Models of Operation

Models of Operation

The following models are working documents. Details may change depending on the pioneering group coming together to actually obtain a specific piece of land and start an Eco Village.

These documents are designed to assist us dealing with nitty gritty questions we all have.

Questions such as: What is a Family Unit? What are the membership fees? How will people earn income while on the EcoVillage land? Who makes up the board of trustees?, etc.

These documents have evolved over a period of a few years out of a fluid group of people meeting regularly. There are still many details, that have arisen and will arise, that will need to be addressed. However, we feel that this is enough detail in order to stimulate the next phases of this project, and bring people who are interested in to help with it.


Our Eco Village Model – Basic Summary

The basic premise for starting this Eco Village is to find donations/loans from people who understand and believe in what we want to do. They will provide the money to buy a piece of land for the Eco Village. Agreements will be made with these people regarding paying them back, where necessary e.g. after the pioneering phase, over number of years.

Accessing money to purchase the land is a way to reduce the entrance/membership fee per (family) unit, making access far more affordable. It makes other agreements, for accessing entrance/membership fees, for those who have much to offer besides an upfront sum of money, more accessible.

In addition, this working model describes the need for all members to pay monthly levies for the costs on the land as a whole, as well as rental for any section of land they use for working (enterprises). As such, there will likely be various sets of costs for any member unit.

These costs are designed to be fair and transparent in terms of what we are each paying for. The overall intention is that the accumulated costs will still be vastly cheaper than what many of us are currently paying in order to live. Additionally, we know that collectively we receive direct benefit from any costs we are paying.

Our model suggests that the land obtained will be held in a Trust, meaning that no individual can sell that land. The land is thus secured for us to put our hearts and energy into developing the land and the community as a whole. The board of Trustees (including some of us) oversees the requirements of the Trust i.e. that our activities on the land fit the purpose of the Trust – e.g. the establishing and running of an Eco Village .

Only in the extreme case of the project  ‘failing’ may the board of trustees decide that the land needs to be sold. Loans would then be set off, and the remaining proceeds be offered to another Trust of similar purpose.

Note: The various costs (for each member unit) are designed to motivate and clarify, thus ensuring the viability of the project. Entrance/Membership fees provide seed capital to develop infrastructure  and common essential projects that all members benefit from. Living in close proximity, on shared land, will certainly make it easier for us to start collaborative projects and businesses.

Ultimately, our model will need to be tested and reviewed, to see that it is in alignment with the principles set out in ‘Our Eco Village’ Charter, and other supporting documents.


Option 2 – Shareholders model

 How is the land funded and ‘owned’? 

  1. The land is not owned. It is held in a Trust. A board of trustees ensures that the land is being taken care of and its value maintained. This is their only concern. They are not involved with the internal organisation and internal finances of the Village.
  2. The land is funded by Shareholders. Anyone wanting to become a Member of the Village needs to buy shares. There will be a minimum number of shares that each Member needs to buy (see Shareholder Chart) Ideally, all Shareholders are Members of the Ecovillage. (see definition of Member in Section 2).
  3. The purpose of having Shareholders is that those with more financial resources are able to invest in the funding of land out of belief in the project, and also have their investment secured in case the project fails and the land needs to be sold. In such a case all shareholders have their initial investment returned to them. Value of land and shares has likely increased in that time.
  1. The land cannot be sold within the first 10 years, and then only if an agreed number of Trustee members decide that the Village is no longer sustaining itself. As such the Board of Trustees must be made up of Members who represent the full spectrum of Shareholders, from those that own a low number of shares to those that own the most. There may be a desire to also include two independent people who are not Members of the Village or Shareholders, to be on the Board of Trustees.
  1. The number of shares that are owned does not equate to the decision-making power an individual may have. The only purpose of having a shareholder system is to balance the differing financial resources that people initially have to fund land.
  1. As the second, third etc wave of Members come in, they can buy their shares from those that initially bought the most, creating more of a balance between Shareholders.
  1. Shares will also be sold in order to raise funds for central infrastructure on the land – infrastructure agreed to by all Members. This may include a retreat centre, dams, central hall, kitchen, meeting places, time share and guest accommodation (and an ecovillage bus!) As such the value of the land is increased and this spending of shares can also be recouped in the event of the land being sold. The amount of Shares spent on this Infrastructure will thus need to be relative to the initial cost of the land.
  1. We will need to assess the how the increasing value of shares is managed fairly between those actively contributing to this increasing value, and those Members and Shareholders that may be passive.
  1. Who can become a Member of the Village? 
  1. Anyone of any cultural background can become a Member. As long as they resonate with the Vision and Charter of the Ecovillage and show how they can support it.
  1. Anyone of any economic background can become a Member. Depending on the carrying capacity of the land, we will need to work out what the balance is across the economic scale so to ensure the finances we need to get the project off the ground are in place. Additional forms of fundraising can really help here. As the project then starts to create and generate its own economic energy, it will open the door to more people who do not have the financial resources, but have their skills, knowledge, gifts, energy and heart for Ecovillage living.
  1. In the Pioneer Phase especially, Members need to be able to trust themselves to live in an Ecovillage (see Can I Trust Myself?
  1. Anyone can be part of the Pioneer Group. It will form organically through those that are committed to each other and getting the project off the ground. People will naturally fall away if they find they cannot work together, or come in at a later stage of the project to bring their particular gifts when they are most needed.
  1. Once the land is acquired and certain systems are in place, new Members will be asked to go through an Orientation / Integration process, after which decisions can be made if they wish to stay and if the Village is happy with that.
  1. Members may be asked to contribute a certain number of hours a year to the Village in our work party festival weekends!

