In trying to make this document as clear as possible, we have adopted some terms that have special meanings for the membership process. Specific membership categories are each described in the section entitled "Membership Categories". Other special terms include the following:
CLEARNESS COMMITTEE - A group of people gathered to help an individual, couple, or family examine a variety of issues pertaining to a particular problem, question, decision, or issue. The Clearness Committee helps discuss and guide in a cooperative, constructive, and helpful manner. This membership process includes specific recommendations about Clearness Committees for membership, but clearness committees can also be used in other contexts and in different ways. Clearness committees are generally designed to exist over a period of time, e.g. until an individual's membership process is complete, or until a given decision can be made with full understanding.
COMMUNITY - In this context, refers to the intentional community being formed by the Meadowdance Community Group, LLP. For our purposes, an intentional community is a settlement of people who come together to live in a particular way. "Community" is often used as shorthand for "intentional community"; however, this is not meant to imply that there are not other kinds of communities.
CONSENSUS - Refers to Formal Consensus Process as outlined in the booklet On Conflict and Consensus, available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ic.org/pnp/ocac/index.html or through Meadowdance's Membership Group. Meadowdance has officially adopted this process as our primary decision making method.
MEADOWDANCE - Meadowdance Community Group, LLP is an intentional community founded in Springfield, Vermont in 2000.
MEMBERSHIP GROUP - A specific working group or committee of Meadowdance participants who are charged with attending to matters pertaining to membership in the community, including publicity, membership process and policy recommendations, organizing gatherings, etc.
PRACTICAL REVIEW GROUP - A group of Members who are charged with considering financial impact and other practical implications of an individual, couple, or family joining the community.
PROSPECTIVE MEMBER - A person who is interested in and working toward full membership in the community. This is a less precise term than the categories it includes, which are Visitor, Seeker, Interim Member, and Transitional Member. In some situations this term refers to an individual, couple, or family; in others, it applies only to an individual. These distinctions are outlined in the section on "Families and Children".
SPONSOR - A community member who has volunteered to serve as a guide and advocate for a prospective member. The Sponsor answers questions, assists the prospective member in getting through unfamiliar processes, takes part in the prospective member's clearness committee, and generally helps look out for the needs of the prospective member in a cooperative manner. Sponsors can be used for other purposes within or outside the membership process. A prospective member has a Sponsor (not necessarily the same one) through Seeker, Interim Member, and Transitional Member statuses.
BASIC PRINCIPLES AND GOALS OF THE MEMBERSHIP PROCESS
The membership process exists for the following purposes:
The process is NOT for any of the following:
Membership is based on affirmative answer to each of the following questions:
It is the responsibility of the Membership Working Group to help ensure that each Prospective Member goes through the membership process in a timely and effective manner.
Following are the categories of membership within the community. Note that these may be altered by consensus, and that temporary membership categories may be created for special purposes (e.g. Founding Members).
(A) VISITOR: A visiting relative or friend, a person interested in community who has come to see it for the first time, a guest from another community that we're helping through a dissolution or disaster, etc.
(B) SEEKER: Person who feels a strong draw to the community and has a serious desire to explore membership. Seekers spend a month in residence at Meadowdance, either at one time or in more than one visit. This is the first month of the 13-month residential prospective membership period.
(C) APPRENTICE: Temporary resident of the community who has been accepted into it explicitly for the purpose of learning. A specific period of residence should be determined before the apprentice is accepted. Apprenticeships are granted through full consensus of the community, and are offered at times when they are deemed appropriate. In other words, we are not necessarily open to new Apprentices at all times. A volunteer Sponsor (usually a Blocking Member) should be found for each Apprentice, and some specifics of the Apprentice's learning program should be identified at the outset of the relationship.
(A) CHILD: A person who is part of a community family and has not yet reached the age of adulthood.
(B) YOUNG ADULT MEMBER: (Also "Young Adult") A person who is part of a community family and has taken on the responsibilities of a Young Adult, but who has not yet applied for full adult membership.
(C) INTERIM MEMBER: (Three-month prospective membership period that comes after Seeker status and before Transitional Member status.): A person who is trying out normal life in Meadowdance, but who has (as much as possible) not cut off ties and support systems needed for a life outside Meadowdance.
