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John Joplin is involved in an exciting project to build an ecological village at Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, Ireland.
What most interests him is the kind of organisation and the sorts of processes appropriate to achieve this. Here he shares some insights gleaned from direct experience.

he life of The Village can process of developing a ‘sustain-  The Process Group high-profile, but the nature
be viewed as having three able community’. That’s the third We have formed a group and role of leadership was
(not very distinct) phases. phase. People will have their own whose sole responsibility is to confused. Under the current
The first phase got the project off dwellings and be responsible for think about the organisational system, there are opportunities
the ground, the second completes their own families. They will have needs of the community – the for many sorts of leadership
the development, and the third is the shared use of certain com- design of the system. The and, by the same token, for
when people will live there. munity buildings and facilities, group makes recommendations personal growth.
In the first phase, a small group such as allotments, and a shared to the monthly members’
of visionary individuals dreamt up commitment to the ecological meetings on these issues. At the same time as developing
the idea and got the project under charter. They will have agreed these systemic arrangements,
way. The basic idea was to buy to involve themselves in the life  Shared Purpose we have been able to raise the
land for development as a model of the community but not in any We held a professionally facil- money required to complete the
ecological village. An ecological particular way. itated Revisioning Day and purchase, half by means of a loan
charter covering energy, waste, There will be no ‘community’ are halfway through a process from a social funding institution
biodiversity and so forth, was in the sense of a single unit living to agree a ‘statement of shared and half by means of loanstock
composed. After a long search a together. Nor is this a ‘spiritual’ purpose’. This will be reviewed taken up by members and a few
27 hectare (67 acre) site adjoin- community with a shared source from time to time with new of their friends. The success of
ing the centre of Cloughjordan, of enlightenment and wisdom as, members taking part. the loan stock issue reflects the
a once prosperous small town in for example, at Auroville in South confidence members now have in
the depths of rural Ireland, was India. We rely rather on the  Shared Out Responsibilities the management of the project.
selected and an option to buy the combined wisdom of individual We invited members to form
land for just under Euro 1 million members, learning and developing groups to undertake respon- THIRD PHASE
was negotiated with the owner. permaculture and other systems- sibilities in the areas they One thing is certain: we won’t
An outline planning permission based principles and, through wanted to get involved with. revert to Command and Control!
to build 132 dwellings in accor- community, achieving much more Details of each proposed group, To cope with what may well be
dance with the ecological charter in terms of sustainable living including who they are to be very challenging times, we’ll need
was prepared and, at the request than we could have achieved accountable to and what such processes that enable us to learn
of the planning officers, an app- as individuals. accountability will involve in and keep learning. That kind of
lication for detailed planning practice, must be approved resilience comes from diversity
permission for the infrastructure THE FIRST PHASE by a members’ meeting. These and flexibility which is what the
works (roads, drains etc.) was The founders adopted the legal groups then make and act on most resilient natural systems
lodged at the same time. Great care framework of a company limited their own decisions. So far have. We have a lot more to learn
had been taken to introduce the by guarantee, with the stated fourteen groups have been from Nature
proposals to the local inhabitants object of creating and managing approved. A remarkable degree
and as a result there was little a sustainable village to serve as one, but only just. By that time its thinker, explains in Freedom the principle of ‘matching variety’. SECOND PHASE of competence over a wide FURTHER INFORMATION
opposition to the granting of a model for sustainable living shortcomings had become pain- from Command and Control, the A football team would never win a Command and Control had range of responsibilities has For more information about The
planning permission, which is into the 21st century. It would fully obvious (not that anyone distinctive feature of Command match if the players only moved failed to cope with the pressures been evident from the monthly Village see: www.thevillage.ie
now expected shortly. In the normally be the role of the board understood the systemic weakness and Control is that decision- when the captain told them. The thrown up by the project reports of the groups.
meantime, the membership has of directors of a company to of the system at the time). The making is separated from work. Village community’s ability to towards the end of phase one. Next issue: Ten Steps to Better
grown to over forty. determine the means to be used to burden of being responsible for Normally, one lot of people, the handle variety was stifled. To cope with the scale and  Monthly Members’ Gatherings Decision Making by Beatrice
The second phase includes carry out its objectives, but as one all major decisions had been too managers, take the decisions, and For a project as complex as complexity of the tasks ahead we These are organised by the Briggs, a founding partner of
completion of the land purchase, would expect the project was seen much for the members’ meetings. another lot, the workers, imp- this, Command and Control only are now learning how to escape Process Group. The dates, times the International Institute for
construction of the infrastructure from the start as a co-operative The agenda at board meetings was lement them. But it doesn’t have works if there is a powerful and from Command and Control. and places are fixed at the start Facilitation and Consensus.
works, recruiting another 90 venture; and from an early stage too long. It had proved difficult to be two separate lots of people. highly organised group in charge This means reversing the sep- of each calendar year. Regular
members (except that a few blocks the members adopted a consensus to form effective working groups What made The Village’s structure ensuring that people have no choice aration of decision making from features are group reports and John Joplin is a co-founder of
of sites have been earmarked as decision-making process. Thus and implement a wide range of one of Command and Control was but to do what they are told, as ‘doing’. As all enlightened special presentations. Proposals the Worldwide Democracy Net-
available for sale to corporate instead of decisions being made by agreed tasks, leaving the staff that it separated decision-making in a military outfit. Even where management thinkers now insist, requiring a community decision work www.wwdemocracy.org
buyers for social housing) and the board, the forum for decision- as the main ‘doers’, but without and the work, with decisions such systems operate, they do so systems work best on the prin- by consensus are made by the and co-author of the Schumacher
selling the serviced plots at prices making was the members’ meeting, formal decision-making powers. being made at members’ meetings at the expense of the people – ciple of maximum autonomy for relevant group, accompanied by Briefing, Gaian Democracies.
which, when added together, equal with the board of directors (all What had in fact happened was and then filtered through the their freedom and creativity is all doers, i.e. maximum decision their recommendation. Both old He is a co-founder and current
the total of all the costs incurred. members) complying with the that the founders had triggered board, whilst the actual work was severely limited. In Ireland today, making power for the people and new members value the way chair of Feasta, the Dublin based
Members can then either build decisions taken by members, and the birth, not just of a project, done by the staff with some help as in most countries throughout who do the work in question, these meetings are run, finding foundation for the economics of
their own dwellings or employ a the staff (also members – two of but of a living community, and the from members. the world, our political and combined with processes for co- them stimulating and enjoyable. sustainability, www.feasta.org.
builder. The second phase also the founders) doing what they organisational framework they To quote John Seddon again, economic systems are domin- operation which guarantee the He also jointly edited: Creating
includes the construction of were told by the board. That at had chosen, albeit unknowingly, “To tackle variety with a com- ated by Command and Control; integrity of the system and the  Leadership a Sustainable London, London
community buildings. least was the theory. was that of Command and Control. mand and control philosophy is we are effectively imprisoned individuals within it. In phase one, the leading found- – Pathways to the Future, and
Once all the building has been This structure enabled the As John Seddon, the occupational to stifle the organisation’s ability by them and impoverished as These are some of the steps er, who was also employed as also the first two editions of
completed, there will be an endless project to get to the end of phase psychologist and management to handle variety”. This refers to human beings. we have taken so far: project manager, enjoyed a Feasta Review.

50 Permaculture Magazine No. 44 www.permaculture.co.uk www.permaculture.co.uk No. 44 Permaculture Magazine 51