 What are the costs to a Member?

 The following costs to a member are broken down and designed to be transparent. They are designed to be pragmatic and realistic, in terms of the needs of ongoing infrastructure and running costs to the Ecovillage. In the same way a house is not just paid for and that is it, there are ongoing costs which need to be covered too. In an Ecovillage, because these costs circle back into the Ecovillage, collectively we all benefit from what we pay. Our individual contributions mean that there is greater exponential growth for the Village, which keeps circling to support each individual and Family Unit. The costs to each member will be relatively less than the cost of city living (see case studies), or buying one’s own plot of rural land.

Please note that all figures used below will be renegotiated when the pioneering group comes together and a specific land is found. It is the structure which is more significant, as well as the feeling that it is affordable in an Ecovillage setting.

 

  1. Members can be full time Villagers or part time, or non-resident.
  2. Not all Shareholders need to be Members (though ideally all Shareholders are are Members). However, only Members have decision making power in regards to the internal workings of the Village
  1. Members will need to buy a certain number of Shares, depending on what Shareholder bracket is available (see Shareholder Chart). These Shares will fund and hold the land, and also contribute towards the building of Once Off Infrastructure. With all Members as Shareholders, we all have a clear interest in maintaining the value of the land.
  1. Those who are 21 and older will pay a once off membership fee of R50 000, making this act of commitment to the start, growth and development of the Ecovillage. When children reach this age, they will need to make this contribution. This R50 000 is not refundable in the Pioneering Phase.
  1. After the Pioneer Phase, once a clear ‘New Members’ structure is in place, potential new members will pay their R50 000 after 3 months, or leave. This R50 000 (whether paid in Rand or alternative currency), will be held for a further 6 months. After this 9 month period they will have their R50 000 fully refunded if they do not wish to be part of the Ecovillage. If they decide to become Members, their R50 000 becomes non-refundable, and we also celebrate our new members! Trial Family Units will need to pay the necessary rentals and levy’s throughout their 9 months (see below).
  1. Adult members will pay a R2000 +- monthly levy that goes to Running costs for the land and Village.
  1. A Permaculture / Wholistic Design will demarcate plots for personal / private use
  1. Not all Members may want a private plot to build a home on. Some Members will be full or part time residents and some will not. There will be accommodation facilities available for those Members who are non-resident but come to visit or spend time on the land, at a Members rental fee.
  1. Members that wish to build a home in the Ecovillage will pay a rental for the plot of land that they choose, from what is available. The rental cost will be decided depending on the nature of that land. Members will need to apply to the Village for the plot they want. If it is wanted by more than one Family Unit, we will collectively decide who is most suited. Members will need to care for and manage that plot themselves.
  1. Members do not own that land but are responsible for it. Anything they build on the land (in line with agreed building practices) is at their own cost (perhaps building loans will be available at some point) and theirs to manage. Guests that stay longer than a certain time period will need to start contributing towards running costs on the land. If the Member wishes to leave the Eco Village, see section E – Exiting.
  1. There will be a sliding scale structure for what needs to be paid by larger Family Units. For example, a family unit on 1 plot with 2 adults may have a monthly levy of R2000 for first adult, but R1500 for second. Levy’s for children may not apply but will be further explored.
  1. Members that wish to start a business on a separate plot of land from their home, may need to pay a rental on that plot too, depending on the nature of the business.
  1. Members may start their own projects, collaborate with others, work remotely from the Village, work outside the Village, or work for the Village itself. A healthy balance will need to be maintained here so to ensure that land based projects have the necessary energy.
  1. A small percentage of profits (maybe 10%) from each business will go the Ecovillage. The Ecovillage as a whole is an advert for these projects and businesses, and all projects and businesses will be complimented by a collective vision for income generating as well as non-profit initiatives. This money will help start up new projects that we want to see running from the land, as we move towards greater and greater self-sustainability.
  1. There will be ways for those without financial resources to become members, whether through loans from other members, a loan from the Ecovillage, or through Sweat Equity (working off their Membership). A healthy balance of such applicants needs to be maintained, so to ensure that we have enough financial resources to get and keep things moving.
  2. Members will start to use alternative currencies and exchange systems within the Village where appropriate, as well as with surrounding communities.
  3. Contributionism will also more and more play its part as we come to trust each other. (We recognise that in the pioneer phase there have already been huge contributions made in time and energy).

