Income Sharing Commune

Income Sharing Commune

You’ve probably heard accounts of many idealists forming communities that tried some level of income-sharing, and eventually failed because of predictable human traits, including leadership failures. By learning from both the best and the worst of communes, you may be able to add yours the number that have succeeded. It’s an ambitious goal. The examples and resources below can show you what it takes.

Raven shares the following: “a quote from John Gall says, ‘A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work.’ … I see communes as the simple systems that could be a starting place for creating the structures we need for a new society.”

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Steps to a workable income sharing commune

  1. Defining your main common interest can be an important first step. This can be the glue that keeps you trying when it gets tough. Is your primary value egalitarianism? Do you care most about social justice? Is your goal to survive an economic downturn by pooling resources?
  2. The chronically optimistic community-starter Raven says to start with finding people. The ICmatch model is in line with their recommendation of getting the people together before determining the exact place. Inviting those interested to create a profile with ICmatch.org can help you identify potential members that have a common purpose, lifestyle, or values.
  3. Learn from those who have succeeded. Gillian Morris recommends communal life. Raven warns about everything that can go wrong. You’re going to have to deal with realities of human nature, such as social loafing. Decide who will manage bills and other responsibilities that maintain the residence long term. You’ll need to get buy-in about house rules, including how group decisions are made, timing of regular meetings, how chores are assigned, and how rule infractions are dealt with. Keep a record of decisions made and who is responsible to implement each decision, and how you will hold each other accountable.
  4. Set the initial culture and governance style carefully, because it will likely be perpetuated as people inevitably leave and new members arrive. Put in writing your governance process and the resulting agreements is crucial. While some will see this as pessimistic and overly cautious, the lessons from past failed communities are clear that this is necessary.
  5. Make sure you know the local regulations about number of unrelated household members in one house and whether or not you are allowed to sublet. If your group forms a business and your location is zoned for business, there may be ways to work around those limitations. One hugely important priority is to make friends with and not annoy your neighbors. No complaints means no questions from the authorities and no time-consuming legal battles.
  6. Groups with a high trust level can substantially lower their costs by sharing a family cell phone plan, internet service, buddy pass for gym memberships, and service subscriptions of many types, such as professional databases, music, or movies.
  7. Create a contract for each type of resource sharing: income contribution and distribution, car or bike sharing, household appliance replacement and maintenance, storage space (so that you can legally dispose of the belongings of abandoned property), and what happens if someone decides to leave and take with them what they consider their contributions. If some object that this is untrusting, counter with Brene Brown’s assertion that “clear is kind.” Contracts make sure everyone takes time to get on the same page, literally. See the ICmatch Contracts page for more suggestions.

Examples

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities maintains a listing of income sharing communities. Following are quotes by members of three different communes.

A quote from Jules: Living in community is the best choice I’ve made in my entire life. Community can be an incredible space to come out of survival mode, and to work towards self-actualization. It’s definitely not always easy, but living in community has taught me about people in a way that nothing else ever has. It’s also given me the opportunity to spend hours and hours in incredible 50 year old oak forests or even older Hemlock forests here at Glomus. The opportunity to hunt for mushrooms and to learn as much as I possibly can. It gives me space to dive into passions without having the weight of survival as something that I’m carrying alone. That’s a beautiful thing!

A quote from Irena: One reason that I think income sharing communities are important is that they give us models for how people can live in a way that doesn’t require as much money per person as the predominant models in our wider society. By pooling income, we can buy more things in bulk and we can share things that the more typical household would have to own for itself. Though these days Acorn has a whole lot more money than it used to, I still do think that being an income sharing community helps us to share things in ways that can reduce our expenses and the environmental impact of the resources that we’re using. I think the way that income sharing communities provide these different models is really important because our society needs a lot more models of living together that go beyond nuclear families, and that includes how people can support each other in raising children and how people can support each other with things that they’re struggling with, although I think that can happen even without the income sharing aspects of the communities….I think the world really needs a lot more models of business that are more egalitarian and that don’t just bring in huge amounts of money for the people who get to the top….In a lot of cases, including ours, they value how we work in a way that most other economic models don’t. That helps with reducing power dynamics associated with gender.

A quote from Anthony: It’s really clear that income-sharing communities provide an engine to accomplish more with fewer resources. For example, looking at Twin Oaks…you see that the amount of money per person required to live a good life is a lot less than if people are living separately. I think this ability to do more with less is powerful, and I think that soon, as things get more difficult in the world—and I unfortunately think they are likely to—what intentional communities teach will become more relevant. In difficult times, Intentional communities will continue to gain attractiveness, and they will offer blueprints that allow people to live a good life together.

Consultants

Members

Resources

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities collects articles of incorporation that can be used as examples, facilitates visits and communication between communes that meet its criteria, and is a repository for useful information about the financial aspects of communes.

For additional ideas, see the section Minimize Cost of Living in the page Neighborhood sharing economy project, and the resources sections for other group types listed by ICmatch.