Difference between revisions of "Community governance"

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{{Lang|[[Utopia: Es ist wirklich leben?|Deutsch]] - [[Is it really living?|English]]}}
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{{Lang|[[Utopia: Es ist wirklich leben?|Deutsch]] - [[Utopia|English]]}}
  
 
== CREATING AND MAINTAINING A SUCCESSFUL UTOPIAN COMMUNITY ==
 
== CREATING AND MAINTAINING A SUCCESSFUL UTOPIAN COMMUNITY ==
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goods; and family warmth and intimacy replace isolation.  
 
goods; and family warmth and intimacy replace isolation.  
 
Relationships are loving; work is meaningful; and behavior is
 
Relationships are loving; work is meaningful; and behavior is
self-fulfilling. 
+
self-fulfilling.
  
 
===INTRODUCTION===
 
===INTRODUCTION===
  
The ideal community is like a train:  passengers and freight are
+
The ideal community is like a train: passengers and freight are
constantly getting on and off at stops along the way.   Each stop
+
constantly getting on and off at stops along the way.   Each stop
 
beckons the disaffected members of the community still on the train,
 
beckons the disaffected members of the community still on the train,
 
while at each stop, new participants on the platform are eager to get
 
while at each stop, new participants on the platform are eager to get
themselves and their stuff on board.  Instead of a railroad baron
+
themselves and their stuff on board. Instead of a railroad baron
 
owning the railroad and dictating which stops are honored and how the
 
owning the railroad and dictating which stops are honored and how the
 
train is run, the passengers own the railroad, the rolling stock,
 
train is run, the passengers own the railroad, the rolling stock,
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Our model of the ideal train (community) is close to the guidance
 
Our model of the ideal train (community) is close to the guidance
expressed above by Kanter.  How do we put wheels under those ideas,
+
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,
+
and how long of a train ride do we want? How does one form deep,
lasting friendships and trust relationships?  How does one translate
+
lasting friendships and trust relationships? How does one translate
those relationships, "social glue" into reality?   In a utopia, who
+
those relationships, "social glue" into reality?   In a utopia, who
takes out the trash?  How long and by what means is our ideal
+
takes out the trash? How long and by what means is our ideal
 
community, turned into hard reality, going to last?
 
community, turned into hard reality, going to last?
  
What comes first: the love and trust or positive cash flow?   Many
+
What comes first: the love and trust or positive cash flow?   Many
 
utopias started out with just the proverbial "clothes on our backs"
 
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
+
and small change in the pocket with the hole in it. By fits and many
 
re-starts, these communities transposed themselves from a loose
 
re-starts, these communities transposed themselves from a loose
 
confederation of individuals into a tight-knit community with positive
 
confederation of individuals into a tight-knit community with positive
cash flow (or not).  Examples of these types of utopian communities are:
+
cash flow (or not). Examples of these types of utopian communities are:
Twin Oaks in Virginia has grown and is still functioning.  
+
Twin Oaks in Virginia has grown and is still functioning.  
Freedom Farm confederation failed.  
+
Freedom Farm confederation failed.  
 
Oneida, at one time, the largest producer of quality consumer
 
Oneida, at one time, the largest producer of quality consumer
 
flatware, has now relegated itself to marketing the flatware, the
 
flatware, has now relegated itself to marketing the flatware, the
manufacture of which has been sold-off.  
+
manufacture of which has been sold-off.  
 
Social engagement and religiosity helped form and maintain many
 
Social engagement and religiosity helped form and maintain many
utopian communities.  Examples are:
+
utopian communities. Examples are:
  
*Bruderhof, deeply religious, is still active and is financially successful.  
+
*Bruderhof, deeply religious, is still active and is financially successful.  
*Cedar Grove, a spirtual community.  
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*Cedar Grove, a spirtual community.  
*The Anabaptists: Amish,   Mennonite,   and Hutterite   communities, all have strong religious underpinnings, coupled with strong work ethics, which produce considerable outside income.
+
*The Anabaptists: Amish,   Mennonite,   and 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:
+
Some communities focus their energies and/or derive income from topical goods and services. Examples are:
  
*Synergia for solar heat and ecological experiments.  
+
*Synergia for solar heat and ecological experiments.  
*Breightenbar Hot Springs offers meditation, vegetarian food, self-awareness learning and geothermal-fed pools with clothing optional. 
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*Breightenbar Hot Springs offers meditation, vegetarian food, self-awareness learning and geothermal-fed pools with clothing optional.
*The Amana Communities continue with light manufacturing. 
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*The Amana Communities continue with light manufacturing.
*The Apache community of __________ provide competent steelworkers who erect steel structures for high-rise buildings. 
+
*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:
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Celebration, song and ritual has often played an important role in developing and maintaining group cohesion. Examples are:
*The Shakers adopted a shaking dance. 
+
*The Shakers adopted a shaking dance.
*Harmony put song to simple tasks. 
+
*Harmony put song to simple tasks.
  
