"All the world's a stage we pass through." - R. Ayana

Thursday, 7 July 2011

RingWood Constitution: Living Agreements

RingWood Constitution
Living Agreements

All communities determine how their particular society operates, even if they’re outright anarchistic enclaves. ‘Alternative’ intentional communities have often sprung into existence rapidly, or even spontaneously. People have started living together without communicating differences in their personal ethics, morals, lifestyles, dreams or desires. Without a great deal of communication and tolerance, frictions will inevitably arise. Rather than concentrate on points of contention, it’s more fruitful to establish just what it is that members of a community can already easily agree upon.

The RingWood Agreements are a template that covers many (but by no means all) of the issues commonly encountered by friends or strangers who embark on the great adventure of living together. They’re designed for a rural community of environmentally aware and relatively self-sufficient individuals, but many of the points covered are equally applicable to shared lives in urban environments.

The agreements are best viewed as a starting point for discussion; feel free to adopt them as a malleable template for the needs of any group.

Traveler's Creek by ring wood. 

RingWood

RingWood is formed and maintained as a not-for-profit partnership preserving and holding land in a perpetual, ecologically based Trust. This enables RingWood to realise these objectives:

1: To raise funds for land purchase.
2: To preserve and purchase further land suitable for the implementation of RingWood aims and agreements.
3: To make land available for organic Permaculture systems (see below) and provide residence to those willing and able to abide by RingWood ecological (and other) agreements.
4: To provide security of tenure to residents and to offer full membership in RingWood to those who want to live with the land.
5: To ensure RingWood lands are never sold nor otherwise disposed of, nor borrowed against (to ensure article 4 above) and to preserve our heritage for the future. Lands are held in title by RingWood, not by any member or members as individuals or another group.

RingWood Aims

We shall work to build and develop a community which is as self-sustaining as possible, working to achieve surpluses of materials and energy.

We will work to achieve prosperity and health of all beings living on RingWood lands.

We will work to make RingWood grow and communicate its principles.

We shall encourage all forms of creativity and discourage all forms of wanton or negligent destruction.

We will build an ongoing harmonious relationship with the land and universe through our lives and interactions with each other and the land, plants and animals.

We shall nurture and make room and time for children and elders in the community. A diversity of age range will be encouraged.

A relative balance of sexes must be maintained within RingWood (we shall endeavour to ensure that no more than two-thirds of either sex should predominate).

We shall encourage cooperation and mutual support in our lives, planning and structures.

We shall communicate with each other honestly and often.

We shall educate ourselves and our children, developing community library/education facilities.

We shall attend quarterly meetings, where we shall carefully consider our decisions and ensure our opinion is heard and our decision is noted.

We shall nourish, protect and regenerate ourselves, each other and the land, adhering to Permaculture principles (as outlined in Permaculture - A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison, Tangara Press) and discovering, nurturing and rebuilding native ecosystems.

We the undersigned shall abide by these agreements.

 

Elementary Agreements

We shall nourish, protect and regenerate:
SOIL

We plan and work to halt erosion, retaining and rebuilding soils. We keep soils 'organic' and toxin-free. This means no non-local, inorganic 'agricultural' chemicals, oils or other pollutants (including refuse) are to enter our soils.

All soil, rock, clay, minerals (including crystals) etc are to remain on the land.
Any roads must follow a plan previously agreed to by a general meeting and all internal roads are RingWood property and responsibilities.

Any earthworks must follow an agreed plan discussed at a general meeting and all earthworks (dams, swales, berms etc) are RingWood property and responsibilities.

Composting or similar recycling system toilets must be built and maintained at each dwelling site. All refuse will be regularly sorted; non-recyclable waste will not be stored on RingWood land for more than a month. Where possible all refuse will be recycled on-site and toxic or non-recyclable materials (household or otherwise) will be removed regularly.

WATER

The quality and quantity of water are to be optimised and protected. All outflows from the land will be at least as pure in substance and appearance as water flowing into the land.
 
Sufficient rainwater and water from other sources within the catchment must be kept available at all structures for human consumption, plant use and essential fire control.
 
Gravity-feed systems will be employed where possible, with minimal use of power sources imported from off-site.
 
