Rules & Ethics
We have been very fortunate to discover the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC). We are very impressed with the ethical structures of these communities, they are the types of communities we ourselves would like to live in. The two main communities associated with the federation are Twin Oaks which has been running for about 40 years and Acorn which has been running for 24 years.
We are in currently in the process of connecting with the federation to formally join with them. We were so impressed with the foundational work these communities have done with their respective systems and structures that we have decided to utilise them ourselves. We figure there is no point reinventing the wheel. Much of the following information is taken from their website.
There are around six communities comprising around two hundred members who are full members of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities who abide by seven common principles.
We would like to acknowledge the folk at FEC, Twin Oaks and Acorn for their invaluable contribution to our project, we are walking in their footsteps. See Links page for their website.
Each of the FEC Communities:
Holds its land, labour, income and other resources in common.
Assumes responsibility for the needs of its members, receiving the products of their labour and distributing these and all other goods equally, or according to need.
Uses a form of decision making in which members have an equal opportunity to participate, either through consensus, direct vote, or right of appeal or overrule.
Actively works to establish the equality of all people and does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Acts to conserve natural resources for present and future generations while striving to continually improve ecological awareness and practice.
Creates processes for group communication and participation and provides an environment which supports people's development (Acorn Community 2017).
One of the member communities of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities is called Acorn Community. This will be mentioned again in relation to its by-laws and other community agreements.
Community values are critical to the health of the community. In the course of researching the ways different communities manage the issue of expectations of codes of behaviour I came across a list of community values that has evolved since the Acorn community was established in 1993. This is a very practical list of values so it seems
Compiled by a long community process stretching over several years starting at least as early as May 2010 and continuing in fits and starts until at least August of 2013.
Acorn is a continual work in progress. These values are goals to work towards and principles to guide us. They are metrics by which to evaluate our actions, norms, and policies. We may never manifest them all perfectly but we will do what we can, within reason.
Acorn Community Values:
We strive for sustainability in our lifestyle, by which we mean a way of life that does not degrade our resource basis and thus can be continued indefinitely. We do this for ourselves and our own quality of life. We do this for future generations who will inherit the world that we create. We do this not just for our own intentional community but for all the people of the world who make up the greater communities of which we are a part.
We strive to foster an ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just agricultural system both on our own farm and in the greater world. Stewardship, soil conservation, and integrated pest management are essential for sustainability.
Specifically, we strive to foster methods of farming that allow the production of crops or livestock without damage to the farm as an ecosystem, including effects on soil, water supplies, biodiversity, or other surrounding natural resources. The concept of sustainable agriculture is an “intergenerational” one in which we pass on a conserved or improved natural resource base instead of one which has been depleted or polluted.
As part of our existence as an egalitarian community, we believe in the social, political, and economic equality of all people, regardless of gender expression. We embrace a modern school of feminism that aims to be a movement not just of women but of people of all genders and sexualities, and that aspires to include the abolition of racism, classism, and all other forms of oppression.
We strive to identify and dismantle gender-related assumptions exhibited through patterns of communication and interaction, and non-traditional gender roles are encouraged by mutually providing information, resources, and opportunity. It is our hope that these combined efforts contribute in the manifestation of an environment that is empowering, and ultimately, compassionate.
“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” – Karl Marx (kind of)
Equal access to material resources, political power, and opportunity.
“Helping each other get what we want.” – Ganas
Mutual empowerment means matching our personal interests with the needs of the community to co-create an environment that both benefits the community and is rich in personal educational opportunities. This includes helping each other gain new skills, take on responsibility, navigate community process, engage with the community around our needs and desires, and actively help each other achieve personal goals.
“There are two ways to increase your slice of the pie: you can steal pie from your neighbors or you can work with them to make a bigger pie for everyone.” – Ira Wallace
Cooperation makes things possible that are not possible for individuals. We believe that sharing information and resources and joining together cooperatively enriches everyone involved. We believe cooperation is vital to the human project. We seek to develop and promote the systems and skills necessary to make cooperation work.
“It’s like Spiderman: With great power, comes great responsibility.” – Stan Lee
Personal Responsibility makes it possible for Acorn to express these values. This means: committing to bottom line entire categories of work, following through on your commitments, hearing and considering the criticisms of others, accepting the consequences of your actions, and making amends for whatever harm your actions might cause.
Resource and Income Sharing
We all work together to care for and provide for each other collectively. The products of our collective labors, immaterial and material, including income are held collectively and used to provide for the needs and desires of the community. This levels the socio-economic playing field somewhat by providing every community member equal access to the resource base from which to pursue their needs and desires. It is fundamental to egalitarian living.
We have big dreams and limited time and resources. The efficient use of our time and our resources means more of what we want.
Community time and community resources are not just yours but belong to all Acorners. Treat them with respect and use them efficiently and effectively.
Equitably Sharing the Load
There is no one but us to make the things we want to happen happen. Manifesting the reality that we wish to inhabit requires people to do the work and people to take on the responsibility (by which we mean, the planning, coordinating, scheming, negotiating, managing, and arranging). We wish to equitably share the burden of this work and this responsibility.