 
==="HOW TO" GUIDELINES===
 
==="HOW TO" GUIDELINES===
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At some point, all utopian communities grapple with how to better
 
At some point, all utopian communities grapple with how to better
 
organize recruitment, decision making, allocation of tasks and
 
organize recruitment, decision making, allocation of tasks and
distribution of resources.  The forms are many and varied.  They are
+
distribution of resources. The forms are many and varied. They are
 
generally designed to breakdown barriers between people and create and
 
generally designed to breakdown barriers between people and create and
maintain cohesion ("social glue").   Kanter offers this list:
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maintain cohesion ("social glue").   Kanter offers this list:
  
 
#How to get the work done, but without coercion;
 
#How to get the work done, but without coercion;
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#How to choose and socialize new members;
 
#How to choose and socialize new members;
 
#How much autonomy, individual uniqueness and even deviance to tolerate;
 
#How much autonomy, individual uniqueness and even deviance to tolerate;
#How to insure agreement and shared perception around community functioning and values. 
+
#How to insure agreement and shared perception around community functioning and values.
  
 
Successful communities promote investment and some require a personal
 
Successful communities promote investment and some require a personal
and/or financial investment in the community.  Some add the
+
and/or financial investment in the community. Some add the
requirement of personal commitment to ethical or religious dogmas. 
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requirement of personal commitment to ethical or religious dogmas.
"Success" is a relative term for many people and organizations.  What
+
"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
 
does one give up versus what does on get is often the only test
individuals apply.  This individualistic measure is the common test
+
individuals apply. This individualistic measure is the common test
found in non-communitarian circumstances.   The measure used by
+
found in non-communitarian circumstances.   The measure used by
communitarians is more likely to be:  Has the quality of my life
+
communitarians is more likely to be: Has the quality of my life
improved?  This latter test asks the much broader question of what are
+
improved? 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 core values of the member and of the community, often leading to
the more profound questions, What is the meaning of life?  Why am I
+
the more profound questions, What is the meaning of life? Why am I
here? 
+
here?
  
 
Gurus, prophets, philosophers, god-heads, and a variety of con-artists
 
Gurus, prophets, philosophers, god-heads, and a variety of con-artists
 
have ready and sure-fire answers to all of these questions, and
 
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
+
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
 
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 the
+
his/her bag of cash. Rev. Sun Yun Moon can step forward and claim the
prize for last century's most financially successful con-artist. 
+
prize for last century's most financially successful con-artist.
 
To the Anabaptists, the Mormons and similar groups, success is counted
 
To the Anabaptists, the Mormons and similar groups, success is counted
in terms of strong family ties and the production of children.  In
+
in terms of strong family ties and the production of children. In
 
other circumstances, "success" is the complete brainwashing of the
 
other circumstances, "success" is the complete brainwashing of the
members to the point where they are willing to die.  Examples are
+
members to the point where they are willing to die. Examples are
 
David Koresh, the Jones Town Massacre and the current extremists
 
David Koresh, the Jones Town Massacre and the current extremists
 
insurgency in middle-eastern countries.  
 
insurgency in middle-eastern countries.  
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At the other extreme, the 60's "Hippie" communes were open to all
 
At the other extreme, the 60's "Hippie" communes were open to all
 
types, required no investment, offered little resources and no
 
types, required no investment, offered little resources and no
organization.  Most hippie communes quickly failed or changed into
+
organization. Most hippie communes quickly failed or changed into
more structured organizations.    The "feel good" effect of drugs,
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more structured organizations.   The "feel good" effect of drugs,
 
booze, and laid-back lounging is hard to maintain on an empty stomach,
 
booze, and laid-back lounging is hard to maintain on an empty stomach,
 
an untreated injury or disease, or mental trauma such as post
 
an untreated injury or disease, or mental trauma such as post
 
traumatic stress syndrome (including child birth, divorce, death of a
 
traumatic stress syndrome (including child birth, divorce, death of a
loved one, etc.)  Further, unorganized communities typically lack the
+
loved one, etc.) Further, unorganized communities typically lack the
 
ability to extract significant positive cash flow from the "outside"
 
ability to extract significant positive cash flow from the "outside"
(however one chooses to define the `outside').  Poverty rules in the
+
(however one chooses to define the `outside'). [[Poverty]] rules in the
 
absence of thoughtful organization, investment and self-discipline.  
 
absence of thoughtful organization, investment and self-discipline.  
 
