54:14
Yeah, I mean, we’ve we have evolved a lot as a movement. I mean, if we go I mean, communities have been around for millennia. But if even the big gold rush in the 60s and 70s, some estimate, even up to 100,000 communities were started then, but many of them were flashing the pans because they didn’t know what they’re doing. They know my Uncle Joe has some land, let’s go live there. There were no processes for people entering or leaving. And they often fell apart often disastrously, but there was often a core group of people that said, Wait a minute, I still believe in this and they went on and they created second and third generation communities. And then consensus became a thing and now even sociocracy and other ideas are showing up and a lot Have those resources are now available through the fic and other organizations like sociocracy, for all. And, and we also have the tools and the, and the technology to be able to share these things. I’m participating in a consensus series of webinars series with Laird sharp, which is wonderful. And just gaining his some of his wisdom as well. So it really is an amazing moment where there’s so much to share. And I think the FSC just wants to kind of grease those wheels, that may not be the best analogy we want. We want to make the flows so easy, like slides into the into the wisdom, you want to feel immersed in this just bath of of information and wisdom that’s perfect for where we are and what we need. Yeah, and I think there’s always more possible around that.
Rebecca Mesritz 55:54
So let’s talk about some some brass tacks. Okay, cuz, you know, there was recently a plea for donations to the fic. And obviously, you know, speaking about Greece and Greece, and the gears, or whatever that is, you know, it takes that takes money it takes money to, to make some of these things happen. And I’m curious to know what your ideas are about how to. Yeah, and inspire, gifting and inspire contribution to these bigger visions. I mean, I think hearing you talk about this, these visions that you have, is pretty inspiring, in and of itself, right? And also, you know, how do how do you see fic and these, these communities generating more of the greenbacks necessary to make the dreams come true, right?
Daniel Greenberg 56:55
Well, I’ll say it. Now, I’ll say it again, I see.org/donate, that if you are inspired to support the fic, and movement, that’s a wonderful way to go. And we’re going to be expanding that over the coming months. You know, many of us live in a world where we’re sort of used to free services, Facebook, and Google and zoo wealth zooms, not so free, but Google meat and other things. And it’s often it’s not easy to see that, at the level of fic, a lot of these simple things that we take for granted actually cost quite a bit, it costs quite a bit to like 10s of 1000s. To maintain the server and the directory, there’s lots of software that we need to, to be subscribed to. And we have a staff of eight or nine folks at this point, mostly part time. And none of us are making a lot of money, but we’re doing it because we’re passionate about it. And we need support to not only keep going what we got going now, but certainly to lean into the potential of what we want to do. So there’s a couple of ways that we’re looking to do this one, I hope with this revised membership scheme. I mean, the way that the FSC currently is promoting its membership is a support the movement, and here are the things that you can do, which is great. And I want to continue doing that. But I also want to make sure that people see the value that we’re giving. So whether it’s on an individual, that it I mean, we’re there will always be a free membership, right? I mean, there’s always we want people to be able to access this, but there’s a lot of resources that say, Hey, look, if you’re willing to donate or contribute at a certain level, you get all this additional benefits. And then maybe even if you want to do that, globally, that’s going to take quite a lot. It’s not an easy thing. I’ll tell you right now, hurting the cats internationally to start talking about membership and how we might do this in a coherent way. And the fic and Jenna, I mean, honestly, this is a it’s a lot for us to try to emerge into that higher level of connection. So but membership is a way and also through community memberships, and really energizing this council, which I think can get a life of its own also to look at how it wants to evolve. We’re also looking at sponsorships. I’m actually trying to make a list and this would be a good play. If anyone out there knows of businesses that are either owned by or operated within communities, I’m making a list of those. And these are ones that I would love to to look at a deeper relationship with, and maybe some sort of sponsorship arrangement that they can be supporting fic we could be helping promote what they do in the world. And then also the affiliate program which is really cool that we have had but we haven’t really energized it. And so we want to energize this more if you are a current member if you can log in to fic part of your profile there is an affiliate area and you can get a link that you can attach to any program any offer Going through the fic. And you can promote it through your social media to your friends. And if anyone then registers through that link, you get a commission you get a kickback from from that. And so we’re happy to do that as a way to support people. Of course, it supports the fic. And so we’re looking at lots of different ways to do this to support the movement in ways that feel good to people feel like the flows are visible. And it’s not manipulative, we want to be as transparent with everything as possible. And, and we hope that people see the potential see, like, wow, we could actually take a whole other leap into who we are, as a community of communities, not only in North America, but really globally. And it’s going to take quite a bit more than where we are now. So we’ll keep going with what we have, we’ll try to make inroads into where we want to go. And a lot of the speed of that will depend on how much support we’re able to, to solicit from, from people who love what we’re doing.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:01:08
Are there other kinds of support people if someone has time or skills that are would be helpful or useful or materials? I don’t? I don’t know. Other ways people can contribute. Yeah, there
Daniel Greenberg 1:01:20