(C) TRANSITIONAL MEMBER: (Nine-month prospective membership period that comes after Interim Member status and before Full Member status): A person who is fairly certain s/he wants to join the community and who is actively pursuing full membership by living in the community for an extended period of time.
(D) FULL MEMBERS
(1) NON-BLOCKING MEMBERS: An adult who has a mental or emotional disability or illness that causes him or her to be dependent on the assistance of another member or members for daily life. Non-Blocking Members are generally equivalent to Blocking Members, except that they may not block consensus. Other distinctions apply as noted.
(2) BLOCKING MEMBERS: An adult who has passed through the entire membership process to become a permanent part of the community, and who has no mental or emotional illness or disability that might prevent full participation in decision-making, governance, working groups, etc.
Prospective Membership may be ended at any time for any reason by the Prospective Member or by community consensus decision, and should this occur the Prospective Member must as a rule leave the community soon afterward. Prospective Membership is a try-out period for both the individual and the community, and it is to be expected that not all Prospective Members will come to Full Membership status.
It is appropriate for the community to turn down a Seeker, Transitional Member, or Full Member application for any reason providing that no Community Agreement is violated. Note that Community Agreements include the Basic Principles and Goals of the Membership Process, above.
As an example, the Community Agreements require that no person be turned down for prospective membership based on factors like age, race, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender, religion, spirituality, etc.
Applicants for Full Membership will have invested much more in the community than applicants for earlier stages of membership, and these applications should therefore be considered carefully and with due consideration to this investment. Additionally, practical and financial issues should be considered before this stage, and are therefore not valid reasons to oppose Full Membership.
All able adult residents of the community are expected to fulfill a complete work requirement, as set forth in our work requirement policy, except as follows:
1. A separate policy will be prepared by the Work Requirements Group to address work requirements for visitors
2. Children are not subject to work requirements, but may be expected to participate in work where they feel it is appropriate. A separate policy discusses work requirements for Young Adults.
3. Work requirements may be lessened or eliminated for any individual (whether Full Member, Transitional Member, etc.) who by reason of disability or for any other good reason as determined by the community as a whole is unable to fulfill a full work requirement.
PARTICIPATION IN DECISION-MAKING
Everyone, including visitors, children, Non-Blocking Members, and Apprentices, is welcome at normal consensus meetings, except when the community explicitly determines otherwise for a specific meeting. Everyone attending consensus meetings is expected to understand at least the basic elements of the formal consensus process and to respect the process and all others present. Everyone is likewise encouraged to participate, express concerns, and voice ideas. Only Blocking Members may block decisions. Full Members, Children/Young Adults, Transitional Members, and Apprentices may all make presentations, proposals, and reports. Blocking Members, Seekers, Interim Members, and Transitional Members are all expected to attend consensus meetings regularly, and to take turns at various consensus functions, such as notetaker, facilitator, compiler of the agenda, or timekeeper. Others might be asked to take on certain of these functions in some cases, as appropriate.
Working groups may include any resident of the community, including Seekers, Non-Blocking Members, Children, and Young Adults, providing only that they are willing and able to discharge their duties in such groups. Blocking Members, Seekers, Interim Members, and Transitional Members are expected to take an active part in one or more Working Groups, and Blocking Members are expected to volunteer for Sponsor and Clearness Committee roles from time to time.
In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to limit the membership of a particular working group to only Blocking Members, if the work of that group is particularly sensitive or confidential. Participation in working groups generally counts toward the work requirement.
All residents of the community are entitled to the basic necessities as determined by the community, with no difference in this respect among each group except as provided in work requirement policies and as regards housing: Full Members have first choice in housing; Apprentices may be assigned housing; prospective members may be housed in temporary housing (such as guest rooms or with another family); Children and Young Adults will generally house with their families; and except that Seekers will not receive cash allowances or long-term benefits of membership such as insurances, clothing budget, etc. The community can agree to pay certain expenses for Seekers in special circumstances.
Any person who stays in the community for any period of time (even an afternoon) is responsible for adhering to Community Agreements. For short-term Visitors, the person visited may wish to take responsibility for keeping his or her guests informed and within the Community Agreements. For longer-term residents, the Community Agreements and related materials should be read and understood so that each individual can take responsibility for living within them.