Hence, the quality of life is not what it could and should be.
 
Hence, the quality of life is not what it could and should be.
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Striking a balance between control and freedom, between order and
 
Striking a balance between control and freedom, between order and
spontaneity, is a difficult organizational problem for a commune.  Too
+
spontaneity, is a difficult organizational problem for a commune. Too
 
little order and organization may result in chaos, dissatisfaction,
 
little order and organization may result in chaos, dissatisfaction,
tension and vulnerability to outside pressures.  Too much order may
+
tension and vulnerability to outside pressures. Too much order may
 
result in an authoritarian system that requires rules and regulations,
 
result in an authoritarian system that requires rules and regulations,
suppression, surveillance, and "brainwashing".  Communes have been
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suppression, surveillance, and "brainwashing". Communes have been
criticized for both. 
+
criticized for both.
  
 
The Bible and the Koran attempt to describe and guide large
 
The Bible and the Koran attempt to describe and guide large
communities.  Governmental constitutions provide for the governance of
+
communities. Governmental constitutions provide for the governance of
nations.  Charters and bylaws set forth the powers and authorities of
+
nations. Charters and bylaws set forth the powers and authorities of
corporate entities.  Long-lived communes eventually negotiate
+
corporate entities. Long-lived communes eventually negotiate
 
organizational structures which mostly are put in written form, but
 
organizational structures which mostly are put in written form, but
which may remain as unwritten "custom" or in both forms.   Over time,
+
which may remain as unwritten "custom" or in both forms.   Over time,
the legalistic approach tends to stratify the commune.  By growth of
+
the legalistic approach tends to stratify the commune. By growth of
 
membership and complexity of operations, delegation of individual
 
membership and complexity of operations, delegation of individual
decision-making is made to representatives.  Representatives meet and
+
decision-making is made to representatives. Representatives meet and
 
confer, decide and then implement the new order or system.
 
confer, decide and then implement the new order or system.
 
The early Israeli kibbutzim's went through various stages, resulting
 
The early Israeli kibbutzim's went through various stages, resulting
in impersonal rules, formal training, and rotation of managers.   As
+
in impersonal rules, formal training, and rotation of managers.   As
 
individual participation reduced, democracy was weakened as the
 
individual participation reduced, democracy was weakened as the
 
kibbutzims faced increased industrialization of themselves and the
 
kibbutzims faced increased industrialization of themselves and the
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One of the most successful and enduring communitarian groups is
 
One of the most successful and enduring communitarian groups is
 
Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, which grew out of the poverty of
 
Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, which grew out of the poverty of
the Basque country of Spain over fifty years ago.   It is now a global
+
the Basque country of Spain over fifty years ago.   It is now a global
 
500 cooperative corporation with over 150 factory and service
 
500 cooperative corporation with over 150 factory and service
 
sub-cooperatives, its own credit union, schools and a university and a
 
sub-cooperatives, its own credit union, schools and a university and a
 
place at the table of regional political, governmental and economic
 
place at the table of regional political, governmental and economic
powers.  Mondragon went through many metamorphoses to become what it
+
powers. Mondragon went through many metamorphoses to become what it
is today.  At each stage, it resolved conflicts in a variety of ways.
+
is 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. 
+
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. 
+
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.   Twin Oaks and 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 few trade magazines and websites carry ads and announcements of groups which are recruiting new members. 
+
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 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
 
The issues of governance are greatly affected by forces outside the
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state tax laws; state and local zoning and land use laws; charitable
 
state tax laws; state and local zoning and land use laws; charitable
 
trust laws; general liability laws; trade regulations; health and
 
trust laws; general liability laws; trade regulations; health and
safety regulations; and a plethora of other laws.  Navigating these
+
safety regulations; and a plethora of other laws. Navigating these
 
rules is difficult, complex and can have grave consequences if not
 
rules is difficult, complex and can have grave consequences if not
understood and followed. 
+
understood and followed.
  
Governance also encompasses the art of compromise.  What the members
+
Governance also encompasses the art of compromise. What the members
are willing to agree to, may not always solve the problem.  Hence an
+
are willing to agree to, may not always solve the problem. Hence an
 
umpire or referee or arbitrator should be included in the governance
 
umpire or referee or arbitrator should be included in the governance
 
rules who will break deadlocks and/or over-rule compromises which are
 
rules who will break deadlocks and/or over-rule compromises which are
not consonant with the organizational documents.   The local judge of
+
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 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
+
the case simply to clear the docket. A permanent standing group of
 
three neutral, independent, and wise arbitrators should be appointed
 
three neutral, independent, and wise arbitrators should be appointed
 
at the outset, so that on minor questions, one of the arbitrators is
 
at the outset, so that on minor questions, one of the arbitrators is
 
the decision maker, and on major questions, all three constitute the
 
the decision maker, and on major questions, all three constitute the
decision makers.  Arbitration needs to be binding and enforceable by
+
decision makers. Arbitration needs to be binding and enforceable by
 
court order.
 
court order.
  
