How to build a commune 101 (summarized)

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CahCaw

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Hey Agora - today I just want to share a document I created for other purposes, which outlines an idea of how to best run a commune. This has been fascinating me and my friends for quite some time now, and I thought there might be a couple of people here who would find it an interesting read. On top of that, all feedback is appreciated!
There was some sensitive information in the original document, whereby I censored them like this ███. There is still a bit of sensitive information left, but I think censoring that would take away from the quality.

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The dream of the commune is simple: To live like a bunch of free souls in a forest. This dream is inherently rooted in the rejection of the modern world, instead relying on ourselves. Instead they desire that which was lost during our centuries of progress: To be closer with nature & be invested in a loving community.

Whilst there are many ways of going about this. This document will encapsulate the interpretation of the crow. Why a crow? Well, that is a story for another time.

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In the way of the crow, we want to avoid turning the commune into an ideology or a cult. Instead, all we care about in the end, is a good atmosphere. What we believe is necessary for a good atmosphere is:
- A lack of outside interference. Thus, the plot of land must be owned by the commune. We want government agencies, or other entities, to interfere as little as possible with our business.
- For the language in which the commune will operate in, be in English. This is to make sure that language is as little of an obstacle as can be.
- For no one person to hold any power over any other person. Power inevitably corrupts, and modern society is a reflection of that. Instead a kind of democracy must be in place to manage power.
- To have the right people. It is thus important that the only new people who can become part of the commune, are those who are accepted by the entire group.
- Not discriminate, except for the character of a person.
- For everyone, that is part of the commune, to have full agency of their affiliation with the commune. One may choose to be left more so alone, one may choose to be more social. One may choose to be there only once a month, one may choose to make it their home.
- Full transparency. Everyone that is part of the commune, has the right to have full oversight into what is actually going on.

On top of that, we are firm believers in building things ourselves. There is something magical about constructing things with your own hands. In fact, it was the construction of a treehouse ███, called the crow's nest, that led to the inspiration of it all. Society has led us to believe that the way to deal with our problems, is to just throw money at it, and let other people solve it for us. But, this instead deprives us of one of the aspects which can make life so much more interesting: To build things with our own hands. As long as we have enough wishful people take action, who truly believe with all they got, anything is possible. Things we hope to build:
- Our own places to sleep, in a sustainable way.
- Gardens / farms, in order to promote self-reliance.
- Communal spaces & storage.
- Internal roads, but one's which promote a walkable community.
- Infrastructure in the form of utilities, think electricity, water & internet.
- Among many other things. Maybe a camping, or workshops which could generate profit for the commune. This could possibly even create on-site jobs.

Problems​

Now this all sounds like wishful thinking thus far. There are an insane amount of practical problems at opposites with the laid out desires. But, what the treehouse also taught us, is that every problem has a solution. This sparked countless conversations (a lot of them in the treehouse) about identifying these problems, and how to solve them.

A lot of problems, can be solved as we go. How the commune will actually be called for example, can be decided in the moment. However, there are also countless problems which must be, as a figure of speech, carved in stone in terms of how to deal with them beforehand. The last thing you want for example is to get into a fight about how to fairly handle money, because you didn't agree on it beforehand. But, it is also important to keep the solutions as simple as possible without taking away the quality of a solution. We just mustn't become the bureaucracy we try to get away from.

These problems may be summarized as follows, together with a short summary of the kind of solution that will most likely be implemented. Of course the final solution will be much more worked out.

- How is the purchasing of the land handled?
People will voluntarily chip in money, and the pool of money will in the end define the commune's success (more people is more money!). The actual land will be held by a shell company (a company with its sole purpose being to hold the land), which is also where this money will be temporarily stored during the purchase. This shell company will be separate from a business which manages all other activities on the commune. This is so that the land cannot be taken away by the bureaucrat if the company defaults.