Swales, irrigation systems and water pipes are community responsibilities.
 
All inorganic chemicals (which cannot be safely absorbed and diluted) are banned from Association land - insect treatments for timber, dangerous ‘household’, agricultural or industrial chemicals, and paints with toxic ingredients are included. 
Personal insect sprays, cleansers and soaps will be kept from waterways.
 
Ground cover will be maximised to ensure soil and water storage. All watercourses will be protected with filter strip verges of native vegetation.
FIRE

All fireplaces must be safely constructed and maintained and have water or other extinguishing equipment on hand. Chimneys must be covered with caps and screens and indoor fires contained and grated.

RingWood will be represented by member/s in the local volunteer fire brigade.

’Burning off’ of refuse or vegetation will not be practiced on RingWood land.

Fire management and a firebreak plan is developed and practiced by all RingWood members.

No connection to mains electrical power grid or outside piped services or fuels will be permitted except to pass surplus energy OUT of Association land.

AIR

Air, visual and noise pollution will be minimised. Noxious fumes and pollutants (including plastics) will not be burned or otherwise vented into the atmosphere.

LIFE

Commercial or large crops may only be grown and harvested by plan arranged at a general meeting, with equity and shares arranged in advance where applicable. 

RingWood must receive at least ten percent of any gross income derived from such projects, to be directed to improvement of soil and land.

Diversity of ecosystems will be increased and optimised on RingWood lands.
All children are a community responsibility. All structures will be child safe.

Areas of entirely native habitat will be retained and where possible expanded under a formulated plan. No 'Old Growth' plants (over 100 years) may be damaged in any way.

No non-native carnivores (dogs, cats, etc) or pests (rabbits, etc) will be introduced or allowed on RingWood land. All non-native animals must have a single responsible owner. Livestock must be adequately contained.

Introduction of any non-native plant or animal species must be agreed to in advance by a general meeting; they must be restricted from threatening local biodiversity.

Vegetation such as trees or shrubs may only be cut or cleared after agreement at a general meeting.

Flora and fauna indigenous (or originally indigenous) to RingWood land will be encouraged to flourish and hold precedence over introduced species where they may compete (except in areas zoned exclusively for food production or habitation).

RingWood will retain substantial areas of wild land as perpetual conservation areas. All RingWood land is considered a wildlife sanctuary.

We shall endeavour to eat no creature with an identifiable nervous system while on Ringwood land (this means we aspire to be vegetarians who do not eat animals).

We agree to keep the RingWood community & land free from the following:

Firearms;
Alcoholism or alcoholic behaviour
Pharmaceutical, intravenous and other drug abuse (including alcoholism) which threatens community peace or security
Violence or violent behaviour (including intimidation, threats, screaming fits etc)
Theft (includes borrowing without asking, etc)

Enforcement of these agreements is a community responsibility.

No occupant will knowingly or through negligence endanger the community in any way (including through adverse legal exposure).

A guest may be invited to the land by any Member or Resident. Guests may not invite guests without prior consent of a meeting of RingWood Residents and Members. Guests may be asked to leave any RingWood meeting immediately. 

Guests who break RingWood agreements may be asked to leave immediately. All guests must have a member or resident who acts as their host and/or sponsor, who is considered responsible for the ensuring the guest is aware of these Agreements, and who is responsible for their guest's actions for purposes of any restitution if such is unrecoverable from the guest within 3 months. The host is also responsible for collecting and passing on camping fees, which will be paid in arrears by all guests after the first 7 days, for which no camping fees may be charged. Fees may be waived by a meeting in any individual case for reasons of destitution. Arrangements may be made at a meeting for guests to work on specific projects in lieu of payment.

These RingWood agreements must be promptly explained to all guests by their host.

After three months a guest may be considered a Resident, if they have occupied RingWood land for at least two-thirds of the preceding three months. This decision must be arrived at unanimously at a meeting; or the decision can be deferred for a further 3 months, particularly where guests have broken any Agreement.

After a further nine months as a Resident, full membership is automatically granted to the resident if; NO Agreements have been knowingly or wilfully breached by the resident;

the resident has been present on RingWood land for at least two-thirds of the preceding year;

and all contributions or fees have been paid by the resident and their guest/s. These details must be considered by a meeting prior to membership being granted.