 
The form of governance should be representational, especially when
 
The form of governance should be representational, especially when
 
there are many sub-organizations or enterprises to govern and
 
there are many sub-organizations or enterprises to govern and
coordinate.   The larger the group, the more finely divided can be the
+
coordinate.   The larger the group, the more finely divided can be the
responsibilities.  However, the managers should all be multi-tasking
+
responsibilities. However, the managers should all be multi-tasking
 
through frequent rotation of jobs and continuing education.
 
through frequent rotation of jobs and continuing education.
 
In a multi-level and multi-lateral organization, representational
 
In a multi-level and multi-lateral organization, representational
governance should have some counter-balances.  In the case of
+
governance should have some counter-balances. In the case of
 
Mondragon, that counter-balance was the social welfare committee of
 
Mondragon, that counter-balance was the social welfare committee of
each plant, sub-cooperative and the parent Mondragon co-op.  These
+
each plant, sub-cooperative and the parent Mondragon co-op. These
 
committees addressed issues such as the rights of individual members,
 
committees addressed issues such as the rights of individual members,
 
member benefits (vacation, sick leave, overtime, working conditions),
 
member benefits (vacation, sick leave, overtime, working conditions),
 
usually in cooperative relationship with the executives and managers
 
usually in cooperative relationship with the executives and managers
of the plant or other organization.   Conflicts could often be
+
of the plant or other organization.   Conflicts could often be
 
resolved by discussion at the level of the social welfare committee.
 
resolved by discussion at the level of the social welfare committee.
Self-sufficiency is also a major tenet of communitarian organizations.
+
[[Self-sufficiency]] is also a major tenet of communitarian organizations.
 
Amana, Oneida, Anabaptist and similar organizations all were largely
 
Amana, Oneida, Anabaptist and similar organizations all were largely
self-sufficient.  Being self-sufficient has major economic impacts on
+
self-sufficient. Being self-sufficient has major economic impacts on
the group.  For example, as a city worker, you purchase your food with
+
the group. For example, as a city worker, you purchase your food with
after-tax income.   As a farmer co-op member, you grow much of your
+
after-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;
 
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
+
thus it never enters your 1040 tax return. The same applies to
 
biofuel, wind generated energy, recycled manures and crop waste,
 
biofuel, wind generated energy, recycled manures and crop waste,
 
vehicles you fix yourself, homes the community builds for its members,
 
vehicles you fix yourself, homes the community builds for its members,
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purchased but taken from the land, sea, air or water.
 
purchased but taken from the land, sea, air or water.
 
Generation of new cash flow (profits) is also critical to the success
 
Generation of new cash flow (profits) is also critical to the success
of the intentional community.  The "leaky barrel" concept is that it
+
of the [[intentional community]]. The "leaky barrel" concept is that it
 
always takes cash from the community to purchase goods and services
 
always takes cash from the community to purchase goods and services
from the "outside"; thus cash "leaks" from the "barrel".   In order to
+
from the "outside"; thus cash "leaks" from the "barrel".   In order to
 
refill the barrel, fresh cash from the "outside" needs to be
 
refill the barrel, fresh cash from the "outside" needs to be
generated.   In a typical co-housing commune, individual members hold
+
generated.   In a typical co-housing commune, individual members hold
 
jobs on the "outside" and pay their share of the costs (capital and
 
jobs on the "outside" and pay their share of the costs (capital and
operational) of the co-housing.  At the other extreme, the Hutterites
+
operational) of the co-housing. At the other extreme, the Hutterites
 
provide all services to their members, including pocket money of about
 
provide all services to their members, including pocket money of about
$15.00 per month per adult.  Hutterites are known not only for their
+
$15.00 per month per adult. Hutterites are known not only for their
 
frugality, avoidance of "outsiders" in governance affairs, but are
 
frugality, avoidance of "outsiders" in governance affairs, but are
 
well recognized as traders and producers for the "outside" which
 
well recognized as traders and producers for the "outside" which
 
generate considerable amounts of profit for the Hutterite colonies.
 
generate considerable amounts of profit for the Hutterite colonies.
 
