3a) People

3) Sprouting the Seed

 

An ‘intentional community’ is a planned residential community established from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork.

This conscious and intentional community designed based on ideological ideas is in stark contrast to the way in which communities have traditionally come into existence. Early communities were formed simply out of necessity. This gave people in small geographic areas the chance to work together knowing that as a collective they could fair better together than alone.

Sustainable Communities are planned, built, or modified to promote sustainable living with a focus on environmental and economic sustainability. 

This is a great module which  provides a nice overview of what it means to be an intentional community, as well as exploring reasons why people enjoy living in an intentional community. A good way to begin this module is with a discussion of this overview. Some good questions to ask an Intern Manager are: 

Once you start delving into the pro’s and con’s of living in an intentional community, you can segue way into a comparison of the nearby communities’ models of operation. This transitions nicely into a discussion about one of Hedonisia’s core principles, and something which makes our eco-hostel unique: the concept of a Community of Individuals.

Some key points to bring up in discussing The Community of Individuals concept are:

  • — Respect for the individual insofar as the individual has respect for the community.
  • — Boundary lines: Where does an individual’s behavior step into the space of impacting the community?
  • — Design-built solutions: Thinking of specific ways in which systems are designed and implemented at Hedonisia so that areas of conflict in the community are neutralized or mitigated. 

This sub page deals with the question of what it means to be in community, and what drives people to want to live within community.

Can a business act like a community?

The answer in short is yes! When a business is based on social enterprise it will attract people who want to work for it who share the goals of the enterprise.  A workforce comprised of motivated individuals is an amazing asset. Employees that have a vested interest in the business will work harder and smarter to ensure the business goals are met.  This is the benefit of running a social enterprise!

Can a community act like a business?

Based on our experience, we can without a doubt say yes! Our ideals are wrapped into our business model and because we have a physical location we attract like minded volunteers and guests who often become involved in our social enterprise business activities.

In other words we are an ‘intentional community’!

Intentional sustainable communities are planned, built, or modified to promote sustainability relating to development, water, transportation, energy, and waste materials. They tend to focus on environmental sustainability (Including development and agriculture) and economic stability.

An Intentional Community is one based on some sort of idea or intention, no matter how simple. A community may be yoga based; it may be a Christian community; it may be an Atheist community; it may be a community of gay senior citizens. The idea is that people who share similar interactions can live together in private, yet shared lodging situations with principles that are sustainable and foster a happy community.

Community is a unit, like family, that bonds together for survival. When living in community, people share resources and open up their lives to one another. There is few better ways of bonding together as human beings than when you sleep, work and eat together!

 

Two primary reasons for living in community are:

  • 1. Economic: With the luxury of living an individualistic lifestyle therein lies its biggest drawback: it’s expensive! In order to maintain an apartment on your own, you must pay for your own space, and take full responsibility for all related expenses. Trying to keep up on all these expenses means more time at work affording it all! If we seek to eliminate the me vs. you mentality with regard to living arrangements, we might all benefit with less costs and more free time to enjoy our lives!
  •  2. Environmental: If 12 people in a small community can share one set of appliances, that’s  more efficient than 3 nuclear family households (Based on two parents and 2 children) having three sets of appliances. The nuclear family household uses and abuses far too much energy in order for it to be justifiable. With global warming and the energy crises facing us, we could all stand to reduce our carbon imprint for the betterment of Mother Earth!

Many people are beginning to see the positive economic and environmental potential in community living and are in fact starting communities. It can be difficult however, to find modern templates or representations of sustainable communities to look to for guidance, as society now revolves around the nuclear family. As a result, few people are able to start and then sustain a community over a long period of time.

An Activist Enterprise is a Community of People

Human Relations are probably one of the most important factors in the success or failure of a social enterprise business or community. You can have the greatest ideas in the world but if you can’t get along with your volunteers, guests, customers or suppliers then your venture will eventually fail.

No matter how big or small your enterprise is, you will have people involved in almost every stage of it’s operation. Whether as customers, investors, workers, volunteers, or the people your enterprise is helping. Having a positive relationship with everyone involved in your business allows there to be open communication, trust, and honesty.