- How does the commune pay for its expenses?
Tragedy of the commons: If something is necessary which benefits and is open to everyone, like a road, everyone will keep waiting for someone else to build it. Then, nothing gets done.
It is thus logical then, that the commune will pay for everything which benefits everyone.
This will be funded through 3 revenue streams:
1. Profit from the main business and its activities on the commune.
2. Voluntary investments from those who are part of the commune.
The problem with these 2 revenue streams, is that they are unreliable. They are most likely, especially during the early days, not going to pay for its expenses. Thus there is a need for:
3. A membership fee, expected to be paid by each person that is part of the commune.
To make it more fair, the amount one is expected to pay in membership fee, will be proportional to how much money one makes an hour at their job. Thus someone making €20/h will pay twice as much in membership fee as someone who makes €10/h (after subtracting taxes). Of course for those who this is not applicable to (because they have an alimony), a different solution must be devised.


- Will people still work outside of the commune?
Of course it's unrealistic to think one will be able to stop working a normal job. However, due to the fact one does not have to pay for housing expenses anymore in the traditional sense, which usually may consist of half of one's income, one may be able to work less. Since the commune will demand a lot of time to be spent on it, this time would instead be spent on the commune, whereby everyone that is a member is expected to help improve it. Thus the idea is that one then has a part-time job outside the commune, and a part-time job on the commune. In the end though, it all stays voluntary (except for the membership fee). Later on though, maybe more work can be shifted towards working on the commune if revenue streams from the commune within are established (think through farming, or managing a camping).

- What happens if someone stops being part of the commune?
The biggest thing that happens, is that the person is eligible for a refund. This amount is equal to all the voluntary investments they made (both during initialisation & throughout the commune (note that the membership fee is not included).
It is important to note though, that the refundable amount may decrease by a fixed % every year. This is to prevent the commune having to pay out an untenable amount after someone has been part of it for many decades. The exact details are still up in the air. As for now we're thinking 10%.
The reason to issue refunds, is to encourage risky investments & debt taking for the commune. Because, one will either be able to enjoy their investment for the rest of time, or lose interest / get kicked out, and get a refund. With this policy there is no loss in terms of investments.
This refund will be funded by the revenue streams of the commune. If too many people cede at once though (and it is thus not workable to pay using other people's money), the commune must thus liquidate. Since the commune is always backed by the value of the land it sits on, it will always be able to pay back at least the land investment.


- How are decisions made within the commune?
Since no one person holds any power over another, no single person gets to make any big decisions. This means there are no positions which get to make decisions for the commune. Instead a democracy must be set up. Doing it with the majority agreeing, has the problems of decisions being more polarized, and too quickly being able to be reversed if passed (since the majority can flip easily). Instead a more modest 2/3rd is proposed, whereby if the assumption is that if 2/3rds agree, it is a good decision to make (whilst still being a nice number). This is with exception of changing the protocols, or letting in a new person. These kinds of decisions are more sensitive in nature, and thus require unanimous agreement. Weekly physical meetings will be held to go over any decision making on the commune, whereby all members are allowed to propose changes.

- How do we let in desirable people?
First a list of requirements must be met to be eligible. This list focusses on acquainting the commune with that person (having them help around, house meetings, having been physically present for a while, etc). After that a unanimous vote is held whether to actually have them be part of the commune.

- How do we kick out undesirable people?
If 2/3rds decide someone must leave, it is probably a wise idea to have them leave. This is not a unanimous vote, because then you run into the problem that it takes 2 people to ruin the commune (since they can protect one another). With this it takes 1/3rd of the commune, which probably won't happen.

- How are homes & the need for privacy dealt with?
True private property doesn't exist, since the commune must always retain the right to kick you out. However, one is able to have a part of the commune 'designated' to you, through the proposals (thus requiring 2/3rds to agree). In a designated area one is able to set their own additional rules, which may also be: 'when I say you are invited, you may enter the area'.
A consequence of having a designated area is that one's membership fee will double - it is fair that those who actually desire to live on the commune will carry a bit more monetary burdens.
In a designated area one is allowed to freely build as they choose, whereby homes will then be your project to figure out. The commune is thus not planning on building homes for people, but of course everyone will assist one another in building these homes / set up these projects.
These homes are then also paid out from one's own pocket. However, these will be counted as voluntary investments into the commune - since if one secede from the commune, they are then eligible to get this invested amount back (since they lose this immovable asset).
However, from day 0 the possibility exists to just dump caravans. But these should be a temporary solution.


