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Community governance

66 bytes removed, 04:57, 26 October 2012
moved Utopia to Community governance: more descriptive name (maybe still not quite right)
{{Lang|[[Utopia: Es ist wirklich leben?|Deutsch]] - [[Is it really living?Utopia|English]]}}
goods; and family warmth and intimacy replace isolation.
Relationships are loving; work is meaningful; and behavior is
The ideal community is like a train:  passengers and freight areconstantly getting on and off at stops along the way.   Each stop
beckons the disaffected members of the community still on the train,
while at each stop, new participants on the platform are eager to get
themselves and their stuff on board.  Instead of a railroad baron
owning the railroad and dictating which stops are honored and how the
train is run, the passengers own the railroad, the rolling stock,
Our model of the ideal train (community) is close to the guidance
expressed above by Kanter.  How do we put wheels under those ideas,and how long of a train ride do we want?  How does one form deep,lasting friendships and trust relationships?  How does one translatethose relationships, "social glue" into reality?   In a utopia, whotakes out the trash?  How long and by what means is our ideal
community, turned into hard reality, going to last?
What comes first: the love and trust or positive cash flow?   Many
utopias started out with just the proverbial "clothes on our backs"
and small change in the pocket with the hole in it.  By fits and many
re-starts, these communities transposed themselves from a loose
confederation of individuals into a tight-knit community with positive
cash flow (or not).  Examples of these types of utopian communities are:Twin Oaks in Virginia has grown and is still functioning.   Freedom Farm confederation failed.  
Oneida, at one time, the largest producer of quality consumer
flatware, has now relegated itself to marketing the flatware, the
manufacture of which has been sold-off.  
Social engagement and religiosity helped form and maintain many
utopian communities.  Examples are:
*Bruderhof, deeply religious, is still active and is financially successful.   *Cedar Grove, a spirtual community.   *The Anabaptists: Amish,   Mennonite,   and Hutterite   Hutterite communities, all have strong religious underpinnings, coupled with strong work ethics, which produce considerable outside income.
Some communities focus their energies and/or derive income from topical goods and services.  Examples are:
*Synergia for solar heat and ecological experiments.   *Breightenbar Hot Springs offers meditation, vegetarian food, self-awareness learning and geothermal-fed pools with clothing optional.  *The Amana Communities continue with light manufacturing.  *The Apache community of __________ provide competent steelworkers who erect steel structures for high-rise buildings. 
Celebration, song and ritual has often played an important role in developing and maintaining group cohesion.  Examples are:*The Shakers adopted a shaking dance.  *Harmony put song to simple tasks. 
At some point, all utopian communities grapple with how to better
organize recruitment, decision making, allocation of tasks and
distribution of resources.  The forms are many and varied.  They are
generally designed to breakdown barriers between people and create and
maintain cohesion ("social glue").   Kanter offers this list:
#How to get the work done, but without coercion;
#How to choose and socialize new members;
#How much autonomy, individual uniqueness and even deviance to tolerate;
#How to insure agreement and shared perception around community functioning and values. 
Successful communities promote investment and some require a personal
and/or financial investment in the community.  Some add therequirement of personal commitment to ethical or religious dogmas.  "Success" is a relative term for many people and organizations.  What
does one give up versus what does on get is often the only test
individuals apply.  This individualistic measure is the common testfound in non-communitarian circumstances.   The measure used bycommunitarians is more likely to be:  Has the quality of my lifeimproved?  This latter test asks the much broader question of what are
the core values of the member and of the community, often leading to
the more profound questions, What is the meaning of life?  Why am Ihere? 
Gurus, prophets, philosophers, god-heads, and a variety of con-artists
have ready and sure-fire answers to all of these questions, and
promise much, but at a price.  When the price is paid, the promises
don't seem to work and the author of the promise often disappears with
his/her bag of cash.  Rev. Sun Yun Moon can step forward and claim theprize for last century's most financially successful con-artist. 
To the Anabaptists, the Mormons and similar groups, success is counted
in terms of strong family ties and the production of children.  In
other circumstances, "success" is the complete brainwashing of the
members to the point where they are willing to die.  Examples are
David Koresh, the Jones Town Massacre and the current extremists
insurgency in middle-eastern countries.