CONSIDERING SEEKER APPLICATIONS
If there are more eligible people who wish to apply for Seeker status at a given time than Meadowdance is willing or able to accept as Seekers at that time, the community may wish to establish one or more waiting lists.
When Seeker openings are available, people who are on the waiting list may be offered Seeker status according to a set of guidelines established by consensus Arrangement. The community should maintain such a set of guidelines, making changes whenever desired, in order to ensure that there is always a fair, considerate, and respectful way to choose among people wanting to become Seekers.
STEPS IN THE MEMBERSHIP PROCESS
The steps in becoming a member at Meadowdance are normally as follows. Each step is dependent on the previous step being completed successfully. These steps do not apply to Apprentices or Visitors, and apply in a modified form to Children and Young Adults.
References to an individual in the following can also be taken to refer to a family going through this process.
We have established these four levels of prospective membership in the belief that a person coming into the community changes and adapts over time, such that the membership process needs to not only help the community understand the person and the person the community, but to take into account how the person changes. The time spent visiting, together with the thirteen months of Seeker, Interim Member, and Transitional Member status, is allotted to give the community and the prospective member time to get to know one another with a real depth of understanding and in a variety of circumstances.
A variety of lengths of time are specified in the process, for instance a one-month Seekership and a three-month Interim Membership. These time periods should not generally be significantly abbreviated or extended.
The community may agree to alter the exact membership timeline for a specific case.
When a person becomes a Seeker and first comes to the community for an extended stay, the community finds a sponsor for the individual, who can answer the individual's questions and help advocate for the individual as necessary. The Sponsor will be on the individual's initial clearness committee (see below). The Sponsor is a Blocking Member who knows the community and can act as a guide. A Sponsor must volunteer when the individual applies for Seeker status. If no Sponsor comes forth, the membership process cannot continue for the individual and s/he cannot be accepted as a Seeker at that time even if consensus has been reached. While it is preferable for a Sponsor to remain with a prospective member through the prospective membership period, a Sponsor may step down at any time in favor of another volunteer if the situation warrants.
It is the Sponsorís responsibility to
ALTERNATIVE TO RESIDENCE DURING SEEKER PERIOD
If an extended, continuous residence is not practical for the Seeker period, this need might be met in part by a periodic visits to the community, in general lasting at least a week each.
FINANCIAL AND PRACTICAL REVIEW
Prior to a person being admitted as a Seeker, the community will perform a financial and practical review to consider issues such as the financial impact of this potential membership on the Community, how much money (if anything) the prospective member will be loaning to the community, available living space, available work, specific life issues the individual might have that could interfere with membership, etc. This review will also consider other practical issues: for instance if an individual has special health problems, it will consider whether or not the Community could reasonably expect to be able to provide the support required for the particular health problem. This occurs before Seeker status is granted and, circumstances permitting, might be performed on request prior to application for Seeker status, for the Prospective Member's information. In this way, the Prospective Member can avoid applying if there are practical considerations that would prevent success of his or her application. The purposes of this review are:
One possible result of this review is that the prospective member is asked to wait until particular changes have occurred (e.g. until the community has accrued a specific amount of money) or offered a place on a waiting list. Another possible result is that the prospective member is told that the community cannot reasonably expect to accept him or her as a member in the immediate future, as would be the case if the community feels it has reached its maximum size.
The review is conducted by a Practical Review Group, which should include at least two Full (Blocking) Members. The Practical Review Group should find out from the Caretaker(s) of each Work Area whether or not there are any issues to consider for that Work Area. If so, one or more Caretaker(s) from that Work Area should participate in the Practical Review enough to satisfactorily cover these issues. Example: If the family has school-aged children, often the Learning Caretaker should be involved in the process to check in on learning impacts. Caretakers of work areas that are always affected by new memberships (e.g. Work Requirements, Finances) might be involved in virtually every Practical Review.
A Practical Review Group is not a standing body, but is convened specifically to consider one particular Seeker application and dissolved when the review is completed. Multiple Practical Review Groups can exist at the same time if multiple Seekerships are under consideration.
A list of questions that must be asked during each practical review should be maintained by the Membership Committee. It should be created and altered only by consensus Arrangement, and should contain both questions that must be asked as well as questions that must not be part of the practical review, if any. The Practical Review Group is not limited to only the questions maintained on that list, but should be sure to ask all of the questions that are included on that list, and to pursue complete answers to each one.
