Each project needs to find an agreement on basic duties and rights that everyone in the project has. One important aspect of this is the issue of organising the economic aspect of the project.
Does everyone have to pay the same amount? Does the amount differ depending on the space that is used? Does it differ when people have different economic means? What about the elderly with low pension? What about children? These are very important questions that need to be decided in the planning phase of the project.
Most people involved in sustainable community projects share the value of solidarity and inclusiveness for people with less economic means. When it comes to designing the economic organisation, these values need to be put into practice. This is a crucial moment in the project design. It’s important to take time to explore the values and belief systems behind dealing with money. This is an extremely emotional topic and has a lot of impact on the group identity. Methods of deep sharing can and should be used to explore and express attitudes dealing with economic questions, rather than just discussing them on the organisational level.
Sustainable community projects have found a variety of solutions to the question of economic organization. Some communities are overcoming financial inequality by sharing their income and directing all of their capital towards the development of the project. This sounds too extreme for many people, but the experience of these communities is that it works out quite well and is often even perceived as easier than any other solution. Experience shows that projects who agreed on doing this before they started very often succeed with this way of organising their community and are happy that they have chosen this way. Many others do not dare to start this way and agree on starting differently. They attempt to move towards a more “shared economy”; however, experience shows that this is extremely difficult and hardly ever leads to a shared economy.
Communities that don’t want to share their income completely have found different ways for organising economic solidarity within the community. Examples for this include:
- Rather than a fixed sum or one which depends on the usage of space, a percentage of the monthly income is paid for rent and common expenses for food, etc.
- All expenses for children are covered by the whole community.
- Create a Solidarity-Fund within the community (please see example box, below)
- Give each other interest free loans or donations as an informal way to balance of differences in economic means.
|Example: Solidarity-Fund “ZEGG-Basis” in ZEGG
In Zegg, many people are working as freelancers. If they get sick, they have no income. The community decided to establish a common “insurance” for this case, the “ZEGG-Grund”. In case someone gets sick for more than a week and cannot earn money, the other community members agreed to pay 15 Euros a month for them. This adds up to 900 Euros that will be given to freelancers of the community who cannot work due to sickness or an accident.