First, I need to make it clear: The failure is mine.
Second, I need to make this clear also: the solution is to have somebody work here, full time, as a strong, permaculture leader. Until that happens, the gapper program is thoroughly broken.
Gappers are human. They come here wishing to experience permaculture systems, natural building, community living, etc. They expect to be fed and have a bunk. They expect a clean environment and high quality food. They expect strong leadership and to learn lots of stuff. They are prepared to work 35 hours per week. They expect that work will be interesting, educational and fun (by permaculture standards). They expect that they will work with a lot of other like minded folks and learn lots of fascinating permaculture things from them both within the 35 hours and outside the 35 hours.
Without strong leadership, they aren't sure what to do. Without strong leadership, an enormous part of the candy they have come for is not here. One gapper might start their day a little late, take too long for lunch and end the day early. Since there is no strong leadership, there is no follow-up about it. Resentments start to build. Cheap justifications start to replace the 35 hours. Eventually, they have it whittled down to 20 hours or less and that is done poorly. Other gappers build resentment because "why does that guy hardly have to work, but I have to work the full 35 hours?" The 20 hours of work is now full of people talking about things that suck.
Out of 20 hours of work actually done, a despondent gapper might do the amount of work that the same gapper could accomplish in 4 hours with strong leadership.
At the same time, each gapper uses resources throughout the week. Water, pooper, food, vehicles, dishes, the house, laundry, etc. And if the food is harvested insteade of purchased, that is added in also. Then there is stuff like accounting, maintaining vehicles and maintaining stuff and keeping everything in tip top condition for the gappers to use .... I'm going to assume it takes about ten hours per week (with strong leadership) to facilitate one gapper. With strong leadership, I suppose that the gappers themselves could do this. Without strong leadership, then that ten hours of stuff per gapper per week will need to be paid for.
So, with strong leadership, the gappers put in 35 hours per week on projects and 10 hours per week on cleaning up after themselves. And the gappers are happy and want to stay forever.
Without strong leadership, the gapper accomplished about one tenth the project work, and we need to pay somebody to do 10 hours per week to facilitate the gapper. And the gapper is miserable.
I have had a parade of people (no less than 40) come to my office to tell me that I need to be that leader. And, the same people tell me that I need to come up with more money, offer more workshops (for a lower price), give more away for free, create more DVDs, free videos and isn't it about time I came out with a few books?
I do think I can do a very good job at all of these things.
To do a good job as a strong leader that the gappers need requires about 80 hours per week of attention. So if I'm going to do a good job at that then I will have to let the other things go. But then there is the money thing. Without money we don't have startup food, or materials for projects, or new tools when the old tools are broken.
Well, maybe I can divide my time. That seems to be a really great recipe for doing a terrible job at everything.
It currently costs about $1000 per month to host a gapper.
If the gapper has strong leadership, then it turns out to be worth it: the gapper doesn't have a lot of skill, but that labor is focused onto things that make a difference. And most of the impact that the gapper causes is cared for outside of moving projects forward.
Without a strong leader, the gapper program is not worth it. It costs $1500 per month and the forward velocity is cut by a factor of ten.
Without a strong leader, it is possible that somebody could still wish to show up and help. They would need to be shown around and learn our wacky ways. That takes time.
There have been people that have been here that were able to do enormous amounts of stuff with virtually zero leadership. They earned their keep! But these people are the exception, not the norm.
For most of my adult life, I would hire a housekeeper. I am terrible at cleaning. And I am good at computer programming. A good housekeeper would come in and in two hours would accomplish what it would take me 20 hours to do. Amazing. So I would work a few extra hours doing programming and then pay for a few hours of housekeeper. Happiness.
When the time came to hire a new housekeeper, there were, as with many things/people, two types:
1) Over the course of several hours, I would be repeatedly asked "what should I do now?" and "how do you want me to do that?"
2) Within ten seconds of arriving I would be told "Please stand aside, this place is filthy!"
I hired the second type.
