Community Supported Everything
= "a local solution designed to support other local solutions. Emerging out of the Occupy movement in Portland, Oregon, it’s an incubator for local changemakers".
'Community Supported Everything provides creative change-makers with a high integrity, high accountability environment to launch self-directed projects. Residents take action in the community in the collective pursuit of a world that works for 100% of humanity. With the support of coaches, mentors and peers, residents examine their personal edges, celebrate successes, learn from mistakes and document the process every step of the way." (http://communitysupportedeverything.org/)
Sam Smith and Laura Scher, directors of the project interviewed by Cat Johnson.
- Shareable: Community Supported Everything is described as an incubator for community transformation. What does that mean on a personal level and on a community level?
Sam Smith and Laura Scher: Community Supported Everything is a place for prototyping small-scale solutions to large-scale challenges. Our approach is to tackle the hard, global problems—like food security, energy consumption, education reform—from the community level up, rather than the global or national level down. One-size-fits-all, top-down solutions are often ineffective at best and oppressive at worst. But when someone starts looking around their own community and asking, "what's working?," "what's not?," "how can we do this better?," they can usually come up with a better way of doing things. And if we do hit on something that works better for our community, chances are it will help other communities too.
The Community Supported Agriculture model is a perfect example of this. The model started with one farm in Switzerland in the 1980s, when a few farmers decided to try out a new model that seemed more logical to them than the dominant food system. Now, 30 years later, that model is spreading rapidly from farm to farm, being adapted and improved, and the collective social, environment, and economic impact is huge.
Community transformation begins with that attitude. People need to trust themselves to be able to make a difference—to be able to transform the world with their work. It means not accepting what we are currently doing as the best we could be doing. It means not waiting for someone else to fix our problems. It means having the audacity to imagine that things could be different. And not just different, but better. And not just better, but radically better.
The dominant model of education teaches us from a young age to be passive observers, to retain and recite knowledge we receive. We do not have a system of education that trains us to grapple with real-life challenges and take responsibility for creating solutions that don’t exist yet. The basic systems and institutions we rely on are beginning to break down. If we continue to do things the way we’ve always done them, we’re going to be in big trouble.
This is why we call Community Supported Everything an incubator. We give ideas a place to grow, and we’re trying to build a culture that integrates that “can-do” mindset. This includes visioning, strategic planning, coaching, troubleshooting, pushing past edges and seeing an idea through to actualization.
- How did Community Supported Everything come about?
Community Supported Everything emerged after Occupy and has been evolving since. The original founders met each other at the Occupy Portland Library, a place of shared learning and resources. After Occupy Portland was pushed out of the park, we began organizing events and people who shared our vision for a thriving, healthy and equal world began to gather. The energy was really high. We found a space on Alberta Street and started running it as a community center to work with these ideas. We dove right in without really knowing where we were heading, but we learned from the challenges one by one.
The first year we faced significant challenges in terms of self-governance, accountability and scope of our work, and we nearly fell apart. We picked up the pieces and re-organized with more focus and clarity, which eventually brought us to the Communiversity model which is represented on our website. After finishing our pilot year we have a much better sense of what works and what does not work. Moving forward, our aim is to combine the integrity and focus of the education program with the larger community and our collective needs.
Throughout all of this transition, the core of our mission has remained steady. We know we can do better as individuals, as communities and as a global culture. We know we are creative and intelligent enough to change things. We’re tired of the escalating troubles in our world, and we are dedicated to positive and radical transformation, starting with where we live.
* What’s the timeline for when the project began and when the pilot year ends? What needs to happen for you to consider that this year was a success?
We started the pilot year of the Communiversity model in September 2013, and graduated our first cohort of fellows this past June. Now we're working on synthesizing all we've learned, getting funding, and planning our approach for our next iteration.
People often think of success as "doing what you set out to do,” but when your goal is to create something new, unknown and untested, success is more difficult to define. As a society, we have an extremely limiting belief around our definition of success and this is one of the key factors that keeps us from innovating. Does an artist succeed when they paint a painting? What if the painting comes out totally different than what they had intended to paint? Does a scientist fail if their experiment turns out different than they had expected? The pilot year was one of the hardest things we've ever done. It was beautiful. It was frustrating. It came out different than we expected. It pushed us all beyond our limits. We learned an incredible amount, and even in times of doubt, we followed it through to the end. We think that’s a success, and we’re excited to keep learning." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/community-supported-everything-incubates-social-change-in-portland)