The Alberta Guildhall

When corn, squash, and beans are planted together, something amazing happens. The corn grows tall, and becomes a trellis for the beans. The squash spreads out along the ground, blocking out weeds. The beans fix nitrogen out of the air, providing fertilizer for the corn and squash. In permaculture, this is called a Guild, a group of organisms that all thrive better together. 

This idea works with people too. What do you really love to do? What do you want to make happen in the world? What would you need to do it? Over the past year we've sat down with hundreds of people and asked them these questions. What we find, over and over, is that people overwhelmingly dream of doing the things they love for other people. And, if they're not already doing it  what's holding them back is almost always access to skills, resources, and support that other people in the community have and would love to give if they only knew there was a need.

The Alberta Guildhall builds Guilds of people who make beautiful things happen together. We hold space where people can share their wild ideas, learn new things, meet other people with similar interests, to make the impossible possible. We've been open on Alberta Street for just under three months. Here are few success stories:

Joe has hosted an electronic dance music show on KBOO every Tuesday night for years. Sam always wanted to throw a silent dance party, where everyone listens to the same music through headphones, but didn't know how to do it. Now, with Joe's show and KBOO's signal, they're coordinating silent disco dance parties every other Tuesday and spread the word about positive community projects.

Puck loves to bake things. She came to the Guidhall and asked for donations of ingredients and put together an unstoppable confectionary whirlwind known as the Cupcake Train. On New Years Eve, about 30 people baked 200 cupcakes and gave them away for free on the MAX.

Patrick wanted to build beehives. Turns out so do Mike, Molly, Sam, Thomas, Bo, Christina, and a bunch of other people. Sam brought plans he had in a book and some plywood, and we built a beehive this weekend. And it turns out Thomas builds computer controlled bee-counters, to monitor healthy hives. Now we have open-source beehive plans, that can be built out of a single sheet of plywood for less than $15, with the option of adding an open-source bee counter.

"Survival of the Fittest" is no longer an accepted theory in Biology. Mature ecosystems overwhelmingly tend toward the symbiosis and mutualism found in Guilds. The Guildhall exists simply to provide our neighbors with the tools and connections they need to do the beautiful, silly, fun, ingenious, helpful things they already want to do. And because these are the things that people love to do, they want to share them with others, for free. All they need is a forum to share ideas, play games, meet people, and ask for help. 

All the Guildhall needs to be able to do that forever is enough money to maintain the space, which, since we're entirely volunteer-run, comes out to only $2500 a month. That means that if 250 people chipped in $10 a month, we'd be funded, forever.

Already, we've seen cupcakes, coffee, dance parties, classes, art projects, and music all offered as gifts, by happy, passionate people, and we're just getting started. These things are worth way more than $10, but we will never, ever charge for them. We can't. We can't even take credit for them, they're just what happens when a community is enabled to do the things they love.

Money is like water- it's a precious resource. Without it, squash, beans, and corn can't grow at all, but with just a little bit, you can magically turn water into a really tasty soup. Please help water the Guildhall, and let's see what we can make grow.

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Sam Smith
Portland, OR

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