- Can those who are not part of the commune, be on the commune.
Not-members are always welcome, as long as they they're invited by someone on the inside. It may also thus be preferrable to not be a member at all and simply be part of the commune from the outside. The only true advantages of being a member is being able to be part of the decision making & having parts of the commune designated to you.

- What if someone on the commune has a child wish?
It is unethical to forbid someone from having children on the commune. And many who are interested in the commune, do wish to have children at some point. However, it is very important to note that these children mustn't be a liability to the commune, instead being the full responsibility of that parent. When children become part of the picture, child-free zones should also have been set up forbidding minors from entering them. This way these children won't get in the way of other people. Most likely it will take some years after initialising before this will become relevant, as it is wise to first set up proper infrastructure, since kids deserve a proper place to be brought up.

Other problems I won't get into right now, but are handled in the final document:
- How is ownership of communal assets/objects handled?
- What is communicated with the bureaucrat, in terms of permits & formal contracts.
- How is work distributed within the commune?
- What roles are there within the commune to fulfil the administrational tasks?
- Land is limited - how do we ensure it is used wisely?

The document​

Thus, there is a need for a rulebook. This has led me (███, the same guy that wrote this document), to start an initiative. The goal of this initiative is to end up with a document which outlines all 'protocols' regarding how to deal with these problems, and how to best implement the nuances of each solution.

The single requirement of this document however, is that everyone who will be part of the commune, is happy with the document (hence the text on the cover page from earlier: 'it is time we agree on something'). The idea is that once the funds have been acquired to initialise the commune, the document can be slapped on top of it and no further discussions will be necessary as to what is the most fair way to deal with sensitive issues. This is because everyone who was part of the initialising, agreed to the document!

However, to get everyone to agree to the document, is in of itself another challenge. The following approach has been devised:
- I, ███, freely write protocols according to discussions I had about how to best deal with these problems.
- I then organize physical meetings (preferrably in the treehouse) between me and those who are most invested into the idea, and share what I have written.
- One of two things happen: Everyone agrees, or discussions and debates are sparked. The result is that you eventually end up with something everyone finds sensible. This is then written down.
- The feedback is used to refine the document.
Which repeats the cycle. In theory this cycle is how to get to the final goal of getting everyone to agree.

Once the discussion groups have done their job, I plan on creating a big whatsapp group with everyone that is interested. Both for sharing the final version of the document (as a kind of mailing group), but also gather a final round of feedback.

Later changes can always be made, because in the end, it is of the highest importance for this single requirement to be fulfilled (that everyone who is part of the initialisation, is happy with the document).

Progress​

This document, of course, is not finished yet, as I only started half a year ago. But, progress is made! The current state of affairs is that the document itself has nearly 20,000 words spanning 86 pages, which is being throttled by the meetings. Thus far 2 meetings have been held, and a 3rd one is going to happen soon. These meetings have thus far housed 7 people twice. These meetings do sadly happen in the Netherlands, so I doubt it is realistic for people from outside the Netherlands to house them. I think it will take until the end of 2023 for it to be all truly finished.

Another part of the initiative, is figuring out who is actually interested. Which, is a lot of people, it is ridiculous how many people show interest. Whenever I bring it up in conversations, people always seem fascinated at the concept, many saying they'd love to join - my dad included even. However, my current knowledge of who is interested, is limited to a larger friend group in the Netherlands. This houses:

7 people who wish to be part of the commune from the moment it initialises. They also tend to be more keen on taking risks in the name of the commune.

In this pool of people, we have one who studies electrical engineering, one studying engineering, 3 who studied biochemistry, and one who is going to study carpentry. These are all high-value professions, that are going to make creating our own infrastructure a lot more feasible.

However, most are only in their 1st year of their studies, of 4. Thus it suffices to say that the commune will likely only be able to start once we start working. We are hoping to thus start this commune in 2027, due to financial restrictions. Of course if we could start earlier, that would be really nice.

9 more people who are very much interested in the commune, but are more interested in joining at a later date. They desire to wait and see how the commune unfolds, and depending on results, desire to partake in it.

One of these, who is more so interested in helping set up infrastructure instead of actually being part of the 'tribe', studies computer science.

