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IC contracts/rules of conduct?  RSS feed

 
            
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In response to Paul's 540 meal thread, I thought it would be interesting if we would discuss recommendations for rules of conduct that should govern an intentional community.  Should this be in the form of a formal contract that every new member should sign and have a copy of when they move in?  Or should it be less formal, perhaps a sign posted outlining member's duties/expectations?  What would you include in such a document?  Why?
 
Chris Fitt
Posts: 115
Location: Eastern Shore VA
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I think that it really depends on the size and scope of the IC.  I have been involved in two different ones.  Both differed from each other quite a bit.  The first was sort of a community but really was a holistic retreat center, were the seasonal workers were the community.  There were up to 250 of us and we all lived on the property.  There was a written contract involved, more for the work aspect but it did address rules of conduct.  We had a human resource department who along with the executive director (and the department head if it was a work issue) what course of action would be implemented.  What I found with the written contract, was that even though there were some clear cut parameters and even things that would require immediate dismissal, it was still open to interpretation.  Which is has both good and bad points.  It allows the rules to be enforced and a way out if someone is truly disruptive.  It also gives an allowance for someone who might have just made a mistake and does not show a pattern.  Of course this opens up the possibility of favoritism coming in to play or at least it looking that way.  And the longer some people are there it seems that their idiosyncrasies are tolerated even if they violate the code of conduct.

The other place was more like 40 people all in different housing.  There was varying levels of work for full time employment to the few hours a week that were required of those who worked off site.  There was a contract involved here as well.  But what was more useful was a trial period.  A new member would have to come by and work and meet the members and then they were accepted or not.  I think this has the ability to allow either side to determine if it seems like a good fit.

As far as what I would put in a rule of conduct document, it would again depend on size and reason.  If it is essentially a group of friends and/or family who are sharing resources that probably needs less.  But when it comes to strangers, I would do a combination of formal and informal.  I would have the real important issues spelled out and it would be signed.  This would cover things like personal property (including food), quiet hours, shared space, and whatever duties were required to live there.  Then a less formal approach, signs hung in appropriate areas, paired with discussions in the daily or weekly meetings.  This would be to reinforce what the group goals are.
 
            
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Location: Northport, Wash.
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Anytime you have two or more people involved in any endeavor, the terms should be in writing and signed by everyone involved.  It eliminates any question of who should be doing what.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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This is a really excellent topic.

I wish to point out that 99.99% of forums insist that everyone needs to agree to long conduct document before they are allowed to post.  This site does something similar, but the conduct document is two words: "be nice."  Further, I would like to point out, that, IMAAOO, 98% of forums are less civil/respectful than this one.

While a forum is not the same as intentional community, I do think there are good points to consider. 

In a community that I started, I had everybody sign a "choreography document"

Rent is due on the first (this allows time to deposit checks and write a big check to the landlord).

The kitchen is always clean between meals.

Try to leave all common things cleaner than you found them every day.

A lot of house communication is through e-mail.  Please read your e-mail generally every day.

Quiet from 10pm to 6am every day.  Semi quiet 9pm to 10pm.  Exceptions with the consent of everybody in the house. 

Chores:  everybody chips in and does their fair share.  Level of cleanliness is "always picked up; deep cleaning every two weeks."

No pets.  No smoking on the property.  No illegal drugs on the property.

House meeting is the second Thursday of each month at 7pm.  Hopefully, there will be nothing to resolve and we'll just play some cards or something.

To get mail here, you will need to make sure that your last name appears on the inside flap of the mailbox.



sounds good to me:  __________________          _____________________        __________________
                                sign                                    print                                      date



 
                          
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I believe for an intentional community to form starting with rules is the cart before the horse. It is a contract, you do with this and the community provides you with this, that sort of thing. It is a fine for a landlord and tenant arrangement and that is an intentional community but maybe not the sort that is meant by this forum.

