The right way to expel someone
Throwing someone out of their income sharing intentional community is not like asking them to leave a club, or even firing them from their job. You are stripping them of their social network, work opportunities, health insurance, housing, childcare system, vehicle access, personal accounting services and more. If we throw you out of the commune, you need to start over again from scratch. This is why we try to be very careful about it.
Acorn uses a consensus-based system, which gets especially tricky around throwing people out of a group. Ideally, you can do “consensus minus one”, which really means everyone in the group except the focus of the expulsion process (and any romantic intimates or dependents). It has never proven to be the case that anyone who has been in the community for more than a few months has no friends who will stand with them to block an expulsion process and thus few have started.
Acorn is now looking again at its expulsion policy. Irena’s proposal is we link this to the regular clearness process and if some group of people feel like their concerns are not adequately addressed in the clearness process they can request another clearness in less than 3 months to make sure it can be completed. Presumably, this will get around the problem of controversial members dragging their feet in these processes. If the concerns continue unaddressed, then the membership will vote on whether the person can stay, and if over 50% of the full members say they can, then the controversial member can stay and their clearness process is complete.
The problem with this plan is that it moves power disproportionally away from the person being expelled to someone who might want them thrown out. If unmodified this policy will occasionally have the opposite of its desired affect, where we have given the tool for removing someone to a single member who is not thinking very clear about the person in question.
For someone outside of community it is easy to think “Well, this single person complaining will not overwhelm the 50% vote so things should turn out fine.” This would be true if you could eliminate the “process fatigue” aspect of the proposal. The problem is when a person’s membership status is on the line, even when there is virtually no chance they will get expelled, they freak out about it a least a bit and often more. They just want it to go away.
In the worst case, a single person who is upset with another member, could drag out their clearness process, say that they were not satisfied with the focus person’s response to their concerns. This can have an acidic effect on the person whose process is incomplete. They feel badly treated by the community in general, rather than the specific individual, because the community’s process is creating the problem.
And as is our way at Acorn, Irena’s proposal is going to get tweaked to avoid this problem, before we make it policy. Stay tuned.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]