There is so much to do. There are dozens of permaculture projects to start. There are dozens of projects that need to be finished/improved. There is a good hundred hours of stuff to clean/mend from the past gappers.
It is clear that we need a strong leader here, but for now we don't have one.
I know there are lots of gappers that want to come.
All this time I've been thinking that eventually somebody will come and they will be that strong leader. So what I have done is keep the gapper program rolling until that person shows up.
Now I am thinking that there are two more things I can do to fix this:
1) More clearly express the need for a strong leader (this post I am writing now, plus several of the other threads I have recently created). Maybe such a person will read this, contact me and somehow things work out.
2) Start the ant village and the ant village challenge. I think that will draw in a different type of person - possibly more likely to draw in that strong leader I am looking for.
Until the strong leader is here, I want all gappers to know of how the current gapper program is less than optimal. Unless you are strongly self propelled, you might not get much out of being here.
However, I do think that a gapper that works through this .... getting started phase .... will, in the long run, get more candy than the people that show up when things are better.
The leader(s) Paul envisions in the 2015 paid positions thread could make 'pulling a weight' a joy, a satisfaction in work well done, a fantastic learning experience.
Paul IS a leader in that he is out in the front pulling the weight financially, and in terms of what he does to build and maintain the empire, and when he's pulling that kind of weight, he has a lot of people just sitting on the weight, not exactly helping.
Paul is ALSO the boss, in that he sits at a desk as the owner and decision maker while others do more manual or property and project management tasks. This division of labor types is pretty crucial here. Without Paul at his desk, none of us would be here.
That said, in my mind, the desk doesn't ride on the laborers, it actually helps facilitate the labor, in many symbolic and very real ways. So, IMHO, I think we need a third drawing that shows that.
Thanks for being honest and transparent about the gapper situation. I really appreciate that.
I personally see this happen often in the construction industry. Poor leaders make poor work flow and resentment between coworkers.
When I had my phone interview with Tim about me coming and working with y'all at the lab, we discussed how volunteers would only cause problems and slow down the experienced construction people and could even be a job site hazard. Especially with the heavy equipment.
In my opinion, I think Tim and I could have knocked many of these projects out without volunteers. Combining Tim's background in framing, carpentry, and general construction and my background in earth works, utilities, electrical, solar, etc.
Just how you like to hire a take charge housekeepers, you have to hire take charge construction workers. Even though its permaculture, it still requires construction to start and establish the infrastructure and systems.
Thanks for pulling the financial weight of the Empire!
That picture made me laugh because it is so damn true.
I have been in a few leadership positions in my time and while I always try to be the type that leads by example, with some people it doesn't matter how competent your leadership is. You start working your behind off along side of them but somehow at the end of the day instead of being shamed into working harder, they are relieved that now their workload is less and as a result they work less. Before too long you are covering for them and telling yourself "if I just work a little harder and give them a bit more time they will change". It almost never does and those people end up poisoning the rest of the people. After all, it goes against human nature to work side by side with someone, do more work and the work be of better quality, and to honestly be ok with being rewarded the same. This resentment builds up as a poison and eventually all the good workers become bad workers and you have to pretty much replace them all.
I agree Paul that there are two types of people, I have a similar breakdown myself. There are people who will chop down a tree until they get a blister, and there are people who will cut down trees despite the blisters because they have a task to finish. Some people just have more "drive" than others. I think of the two solutions you have presented, the ant village be your best bet for the type of leader you are looking for. A good leader is not always a popular one and I have noticed in today's world that more and more people seem to take it personally when a leader has to take a firm hand.
Do you take a deposit from people who come as gappers? A thought, getting your deposit back becomes incentive to pick up the ball.
A FULFILLMENT card - a kind of report card that someone in Authority stamps as tasks / responsibilities are completed. An incomplete card could mean early departure and possibly lost deposit.
You are right that the failure of a program is in most cases a failure of leadership.
Has someone delineated the pathways to profit, with a simple business plan for each? Generally, its hard to make money on the land. How will Wheaton Labs generate income from what gappers can do? I dont want to know - but someone should know.