As there are two models of productive communities –one that sees itself as a “society of friends” and one that defines itself as a “collectivist germ”-, there are basically two models of community growth. In the “society of friends” model, the procedure is “experiential”: the community’s growth starts from and relies on those who share experiences and projects. In the collectivist model, growth is “universal” –that is, a relatively objective procedure is established, and all those who follow it have the “right” to join as a peer.
In practical terms, however, a problem arises: seldom any of the two models allows for the integration of participants as true peers in the situation. Some members are treated more as “peers” than others. The founding groups, the pioneers in almost any community, hold a different status: equal rights, more responsibility, and more prominence towards the outside world. This is not the result of a hidden power structure. When an intergenerational community proclaims itself to be egalitarian, it is usually sincere. But the truth is that those who go through a long foundational process, as is the case of a productive community, accept more responsibilities afterwards, tend to value more the associated risks and show greater concern with the global development than those who enter an “already-made” community and think that its stability is not an achievement but a starting point about which one doesn’t have to worry. In essence, we are talking about the same problem found in cooperatives or family businesses when they talk about “generational change.”
What makes a community egalitarian is equality in responsibilities: all members are equally responsible for everything, starting with the smallest thing regardless of whether they have direct participation or not. That is a legitimate solution to deal with the invisible line separating “founding” members from “newcomers” in a community.
But, as in any other aspect of life, solutions are never found in “being”, much less in the imposition of a “collective being.” It is not about the creation of rules to manipulate people’s wishes let alone requiring from them a change in how they are.
In a community, inequality between members on account of their participation or not in the community’s foundation stems from the inequality of experiences. Thus this should be our starting point. The aim is that all members become founders –that is, allowing for everyone to have a foundational experience so that he can see the community from that experience. Of course, neither we can think that “all work is done and we can go home” nor we can expect the conclusions of each particular experience to be the same for all, something that is impossible. Learning will be different for each member, but it will be different under a basic equality in responsibility: having to “do it all”, erring on his own, having to “look at everything all the time,” and learning by himself how fragile is every construction. Ultimately it is a process of discovery: that all human constructs are kept alive only while they are in motion.
This is the reason why Mayra and Manuel created Enkidu two years ago and why we are so proud that the Christmas Project arose out of the Club de las Indias. They are two similar ways to build experiential equality in two different types of community, which is, at the end, the true meaning of “making community”.