portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article announcements global

community building | youth

Freefamilies website and PDX SingleParentsHousingCollective

Weekly meetings and online discussion and resources for building sustainable community around single parents and young children
Inviting space for the elements of a sustainable society to cohere.
We wake up from sleep and come back to life.
We have sufficient information, and freedom to act. [1]Let's come together right now. We need not struggle alone.

I chose the name "Freefamilies" to remind us all of the root and goal, freedom, available to us. I have always felt that without an example to follow, I can only follow the truths I discover along the way myself, and if only one other life is enriched by witnessing the example I set, that is a good start. So now I have a little daughter, for one. And I am NOT afraid to invent new ways for us to live on this magnificent planet, with so many other beautiful and powerful beings. As we take action outside of prescribed, consumerist, and misinformed modalities we become "social entrepreneurs." I have found a brief description, from the PBS program "The New Heroes", of what I think freefamilies are doing as we build sustainable communities:

A social entrepreneur identifies and solves social problems on a large scale. Just as business entrepreneurs create and transform whole industries, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss in order to improve systems, invent and disseminate new approaches and advance sustainable solutions that create social value.

Unlike traditional business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs primarily seek to generate "social value" rather than profits. And unlike the majority of non-profit organizations, their work is targeted not only towards immediate, small-scale effects, but sweeping, long-term change.

"Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems. They view the villagers as the solution, not the passive beneficiary. They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they're serving."[David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas]

The job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. He or she finds what is not working and solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.

Identifying and solving large-scale social problems requires a committed person(read, "community") with a vision and determination to persist in the face of daunting odds. Ultimately, social entrepreneurs are driven to produce measurable impact by opening up new pathways for the marginalized and disadvantaged, and unlocking society's full potential to effect social change.

The past two decades have seen an explosion of entrepreneurship and a healthy competition in the social sector, which has discovered what the business sector learned from the railroad, the stock market and the digital revolution: Nothing is as powerful as a big new idea if it is in the hands of a first class entrepreneur(read, "determined group of free-thinkers"!).

"Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry."

Bill Drayton, CEO, chair and founder of Ashoka

This revolution is fundamentally changing the way society organizes itself and the way we approach social problems [ http://www.pbs.org/opb/thenewheroes/whatis/]

As "Freefamilies", We are bridging supportive circles between
struggling parents of young children and community members.

We are a network of people who enjoy including children in our lives.
In sharing meals, gardens, music, and stories.
We build sustainable connections and voluntary extended families.
Communicating with empathy and nonviolence is made possible
Through sharing our lives.
We have broken our chains and begin anew,
Rebuilding Sustainable Community Together.

Along this past year's journey and research I have learned a lot of new words and terms used to describe the path and tools of sustainable community-building. Not yet fluent in this language, and not wanting to be unclear to others who are also beginning this search, I must write in simplest terms possible.

Some of our community organizing tactics must include...

* To be open to each other on both individual and organized levels

* To build relationships with all different organizations, and to use network opportunities to bring different organizations together

* Not fearing our friends and neighbors.

Free Families' rights and responsibilities emanate from
the fundamental principle which has formed the character of this group... that is, that we owe it to ourselves to care about ourselves and each other.

Following is a letter written in a widow's online bulletin board, which has been very helpful to me.

On the Board:
-You can find true understanding and compassion
-You can find the support and encouragement you need to keep going
-You can share your struggles - and your victories
-You can find reassurance that your feelings and experiences are normal and that you don't have to conform to society's expectations (about how and how long you should grieve)
-You can seek advice about issues you've never had to face before
-You can share thoughts that you can't express to others
-You can reach out for help when you're down - and reach out to help others who need a lift
-You can drop the mask you put on for the rest of the world and let your raw emotions show
-You can find complete acceptance among people who care
-You can find hope and inspiration from those who have traveled farther on the journey than you have

This is what I hope for the Freefamilies website to do for us as struggling single parents, too! We have the gifts which come from parenthood, of patience, compassion, love, and closeness... yet are often made outcasts. We have had our social circles alter radically, and often without close family support we find ourselves grieving for a lost sense of connection. Let us create the extended family we've wished we had. I really do believe that "It takes a village to raise a child." We have so much strength, but it is still never enough without community. We can use our online resources to inform local affinity groups.

My hope is that the FORUM of this site will become a resource. On it homebound young parents can organize a collaborative project. I have included many open forums about the first thoughts that came to me: education/library, natural remedies, home schooling, community meals, freecycle, and workshops. Suggestions are encouraged (Property is robbery, quoth Proudhon)! The Forum here is open to all who have something constructive to share!

We want to be involved in our children's education, and many dream of facilitating home school support networks and mentoring programs within our communities. We have the tools and the time to bring our babies up wonderfully. If we pool our resources I do believe that many children can benefit.

We are all excited to hear about others forming clusters of people living sustainably within the urban scene. And as single parents, the cluster housing concept certainly seems ideal. The first step seems to be to break free of the many isolating patterns in suburban culture, and get connected!

Let's explore these topics together, so that we can build something that will last.

Weekly meetings have been at the Red&Black cafe on Saturdays at 11am. Sometimes nobody shows, and sometimes we coordinate an outdoor meeting place or event, so please call or email first to make sure. A future space at Liberty Hall is much desired.

Please feel free to explore and post your thoughts on our new amateur website:  http://www.freefamilies.org/wb

homepage: homepage: http://www.freefamilies.org/wb
phone: phone: 503-540-5643