Ganas houses



Ganas, a 20 year old NYC intentional community    


"Ganas" is a Spanish word meaning "motivation sufficient to act".
We’ve found that solving problems together gives us the "ganas"
and satisfaction that makes community living sustainable.
The result is an environment that provides personal and
interpersonal challenges, creates rich opportunities,
and truly embraces diversity.

 

Our purpose is to bring reason and emotion together in daily problem solving, in order to create our world, with love, the way we want it to be.

Ganas people dream of developing open minds with which to talk together and understand each other better. We want to learn how to cooperate, care, share resources, and welcome those who want to join us.

Ganas started on Staten Island in 1979. Our population has grown from 6 to about 75. Most of us think of ourselves as a bonded, caring, hard working, fun loving, extended family.

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Life at Ganas

For the better part of 25 years, we have worked on creating the secure, comfortable, rewarding environment we thought necessary for making a good life together.

We share 8 large, mainly adjacent residences on Staten Island in a racially mixed, lower middle class, suburban neighborhood, a half-hour free ferry ride from downtown Manhattan. Many of us work in NYC or Staten Island at a variety of jobs - doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher, real estate, landscaper, home health, etc. Others of us work in our 3 Every Thing Goes stores nearby, where we collect and resell clothing, books, furniture and a variety of related merchandise. We renovated all of our buildings ourselves to suit our needs and our pleasure.

Boardwalks connect most of the houses and their flower and vegetable gardens. We have many trees (some fruit bearing), berry bushes, a small swimming pool, a large deck, and pretty spots for hanging out. Because we live on top of a hill, we can enjoy the shade and shelter of our large trees, porches and yards as well as the views of the sky, the bay and the city. Living space is comfortable, attractive and well maintained. Food is plentiful and varied enough to suit most people, from meat eaters to vegans. We eat dinner together in our main dining room Tuesday through Saturday at 6:30 pm. In addition, each house has its own kitchen which is fully stocked so people can prepare meals whenever it suits their schedules.

Public spaces are used for dancing, exericse, computer use, listening to or making music, TV or movie watching, eating or just hanging out. We have a collection of movies and books, and the St. George branch of the New York Public Library is nearby. Each house has its own phone line, with extensions and internet hook ups in most rooms. Washers and dryers are available for use.

Fun activities are whatever people create. We have dances, talent shows, parties, go on outings and trips, make music, do theater readings, celebrate birthdays, tell jokes, and often just enjoy each other a lot.

 


people at Ganas

Age, like everything else about Ganas people, is diverse. The majority are between 20 and 75. A few children live here, but not very many. We have no organized child care programs.

Ganas has the international quality of the city. People of many races, nationalities, religions, professions, educational backgrounds, personalities, and life views live together in surprising harmony. Possibly that is because many of us get together every day to discuss work, personal issues and anything else that comes up.

 


Structure

A rather unusual social and political structure has evolved, probably because of our desire to create as many lifestyle options as possible. We have several very different, but quite complementary, populations at Ganas. The first, called the core group, currently consists of ten people -- five men and five women -- who function as the community's management team. They pool all their time, talents, and material things. They're also committed to exchange thoughts, feelings and feedback. This group is open to new members, but because of the demands made on core group people's time and resources, few people opt to join.

The second is an extended core group of about 25 people, most of whom are interested in the Ganas philosophy. They do not share resources, are not necessarily committed to join any particular activity, or to exchange feedback, expose their own emotional reality, or accept anyone else's. However, mostly they do opt to participate. The extended core group shares in almost all decision making, and they tend to live here for many years. Members of the extended core may work either outside or inside the community.

The third consists of about 35 people many of whom consider this their home. Others have come for a short visit, anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. Some work in the community. Some are employed elsewhere or are students. They tend to form close social sub-groups, and may hold very different but surprisingly compatible philosophies. They may or may not be involved with Ganas' goals and activities, but almost all of them enjoy the Ganas experience, and many report on its extraordinary value to them years after leaving. The few who are here short term provide an opportunity to experience a revolving population of very diverse people.

Despite this variety of connection, everyone who lives here agrees to follow our four rules (described below) and to use our method of problem solving.

 


Decision Making

Decision Making procedures are not fixed. Matters that require major resources or policy issues are usually made by consensus of the core group and extended core group after much dialogue. Occasionally, specific issues are decided by vote. Area coordinators have authority to make most work decisions, but only after getting input interactively. Almost anyone can have an area of work or administrative function to coordinate -- and therefore some decision making authority -- if they are willing to take responsibility for it.

The idea is that most current issues are better resolved by treating each conflict as a new event that requires its own unique attention, and that old considerations are rarely relevant to new problems.

The extended core group spends so much time talking together everyday that closed or formal meetings are almost never necessary for group decision making.

 


Rules and Agreements

Rules and Agreements: Since we deal with problems daily in open discussion, we are able to limit ourselves to only 4 rules:

1) Non-violence to people or things; 2) No free rides (everybody is required to work productively or pay their expenses); 3) No illegality (including illegal drugs); 4) This rule requires that people bring their complaints about the community or people in it to the group, where the problems can be discussed and resolved with the people involved. The reason for Rule 4 is that the community suffers when negativity is presented as non-negotiable fact in private or public venues.

People breaking one of these rules will be asked to leave.

Agreements are made and changed often. Anyone can bring up any issue any time, and anything can be somewhat modified, if that's what it takes to meet people's needs. We've agreed in principle to help everyone get as much of what they want as possible. None of this consistently goes according to plan, but we work on it.

