Communities that work on consensus and participation don't have rules. They have agreements.
Community members working together on a 'chook tractor'
One of the first tasks, and a joyous one at that, that a community needs to do before buying property or anything else, is to come up with the community agreements.
The agreements are the guidelines that the community choose to live by.
Many people want to live together, but some communities want to ban drugs and some want to grow them.
It's best to talk about that! Any many other things, before getting too far into the process.
Of course, if your community is governed by one or two people, you don't need agreements, there will be rules. This is not the way that EVA communities work; but many do work this way with a so-called 'benevolent dictator'. Trouble is, everyone wants to be the dictator! We strongly advise against this governance model.
The founding documents and community agreements can be changed. However, some things won't be up for negotiation. I always ask potential members to carefully read the agreements, and then talk about what sits uncomfortably with them. Again, it's best to have that discussion early on! It's best to be honest about it, as any points that 'jar' today can cause a lot of tension down the track.
The Community Agreements for the Maleny Eco Village are here. If you are thinking about joining that community, please read it carefully.
Community agreement proforma
Eco Villages Australia has made it easy, as we have developed a community agreement proforma. Its a 'tick and flick' word document that asks founding members some oft forgotten things. Waste, wifi, food, land ownership - many, many things that founders often neglect to communicate to potential community members.
This document is yours. Items that are not important to your group can be decided by the community later. The document can be condensed, and put into prose form, add some photos, and send the newly formed "Seeding Document" out into the world for others to gather around your project.
This work can make your life a whole lot easier into the future. When casting the vision for the Maleny Eco Village (Actually the project started as the 'Brisbane North Eco Village'), a clear vision for the community really helped bring the right people to the project. Who are the right people? The right people for your group. Some people wanted to invest money then and there, but as they re-read what we were doing, they decided it wasn't for them. Self-selection is the most potent selection.
A single person can cast the vision, but don't underestimate the power of joining another community. It's good for your ego and good for you to do before starting your own anyway.
The EVA Model
If you like the Eco Villages Australia model, just a reminder that we invite you to take advantage of it. We have spent more than our fair share of time in front of lawyers, tax accountants and consultants so that you don't have to. The legal and financial model is important - crucially important if you are to avoid systemic conflict, but it's also the most dull - which is why many intentional communities don't bother with it - to their peril.