At the other extreme, the 60's "Hippie" communes were open to all
types, required no investment, offered little resources and no
organization.  Most hippie communes quickly failed or changed intomore structured organizations.    The "feel good" effect of drugs,
booze, and laid-back lounging is hard to maintain on an empty stomach,
an untreated injury or disease, or mental trauma such as post
traumatic stress syndrome (including child birth, divorce, death of a
loved one, etc.)  Further, unorganized communities typically lack the
ability to extract significant positive cash flow from the "outside"
(however one chooses to define the `outside').  [[Poverty ]] rules in the
absence of thoughtful organization, investment and self-discipline.
Hence, the quality of life is not what it could and should be.
Striking a balance between control and freedom, between order and
spontaneity, is a difficult organizational problem for a commune.  Too
little order and organization may result in chaos, dissatisfaction,
tension and vulnerability to outside pressures.  Too much order may
result in an authoritarian system that requires rules and regulations,
suppression, surveillance, and "brainwashing".  Communes have beencriticized for both. 
The Bible and the Koran attempt to describe and guide large
communities.  Governmental constitutions provide for the governance ofnations.  Charters and bylaws set forth the powers and authorities ofcorporate entities.  Long-lived communes eventually negotiate
organizational structures which mostly are put in written form, but
which may remain as unwritten "custom" or in both forms.   Over time,the legalistic approach tends to stratify the commune.  By growth of
membership and complexity of operations, delegation of individual
decision-making is made to representatives.  Representatives meet and
confer, decide and then implement the new order or system.
The early Israeli kibbutzim's went through various stages, resulting
in impersonal rules, formal training, and rotation of managers.   As
individual participation reduced, democracy was weakened as the
kibbutzims faced increased industrialization of themselves and the
One of the most successful and enduring communitarian groups is
Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, which grew out of the poverty of
the Basque country of Spain over fifty years ago.   It is now a global
500 cooperative corporation with over 150 factory and service
sub-cooperatives, its own credit union, schools and a university and a
place at the table of regional political, governmental and economic
powers.  Mondragon went through many metamorphoses to become what itis today.  At each stage, it resolved conflicts in a variety of ways.
Mondragon is worthy of study for its lessons learned on how to setup a governance system which is egalitarian, somewhat democratic , but mostly representational.   The foundations were mutual respect, self-investment in the process of change and net cash flow for the "owners as workers" of the many Mondragon cooperative enterprises.  Findhorn of Scotland, offers yet another good example of a successful communitarian establishment.  Findhord combines the community centralized ownership and distribution of resources, and at the same time, allows, encourages and finances micro-businesses within the Findhorn general legal and economic structure. 
Assume, for the sake of discussion, that a gaggle of folks, disaffected by the rigors of city life, wished to become both communitarns and ruralists.  How would one start such a group, where would it be and how organized and managed?  One could start with a few friends, family and then recruit.    An existing organization could move to the hinterland or a different nation and reorganize or continue the organization they have. 
Several start-ups of the family/friend variety are worthy of mention. These are generally at the early stage, without having gone through several re-starts or organizational changes.   Typically, there is a leader who pilots the small group.  They find some land or housing, then move onto the land, start the building process and concurrently, work out the interpersonal and governance relationships.  Splits do occur, but also do joinder with other like-minded communitarians and "pods" in order to establish a larger, more sustainable group.   [[Wikipedia:Twin Oaks Community, Virginia|Twin Oaks]] and [[Wikipedia:Dancing Rabbit|Dancing Rabbit ]] are good examples of this processes.   Examples of communities currently seeking members are Mariposa Group, Acorn, and Mutual Aid Society of America.  A A few trade magazines and websites carry ads and announcements of groups which are recruiting new members. 
The issues of governance are greatly affected by forces outside the
state tax laws; state and local zoning and land use laws; charitable
trust laws; general liability laws; trade regulations; health and
safety regulations; and a plethora of other laws.  Navigating these
rules is difficult, complex and can have grave consequences if not
understood and followed. 