Consensus decision making seeks the agreement of all participants through the resolution or mitigation of concerns. The wisdom of the room is drawn upon to find the best solutions and to involve as many stakeholders as possible. We use this system to arrive at decisions that the entire community will support beyond the meeting, and to seek political equality among members. Things we like about consensus are that it is agreement seeking, collaborative, cooperative, egalitarian, inclusive, and participatory.
We are engaged in a continually co-evolving conversation about how best to organise ourselves in community, given that our set and setting are always changing, that we will never find the perfect timeless solution, and that everything is always up for discussion. We change our policies and our behaviour to fit each others’ needs, rather than forcing ourselves to always adapt to a certain set of policies. All our policies and agreements come with the caveat “or come to the group and talk about it.”
In the workplace, workers enjoy equal control over the conditions of their work and over the goals, principles, direction, and projects of the business. Workers have access to opportunities with and through the business and authority over particular areas as is appropriate based on their experience and the responsibilities they have taken on.
We are an experimental community working to develop ways for people to organize themselves for mutual and egalitarian benefit. We wish to effectively share our cultural project and the lessons we’ve learned to any and all who might benefit from it.
Anarchism and Self Determination
For some, the word anarchism is misunderstood to imply a lawless, chaotic culture of Ultimate Freedom and a complete absence of rules. Instead, anarchism, for us, is a political, social, and economic philosophy of non-hierarchical, non-coercive egalitarian agreements, by the people, for the people. There is no one better equipped and no one more appropriate to make decisions that affect us than us.
We don’t equate anarchy with total freedom. We strive not to restrict the actions of anyone, but we recognize that the expression of one freedom can impede the existence of another freedom. When freedoms conflict we negotiate them in the spirit of helping each other get what we want.
We strive to build a society free of coercion, violence, and hierarchy. We strive to build a world founded on love.
Commitment to Interpersonal Processing
Acorn is all its residents and their relationships with each other; the quality of those relationships is an essential determinant of how effective and resilient Acorn will be. As such we strive to clarify and resolve issues that stand between us, to be open and honest with one another, and to see the opportunities for individual and communal growth held in every conflict. We expect all members to work on their relationships and work to resolve conflicts as they arise, and we will commit community resources to this end.
Self-Defined Consensual Fun
“If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution!.” – Emma Goldman, paraphrased
We will put time and resources into activities that make being here more enjoyable for Acorn members. We try not to make any particular activity mandatory, whether recreational or work-related. We will support a wide variety of recreational activities for individuals, small groups, and large groups, in hopes that everyone will find truly fun activities. This may include buying board games, buying exercise equipment, throwing parties, planning trips, buying tools for hobbies, buying trees and flowers, and letting people experiment in the garden.
We strive to match every job to people who don’t mind doing it, and ideally to people who truly enjoy it. We strive to find and enhance the fun aspects of activities that are ordinarily not considered fun. We make it possible for everyone to have a varied work scene, to avoid getting tired of particular jobs. We strive to keep our work loads reasonable, so that we will each have time to do fun things just for the fun of it.2
Healthy Living means making choices that reflect one’s needs and desires, and as a community respecting these needs and desires. This includes but is not limited to physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental health. We strive to support each other in our respective definitions of health by being conscientious, respectful, and flexible. As a community we make choices deemed healthy, easy, and convenient, while making choices that are not healthy difficult or inconvenient.
Our philosophy of non-violence is based on the idea that all human beings have the capacity for compassion, and only resort to violence or behavior that harms others when they don’t recognize more effective strategies for meeting their needs.
We do not condone violent behavior and will, when reasonable, work with individuals who use violence to see the effects that their actions have and to see ways of meeting their needs without resorting to violence.
Politically, we pursue social change via strategies of communication, compassion, cooperation, and education. Those we find opposed to us we try not to view as enemies to be vanquished but rather as partners in the common struggle to satisfy the needs of everyone, partners that we simply disagree with or who hold a different understanding of our common situation.
Entails actively being aware of and dismantling the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. This includes systematic, socially supported mistreatment and exploitation of a group or category of people by anyone.
We continually try to be aware of our behavior, communication, and actions in regard to privilege and systems of oppression. For example, in meetings, being aware of both group dynamics and individual potential for overbearing behavior, and encouraging others who have been quiet to speak. Anti-oppression also means taking the initiative to convey feedback to each other on using oppressive language, enacting oppressive roles, or offering oppressive ideas, as well as being able to receive criticism.
We want to extend our cultural project to include people from all varying classes, races, gender identities, age, ability, educational, social, and political backgrounds. It’s easy to select new members who are already most similar to us; we try to be cognizant of this in our membership process, outreach, and in creating an environment that is comfortable and pleasant for a diverse population. We also try to refrain from snap character judgements in favor of an open mind and a willingness to meet people where they are (or halfway, at least)