For my money, values are the first conversation, the entry point of dialogue, does a group of people share a common set of values and are they willing, committed to living out those values and hold each other accountable. The values might inform a community mission statement and values would also inform the goals of the community and with the goals come the rules. Difference between contract and covenant. For instance a community might say they commonly value building relationships with each other, hospitality to the surrounding community, and food sustainability for their living community. So they set goals of eating three meals a week together (relationships), opening their community to their family and friends and neighbors for three hours on the weekend where they host , feed anyone who comes,  (hospitality)and grow food together, as well as compost, and learn food preservation (food sustainability). The rules might then translate into everyone cooks a meal in turn for the community (relationships), everyone takes one weekend a month to cook the outside community meal (hospitality), and everyone commits 8 hours a week to the gardening and/or food preservation (food sustainability).

For my money as new people might join the community, the values remain the same - it gives the community an identity but goals and rules can change as need and inspiration arises. I could say more but interest in what others have to say.

 
                            
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I am using the term eco-village in place of intentional community, since I am interested specifically in an eco-village while an intentional community is not automatically an eco-village.


1. People who settle in the eco-village will buy shares in the village.  The price per share will be rather substantial (at least $1000 each) to prevent people that are not serious about living in an eco-village from wasting anybody’s time.

2. Once the eco-village, or its founding group, is established the existing members must unanimously approve anybody that wants to become a member.  This will insure that the members of the group have common characteristics (goals and lifestyle for example) that will promote community cohesion.  The more diverse you group is the greater chance you have for conflict.

3. Decisions on how the eco-village is governed will be made by majority vote with each member getting one vote for each share he owns.

4. The members of the group will have assigned duties and functions based on their skills and interests.

5.  All profits generated by the eco-village will be distributed equally to the resident members as a salary.  This will allow the eco-village to exist as a non-profit public service/educational organization, which will allow certain tax advantages.  Members that do not live in the eco-village and thus do not contribute to the labor needed to run it will have a say in governing the eco-village, but they will not be entitled to any salary.  You could also reserve a portion of the profits to give a salary to people that live and work in the village on a temporary basis- essentially paid interns.

6. If any member wishes to leave the group he may sell his shares for the original purchase price.  But the remaining members of the group will have the right of first refusal, and anybody else that wishes to buy the shares will have to have the unanimous approval of the remaining members.
 
                                
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This is a big concern of mine too as I would like to live in a community working with others.  Certainly some good points here.  In my mind this is certainly rather utopian, but I realize there will be some issues between folks.  I think a fairly large emphasis should be placed on communication and processes of resolution.

If one individual has an issue with an other:

1.  communicate the issue to the other person directly
2. (if 1 is not conclusive) bring in another person to help
3. (if 2 is not conclusive) bring it in front of the community at a weekly or monthly meeting

obviously the best course of action will depend on the individuals and setting up goals of the community at the beginning of things can help avoid having to "conduct" people.

Paul's "Be nice" contract works pretty well for a person like me, although it probably wasn't necessary, but a good provision, and as far as I've seen, pretty much everyone else on these forums.  I think that is based on the obvious, from the name, nature of things here.  While some of the folks here are doing things under the family tree, others are seeking outside of kin, but all realize they'll need to call on a neighbor every now and then or possibly every day to get necessary things done.

Interdependence is key.  Rationality too!

The basics, Food, Water, Shelter, Rest, should certainly be explicitly outlined in the contract/rules of conduct for an IC, as it threatens a persons survival and can make anyone act a bit out of character.  Paul's "choreography document" certainly hits these necessities without seeming unreasonably strict.

As far as,
flaja wrote:
1. People who settle in the eco-village will buy shares in the village.  The price per share will be rather substantial (at least $1000 each) to prevent people that are not serious about living in an eco-village from wasting anybody’s time.