 

  1. In terms of management of the natural resources of the land and what is available, there may be a cost in taking these (for example cutting trees for building). An idea is that if a tree is cut for wood, the cost will help plant a tree to replace it.
  2. It is possible that the first Full Time Pioneer Members have many of these costs greatly reduced or even waived. This will last for the first year from the date of purchasing the land. It allows them to develop infrastructure that later Members will benefit from, and gives them time to develop their own income generating projects. They will thus live in temporary accommodation, focusing on building the central communal infrastructure and guest / timeshare accommodations.
  3. This gives us a year to experience the land and its seasons and cycles, so that a proper permaculture / wholistic design can be done. This design will designate where individual homesteads can go, and only then will Members be able to decide collectively who settles on what plot. This then averts a first come first serve scenario, making sure that the Land has time to speak to us before we start to spread ourselves out into private dwellings.

 

  1. Why become a Member?

 

  1. You are contributing towards creating a model for economic, ecological and social sustainable living, a more free way of being, to be replicated around the world.

 

  1. It is a beautiful new way to live for you and your family, helping heal your relationship with the Earth and with each other, while having a supportive community around you.

 

  1. For events open to the public, attendance will be free to Members, or iscounts offered (festivals, retreats, workshops, courses etc)

 

  1. Non-resident Members are able to visit the land at anytime.

 

Our Eco Village Model MK 1

 

  1. Funding of the land purchase

 

1.1   Donations/Loans (D/L) are sought to raise the capital to buy the land.

1.2   A contract will be agreed between the Trust and each D/L.

1.3   This contract will contain following principles:

1.3.1          While the project is an ongoing concern, and after a period of time agreed upon, unanimous agreement between the trustees and the EcoVillage Dwellers (EVDs), and considering the solvency of the project as a whole, repayment of the loans may commence in a fair manner agreed by all.

1.3.2          From the outset, the EVD association will manage a bank account, which will receive a percentage of the income from the Monthly Levy (see 4.1) paid by all EVDs. These funds are ring-fenced for various longer-term uses that include any repayment of D/Ls, for  major emergency and disaster management, insurances, and an internal bank.

1.3.3          In the event that the EcoVillage project closes, the land will be sold and the D/L will be repaid proportionally to their initial loan amount.

1.3.4          If a profit is realised on the sale of the land then additional funds left over will be donated to a Trust  with a similar purpose  to this one.

1.3.5          Other loan repayment options may be considered e.g. enterprise rentals may be offset by loan repayments.  This may only be implemented following the pioneer phase, and where economically viable for the EVD member association.

 

  1. Land Ownership Vehicle

 

2.1    A Trust is created and its name will be on the title deed of the land. The land cannot be sold unless a ⅔ majority of people on the board of the Trust agree that the purpose of the project is no longer viable with the then available resources, and that the only remedy to avoid significant financial liability is the sale of the land.

2.2   The composition of the  board of the Trust will be according to best practice guidelines and will have representatives from the EVDs, D/Ls and 3 people of “high standing” without any direct benefit from this particular EcoVillage.

2.3   The role of the board is to provide oversight in order to make sure the activities on the land adhere to the purpose of the Trust, the principles stated in the Trust constitution, the legal (and other) requirements of land ownership, and ensuring the value  of the land is maintained (i.e. custodianship of the land as a whole).

 

  1. Entry/Exit membership

 

3.1   The EVDs will pay a once-off membership fee(MSF) for the opportunity to live on the land and participate in the EcoVillage Dwellers association. This money is used for common infrastructure required by the EVDs; the set up and maintenance thereof.

3.2.1   The MSF is set at circa ZAR 50,000.00 per 1st adult (18yrs or older) in a member   unit. The 2nd adult in a member unit will contribute circa ZAR 35,000  (which is   increased to the same as 1st adult if they subsequently choose to live independently of their initial member unit). Children of a member unit will, at the age of 18, pay the adjusted equivalent of 2nd adult whilst in their original member unit; and similarly pay the equivalent of 1st adult if they choose to form their own member unit. The EVD member is responsible for their own dwelling (house), and any enterprise structures required and agreed to by the EVD member association. Another option for this is, if an EVD leaves within the pioneer phase (first x year/s) they can only be paid back their MSF after pioneer phase.