 


Communication, Our Central Value

Good interactive communication is our central value. Of course, we include emotional and other nonverbal exchanges in our definition of communication. Critical feedback is clearly the most important and seems to be the hardest kind of information to give or to accept. Yet it's obviously necessary to identify mistakes before we can correct them.

We've opted to increase our receptivity to intake rather than try to control the content or style of people's output. The idea is to disclose what's really happening and then work out what's wanted; instead of hiding unpopular thoughts and feelings, and living in a haze of unknowns and deceptions. That means making approval or disapproval far less important than we now do. We created an environment in which we really are safe to do these things -- but we don't always feel safe. Too often, most of us still hide our truth and recoil from others when they present theirs. It's a full time job learning to do better.

We have used many methods over the years, including a range of relaxation and mind quieting procedures; a variety of instruments for performance feedback and behavioral recordkeeping; and study groups that define terms and discuss theories of behavior. The main approach we rely on now is direct discussion. Therefore, group involvement is almost a daily event at Ganas. Five mornings a week, Tuesdays through Saturdays, , from 7:45 to 9:45, is when most of the work really happens. We discuss business and personal problems, explore hidden agendas and defenses, and think about how we communicate (or don't) about whatever is going on.

About 30 or 35 people are committed to try to express feelings and thoughts freely. We've agreed to maintain one focus at these times so that anyone that speaks can expect to have everyone's attention. Many people find these large interactive groups difficult -- even frightening -- at first, but some newcomers find the rewards worth the effort, and participation keeps growing.

 


Ganas Businesses

Recycling is the community's business. Most of our work happens in 3 retail stores called Every Thing Goes. One store refinishes and sells furniture. The second offers clothing. The third is a combination book store, internet cafe and neighborhood performance venue and art gallery. The businesses are housed near the residences. They are well organized, efficiently run, attractive, and profitable. Most of the inventory is comprised of donations from households and estates; discount merchandise and some imports bought at auction; and several items that we produce or re-make in the community.

Approximately 25-30 people are involved with the businesses. Another 15 people work with the food, gardening, housekeeping, administration, and maintaining or upgrading the property and vehicles.  Full time work is 35 hours a week. Your wages are enough to cover all your community expenses plus up to about $300 per month. Some members may also be eligible for profit sharing at the end of the year. Usually about 25 people work outside the community and pay their expenses.

Most of Ganas shares a strong work ethic. It is important to most of us to create replicable models of profitable cooperatives in the context of ecologically sound practices and socially valuable products. As resources grow, Ganas plans to support many new, potentially profitable, socially valuable ventures proposed by members.

 


Visitors

Visitors are welcome. People who might like to live, work, or visit at Ganas are invited to email info@ganas.org.  Visiting Ganas is by appointment only. Contact linkWe host a weekly Friday evening visitors' dinner. If you'd like to come on a Friday evening, contact Susan at info@ganas.org to find out if it's happening, what time to arrive, etc. THERE WILL BE NO VISITORS' DINNER FRIDAY 11/29/2013 (DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING)!

When you do visit, most of our activities will be open to you. Feel free to participate in our discussions if they interest you. You will be encouraged to say or ask whatever you want (even if it's personal) and express whatever you feel. But then you will be asked to hear whatever is said or felt in response. If someone in the group feels that your input is ill informed, or an interference with what's happening at a particular time, they'll tell you so and explain why. If what's happening cannot be interrupted at that moment, you might be asked to wait until a better time, but we do urge you to ask. We will try to provide information about people, to update you, or to discuss community affairs, feedback learning theory and practice, or anything else you'd like to know.

People staying for a night to a week are asked to pay $45 a day and help out some. If you decide to try living at Ganas for a while, all your expenses can be met with one fee of $660-760 a month. That covers space, food, toiletries, laundry  supplies, utilities, etc. If you want to work in the community, you need to contact us at staffing@ganas.org to find out if there is work available, and if your skills meet our needs. If working here looks like an option, you will undergo a one month work trial when you get here, so we can find out how things work between us during that time. You will need to bring a deposit equal to one month's expenses whether you work here or work outside. In addition, all Ganas members are asked to help out in some way for at least a few hours a week.

 

What Ganas Offers

What Ganas offers and does not offer is not always clear. We are not a therapeutic community and we don't give feedback to everyone. People have to be willing (and thought to be able) to make good use of direct feedback before we do. Personal issues do come up spontaneously and sometimes quite publicly, but they are only discussed in depth with clear consent and effective cooperation. We feel that our group discussions are simply ongoing, truth seeking, planning or problem solving dialogues.

People who want to learn how to think, love, and bring expressions of reason and emotion together in dialogue will probably enjoy Ganas very much. People who want to understand and contribute to others may find a treasure house of value for themselves here.

 

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO LIVE, WORK & PLAY IN COMMUNITY WITH INTERESTING AND INTERESTED PEOPLE,

If you care about good problem-solving dialogue based on truth and goodwill (and want to learn how to do it);

If you have sought close relationship with varied people who want to hear, understand, and care about each other;

If you want interesting, valuable work, and you enjoy working productively (or want to learn how to);

IF SUCH THINGS FEEL RIGHT FOR YOU … YOU ARE INVITED TO VISIT AND PERHAPS TO LIVE & WORK WITH US

 


for more information contact:

Susan at GANAS, 135 Corson Ave., Staten Island, NY 10301-2933

718-720-5378   fax: 718-448-6842   

email:info@ganas.org  web: www.ganas.org

 



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Last modified November 21, 2013       web page feedback:  Richard Wonder <richard@ganas.org>

 


George with parasol