Governance also encompasses the art of compromise.  What the membersare willing to agree to, may not always solve the problem.  Hence an
umpire or referee or arbitrator should be included in the governance
rules who will break deadlocks and/or over-rule compromises which are
not consonant with the organizational documents.   The local judge of
the county court is ill-equipped to decide and is wont to slap-dash
the case simply to clear the docket.  A permanent standing group of
three neutral, independent, and wise arbitrators should be appointed
at the outset, so that on minor questions, one of the arbitrators is
the decision maker, and on major questions, all three constitute the
decision makers.  Arbitration needs to be binding and enforceable by
court order.
The form of governance should be representational, especially when
there are many sub-organizations or enterprises to govern and
coordinate.   The larger the group, the more finely divided can be theresponsibilities.  However, the managers should all be multi-tasking
through frequent rotation of jobs and continuing education.
In a multi-level and multi-lateral organization, representational
governance should have some counter-balances.  In the case of
Mondragon, that counter-balance was the social welfare committee of
each plant, sub-cooperative and the parent Mondragon co-op.  These
committees addressed issues such as the rights of individual members,
member benefits (vacation, sick leave, overtime, working conditions),
usually in cooperative relationship with the executives and managers
of the plant or other organization.   Conflicts could often be
resolved by discussion at the level of the social welfare committee.
[[Self-sufficiency ]] is also a major tenet of communitarian organizations.
Amana, Oneida, Anabaptist and similar organizations all were largely
self-sufficient.  Being self-sufficient has major economic impacts onthe group.  For example, as a city worker, you purchase your food withafter-tax income.   As a farmer co-op member, you grow much of your
own food and the value of this food does not ever register as income;
thus it never enters your 1040 tax return.  The same applies to
biofuel, wind generated energy, recycled manures and crop waste,
vehicles you fix yourself, homes the community builds for its members,
purchased but taken from the land, sea, air or water.
Generation of new cash flow (profits) is also critical to the success
of the [[intentional community]].  The "leaky barrel" concept is that it
always takes cash from the community to purchase goods and services
from the "outside"; thus cash "leaks" from the "barrel".   In order to
refill the barrel, fresh cash from the "outside" needs to be
generated.   In a typical co-housing commune, individual members hold
jobs on the "outside" and pay their share of the costs (capital and
operational) of the co-housing.  At the other extreme, the Hutterites
provide all services to their members, including pocket money of about
$15.00 per month per adult.  Hutterites are known not only for their
frugality, avoidance of "outsiders" in governance affairs, but are
well recognized as traders and producers for the "outside" which
generate considerable amounts of profit for the Hutterite colonies.
Capital funding is also a major impediment to the formation and growth
of intentional communities.   At startups, no bank will loan capital.
Grants are generally not available except to legally formed charities
under IRC 501(c)(3) or churches.  Seller financed land acquisition isprobably the only route open to the formation of capital.   Payments
are to the "outside" thus necessitating sources of outside income.
This objective can be met by outside employment of some of the
members; by production for sale of goods and services; and subsidy
payments, such as social security benefits, pensions, trust funds and
Incoming members can be tapped for investments.  Many have equity in
their homes which can be cashed out and used to purchase a share in
the real estate or in the equity of the organization which in turn
buys and owns the real estate.   Another possibility is the purchase
by a land trust foundation of the development rights to the land, thus
preserving the land for the use of the community as agricultural and
Some members bring value to the organization in terms of their
expertise, contacts, innovation ability and productivity.  Others can
contribute equipment, materials and supplies which are then used for
the benefit of the community.  A suitable mix of intellectual,
monetary and physical capital will, in most cases, lead to successful
start-ups and sustained growth, leading to self-sufficiency and
long-term [[sustainability]].
The questions are, therefore, in whose hand rests the "start" button
and is he or she ready to push it?  Or --- having pushed the start
button, what's next?
Respectfully submitted,
Friday, May 13, 2005
==See Alsoalso ==
*[[Community Design]]
==External Linkslinks ==
[[Category: Community]]

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