Orientation: What is this place?
This pamphlet is an attempt to articulate the purpose of this project, how it works, who participates and how you can get involved.
So, what is this place?
The Omni is an ongoing experiment in creating a shared Common Space.
A shared Common Space is different in some ways from a Public Space. Public spaces are typically maintained by Someone Else. Someone Else cleans the bathrooms, Someone Else picks up the trash and Someone Else makes decisions about who Public Spaces are for and how Public Spaces are used. In a shared Common Space, everyone can participate in deciding how space will be used, and everyone is expected to contribute to the kinds of labor and decision-making processes that are largely invisible in Public Spaces.
It's important to state upfront that this project is political: The Omni is not a Social Services provider or a Community Space in the traditional sense. As we seek to rebuild the sense of individual responsibility towards the stewardship of common spaces, we also wish to challenge assumptions embedded within the dominant culture and within ourselves. We want those who are interested in participating in this space to understand these aims and engage in these efforts in ways they find meaningful. Instead of deepening the divide between those-in-need and those-who provide, we rely on one another, we help one another and we encourage participation from everyone who is a part of our community to identify and enact problems and solutions. This means taking the time to develop relationships and trust amongst members of our community. Sometimes, this process can be difficult and time-consuming, but we're not interested in efficiency - we're seeking to develop a new way of being together in the world.
We anticipate this project will always be in flux, constantly evolving to meet the needs of those who use and care for it. We know that we do not have all of the answers. But we also know that without active experimentation with alternatives, we'll never know what's really possible. These may be lofty if not impossible goals to accomplish within the Capitalist system, but this project is firmly grounded in the belief that real alternatives must be born through practical experimentation. The Omni is where theory meets the real world.
The Omni is intended to be a place to organize, to collaborate, to learn, to celebrate and to develop networks of mutual aid. We don't want reforms, we want to build relationships and networks. We don't want to reproduce workers, we want to abolish work. We don't want to establish hierarchies, we want to encourage self-determination. We're not looking to provide services, we're advocating for mutual aid with the belief that all people have valuable contributions to make.
We aspire to pair our experimentation with serious ongoing reflection. What are we doing now and why? How are we doing it? What's working and not working? How are people experiencing and talking about the project? What are our limits, challenges and constraints? How may conversations about the Omni open up the potentiality of not just this space, but others like it?
Who has access to the space?
At this time, only key-holding members of member collectives are granted 24-hr access to our space. Key-holding members are not required to open the space to non-members at any time, and all non-members are required to be guests of key-holding members when they are in the space outside of scheduled events and the bookstore's general operating hours which are Tuesday - Sunday from 12pm-6pm.
The easiest way to gain access to the space is to become a participating member of one of the existing member collectives or to form a collective and apply for membership to the Omni. There is no general Omni membership, at this time.
We are in a process of reevaluating access to our space. When we first moved into the building, it was important for us to operate from a place of addressing need rather than fear. By starting with openness, we've been able to identify legitimate needs for some access restrictions to certain parts of our space during certain times of the day.
We have heard from many people that the openness of the Omni has lead to confusion about the nature of this project and expectations for participation. We hope these revised requirements will help us communicate more clearly with new people coming into the space while respecting the needs of ongoing efforts to create a safe and meaningful Commons.
The current list of member collectives is:
Food Not Bombs Sudo Room Counter Culture Labs Timeless. Infinite Light Material Print Machine Bay Area Public School La Commune Cafe & Bookstore Phat Beets Optik Allusions Black Hole
How does it work? Who does the work? Who's in charge here?
Technically, no one individual is "in charge," but that does not meant that we have no structure. It is our intention to make this structure as transparent as possible so that everyone who walks through the doors feels empowered to get involved in any aspect of running and maintaining the Omni.
All of us who participate in the Omni are volunteers with different skills, life experiences and capacities for involvement. We ask that everyone who makes use of this space and its resources participate in its well-being in some way, however small. This contribution can take many shapes and people / groups are involved in different ways and to different degrees, but all of the work of maintaining this space is performed by members of our community.
The main decision-making body of the Omni is comprised of delegates from each one of the active member collectives. This group consents at bi-monthly meetings on issues that effect all participants of the Omni. This includes how we use space, spend money, and bring new collectives in. These meetings are always open to anyone who is interested in attending and participating in the conversation.
Anyone is welcome to make proposals to change or improve the way that the Omni operates - you don't have to be a member of a member collective - however, only the member collectives are able to vote on proposals. Important or complex proposals are often disseminated to the member collectives for deliberation over a period of time. During that time, questions may be raised or amendments proposed. Decisions are made by consensus and are always able to be reversed or revised at a later date. All of our policies are amendable and we welcome input from the broader community.
In addition to the delegates' meeting, we also have several working groups that are empowered to oversee certain aspects of the ongoing maintenance of the Omni. From "Finances" to "Commons" to "Challenging Dominant Culture", the working groups are where most of the work of the Omni happens and anyone - whether they are a member of a member collective or not - is welcome to join and participate in the working groups.
The more people who participate in this project, the more distributed the labor of keeping this space open and available to the community, the more we can spend time supporting one another and building a new world together!
How are you funded?
The initial funds that we collected in order to move into the building came from the founding member collectives and loans from a few of our community members.
The Omni's monthly expenses currently total between $15,000 - $20,000. This amount includes rent, utilities, taxes, insurance and other necessary building improvements including fire, life and safety upgrades.
About two-thirds of that amount is paid for through contributions made by the Omni's member collectives. Most of these groups are funded by membership fees and donations. The remaining amount is made up primarily through event space rental fees as well as a few grants, loans and donations.
We are currently researching options for purchasing the building with the intention of placing it in a Land Trust.
How can I get involved?
It's important to communicate here that many of the individuals that are involved in this project have dedicated a lot of time and energy to ensuring it's well-being. We've developed deep bonds over the last few years and have come to trust one another as a result of our commitment to the project and to one another.
Something that we've come to realize is that building relationships and developing trust can take a long time and often means that new people coming into the project can have a hard time finding their footing. It's not our intention to exclude anyone from engaging and we're more than happy to welcome new people into the project, however, we've come to believe that these kinds of relationships are integral to building real alternatives to existing models and we encourage new people to be patient with us as you may be with a new friend or lover. We want to know you and we want you to know us. We want you to understand that we're just figuring things out and that we need your help.
There's a lot of work to be done. You are welcome to join working group meetings, to attend our bi-monthly general meetings and to apply for membership as a collective to the Omni but we humbly and readily admit that we do not posses the capacity to resolve every conflict, to address every nuance of intersectional forms of oppression or to even know what shape the new world should take. All we can promise is that we're open to inquiry. We sincerely want to do this together.
Upcoming orientations are being scheduled for those who would like to learn more about how we operate and how to get involved.