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The interns have been talking a lot about collectives and cooperative living recently. On Monday, November 14th, we went to The Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley where a member, who has been there for over twenty-five years, talked to us about the pros and cons of working in a collective. We sat on benches in a horseshoe shape and listened about how it took years of consensus decision making to decide on credit card machines or raises, all the while posing questions about how they deal with conflict resolution when there is no “boss”, about profit sharing, and how to hire someone new when every one of their thirty members has to give the okay. It was all very interesting and exciting, if not a little daunting. It is a radical idea in today’s society that everyone gets equal pay and equal say in a business no matter how long they have been working there.
Two days later we sat down in our own house as a group of interns to work out a community contract. I did not really know what a community contract was before Wednesday and, honestly, I’m still a little foggy. What I think it is going too look like for us is a list of positively worded statements describing how we would like to see the intern house function and how we should communicate. All the interns have to agree with all the statements, and then we all sign. The purpose is to make us more aware of everyone’s expectations and to hold ourselves accountable to each other and our agreements. Hopefully we will live in a cohesive and collaborative way and be able to use the community contract to head off any disagreements and conflicts that we may have in the future.
For me, this is a new way of living in a community. There is a lot of process involved, which I see as being both good and bad. But I hope that overall our discussions on how to communicate and appreciate everyone will create a healthy and happy living situation for the interns.
Nathan started volunteering at Hidden Villa six years ago, shortly after graduating from San Jose State University. After coming back from a slew of volunteering opportunities in South Africa (Habitat for Humanity, an animal rehabilitation clinic called C.R.O.W., and group called Feedback) he started looking for more community service in the Bay Area. He applied for an agriculture internship at Hidden Villa because he wanted to learn more about how to incorporate local organic farming into a larger societal perspective. Nathan comes to Hidden Villa from Weaverville, a small town nestled in the Trinity Alps of Northern California.