3 Income Sharing Models
We had the second Point A meeting at the Keep, which was a bit smaller yet felt stronger. We spent a fair amount of time describing some of the more important income sharing models which are being used in the intentional communities movement. It felt desirable to describe them here.
Twin Oaks intentionally has the simplest of income sharing models with regard to membership. You are either a member, and thus part of the income sharing group or you are not part of it. There are some minor (but important) differences between provisional members (who have not yet been in the community for 6 months) and full members (who have been thru their full member poll, have been in the community for over 6 months and basically have tenure), the most significant of these is health insurance and dental care.
What Twin Oaks is trying (and largely succeeding) in doing is creating a classless (internally) society, where no one has greater access to the collective resources once they become a member. All the income from the businesses is pooled and the group collectively decides how to distribute it. Almost everything the community provides is distributed freely to the members and there is not a seniority or merit based preference for resources. [Open rooms are filled on a seniority basis, based on when you first moved into that residence, not when you first moved into the community.]
Acorn is less worried about creating a single classless group and more interested in the flexibility of longer term “guest workers” which we call interns. Interns are not members, they are not co-owners of all the property and resources of the community and they have a specific period of time which they have been approved to live and work in the community, typically 6 months of less.
To the untrained eye, there is little difference in the day to day life of interns at Acorn when contrasted with members. They have to have their own health insurance and they dont get to go to the member portion of the community meetings. But they do get the monthly stipend of $75 like regular members and they have the same labor obligations, housing situation, and general access to resources that members have.
Acorn complicates the situation further by having Associate Members who need to spend at least 2 but no more than 6 months of the year at Acorn. Associates do not have health insurance or a voice in the member-only portion of the community meetings. Regular members must do clearnesses with associate members if they are around during their time when they are doing clearnesses, but need not with interns.
Again, with the exception of seniority based room selection, everything is distributed without preference to seniority or work performance. [While described separately, i consider the Twin Oaks and Acorn Income sharing systems to be basically the same and thus only counted as one distinct model.]
Our sister community on Staten Island uses yet another model. The core members of Ganas own the community and all it’s assets. This is occasionally described as a group marriage, because unlike Twin Oaks and Acorn, this part of the community is both income sharing and asset sharing (TO/Acorn are only income sharing).
The next ring of membership at Ganas is workers, there are members who are actively part of the several businesses the community own, including the book store/cafe, the recycled clothing store and the used furniture store. They get room and board and several hundred dollars per month.
Renters at Ganas do not work in the collective businesses but are still part of the meal plan for the community. They pay a few hundred dollars a month for their rooms and can attend community meetings if they like (these are actually open to everyone including non-members) though they usually do not.
The Gizmo and The 3 Tiers of Income: EGFS uses a piece of software they wrote called The Gizmo to balance the community labor+money desires (expressed by the annual budget) with the labor desires of each member. The community inputs the community budget in money and house labor (meal prep, cleaning, maintenance, etc). Then each member tells the Gizmo if they have income generating labor and if so what their hourly wage is and then what mix of house and income labor they’d like to do. The Gizmo takes the budget, the wages, and the preferences of everyone, chews on it, and then spits out schedules for everyone in both income producing and house labor. Everyone then owes those hours and that money to the house. A person can work over quote for their job or for the house (overquote house work pays an agreed upon wage) and keep that money for themselves. There is a cap to these private earnings, though.