After all, if your activist enterprise is truly making a difference, then the people who are helping in this process need to be treated with respect, kindness and with a sense of fair play. This is much easier than it sounds! Try always to the best of your ability, to aspire to the highest and fairest standards when dealing with the people in your enterprise.

If your new enterprise is truly sustainable and value oriented, then like minded people get will be attracted to it. Many friendships have started at Hedonisia and continued on afterwards. like minded people often want to be our friend because they see us earning a living that is in harmony with our moral outlook. We now have a totally different demographic than those who  just wanted a ‘cheap place to stay’!

People will give freely of their time and energy if they believe in the ’cause’. However, always try to give monetary or non-monetary benefits to those who donate their labor.

PRACTICE FAIR-TRADE: Win-Win for All Dealings with People

  • Apply fair-trade to every business dealing that you can.
  • Money is only one form of trade
  • Win-Win Situations. Whenever you make a fair-trade business deal everyone should feel happy!
  • You can trade even when you don’t have money if you are providing other non-monetary benefits
  • Walk away from the deal if it is not feeling fair

Intern Managers. In order for a social enterprise to be truly sustainable it cannot depend solely on the Owner(s)! It is important for an owner to have managers who are able and ready to run the business while the owner is away. This is referred to as an owner-manager relationship. The manager of your social enterprise will carry out your vision and manage the team while you (the owner) is not present.

The owner should always be striving to work themselves out of a job by developing practices and guidelines that can be followed by Managers when they are not on the property. By handling and developing a ‘system’ for the smooth day-to-day functioning of the social enterprise in conjunction with the owner this frees the owner to travel and continue to develop and grow the “vision” for their community.

Money is only one part of the equation. For example, at the Hedonisia Hawaii Sustainable Community  we wanted to keep our community small and friendly. Whilst great for our visitor and community feeling, the result was that we did not make enough to pay a living wage to our managers.  Over the years we had many challenges with this.

But we kept improving our non-monetary benefits until we discovered the concept of paying with time instead of money! We created the Hedonisia Manager Internship that has proven to be very popular. We realized the truth of the statement ‘time is money’. Before, we had one or two managers who had to run the community and often felt overburdened compared to the relatively small stipend and benefits they received. We changed that to increasing the number of managers to 3 or 4 and then having each manager work only 2-3 shifts and have the rest of the week off.

It meant that now, Managers enjoyed free lodgings and other benefits with a work ‘week’ of only 2 shifts and get to live in Hawaii! We were even able to reduce the stipend we paid which makes our community even more sustainable.

For example, at Hedonisia we have developed the following guidelines for Owner/Manager Relations:

  1. Intern Manager Reports. We have computerized many of the streams of data that are involved with the operation and maintenance of the community. Monitoring those streams in real time allows us to “stay on top” of how a manager is handling issues in the community. Real time data and reports allows the owner to give necessary information electronically and remotely. These spreadsheets are designed to be transparent so that all Managers may access and report on on the same page, in real time!
  2. A successful Manager practices “loving non-attachment”. They love being the Manager of the enterprise and experimenting with policies and practices,  but they are always aware of the fact that this business is the dream of the Owner. In other words, a Manager can ADD information to the existing Policies and Practices but they cannot DELETE or CHANGE any policies without first consulting with the Owner.
  3. Appreciation & Respect. A potential Manager should always remember that the social enterprise existed before they arrived on the scene. So a Manager should never develop the ego of being the one who is “whipping this business into shape” unless they are specifically asked to do so by the Owner. If anything, a Manager should be humble, appreciative and respectful of the social enterprise as it is. Otherwise they should not apply to manage it. Once there is respect, appreciation and humbleness for the enterprise as it is, then there will be much more openness from an Owner when a Manager has input and ideas for change.
  4. Asking, Telling & Doing.When the Owner is not present a Manager has three main ways of dealing with issues as they arise. 1) They can ask the Owner questions. 2) They can tell the Owner what they’ve done or are doing. 3) Finally, they can simply do what they feel needs to be done without consulting the Owner. For an Owner, one of the ideal mixes, especially in the beginning of a managerial relationship, is when there is an emphasis on asking for because it shows humbleness, respect and appreciation for the existing policies and practices. When a Manager begins their relationship with an emphasis on telling the Owner what they are doing or just doing it then it does not show much respect or acceptance for the enterprise as it is.
  5. Accountability & Power. No matter how deferential and respectful a Manager may be when the Owner is around, once the Owner has left the property the Power Dynamic can change where the Manager suddenly feels that they hold the cards as the Owner is now dependent on them. This is why the Owner has to develop strategies to ensure transparency and accountability.
  6. Security & Honesty. We have seen here in Hawaii where a community with illegal or fraudulent business practices has been blackmailed by a Manager who threatened to tell the authorities. As a result, in both cases that we know of, the Managers were able to engage in illegal behavior without penalty. We do not have that problem at Hedonisia. Being transparent and honest in our dealings with customers and the government including paying our taxes means that Hedonisia Hawaii is a legal entity. And as such we have recourse to the law if we experience any dishonesty from a Manager. Honesty means accountability; we are not open to blackmail.
  7. Managerial Transparency. A Manager has access to cash, records, company documents and keys to Tool Sheds and other secure spaces. Honesty is a virtuous cycle. The more open, honest and, transparent a Manager is about who they are, what they believe and  what they hope to do and so on, the more there can be genuine communication between Owner and Manger which leads to more trust.
  8. Hedonisia Owner/Manager Meetings Protocols. As a community of individuals we do have weekly community meetings. During the meeting the intern managers come together and read the director’s notes to conduct the meeting. Intern managers are also free to talk about any other concerns, issues, or praises! Many people believe that meetings have a negative connotation, but meetings actually bring the community together and make sure that everyone is ‘on the same page’.

