A small group of educators, parents, and other community members in NE Portland sought to create an equitable, all-ages, self-directed education environment. This group became the Founding Team of Alder Commons and worked to launch this project in early 2020, pulling inspiration from radical community organizations, self-directed learning centers, intentional communities, schools, and multigenerational Indigenous communities. We studied self-directed education as it relates to greater liberation work; the movement towards restorative instead of punitive justice systems; the school-to-prison pipeline; Self-Determination Theory and its connection to subjective wellbeing; sociocratic systems versus majorative democracies; white supremacy culture and colonialism; and many more topics in order to intentionally co-create an all-ages community space.
Knowing that day-to-day life at Alder Commons would take many different forms, we began by clarifying our guiding principles. After several brainstorming sessions with a group of early stakeholders led by artist and AC Member daniela del mar, we narrowed down a long list of related concepts to the foremost three Core Values: Self-Determination, Collective Liberation, and Community Support. Each of these primary Core Values houses an additional 3 or 4 values which help shape the parent concepts.
The Core Values are the guideposts for every organizational and programmatic decision we make at Alder Commons. The types of programs and events we host, the layout of the space, and the daily practices of the community are all subject to change, but our Core Values outline a common purpose which guides the actions of the organization’s Members, Staff, and Board.
We tasked daniela del mar with designing a poster series to display our burgeoning community values and culture. Their approach was to organize a series of creative workshops and collaborate directly with the group of early stakeholders. Each person in this group of young people, Board members, artists, parents, and educators chose one Core Value to work with and translate visually. With daniela’s print shop on site, several participants chose to work one-on-one with them to hand set antique wood type and print the name of their value for their poster. Any and every type of media and image-making method was encouraged for the visualization—some were hand drawn, marbled with ink, computer illustrated, and even danced on butcher paper with painted feet!
Now located in the entryway of the building, these posters serve as a daily reminder to Alder Commons Members of our collective commitment to upholding and promoting these values.
We hope they inspire you in the same way they inspire us.
Huge thank you to: daniela del mar, Bárbara Pérez, Brian Outlaw, Karl Keefer, Maria Grzanka, Ansel McDonald, Maya Nally, Rachel Munzig, Janice McDonald, Adela Morales, Ryder Sherwood, Annie Nally, Bria Bloom, Isaac Weiss, Mitzi DuPlain, Dylan Gladstone, Max Collins, Kayla Czysz, and Patricia Vasquez.