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Discussing a Cooperative Life in Norman, OK
Meeting, and subsequent thoughts 
12th-Sep-2005 02:28 pm
worm
The meeting that gizer organized last Saturday didn't end up being much.  She and I were there, as well as two other people whose names I can't recall, and John and Mike from the Greenbriar Collective.  None of them seemed terribly interested in actually starting an intentional community, but they were interested enough to talk about it.

The chief conclusion that we came to is that we need to start smaller than that.  Specifically, before jumping into buying property, we should get ourselves organized, and work out a system for living together.  That is, work on the community as a group of people, rather than a specific place.  So we should find a house and rent it, maybe starting in January, when tank182 is back in Norman.  (This would also be an excellent opportunity for a Dark Party.)

We've also been talking a lot about the profit vs. non-profit issue, and it's our feeling now that "profit" is the way to go.  In this sort of model, the co-op is a corporation, in which all members own stock.  Each person would have to pay dues each month, which would be calculated to be enough to pay for all services that the co-op provides, such as housing, utilities, repairs, at least some food, and also operational expenses like bookkeeping.  If people do things to help provide these services, their dues are credited respectively.  So people who provide food get the value of the food deduct4ed, people who do administrative work get the value of the work deducted, people who provide repairs get the value of the repairs deducted, etc.  In addition, everyone must buy at least one share of stock per month.  For the sake of our discussion, we've been saying that a share initially costs $10.  That money goes into the co-op's bank account, where it will accrue a bit of interest and can be used for projects which will not diminish its value.  That is, once enough has accrued, we could use it for a down payment on a house.  Or, before that, we could spend it as start-up costs for some sort of fund-raising.  Ideally, what this means is that the price of a share is slowly going up, or at least not down.  If the shares should gain value fast enough to reach $20, they would be subdivided, so that a share once again costs $10, but everyone who already owns shares now owns twice as many.  This stops the monthly requirement from getting out of hand.  When someone wants to leave, they sell all their shares back to the co-op (or to another member), and get all their money back.  If someone else wants to join, they just start paying dues and buying shares.

We've also talked about built-in mechanisms to equalize the number of shares, because it's ideal for all members to have equal numbers of shares.

Who might be interested in getting started in January?  What do all concerned parties think about the economic scheme?
Comments 
12th-Sep-2005 09:01 pm (UTC)
I'm going to need a place to live in January so if this can come together then I'm in full favor! Also this all sounds very duable.

and for the record my name is "tank182"
13th-Sep-2005 12:43 am (UTC)
I can never remember those big three-digit numbers.
13th-Sep-2005 07:54 pm (UTC)
This all sound pretty managable. Doing things a little at a time seems to make the most sense. $10 sounds very reasonable for a share price.

Having signned a lease in August, and with school it might be difficult for me to do anything in January in terms of moving.

also, I'm curious about the mechanism to equalize shares.
14th-Sep-2005 04:02 pm (UTC)
The share equalization thing was something we were talking about a few weeks ago, before nobody really showed up to our meeting. We were hoping to find some people with land and/or money, who would have used those assets to buy a whole lot of shares at the beginning, so that we would have had a place to get things started. At that point, we didn't yet have the idea that everyone must be continually buying shares. So we thought about making everyone head towards the average value of shares, by requiring everyone with less than the average number of shares to buy one each month from people with greater than the average number. If there were a lot of shares (say, 10,000) it would take a long time to equalize, but that would be the trend.

Requiring everyone to buy a brand new share each month also has a tendency to equalize shares over long periods of time. We could use both systems, so that people with below-average stock have to buy two per month: one which is a brand new share, and another from someone who has more stock than them. Then the people with more stock would, in effect, not have to buy any (actually, they would be buying one brand new stock, and selling one to someone else, but the effect is the same.)

The thing that worries me about that, in this context, is that it makes one person's generosity into everyone else's problem. Say I'm managing to make extra money, so that I can afford to buy 5 shares a month, just because I want to get the co-op rolling. That's all cool, but doing so would effectively raise everybody else's rent by $10, because they'd have to be buying more from me, to keep up.

Maybe a better way to do it would be to require that the person with the most stock must always be willing to sell to anyone with less than the average amount, but not to require the people with less than the average to buy.
1st-Oct-2005 09:52 pm (UTC)
This all sounds good to me.

I was poking around on LiveJournal today and realized that I hadn't replied to this post. I'm going to go remind people about it...
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