Of course, that begs the question of what to do with what works.
I’ve been thinking very hard about three quotations, the first two of which are very similar.
John Gall said this (which is known among system thinkers as Gall’s Law): “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.”
Kevin Kelly has been saying something very similar: “The only way to make a complex system that works is to begin with a simple system that works. Attempts to instantly install highly complex organization …without growing it, inevitably lead to failure. … Complexity is created, then, by assembling it incrementally from simple modules that can operate independently.”
Finally, add to these quotes one by Buckminster Fuller, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
This is exactly what we are doing in the egalitarian, income sharing communities–building a new model of a way to live that is sustainable, fair, and fun. And when you look at the Gall and Kelly quotes, it’s clear that the only way to do this is start small, like at a communal level. (An example of how not to do this is to take over a large country and try to install a communal system from the top down. Lenin tried it. It didn’t work.)
So how do we get from a few little communes to social change? I’ve already talked a bit about this in my piece on networking.
But the first step is to grow the movement. If there are forty communes on the planet now (my complete guesstimate from my piece last week), how could we grow that to eighty (effectively doubling it)? Why aren’t there more communes?
The problem isn’t that it’s hard to start a commune. New communities start all the time. The problem is getting communes to succeed. As I also said last week, I know of one relatively new commune that is already gone and another two that have basically merged into one (because both weren’t doing well). I also know of several other communities that are struggling and may or may not make it.
There are three reasons for this. One, it’s hard to start anything and make it succeed. The survival rate for communities is similar to the survival rate for new businesses. Two, this is social change and there’s a reason social change is hard–if it worked it would change society, and there are a lot of vested interests that don’t want that. It’s an uphill battle to build a commune. And, importantly, three is that many folks who try to start communities don’t know what’s really involved. As someone I heard say, they pay attention to the ‘hardware’ (the buildings and land and physical systems–even solar panels and crops) and not to the ‘software’ (the relationships between the people in the community). And they are surprised when the commune doesn’t work.
All this being said, if we want real change, we are going to have to build a lot more communes. At this point, we know a lot of what works and doesn’t work. (If you are thinking of starting a community, I’d suggest you click on the section here on Creating Community and read the articles there. There’s a lot of wisdom there from people who have done it.) And I believe that if 90% of new communes will still fail, we are going to need to start a hundred more communes, to get our next ten.
And I think that this is something worth doing, since I believe that egalitarian, income sharing communities are one of the modules for building a new world.