People (block 6)

Identifying who is in the community needs careful thought. Firstly, a community can consist of several overlapping circles of people. Some circles may be more inclined to participate in ownership than others. It can be helpful to visualise these circles as people standing in a circle; they all have a context they share, probably shared values but most importantly a shared intention.

Clarify Intention

It is helpful to spend time formulating the intention rather than be content to identify just a shared interest. Compare the following:

We have the shared intention of making a garden

(intention: creating a garden)

Why do you want to create a garden?

Because we want to grow our own food

(intention: growing own food)

Why do you want to grow your food?

Because we want to create food security for us all

(Intention; creating food security)

Notice that by asking “why” the intention clarifies. Another point is that the intention becomes more compelling for more people. For example, not all like or have the physical ability to grow food, but many more are interested in food security, so the final version of the intention widens the number of people who can be involved.

Clarifying intention helps sort our who is in the community and who is not. With each clarification some will leave and others will join.

Even if the community’s intention is food security and a potential member thinks that security is not an issue but wants to be involved anyway, at least by clarifying intention it makes it easier for people to decide if they want to be a part of the community or not. This is better than having to clear up misunderstandings later on.

Finally, by clarifying intention you often open up to more solutions. In the case above creating food security could include engaging a farmer.

Community size

The other thing to consider when identifying community is size and scale.

There may be restrictions like travel distance, local population density or municipal boundaries that affect your definition of where you will find community members and other stakeholders.

The community can be the group of people who can best

  • Provide responsible stewardship for the land and other assets
  • Have the ability to mutually own, rent or lease the property and other assets
  • Benefit directly from the services provided by the land and assets on it

Who are they and what roles would they play?

The next stage is to look at the people in your commons from two angles. Firstly who are they and secondly, what roles are there for them, and what do these roles require

Whilst diversity brings resilience, having people sharing a commons when they are not really engaged or interested can mean your initiative loses energy. One way to gain clarity is to identify the broad characteristics of the kind of persons who might contribute and benefit. And at the start of the initiative, there may be more restrictions.

  • What kind of basic values and beliefs are at the basis of the initiative?
  • What kind of vision is being shared?
  • Are there any kind of restrictions to people joining (age, language spoken, requirements on physical contribution, investment, ability to work over the internet) in the beginning?

People engaged in common have at least three roles

  • Consuming that which is produced
  • Producing that which is produced
  • Owning the means of production

Scale and Size

The community should be small enough that everyone can talk to each other, and large enough to provide a variety of perspectives and experience and skills to be able to pool capabilities to address challenges.

When planning community size we use the rule of thumb that the maximum residential community unit should be 200 including children, and the ideal functioning cooperative business about 30 individuals. Of course, there are ways of making other size configurations work. Villages of 1000 could consist of say 5 divisions of 200 each.

Another thing to note about community is that the services the community provides for itself come under different laws that those sold to consumers where the community is, say a cooperative.  As there are no sales to non-members the distribution of goods to members does not come under consumer law. This gives the community greater flexibility in distribution and less red tape to follow.

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