Capital funding is also a major impediment to the formation and growth
 
Capital funding is also a major impediment to the formation and growth
of intentional communities.   At startups, no bank will loan capital.
+
of intentional communities.   At startups, no bank will loan capital.
 
Grants are generally not available except to legally formed charities
 
Grants are generally not available except to legally formed charities
under IRC 501(c)(3) or churches.  Seller financed land acquisition is
+
under IRC 501(c)(3) or churches. Seller financed land acquisition is
probably the only route open to the formation of capital.   Payments
+
probably the only route open to the formation of capital.   Payments
 
are to the "outside" thus necessitating sources of outside income.  
 
are to the "outside" thus necessitating sources of outside income.  
 
This objective can be met by outside employment of some of the
 
This objective can be met by outside employment of some of the
 
members; by production for sale of goods and services; and subsidy
 
members; by production for sale of goods and services; and subsidy
 
payments, such as social security benefits, pensions, trust funds and
 
payments, such as social security benefits, pensions, trust funds and
royalties. 
+
royalties.
  
Incoming members can be tapped for investments.  Many have equity in
+
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
 
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
 
the real estate or in the equity of the organization which in turn
buys and owns the real estate.   Another possibility is the purchase
+
buys and owns the real estate.   Another possibility is the purchase
 
by a land trust foundation of the development rights to the land, thus
 
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
 
preserving the land for the use of the community as agricultural and
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Some members bring value to the organization in terms of their
 
Some members bring value to the organization in terms of their
expertise, contacts, innovation ability and productivity.  Others can
+
expertise, contacts, innovation ability and productivity. Others can
 
contribute equipment, materials and supplies which are then used for
 
contribute equipment, materials and supplies which are then used for
the benefit of the community.  A suitable mix of intellectual,
+
the benefit of the community. A suitable mix of intellectual,
 
monetary and physical capital will, in most cases, lead to successful
 
monetary and physical capital will, in most cases, lead to successful
 
start-ups and sustained growth, leading to self-sufficiency and
 
start-ups and sustained growth, leading to self-sufficiency and
long-term sustainability.
+
long-term [[sustainability]].
  
 
The questions are, therefore, in whose hand rests the "start" button
 
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
+
and is he or she ready to push it? Or --- having pushed the start
 
button, what's next?
 
button, what's next?
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
Respectfully submitted,
Line 255: Line 255:
 
Friday, May 13, 2005
 
Friday, May 13, 2005
  
==See Also==
+
== See also ==
 
*[[Community Design]]
 
*[[Community Design]]
  
==External Links==
+
== External links ==
 
*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia
 
*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia
  
 
[[Category: Community]]
 
[[Category: Community]]

Latest revision as of 04:57, 26 October 2012

CREATING AND MAINTAINING A SUCCESSFUL UTOPIAN COMMUNITY[edit]

-- Putting wheels under lofty ideals.

By Jim Miller

In the ideal community, brotherhood, love, and harmony replace conflict and competition; purpose and meaning replace alienation; sharing and collective responsibility replace private hording of goods; and family warmth and intimacy replace isolation. Relationships are loving; work is meaningful; and behavior is self-fulfilling.

INTRODUCTION[edit]

The ideal community is like a train: passengers and freight are constantly 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, tracks and right-of-way and determine when and where the train runs and how the train management is organized.

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 translate those relationships, "social glue" into reality? In a utopia, who takes 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 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.

"HOW TO" GUIDELINES[edit]

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:

  1. How to get the work done, but without coercion;
  2. How to ensure that decisions are made, but to everyone's satisfaction;
  3. How to build close, fulfilling relationships, but without exclusiveness;
  4. How to choose and socialize new members;
  5. How much autonomy, individual uniqueness and even deviance to tolerate;
  6. 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 the requirement 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 test found in non-communitarian circumstances. The measure used by communitarians is more likely to be: Has the quality of my life improved? 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 I here?

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 the prize 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 into more 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.

GOVERNANCE[edit]

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 been criticized for both.

The Bible and the Koran attempt to describe and guide large communities. Governmental constitutions provide for the governance of nations. Charters and bylaws set forth the powers and authorities of corporate 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 world around them.

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 it is 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. Twin Oaks and 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 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 group, such as state laws governing the legal structure; federal and 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 members are 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 the responsibilities. 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 on the group. For example, as a city worker, you purchase your food with after-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, water from the community wells, and many other inputs which are not 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 is probably 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 royalties.

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 light industrial lands, but prohibiting the sale for other non-communitarian uses.

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,

Jim Miller

Jimmiller5417@yahoo.com

Friday, May 13, 2005

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