The final result of all important meetings should be an agreement that feels “fair” to everyone or we keep talking until there is. If the Owner has to settle the issues raised by making a unilateral decision then the Managers can register their disagreement without attachment. If the issue is serious then the Manager can give their notice to leave if they do not feel that the Owner’s decision is fair. A Fair-Trade Agreement is fair or there is no agreement at all.

Fair-Trade Working Agreement. Based on the above principles, we have created a Sustainable Community Manager Fair-Trade Agreement. Once a Manager has successfully completed their  training and practice we may offer them a longer term stay based on this agreement which is published transparently so that all Managers may see and read the agreement well in advance of signing.

Moral Business Relations and Customer Service

When you have ethical business practices you are also able to hold other businesses and even the government to those standards.

This is especially true when dealing with the Customer Service Departments of business suppliers. When we have a complaint or issue with regards to a business service or product we call to complain and also to receive true customer service.

Here are some ethical tips for efficiently dealing with “Customer Service” by telephone in the most stress-free manner!

  1. Identify some computer tasks or other chores such as cleaning or light computer tasks such as organizing emails which you can do while ‘on hold’.
  2. Make sure you use a speaker phone. This allows you to do chores or work on the computer while ‘on hold’.
  3. Politely communicate with the Customer Rep to see what they can do to address your issue. Make sure your complaint is specific and valid.
  4. Make sure you are friendly and polite! You can even tell them you are doing chores while they are assisting you. This allows them to relax and not feel pressured if they have to look things up or put you on hold.
  5. If your issue is serious make sure you tell the Customer Rep that it is not about them personally but instead about their company’s policies.
  6. When you are polite and friendly with a Customer Rep it is easier to get them ‘on your side’. Most Customer Reps have a lot of leeway to issue credits, refunds, points, waive late fees etc without having to go to a supervisor.
  7. The point of a proper ethical call is that you want to be compensated in some way for the inconvenience and losses you have incurred but also to give feedback to the company about their policies that led to the problem in the first place.
  8. If the Customer Rep is not able to help you then ask to speak to a Supervisor. Tell the Rep politely to explain your story so that you don’t have to explain yet again what your issue is.
  9. When you have the supervisor on the line be polite and firm about your grievance. Explain that you are also a business person and that you would never let a customer be unhappy without offering some form of discount, freebie or other form of compensation. Customers that had an issue; once resolved to their satisfaction, are much more likely to be an enthusiastic supporter of your company.  Customers should also be thanked for their time and patience throughout the interaction.
  10. Rule of Thumb. A happy customer tells three people; an unhappy customer tells 10 people! In other words it is simply good business to offer a complaining customer some form of appreciation!
  11. At Hedonisia we have followed these customer service practices and we have benefited greatly with fee reductions, refunds, extra points or air miles, phone bill discounts and so on. For example we recently received a $50 discount on our Volunteeret service bill after a 1 hour customer service phone call. That is the equivalent of earning $50 for that hour!