3.2.2    In the future, once the project is established (post pioneer phase), the membership fee can be held in a separate account for a 6 month probationary period, during which, if the incumbent decides to leave, then they would be fully refunded their membership fees. After 6 months the MSF goes into the running account and is thenceforth non-refundable, to be used for the further development of the ecovillage.

3.3   For people with desirable skills and assets, deemed of benefit to the ecovillage, but with financial constraints, alternative methods of membership can be considered, such as individual loans, sweat equity, etc.

3.4   In time, the EVD Council (see point 6), may create a course for prospective members, to  help them understand in a more embodied way the Eco Village Charter.

3.5   If, after the 6 month trial period, a prospective member or Family Unit wishes to stay but concerns are expressed by other EVD’s, the EVD Council will need to make a decision. If asked to leave, the membership fees will be reimbursed fully, in accordance with the 6 month probation period.

 

  1. Monthly Levy

 

4.1   Each family unit/ individual (FU/I) will pay a monthly levy (circa ZAR 2,000). After the pioneering phase, half goes to the running costs of the land and the project, and half into a specific bank account for the repayments / disaster fund (see 1.3.1), run by the Trust.

 

  1. Rental of assets from the “commons”

 

5.1   If FU/I want to stay in accommodation supplied by the ECV, or to build a structure on the land (i.e. a house or a workshop) or use a resource in such a way that it inhibits other EVDs using that resource freely, then that FU/I needs to pay rent to the Common fund for that right.

5.2   The amount of rental to be paid for each asset will be agreed upon by the EVD Council. A council process would be followed where an asset is sought after by more than 1 person.

 

  1. EcoVillage Dwellers Council

 

6.1   A decision-making council (EVD Council) is formed from members. This council is responsible for the development, management, maintenance of the land, buildings, people and animals, and all activities.

6.2   The communication and relationships between elected members and the EVD’s as a whole, will be carefully aligned with the principles in ‘Our Eco Village’ charter.

6.3   The EVD Council will have representatives on the board of the Trust

6.4   The EVD Council will create various groups (such as Water Management, Farming, Building, Admin, Celebration, etc) that focus on their tasks, but report back to the Council.

6.5    The Council will operate with rotational leadership and members for a period of time collectively agreed upon, or at the Eco Village Dwellers discretion.

6.6   EVD Council will manage its own bank accounts and decide on memberships.

 

  1. Family Unit/Individual accommodation

 

7.1    A family unit/Individual (FU/I) can be  1 – 6 people. The adults of a FU/I will be members.

7.2   Each FU/I will choose a piece of land or accommodation option from what is available, in accordance with the zoning for the land done through permaculture/  holistic design.

7.3   A monthly rental amount for the right to use the land from the commons will be agreed upon between the FU/I and the EVD Council.

7.4   The monthly rentals will be reviewed for all FU/Is on an annual basis by the EVD Council.

7.5   The monthly rentals can also contribute to paying back a loan by D/I after the pioneering phase.

7.6    The FU/I cannot own the land they are on, but does own the structure/improvements they build on that land. If they ever want to leave the project it is these improvements that they can sell on to a

7.7   FU/I’s can live either full time, part time, or occasionally visit the Eco Village. However, the FU/I does not pay less membership, levies or rental, if living part time or occasionally at the Eco Village.

7.8   A healthy balance between full time, part time, and occasional members will need to be considered by the EVD Council, when considering prospective members.

 

  1. Businesses and Projects

 

8.1   Different businesses with different models will be set up. Some may be run by one person, others by a small collective of people, or others run by the Eco Village Collective as a whole.

8.2    If a business requires communal land/assets (not running from one’s own homestead), this will be leased from the Eco Village, paying a monthly rental to the Common Fund, and this is reviewed on an annual basis by the EVD Council.

8.3   The monthly rental can contribute towards paying back loans by D/I’s after the pioneering phase.

8.4   People may live in the Village, working remotely at outside work.

8.5   As our businesses grow, and more Dwellers buy in, with the necessary infrastructure already in place, money is then put aside to pay back our investors, and put towards seed funding or loans for other projects within the EcoVillage.

8.6   Seed funding or loans can also be made available for new Eco Village projects.

8.7 Alternative currencies will also be used to help us collaborate and co-create.

8.8 All businesses and projects are to follow the principles set out in the ‘Our Eco Village’ Charter (Vision document). In particular, all formalised agreements/negotiations/contracts, between the various entities and individuals attached to this project, will be transparent for any D/I, Trustee, or Eco Village Dweller to see.