Trust is an important, basic piece of being in community at Meadowdance, and falsifying information or purposely misleading the community during the membership process would seriously undermine that sense of trust. If an adult is found to have given false information during the practical review, regardless of whether the adult is by the time of the discovery a Seeker, Interim Member, Full Member, etc., that personís membership must come up for discussion at the next consensus meeting. If consensus is reached to do so, the individual can be asked to leave because of this falsification.
Participation in Practical Review Groups and Clearness Committees for prospective members should be considered community work under the Membership Group and should be included in work budgeting.
PROSPECTIVE MEMBER CLEARNESS COMMITTEES
For each Seeker, a new Clearness Committee of 2-4 volunteer Blocking Members (including the transitional member's Sponsor) will be gathered. The Clearness Committee should not include close friends or family of the Prospective Member, if possible. If absolutely necessary, Transitional Members can be included in a Clearness Committee.
The Clearness Committee helps the Prospective Member consider:
The Clearness Committee also helps the Prospective Member consider all of the questions outlined in the Basic Principles and Goals section of this document.
The Clearness Committee is charged with helping the individual consider any issues, problems, or entanglements that should be resolved before applying for full membership. Examples include:
- a pending lawsuit or criminal charge
- large, pressing debts that would be difficult for a person to satisfy as a member
- a career or very important avocation that would be difficult to pursue in the community (e.g. translator for the UN, movie actress, politician)
- a personal relationship that needs to be resolved before a decision can be made to join the community (e.g. a marriage that may or may not end in divorce)
- any responsibility that would be difficult to satisfy in the community
- a strong need for one's current friends, location, position, etc. that is not yet resolved
- trouble with or hesitation about participating in the decision-making process
- persisting prejudices, e.g. does not like children, ageism, racism, homophobia, etc.
- serious disregard for oneís own health or other peopleís health
The Clearness Committee and the Prospective Member also must discuss community concerns about respect for children, as well as rape, child molestation and physical and emotional abuse of children and adults.
The Clearness Committee helps the individual consider questions about whether or not the community is the place s/he wants to live. Questions might include addressing how well the individual's needs are met, how comfortable and happy s/he feels in the community, and his/her comfort level with community agreements.
In its initial meeting, the Clearness Committee might ask a series of questions to explore potential issues. A list of suggested or possible questions will be maintained by the Membership Group to make available to clearness committees, but each Clearness Committee will make its own decisions on exactly how to proceed. The prospective member is always able to ask appropriate questions of individual Clearness Committee members, as well as being asked questions.
Some examples of possible questions:
- Can you tell us what attracted you to Meadowdance?
- As you learned more about us, what surprised you, whether pleasantly or unpleasantly?
- What don't you like about the community?
- What do you see being your most difficult issues in being a community member?
- Are there any reasons you might want to reconsider applying for membership?
- I see your family lives in Connecticut now. How do you feel about the move to Vermont? (Etc.)
FAMILIES AND CHILDREN
Families applying for membership do so as a whole, with all family members who intend to live in the community included. In other respects a family applying for membership is much the same as an individual. The Sponsor and Clearness Committee for a family will have additional work beyond what is required to support an individual prospective member, as they must be available both for the family as a whole and for each individual member of the family. Children in the family will take part in the clearness process as much as is reasonable and practical, but may not need to go through all steps of the process in the same way as adults. Clearness meetings will be held both for the family as a whole and for each adult and each child who is mature enough and interested enough to have his/her own clearness meetings; however, it is to be expected that this does not necessarily mean that each of the familyís Clearness Committees will meet as often as would be the case if there were a single Clearness Committee for the family.
In some cases, it may make the most sense to assign more than one Clearness Committee to a particular family, with separate committees working with specific individuals or the family as a whole, to share the effort required for a larger family.
Families that apply for membership as a whole are treated as a whole throughout the membership process. For example, the community may not consider acceptance to Transitional Member status of some family members and not others if the family has applied for this status as a whole.
Community agreements apply to all family members, adults and children. Parents are to some extent responsible for ensuring their children understand and follow community agreements to the best of their abilities.
RESIGNATION, EXPULSION, AND RE-ADMISSION PROCESSES
Processes for resignation, expulsion, and readmission are spelled out in individual, separate policies.