Unanimous consent by all members is required to convert a Resident into a Member (except where any member has been prohibited from voting on that issue; see above). Members have the right to build a legally approvable structure to inhabit if they wish (see agreements on structures below).

 It's A Beautiful World by newilluminati.

Methods of Agreement

Agreements may only be changed with the unanimous consent of all full members living on the land. Residents (see below) must be at least 16 years old. Only members and residents may speak at meetings (although they may represent guests and others). Only members may vote.

Gatherings/meetings will be held at least once each quarter, in conjunction with a communal meal. An Annual General Meeting must also be held (in accordance with legislation). A non-regular meeting may be called at any time to determine urgent considerations, but must conform to the general guidelines for meetings.

A facilitator will ensure all decisions are made using true consensus; all members must make their position clear in their turn, verbally, before consensus or unanimity can be said to be reached.

A new facilitator must be appointed for each meeting.

All members, residents and others will follow directions of the meeting facilitator. The facilitator must ensure that only one person speaks at a time, that no-one is interrupted, and that all Members and Residents have their say and are heard fairly; they must also ensure that no-one dominates any meeting.

A meeting may replace any facilitator or minute-keeper if it decides they have failed to perform their duties at any time, by consensus decision or (simple majority) vote.
A minimum quorum of 75% of all members is required to bind decisions.

The facilitator must nominate a minute keeper. Minutes must be kept under lock and key with the signed copies of these Agreements and other relevant RingWood records.

If verbal unanimous consent is not reached, a vote may be taken. In this case the facilitator and members decide on an open or closed ballot (facilitator's decision is final), where generally a three-quarters majority is required to pass a vote.  Some decisions must be subject to unanimous agreement by all members of RingWood, i.e. where the vote is to change agreements or to admit Residents to full membership; other decisions requiring unanimity are outlined below. Signed proxies may be accepted (a maximum of 50% of members may be represented in this way at any meeting), but these must deal with the specific issue/s covered and be kept with the minutes after the vote is taken.

A meeting may decide by a 75% majority vote that any single member is ineligible to vote on one specific issue before the vote is taken, for reasons of demonstrable conflict of interest, vexatious disruption of the meeting or any other similar valid reason. The excluded Member must be asked (and encouraged) to respond before the vote determining their eligibility is cast and their opinion must be considered by the meeting. Members who are excluded from voting are not counted where decisions requiring unanimity apply.

RingWood must not be disrupted by incessant meetings. Decisions that do not require a meeting in accordance with these agreements will be made without an official meeting. Decisions that can be held over until a quarterly meeting will be so deferred.

When members know they will not be able to attend a meeting they must endeavour to pass their intentions (in the form of signed proxies) on to a member who will attend, where possible.

All Residents, Members and guests must make a regular contribution (at least once a month in arrears) amounting to 10% of their income. Those with no (or demonstrably inadequate) monetary income must undertake to do some form of work or find some other way to contribute; the work must be arranged with consent of a meeting and the individual concerned, be suited to the individual and must not be onerous.

These moneys must be used to pay all fees and charges incurred by RingWood and to maintain RingWood-owned structures and infrastructure before being used for any other purpose.

Equipment or (non-real estate) property owned by RingWood (including structures) may not change title of ownership without unanimous agreement of all Members (proxies may be used as above).

Land purchases by RingWood are subject to unanimous agreement by a quarterly meeting.

Private structures on RingWood may only be sold or otherwise passed on or disposed of to another full Member. This includes the passing on of property now or in the future by inheritance or any other means.

Children raised on RingWood will be automatically given Residency after three months, provided no valid reason that they should not be is demonstrated to a meeting, and that meeting subsequently decides otherwise. Children will automatically receive full membership at the age of sixteen if they have not repeatedly or wilfully breached these RingWood agreements in the preceding two years.

 Mud Brick Hexagonal Roof by ring wood.

Buildings, Structures and Equity

Members retain individual equity in RingWood property or accounts only in regard to contributions they have made that are not donations, regular fees, contributions or standard payments to RingWood. Members own whatever structures or equipment they have brought to RingWood land or have built themselves. 