The only profession that is truly lacking in making it work, is someone who is knowledgeable in laws. But, in the worst case someone can be hired to make that part work, but this of course will cost a lot of money.

Thus, with the current state of affairs, we have 16 people. However, what I learned after talking with ██, is that there are a huge amount of likeminded people in Germany who are also interested in this concept. He estimated that this amount may be around 30 people, which would be ridiculous. This survey will hopefully clear things up.

Again, the goal is to start the commune with as many people as possible. This is because the more people we have, the more money we can pool together, which will result in a plot of land as big as possible. The size of the land, in the end, will be that which will measure success.


 
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CahCaw

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(continuation because I went over the 20.000 character limit)

Location​

We ██, are mostly either settled in, or near the city of ██. This is about ██ away from the tri-border point of Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. We don't want to move too far away, since we're all attached to the people that live here, and we think we would lose a lot of interest if we would move too far away. Thus Luxemburg, let alone countries even further away, are out of the picture.

That leaves us with 3 options, and, we of course want to pick the option that best suits our needs. Our primary need for a 'good' country is one with the most laxed building laws.

Now it is hard to determine what the best country is, but I happen to know some people who have worked in construction for many decades, who are much more knowledgeable about this than me. I know these through my scouting, so it's not like they are strangers to me, instead I've been seeing them every week for some years now, so I trust their words very much.

I once overheard them have a conversation, whereby one was describing the agonizing process of building a fence in the Netherlands. The way the laws work in the Netherlands, is that each plot of land has a 'bouwplan', which puts restrictions (sometimes multiple sets) on top of the land. If these restrictions say you cannot build higher than 1.5m, you are not allowed to place your fence there higher than 1.5m. This makes building anything in the Netherlands, a hellscape. You can't even build a treehouse here without someone making a problem of it, even if you're the owner of that plot of land (which I've had to deal with myself).

And, this construction worker confirmed this. The Netherlands is probably the worst option of the 3. But, in a way that does make sense - since it is the most densely populated country of the 3. These bouwplannen destroy any ambition you have, and changing it is near impossible. Or you need to buy a rare plot of land with favourable bouwplannen, but these are hardly ever around nature, and are crazy expensive.

So, I asked the construction worker if he knew things were better in Germany. He said Germany is infamous for its endless rules, and that construction work is no different there. The only way of navigating that world is if we had someone we really knew their German laws, but that just sounds like a headache. Germany, is thus a pretty bad option too.

So what about Belgium then? Well, Belgium is known for its incompetence. It is also a little more complicated since it almost acts like 2 countries: Vlaandern (Dutch part) and Wallonia (French part).
In Vlaandern, you still need a lot of permits to get anything done. But, because Belgium is incompetent, you more often than not just get ignored when asking for permits. Thus getting anything done would take a shit ton of time.
But, Wallonia on the other hand, as the construction worker said it: "is like southern Europe. You can do anything there!". Its incompetence there apparently works in our favor.
My friend rightfully showed some skepticism as to whether this is true, asking how he knows this, or if that he is guessing.
Then, the construction worker said: "I've been working in this industry for some decades now, and I literally work in Wallonia! Of course I know this."

So, I'll take his word then, as what he is saying probably is true. Thus, the commune, will most likely be in Wallonia, as the building laws will work most in our favour there. If someone thinks they know it better, they are free to share their insights.

I quickly pieced together a map as to where this will exactly be then - It is preferred that we settle in the part of Wallonia that is the closest to █████. The orange will be fine too.

What is actually really interesting about this location is that it is filled to the brim with small rivers. If we could have one at the commune, that would open up a lot of different possibilities.

1678037033146.png
 
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h00

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I fantasize a lot about starting a homestead, with the hope of being able to scale it up into a commune.
I think people all throughout the world would like to do live in a society like this, small, understandable, cozy. But most communes are inherently religious or cult-like and few sane people want to get involved with a cult.
Having a documented, tested, and standard approach to starting and managing a commune I think would be hugely beneficial. I'm sure "chapters" could be started throughout the world once the first one is done. It's really exciting to see that some are already beginning the process.