By going through the system and holding a company accountable you are also making changes for all customers so this is very much an ethical business practice.

STRESS REDUCTION MECHANISMS for BUSINESS HARMONY

“PRIVATE COMMUNICATION: Communicating Regularly and Respectfully”

Communication & Communication! This cannot be stressed enough! As part of their duties a for all employees, volunteers and so on should always be in communication with the owner(s). When on shift they should expect working calls from the owner. These can be short and or lengthy and they should also be fun! The owner should welcome volunteer feedback.

An Owner should try to avoid saying ‘because I said so.’ When things are done simply because the owner said so and without any real reason this can cause a reduction in morale. Workers and Volunteers who are supporting the social enterprise deserve to have policies, procedures and guidelines explained and then have the freedom to give feedback. That way they feel as though they are being ‘heard’.

Positive Capitalism as Dispute Resolution

Dispute Resolution is the process of resolving disputes between parties. I will ask you to consider one of the disputes listed above. Let’s take Employer vs. Employee, just by way of example. Imagine you are a mediator sitting at the table with FoxConn’s CEO and one of FoxConn’s employees. The CEO wants more iPhones to be made, and the worker wants more time off away from making iPhones. What is going on here? What is happening is that one side has a lot of power and one side has little power. This then becomes a power problem. In Dispute Resolution, using power as a means to solve disputes is referred to as “Competitive Problem Solving.” Solving problems in a competitive way means there are clear winners and clear losers. In this case, the CEO wins and the worker loses.

Now imagine these two parties were engaged in the Positive Capitalist model. The CEO would immediately recognize that exploiting and silencing her workers is unsustainable. This alone would make her want to consider a change in the way workers are treated at her factories. The worker could speak about what she needs to be a more sustainable resource for the company (more time off, shorter hours, a bit more pay, etc). There would be details to iron out, but the dispute would be resolved in a sustainable way that benefits all parties. In Dispute Resolution, this is called Collaborative Problem Solving. In the realm of the Capitalism, we call this way of engaging with the free market Positive Capitalism.

Miscellaneous Material:

Currently, there are very few opportunities to live in a community in most of the developed world. However, It was not always this way. Not too long ago, we lived in extended families. Whether in a village or in a city, uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins were all nearby. Land zoning laws did not forbid you from living together and sharing resources, nor was there a conservative stigma about living in a communal environment with friends and families.

However, traditional family based communities had their own challenges. As an immigrant from Trinidad where I lived with extended family. I had great family support but little privacy or individuality. I was born and raised for many years in the urban nuclear households of Europe and Canada. I enjoyed the community aspects of family and the social style of Europe. Now I live in individualistic America, and I like that too!

Prior to World War 2 most people lived under the sway and control of an extended family and the family patriarch. After the war came the inception of the nuclear family, most commonly defined as a family group that consists only of father, mother and children. For many, being in a nuclear family was a blessing!  You were free to follow your own dreams and ideas. A nuclear family allowed you to be the Master of your Own Domain.  Privacy and individuality came to be celebrated as “rights,” especially in America and Europe.

However, a major dilemma was that most nuclear families did NOT stay together and after the golden age of the fifties came the wild and free sixties with divorce and the single-parent household. As the sixties progressed, the number of individuals in each household decreased.

It is indeed wonderful to live in your own personal space with no one to answer to, but it can also be lonely. One commonly cited story is that more people watch the series “Friends” alone rather than with friends. Imagine that!

As people become more isolated and identify loneliness as a major root of unhappiness in their lives, more and more people are expressing the desire to live in a community. Additionally, one of the most inefficient ways to live is in a single-person household, yet this is one of the fastest growing groups of households in the Western world. Many of those in single households would prefer to live in some sort of intentional community, but laws in most Western countries tend to discourage them from forming. Regardless of such laws, all over the world more and more intentional communities are being created.