Structures are owned by whoever has supplied and erected them. Proportions of ownership (where applicable) will be determined and recorded at a meeting, prior to construction. These artefacts may only be erected or introduced after agreement at a meeting. Immovable structures and fixtures may only be sold or otherwise passed on to other members, with approval by a meeting (see below).

RingWood may purchase, build and retain ownership of buildings and structures on behalf of the community.

No individual owns any individual portion of RingWood land (private structures are subject to ‘vertical subdivision’), which is held in perpetual trust by a legally appointed Trustee. Land will not be subdivided, sold or leased nor otherwise disposed of, temporarily or permanently by RingWood, including to individual Members.

Materials sourced or taken from RingWood land are RingWood property and may only be moved or taken with permission granted by a meeting.

RingWood may only borrow funds or other property from Members; no external debts will be knowingly incurred by RingWood. Loans to RingWood must be duly recorded and are credits to (equity of) the lender and are not considered debts to be available on-call from RingWood.

Buildings or other fixed structures owned by individual members on RingWood land may only be sold as follows (unless a meeting determines otherwise by unanimous vote); RingWood is to be provided with first option to purchase. RingWood has 12 months to take up this option, after which they must otherwise allow a guest of the owner's choice to occupy the property. The guest must understand and abide by these RingWood agreements.

If RingWood undertakes to purchase the property; after 2 years RingWood must provide 20% of the purchase price or loan to the vendor; a further 20% must be paid annually thereafter until the amount is paid in full. No interest may be charged to RingWood for such loans or purchases. Outstanding loans of money or property or other payments owed to Members will be made by RingWood over a period of five years, using the same formula, unless a meeting determines otherwise by unanimous agreement.

Tree Hobbit by ring wood. 

Sharing and Balance

Caring and sharing is the lifeblood of a community and what comes around goes around. All beings will be afforded respect at meetings, which may not be allowed to become kangaroo courts or theatres for vilification or the scapegoating of individuals.

Meetings may impose penalties on any occupant, but only for breaches of agreement/s or repeated disruptive behaviour at meetings. This includes disrupting the decision making process by  consistently voting for the sole purpose of defeating unanimity, for refusing to speak during meetings or  to stop new members from being accepted without providing any valid reason.  All Members and Residents must obey penalties imposed by a meeting. Penalties must not be beyond the individual’s capacity to easily conform to them. Penalties are to be generally incurred in the following order and are to be commensurate with the degree of the breach of these agreements; only in cases of extreme breaches of agreements or repeated refusal to accept penalties may the more extreme penalties be incurred. Penalties may apply in conjunction with other penalties.

1. A simple heartfelt apology.
2. Restitution to Association or individual/s (where required - if property is damaged, for instance), as equitably determined by meeting.
3. Community Service; 1-28 days as determined by facilitator, subject to agreement by meeting.
4: Suspension from voting rights for 1-4 months, determined as in (3) above.
5: Temporary expulsion from community and land {1-3 months, determined as in (3) above}.
6: Exile – the member must be repaid full equity (if any) in RingWood for this penalty to be enacted, and the decision to exile a Member is subject to a unanimous agreement of a meeting of all Members. Equity must be repaid in accordance with the method of loan repayment outlined above. This penalty is only an option after repeated breaking of agreements or extreme violations of any agreements resulting in significant damage or injury.

These penalties may only be exercised in order at successive meetings. The exception is where penalties are being applied for wilful, extreme or rapidly repeated breaches of any agreements.

Guests may be penalised by decision of a meeting using any or all of the methods above at any time. Their host is responsible for their actions (and restitution) if the guest is not.

Ensuring that these penalties are applied is a community responsibility. Outside authorities may be asked to intervene if there is any danger of personal injury or property damage, where the community fails to promptly deal with the situation.

A treasurer and assistant treasurer will be appointed by meeting and positions cleared and renominated at least once a year. The same individuals may serve in these posts in successive years.

Treasurers are responsible for recording and balancing all RingWood finances and must maintain and update records, receipts etc at least once per week. Records of equity of individual Members must be regularly updated. Records and financial and other documents must be stored under lock and key and must be made available for inspection by any Member at a meeting.

