In the last days of june 2020 FamiliaFeliz was invited to partizipate in a video postcast about intentional communities. Jubilee Creates Something Amazing by meandering through life is one of the emerging video-potcast channels on social media. The host Jubilee is interested in Game B and other projects and initiatives to develop a better life for all of us.
This article is about some of our community activities in the first 100 days of spanish lock down, about the challenge to develop a social community project between community twins, about the daily reality in the house of the dragon and the intention of the community founders to set up a basic rule set – our BIOS – of how it might be to live inside of our community and a link between all of them.
Before we go into details lets discover some main keywords like intentional communities, ecovillages, self-policing and self-fulfilling rules.
Bill Metcalf’s definition of intentional communities in his book “Utopian Struggle: Preconceptions and Realities of Intentional Communities” doesn’t really help. For him traveling 40 years and co-existing in 100 community projects wordwide leads – for us – only to white swan narratives rejecting everything else, especially black swans.
FamiliaFeliz is an alternative living community with shared economy. Every member had already a good life, there was no reason to escape from something or somewhere or to reject, to limit or to fight (against or for) something or somebody. Our intention to gather was basically motivated by our knowledge that we could enjoy more our personal happiness if it would be embedded in a group. And the process of founding it was more a late result of a long term closed friendship between all of us.
In the environement of spanish language the word ecoaldea is often used as a substitution for comunidad (community). It might transport for some the idea of an ecological driven location but for locals its more to seperate it from ancient ideas about the meaning of the word comunidad.
Communities are an inherent feature of human social capacities. Communities as a phenomena are emerging, if a core group of two or more people develop a relation because it makes sense for them. The source for the initial motivation to do this could be indentified by an external reason (violence, forces, pressure, leak of sense…) or by an internal reason (lift personal peace, freedom, joy, fear…). Both types could be linked: imagine a submarine, in which the marines become a team over time after leaving the harbour, has a failing engine and starts to sink. In the first place the relation was designed by externals. At the end there is a strong personal inner will to survive which brings the crew much more together.
Sometimes these constellations of people are invited to define their inner constitution. In case of FamiliaFeliz we where asked again and again: “What really is this FamiliaFeliz?”. Not willing to get tired about explaining again and again we invited our friends to create and verify our basic ruleset, our charter.
When FamiliaFeliz – in this case the crew living in the home unit in Spain in spring 2020 – experienced the first days of lock down, we had a running gag in every dinner at 10pm. Instead of counting the days of lock down we cheered ourselves up with “day hundred minus something of the survival of the fittest”. Nobody was really thinking that it could be our cheers for more than 100 days.
Two years ago we created a prototype of a compost toilet. This was – in terms of our charter – a temporary working unit. The members of this unit donated time and energy to set up a first terra preta compost toilet close to our vegetable garden. The group of contributers where not stable over the time and it was finally finished by a german couple and their son.
The most important content of our basic ruleset is the missing part.Juan Petry
When we came together to start to think about a basic ruleset it was motivated by many talks about our community life, hidden rules, team buildung, and core values. Again and again we where asked about it and again and again we explained it, and everybody in her or his best intention – but surely different. We decided to create a charter. We decided also to create it in an unpresidential way, by inviting everybody online to participate. Finally we where surrounded by more or less 50 people (everybody had some experience with us and most of them where asking before about such a basic paper).
Self-policing is the ability of each member to follow the rule and to experience the consequences of not following them without any intervention of others. It finally empower each member and gives a very smart design pattern for rule sets.
Self-fullfining rules are amazing because they do not need protection.
1.3 MembershipDefinition of a Member in FamiliaFeliz – final draft of our Charter
To FamiliaFeliz belongs only, who accepts the charter of its group and is member of at least one working unit.
In July 2016 we started to write a first draft and in August 2016 we published the first version. Lateron it became a smart process based on swarm intelligence to figure out the best way of what and how to express our basic inner rules. Again and again we published new versions and the discussion emerged again. In the 9st of January 2017 we published the final draft and here you can find the history of its creation.
The challenge was for sure, how to write such a paper to explain truthfully and honest the reality of our community, to define core values and to be as much as possible flexible for future members and their ideas and needs. We defined some meta rules on the way, rules how to create rules:
- Less is more.
- Reduce as much as possible expectations.
- Define only the core values and procedures.
- Define the way in and define the way out of the community.
- Make it impossible to break a rule.
Even the last might be a tricky thing. But – thanks to our forcing swarm intelligence – we made progress even in this. Finally we see the ruleset more like a blue print – it was already copied by other initiatives – and as a useful tool to explore the mindset of somebody with interest in our community life. It helps every member to reject false expectations and reduce the guidelines to a smart minimum. In fact after agreeing in the ruleset we never experienced a feeling or need to change it (in the last years). The only thing which didn’t apply was a reduction of explaining our community life, it only added the phrase As we wrote…
sometimes many times. :=)
In our community – and in our basic ruleset – we have no reglementation about food and kitchen responsibility. Everything related to a living home has to be organized by the members of this – we call it – home unit. The community is created by it’s members. But we are living in a decentralized community and we have more than one home. We do not think it makes sense to rule out the content of a plate in a dinner session in a house where we are not part of on a daily basis.
The house of the dragon – our first home unit in spain – is an extrem sample of this way of thinking. The artist residence and think tank is visitied by 50 to 200 guests per year (before corona) and the crew on bord decides again and again new about ingredients (vegan, vegetarian…).
People are not equal, and to force them to be equal and declare this as a right goals to achieve is not in the favor and advantage of an individual. Dilan (10 years) like to cook and design but is very lazy in wiping the dust in his room.
The GEN network started in the global lock down period a project to add value to the movement of communities. It asked related communities for twin projects. As a decentraized community in Germany and Spain we applied and we get into contact with Nuestra Finca Sagrada in Nicaragua. Finally we agreed in a knowledge transfer from our project to them, including documentation of the process to send, receive, transform, adapt and realize a project of terra preta based dry toilets. In a first video session we discussed the steps of implementation and we will continue this in the summer of 2020.
In the lock down we started also another knowledge transfer with some friends in Belgium.
We invented a terrace garden and refurbished and upcycled material to produce some food like salad, tomato and beans. We published some posts and chatted with Belgium about strategical and technical solutions.
Whether a person is defined member of our community or not, whether this person is living with us in the same home unit or not, whether the person is part of our community or is on the way to set up his own in another continent, we treat this person in the same way. The unique difference between a member of FamiliaFeliz and somebody else is, that somebody outside of our community has no voting rights to decide on the admission of a new member.
We want a better life, and it doesn’t mapper if we rise the happiness inside or outside our community, because in both cases we experience that we rise it finally on both sides (because in our construction of “we” there is no outside really.
Somebody may be grandkid, kid, mother, couple, family member, car driver, teacher, inhabitant, citizen, activist… but these are only roles, given by societies to manipulate people by sticking responsabilities to each of them.
Inside of Familiafeliz, a social space for personal happiness, all these roles are fading out. We like to see the human, and we do not expect anything from her or him.
Publishing our charter with the name DRAFT is an expression of our humility in the view of the diversity of nature and people. Maybe there is something like GAME B, but – for now – there is only Planet A.
A good question about evaluating a community is: what kind of world would it be if everyone did it in the same way? It might be also a good goal, if diversity blooms and the goal of the community is, to make the members as independent of their community as possible.