It’s endlessly fascinating to see what kaleidoscopic patterns can be generated by shining light on a single facet of intentional communities, and then slowly rotating the focus from one group to the next. As this issue of Communities drills down on cooperative economics, I want to look at what emerges when the lens is trained on how communities organize financially.
We suggest looking closely at two sub-questions:
—In communities of size there typically exists an amazing pool of skilled, motivated people available on site to help you with most aspects of business development. It’s an untapped gold mine.
3. How tricky is it to navigate the dynamic where members are both peer/peer and employer/employee?
The hardest part is likely to occur when the employer gives the employee critical feedback about their performance as an employee—and these two are at the same time neighbors. This can be dicey, and a lot will depend on how well the culture of the community supports the expression of critical feedback and clean communication. If the community struggles to work through tensions among members then this does not bode well. Going the other way, where roles are clear and skills are sharp, it’s just another of life’s unexpected pleasures.
4. How can we encourage non-income-sharing communities to develop their potential as an economic engine?
We suggest groups think about this in two ways:
5. To what extent is a focus on business development just buying into the (failed) paradigm that growth solves everything, and to what extent is it sensible to use traditional business tools to support alternative economies?
While I think there’s a lot that can be done to dial down demand (and live happily on less), it nonetheless makes sense to be smart about analyzing prospects for new business ideas with time tested traditional queries. For example:
6. How do you handle the tension between the non-entrepreneur (who tends to be risk averse) and the entrepreneur (who tends to be risk tolerant)?
Let’s be real. This tension exists already, whether you have community businesses or not. Isn’t it a better strategy to learn to deal constructively with the full breadth of attitudes among your membership than to attempt to eliminate or shy away from opportunities for those differences to manifest?