RingWood funds and (non real estate) equity may only be spent or disposed of with consent of a quarterly meeting.

Members and Residents are personally responsible for debts incurred by them as individuals. RingWood bears no responsibility for private debts of individuals.
RingWood property or equity may not be mortgaged nor otherwise used as collateral for debts nor borrowed against.

Members may transfer their equity in RingWood to any other Member with unanimous consent of all Members;

RingWood will first be offered a first option to purchase at a quarterly or general meeting. After twelve months this option expires and RingWood must accept the transfer.

Any purchaser (or inheritor) of structures or other equity in RingWood must successfully undertake all requirements to become a RingWood Member, including residence for the requisite period, before equity or other transfer takes place.

Members with positive equity in RingWood may be exempted from regular contributions if the value of their contribution is regularly deducted from their equity. This may only be decided by a meeting. In individual instances of genuine hardship a meeting may decide to temporarily replace a Member or Resident’s  contribution in full or part with commensurate community service. The minimum general contribution is to be considered as 10% of the gross adult welfare income.

Fees & other contributions are placed in a RingWood (ethical investment or non-bank) account and recorded in hard copy by the treasurer. This account pays rates and other government fees & charges, incorporation fees, utilities costs, reticulation & irrigation and road establishment and maintenance costs. This account may also be used to purchase land or other facilities. Any payments from this account will be recorded in hard copy by the treasurer. Any non-regular (direct debit or similar) withdrawals or outgoing payments may only be extracted with the signatures of at least three Members after a decision to do so is made by a meeting.
RingWood may accept free contributions of money or property at any time.

RingWood will work to achieve its aims and goals.

All RingWood associates (Members, Residents and guests) will work co-operatively upon endeavours that have been determined at a meeting if they have been made by the unanimous agreement of all Members, unless circumstances honestly make this impossible.

We the undersigned have read and understand these agreements and will that it be so:

I agree to be a member of RingWood.

NAME                  DATE           RingWood Witness 1           RingWood Witness 2         SIGNATURE

Guidelines for Guests

If you are not a WWOOFA please consider joining - click here for info
Dear Guests;
Please have a great time while staying in this forested land. The ecosystem here requires that we observe common sense and a number of sensible guidelines to ensure the life of this land is sustainable.
Please respect the place, people, plants, animals, soil, water, space and air at RingWood and work to improve the area you find yourself in, leaving it in (at least) as good a condition as you find it. Bring no weapons of any kind onto RingWood land.
Conserve water and use 'waste' water on gardens, trees, etc. Ensure water supplies (tanks etc) are kept at high levels in case of emergencies. Please do not use, wash off or spill soap, personal insect repellants or shampoos etc in waterways.
When returning from walks, please collect any fallen wood in your path for firewood piles; leave any standing or 'dead-looking' plants and leave any hollow logs where they lie. Please collect rocks only from areas approved by your host. If you intend to go bushwalking please notify your host first and find out about property boundaries and natural hazards.
Be very careful with fire; only light fires in designated fireplaces and with approval of your host. Candles and similar lights and fires must be placed in a secure metal candle holder. Please turn off gas bottles as soon as you turn off any gas appliance or when not being used. Don't burn refuse – especially plastics, metal, glass or batteries, etc; these are taken to the recycling centre. Store this refuse in sealed bags or bins.
Only cut plants of any kind after checking with host.
Please use designated toilets only and sprinkle ash or whatever’s provided on composting toilets after use. Feel free to urinate around trees (not on the trunk or near houses, please).
Please return all tools at the end of the day.
If we observe these simple guidelines we can all survive and thrive here.
If you intend to stay, please read the RingWood Agreements.

The Three Nos

At RingWood we have only three major social taboos;
No violence or violent behaviour;
No alcoholism or hard drugs;
No theft (or borrowing without asking).
We rarely tolerate religious proselytising.

Thank You

South Creek by ring wood. 
Images - author's

If you're interested in creating (or joining) a community using these agreements as guidelines, feel free to contact the site author at ringwood@ramp.zzn.com with 'Ringwood' in the subject line.



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1 comment:

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