Jan 18, 2023Liked by Gillian Morris

I agree with everything in this post, but I think you’re missing one really important facet of any well-functioning community: conflict mediation. When people disagree, and conflict breaks out, it is extremely helpful to have very clear guidelines on how decisions will get made.

For example, when you’re talking about kicking someone out of their housing situation, it’s very good to provide actual rules with actual numbers, so that people know what rights they have. E.g. “Nobody can be forced out of the community without a 75% vote from all residents of the community, which can be held at any house meeting, as long as everyone’s given 72 hours notice about the intention to hold such a vote.“

Similar guidelines can be written for broader conflicts/disagreements. Ideally, you never have to use these rules! But if you don’t have them, conflict can get very messy. Ideally all your community rules can fit on a single piece of paper. I work at a cooperative and our company

bylaws are about 2 pages - and that’s an enforceable legal document! Surely a community house can keep it under 1 page :) And if everyone who lives there agrees to those rules, then they can actually be held to account on them.

Chalking it up to “the community decides” leaves a lot of room for gossip, and the most privileged voices to actually drive decision-making without being held accountable to it. Schedule a meeting and hold a vote! This gives everyone a guaranteed place for their voice to be heard.

But I totally agree that long books of rules are useless, principles are very useful day to day, and even voting should be a last resort!

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Principles work very well instead of a laundry list of rules. This is one of the reasons why fighting is permitted in hockey. The definition of a cheap shot is almost impossible to completely define. So you let the players manage it themselves. My concern about principles instead of rules is how to guarantee the rights of the individual. In Hockey it should be noted that this fighting is mostly constrained to one-on-one and both parties must be willing to participate by dropping gloves. I support this methodology of.principles in place of rules in work and professional life. I'm not sure if I'd want my living situation to be dependent on the whims of the majority.

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I've been disappointed to see this idea break down many times in environments where conflict aversion resulted in almost no enforcement of principles, and asking people to leave for anything short of assault was anathema. :(

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