How to Organize and Govern a Retreat

Thanks Jarhead, for the post idea!

Today I’ll be talking about my personal experience organizing a group of people in a doomstead.  This is one of those subjects, where I think there are as many ways to organize as there are people on this earth.  Use my experience as a guide, but do understand that your people and your situation will demand different responses and different organizing to be optimal.

Unanimous Consent – That’s right, everyone has to agree on what’s being decided. Not every group is run like this, I think it’s quite likely we’re in the minority.  It does have advantages, in that everyone has a buy-in to decisions and direction, so everyone feels ownership. The downside is pretty obvious, with different views and different priorities, compromises are inescapable.  We use a rough form of Robert’s Rules to keep order in meetings, when they are in person meetings.  E-meetings, chats on our personal forum board, these are all much more common right now than sit down in person meetings.

Leadership – There is still a need for leadership, whether it’s a president to lead meetings or a combat leader to take charge in emergencies.  There are lots of meetings, with this method.  Initially we were having a meeting every 2 months.  As we moved out of planning and into building, the pace slowed and meetings became less frequent. Which is a bit of a shame, since they were nice social opportunities. :-)  We have a president, and that works nicely with the next point, which is the business side of things.

Business and Legal – We found that it was best to have an umbrella group to cover the purchases, multiple profit streams and sharing that we wanted to do. We ended up deciding on an LLC  or limited liability corporation; that way we could enjoy the liability protection, the flexibility of multiple owners and share profit.  LLCs don’t have to be organized for profit, and the starting costs aren’t enormous, check out the other advantages if you’re interested.  We created 5 year/10 year/15 year plans to make sure we all knew the direction. We wrote down voting and membership guidelines. (Membership guidelines were defining the distinctions between voting board member and seasonal laborer, between land owner and member spouse and how they fit into the “corporation.”)

Zoning – This is one of those organization things, you really need to figure out all zoning laws that will apply to your land. If you don’t do this, you run into problems if you exceed the number of dwellings or people.  Or if you try to farm something that’s zoned no agriculture. Or if you set up a farm stand in a no business zone. Or if you have the wrong kind of pooper… oh the bureaucracy. This plays right back into the documents/meetings mentioned before, if you have a clear idea of what you want to do on the land, you’ll have a clear idea what to look for in the zoning laws (and which battles to fight.)

None of these things are the exciting parts of working with a group to build a doomstead.  They are more like the bone structure that holds the fun exciting stuff together.  And really, if  the SHTF and you end up hunkering down with people you’ve never met, well, work with what you’ve got.  But if you have a group you’re already sure you’ll tap, and if you have a place you know you’ll end up, lay some of the groundwork.  Save yourself some headaches down the road, by taking care of them now. Now, while you can relax with a glass of wine instead of rainwater flavored with roasted dandelion roots.

– Calamity Jane