$1000 may seem like a bit of money to come up with for you and me and many other people interested in this type of living, it may be a hindrance for those most likely to stay around and a speed bump for those just wanting to "experiment".  While I do realize we live in an economy based on the dollar and the need for money to get an IC/ecovillage going is necessary in most cases, there may be a rather committed individual with a large amount of capital, the land owner?, who would be willing to have folks work for a probationary period of time, I think a year sounds good, for their room and board, and upon completion receive their share in the community.  For someone like me that is more reasonable and would give both sides a good perspective.  The community, if well setup, may receive more than that $1000 from the individuals labors and the excess could be split between the indiv., for developing some personal shelter etc, and the community, for its development to support other likewise indivs. in the future.  I'm getting a bit ideal here though, possibly.
 
                            
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keenan9 wrote:
As far as,
$1000 may seem like a bit of money to come up with for you and me and many other people interested in this type of living, it may be a hindrance for those most likely to stay around and a speed bump for those just wanting to "experiment".


Actually, if I were to cash in my life insurance policy and put it with the money I inherited, I have about $100,000.  Since my current home is paid for; I have no debt; I am not married; I have no children and my mother is my only family, I have no definite use for the money.  But that’s doesn’t mean I am willing to spend it and risk ending up in a situation where other people make me miserable; waste my time and effort or dictate to me how I can use the property that I have helped pay for.

Last year I got involved with a local community garden.  The head organizer didn’t want to have any kind of formal rules.  He wanted everyone to work together and cooperate, but all this meant was that the garden has never gotten off the ground because it has no leadership.  The (no other way to say it) idiot waited until I had bought about $50 in seeds and plants- that I was willing to share in exchange for the labor my health no longer permits me to do- before he bothered to tell me that the garden has no water supply other than hand-dipping stagnant water from a retention pond.  I did a bunch of research on diy well-digging and spent months trying to get him and the other gardeners to put down a well since I was advised by the local Ag department and a local pond contractor that the water from the retention pond is unsafe to use on plants (or even touch with bare skin).  I finally gave up and left the garden and now a year later they are still using the water from the retention pond.

And in the midst of all of this the organizer, a Yankee who knows nothing about growing things, spent over $400 putting in shrubbery (which he could not keep watered) and God-only-knows how much money bringing in organic top soil- that was full of weeds.  And all the while the man hasn’t bothered to tell any of us that he owns the corporation that owns the land that the garden is setting on.  He gave us the impression that the land was donated to the garden, but at any moment he could tell the gardeners to leave while he enjoys the benefits of any infrastructure improvements they have made to his property- which he admits will someday be used for condos.  I am willing to give this man the benefit of the doubt and believe he is just a naive idealist who is lacking in commonsense (as all liberals and most environmentalists are).  But I cannot risk getting mixed up with charlatans or people who are too flighty to help accomplish anything.

While I do realize we live in an economy based on the dollar and the need for money to get an IC/ecovillage going is necessary in most cases, there may be a rather committed individual with a large amount of capital, the land owner?, who would be willing to have folks work for a probationary period of time, I think a year sounds good, for their room and board, and upon completion receive their share in the community.


I haven’t found such a person so far.  Most people with large amounts of land expect it to make money for them at some point.
 
                        
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Eric wrote:
I believe for an intentional community to form starting with rules is the cart before the horse. It is a contract, you do with this and the community provides you with this, that sort of thing. It is a fine for a landlord and tenant arrangement and that is an intentional community but maybe not the sort that is meant by this forum.

For my money, values are the first conversation, the entry point of dialogue, does a group of people share a common set of values and are they willing, committed to living out those values and hold each other accountable.


I have just been through something of this sort. Someone saw my listing and contacted me and was all gung ho but wanted the financial thing nailed down. Since I own the land I was reluctant to commit to anything until we had at least met and worked together for a while to see if it was likely the involvement would continue. Long story short; turns out he thinks all my goals are unncecessary (putting in a well when there is a dugout,) , bizarre (building a pallet frame house) or undesirable (having any sort of livestock such as chickens or rabbits "as they have to be looked after" If it had been a matter of just buying in, he might well have come  and then we (or I) would be in a pickle. It took a couple of months of emails before he decided to drop out because I wouldn't commit to making financial arrangements before we even met and then his true opinions came out.

I wish I knew what the answer was. This forum is being very helpful
 
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