we are, we do have volunteers. One of the board members is particularly kind of scanning the fields for people who have particular skills, we just attracted someone who, with some design skills that we think can help create our annual report and maybe some of our end of year materials. So that’s great. I mean, of course, there’s NMF, actually, I put it out to all the staff to say, give me some job descriptions give me some volunteer opportunities of people who could step in and be a value. It’s not easy. I mean, one of my ideas was like, with the membership, maybe people could pay in time, as opposed to money, like, hey, I want to be a member of the fic, I’m willing to give 10 hours over a year or something, which is great. And it’s not so easy to find things that are valuable at that level of time commitment, right? Because it takes a lot of training. And so I’m trying to think of a way can we combine those can people give volunteer time, or maybe people would pay but it would go to so that someone could actually come in and actually get more time, because a lot of the bottleneck is around staff capacity, and skills. Like if we could just wave a wand and get 50 People with all the skills we wanted, oh my god, we could just develop so quickly. But that’s not an easy thing. So we’re trying to find those ways that we can attract more volunteer labor, but in a way that actually is mutually beneficial. So I mentioned Oroville earlier. And just a little plug. It is it is an amazing community. I’ve had the privilege of visiting and working and living in over 100 communities and eco villages around the world I’ve lost count years ago. And there’s there’s nothing that in my mind really compares to Oroville it is unless someone knows of something else. It’s the largest intentional community in the world largest eco village in the world, again with about 3300 people. And they are struggling, but they’re an amazing place of evolution. And so I’ve started going in 95 and led these semester programs for students for many years. And just before COVID did a two week program for adults, like a deep immersion into Oroville, which was really fun. And I’m going to do that again with my wife Monique. And we’re going to do that maybe one maybe twice, once or twice in January, February. And it will Oracle’s a bit of a hard place to get to know on your own. It’s a little like the Wild West. And so given 2530 years of experience and the privilege of getting to know a lot of the key players there. I think in two weeks, people can come and get a deep experience. And of course people could stay on and do other things after that. So if you’re interested in something like that, just contact me. And I can give you some information again, Daniel and ic.org and we’re gonna be seeing how we can pull that together in the coming months.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:04:23
Excellent. Well, Daniel Greenberg, thank you so much for sharing your visions of community and what do you think is possible and yeah, just wishing you the greatest success with your with your tenure as a co director and yeah, I I’m holding all those visions that you shared with you. And I really sincerely hope that our listeners, take a moment and go to ic.org/donate and or try and figure out ways that you and your community can plug into these visions because this this movement really is us doing this hang together. So, Daniel, thank you so much for your for your work.
Daniel Greenberg 1:05:04
Thank you. Thank you, Rebecca, I think together we are a huge leverage into this transformation that we’re experiencing as a species. So yeah, it’s this is the best job in the world, I mean to be part of this moment in planetary history. So thank you, and thank everyone listening for being a part of it.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:05:28
There are just so many possibilities for the future of the communities movement and collaborative culture. And I hope that after listening to this episode with Daniel Greenberg, you really see yourself as part of that future. Whether you are just a community curious person or a lifetime member. This podcast the inside community podcast really is here to support you and your journey, and to promote the unfolding of all of these visions. As you consider your end of year generosity, I invite you to participate in the growth of these dreams by visiting ic.org/podcast and making a contribution to the show. Your gift helps the message of the possibilities of collaborative culture to get out into the world. And if your resources are a little more snug this holiday season, sharing an episode and rating and reviewing on Apple podcasts is another great way of bolstering our work and the momentum of this movement. If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can always find me on Instagram, at inside community podcast where I love to post photos and images of collaborative culture wherever you are in the world and in whatever way you celebrate this time. I hope that your month and your new year are full of love and joy and laughter. And I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Dave Booda 1:06:55
Who left the dishes in the shared kitchen sink? Who helps Johnny when is too much to drink? How do we find a way for everyone to agree that since Can you it’s a podcast y’all.
Listen & Subscribe
- Bonus: Centering and Preparing for Birth with Monique Gauthier
- 024: Community Supported Birth with Monique Gauthier
- New Visions for the Communities Movement with Daniel Greenberg
- Cults! The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with Jesse Stone
- Community Held Death and Dying with Angela Franklin
- Central Leader Communities with “Evil Dictator” Paul Wheaton
- Intimacy in Community with Dave Booda
- Aging Well Together with Margaret Critchlow
- Raising Children in Community with Amy Saloner
About the Show
The Inside Community Podcast brings folks along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. We provide useful and inspiring content to support people on their quest for resilience, sustainability, and connection.
Meet Your Host
Inside Community Podcast host Rebecca Mesritz is a community builder living in Williams, Oregon. In 2011, Rebecca co-founded the Emerald Village (EVO) in North County San Diego, California. During her ten years with EVO, she supported and led numerous programs and initiatives including implementation and training of the community in Sociocracy, establishment of the Animal Husbandry program, leadership of the Land Circle, hosting numerous internal and external community events, and participation in the Human Relations Circle which holds the relational, spiritual and emotional container for their work.
In June of 2021, with the blessing of EVO, Rebecca and 3 other co-founders relocated to begin a new, mission- driven community and learning center housed on 160 acres of forest and farmland. Rebecca is passionate about communal living and sees intentional community as a tool for both personal and cultural transformation. In addition to her work in this field, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University and creates functional, public, and interactive art in metal, wood, and pretty much any other material she can get her hands on. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a nurturer of gardens, an epicurean lover of sustainable wholesome food, and a cultivator of compassion and beauty.
The Inside Community Podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC). Reach out if you are interested in sponsorship or advertisement opportunities on the podcast.