Re: Private use of common land
From: Ben Levi (
Date: Sat, 30 May 1998 13:56:23 -0500
Pablo wrote about a dilemma in his community about the use of common
land, and two poles that emerged:
Pole 1: "I don't want to have a group process for every little thing I
Why should I have to ask the group's permission to plant bulbs (or a
or...) at the edge of my yard?"

Pole 2: "I have no problem with so-and-so's floweres (or garden or
composter) except that nobody asked me if it was okay. I would like to
trusted enough not to interfere unless it is really important to do so."

In the "community consensus" model that I've worked with, we have a
category called "delegating consensus with constraints." The concept is
that everyone doesn't need to be involved in all the myriad of decisions
that a community needs to make each day. But we all do have our general
areas of interest that we care deeply about and/or have expertise in.
Thus the concept of "committees" arises as one way to bridge the two
poles mentioned above. In the above case, there would be a "Common Land"
committee made up of a small group of people (self-selected) who would
be empowered by the whole group to decide on matters associated with the
common land (using the consensus process) *with constraints* agreed upon
by the whole group. For example, the committee could decide on all
Common Land matters that didn't have a cost greater than $XXX dollars,
or whatever constraint was agreed upon. Anything that fell outside of
that would be spoken about in the committee, possibly even reaching a
decision, but would have to get the consensus of the whole group for a
final decision.

This is one of the most effective ways of balancing the forces between
freedom and permission so often found in community. It fosters trust
among the group, and, if the committees rotate members fairly often,
fosters qualities of leadership in the individual group members.

Ben Levi  * * *  Geneva Community 
176 acres on the Little Thompson River
Ben Levi            | Ph:303-546-0679    | Fax: 303-473-0489
2800 Kalmia, #A-327 | Boulder, CO  80301 | ben [at]

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