A look back to the West Coast Communities Conference

Cassandra gives the opening presentation for the conference

Cassandra gives the opening presentation for the conference

We will be working up a series of posts reflecting back on our first year of programs and gatherings here at Groundswell. We decided that we would start not at the beginning, but rather at the end of the year, with our most recent original program, the West Coast Communities Conference. This gathering was unique for us, in that it was both more workshop focused and also our only program not focused on the LGBTQ community (though plenty of the community was there).

The West Coast Communities Conference was modeled after the Communities Conference that takes place in Virginia, at a commune called Twin Oaks. It’s been going strong for decades, so we thought we would create a West Coast companion that could serve the fertile network of communities out here. To strengthen the connection between the events and truly share resources, we partnered with the Fellowship for Intentional Communities, which manages Communities magazine and the East Coast conference.
Social time between sessions on the lawn in front of the dining hall.

Social time between sessions on the lawn in front of the dining hall.

We formed an organizing team early in the year with members from Groundswell, the FIC, and organizers from other intentional communities, then we began recruiting workshop presenters. In the end, we got quite a diverse group of presenters, coming in to teach and learn from all over the country. The gathering featured over 20 different workshops focused on the skills that are needed for community and cooperative living (read the full schedule here). There were also plenaries, open space sessions, and plenty of time for socializing and connection.

One of the great aspects of the West Coast Communities Conference was it’s gender and age diversity. There were several families and it was one of our first times with children on the land – attendees ranged from 2 to 82 years old. It was also a great mix of the straight and LGBTQ community, with only about a quarter of attendees identifying as queer as opposed to our usual 99%.

Kids both young and old at the West Coast Communities Conference

A candid of kids both young and old in glamorous drag for dinner.

For a lot of the people there it was their first time immersed in LGBTQ culture and community, and you could see our liberation spread. By the end of the second day both 8 year-old children and 50-year old adults had gussied themselves up in our drag closet, appearing in dinner circle adorned with glamorous gowns and wigs.

Beyond its success as an intersection of communities, the conference succeeded at its core goals of skills and movement building for the intentional communities network. People seeking community found them, and vice versa. Powerful relationships were formed between leaders of different projects. People’s belief in community was awakened and energized. One of our co-organizers, and an organizer of the East Coast conference, even went as far as to call it the “best conference ever”. Certainly, the enthusiasm expressed for the conference has only left us excited to keep hosting events that help build the intentional communities movement.

To get a full idea of the workshops that were held at the conference,

check out the WCCC 2015 Program.