I wish you the best success, and if you make it happen and I find myself in Belgium, I'd love to visit.
 
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LunarTrace

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I definitely appreciate the sentiment of this thread. I think densely-populated areas are awful to be around, and pulling a Kaczynski and abandoning technology and society and as a whole isn't too great either.

Small, tight-knit communities like what you described are definitely ideal places to settle down; and as more and more people get disillusioned by smart-cities and constant technological surveillance, it is becoming increasingly obvious that something akin to the idea you laid out is bound to happen eventually.
Best of luck. If you succeed, name a farm animal after me.

Picrel:

328feab63c1709ff.jpg
 
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CahCaw

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Having a documented, tested, and standard approach to starting and managing a commune I think would be hugely beneficial. I'm sure "chapters" could be started throughout the world once the first one is done. It's really exciting to see that some are already beginning the process.
This reminds me of another thought of mine. Of how my 'ideal' modern world would look like - that of decentralization.

I think one of the many reasons the world is faultering right now, is because we're giving government institutions an impossible task - to (fairly) manage millions and millions of people. In that context there is a breakdown of communication, of oversight and of accountability.

Instead, if, let's say hypothetically speaking the world was more tribe-oriented, had more communities of a few dozen people that put the group first, there would be an increase in all of those. Then, the 'bigger world' (nations) would be a nation of tribes, not a nation of people. Hereby the nations would have a lot less hassle dealing with bad apples (since these communities would be better at holding each other accountable), would have less matter to deal with (since welfare, and some constructions could instead be passed on to the responsibility of these subgroups), among so many other advantages. At the same time the tribes would have the advantage of actually owning that which they need, of having a community to fall back on, and having their voice heard better because each individual's concern would be amplified by the tribe. I really can't think of many disadvantages.

One can only dream of changing the world, but isn't that how all people who changed the world started heh. But for now trying to stay realistic and just setting up this commune asap.

I find it odd I've never seen anyone suggest a political framework that is focused on this decentralization - instead it all seems to focus on either laissé faire or authoritarianism. Does anyone know maybe a philosopher that had ideas more in line with the one's I'm suggesting here?
 
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CahCaw

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Best of luck. If you succeed, name a farm animal after me.
Wrote it down somewhere where it (hopefully) won't be forgotten. Expect a pic in 6 years of some animal if Agora is still around then haha

Interesting picture! The only thing about it is how this is for just 1 person, no? What I want is to supply an entire community, preferably by also trading agriculture. For example growing potatoes is a waste of land since they are so cheap, instead things like nuts are way more valuable. So, by selling nuts and buying potatoes for it, you'd theoretically come better on top.
 
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OH_Krill

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Are there good examples of communes that have achieved long-term success? What can we learn from them? And what can we learn from those who have failed?
 

bnuungus

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I love this so much. Also I really like the time and thought put into this idea, it seems like you guys actually have a good chance of getting it to work. If there's one thing I would suggest I would say try to get a butcher so that you can raise animals and have a good supply of meat. You could also sell meat as well which would add to your revenue source.

Also, be advised that many people will not like what you are doing, especially people in the local government who think they have more power than they do. They will try to throw lawsuits at you and harass you at any chance they get so having a lawyer as part of the commune is crucial, although I know you already addressed this. Best of luck though, I really hope this works out.
 
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CahCaw

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Are there good examples of communes that have achieved long-term success? What can we learn from them? And what can we learn from those who have failed?
I tried searching for some nearby, but couldn't really find any. Don't know anyone that's been part of a commune either, I only know they exist. I was hoping to maybe get the attention of someone who has actually been part of one in this thread.
 
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CahCaw

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you can raise animals and have a good supply of meat. You could also sell meat as well which would add to your revenue source.
One of my friends who's part of the core group has a thing for this haha. I remember once him bringing a bunny once, which we made nice wraps out of. You don't need specific people, because (almost) everything can be figured out as we go. Can't really think of anything except electronics (because they do BOOM if you don't know your shit) where this rule doesn't apply. Luckily I'm the one who's studying electronic engineering right now B). Really hoping to get internships at companies which focus on infrastructure / make a career out of it, all to gather as much knowledge as possible to make it work.
 
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