Is there a financial exit strategy for individual members?
The goal in the Biblioterre model is to create a system that balances protection for individual members and the organization as a whole. Members should be free to resign and they should be entitled to reimbursement. The coop should be able to stay afloat even if there is a turnaround in membership. This is why cooperatives operate in Social Capital (see Quebec’s cooperatives act), and also why we ask for a courtesy notice of one year for those members who live onsite full-time.
If a worker member no longer wishes to be a member, they may ask to be reimbursed their $160 membership fee, and outstanding shares they have purchased. For the security of the coop, the coop is only required to reimburse these members so long as it does not put the coop at financial risk. Otherwise when the coop is able, exiting members must be reimbursed. For worker members, we would ask they commit to the terms of their leasehold and share contracts, and/or to keep their share until a new buyer can be found and approved by the coop’s board and sociocracy process. Shares may also be sold. If, for example, a member commits to paying an annual operations share and no longer wishes to do so, they may sell their share to another member, though they must do so with approval of the coop’s board of directors.
For user members who live onsite we would ask at least a two month advance notice of resignation. Any “exiting” member will be reimbursed their $160 membership fee so long as this does not put the coop at financial risk (see article 38 of the Quebec Cooperatives Act).
Situations may become more complex if a member owns an immovable building on coop land, and these rules will be developed over time. Biblioterre’s Building & Housing Circle will provide different housing and contract options for members who wish to live onsite.
How will Biblioterre be financed?
Biblioterre’s finance plan has two phases that work together. These are the Shareholder Phase and the Participation Phase.
The Shareholder Phase
In the first few years of operation, shares will be sold to provide Biblioterre with a financial safety net as the project establishes itself, so that it may transition into the affordable & sustainable participation phase as the main means of operations.
Start-up Shares are sold to organize different contributions towards the down payment on the land. These will be reimbursed to shareholders once the coop has transitioned into its participation phase and is financially secure.
Annual Operations Shares are sold to ensure the security of Biblioterre’s annual cost of operations. These will be reimbursed in two ways:
Monthly – in the form of Biblioterre’s usage fees (monthly land & room rental fees, etc)
Annually – using any revenue Biblioterre has earned in the previous year.
Any share value that is not reimbursed at year’s end will be converted into a long-term contribution, with the same terms as the Start-up shares.
Before contracts are signed and money is exchanged, pledges to purchase shares may be submitted.
2. The Participation Phase:
Biblioterre is considered to be in the Participation Phase once its annual operational costs are 100% funded through the coop’s revenue. Revenue will be earned from the usage fees of members and outside participants who are renting private space (agriculture land, residential land, rooms/apartments, storage space, greenhouse space), and may also include revenue from coop-run businesses. In developing Biblioterre’s usage fees, we have aimed for prices that are affordable for individuals and small businesses, that also lead to a revenue for Biblioterre that will allow it to reimburse its primary lenders, and the social capital of its shareholder members.
For more information on shares, please request Biblioterre’s Shareholder Package
What time commitments are required for each member?
Onsite members will be expected to share in chore duties (likely between 1-3 hours/week), to participate in bi-annual cleaning days, and to help with an annual retreat (time commitment will vary depending on each members’ capabilities), as well as participate in 2 circles. Offsite members are required to participate in 1 circle (they may give more time than this, but this is not a requirement).
Circle participation is important as Biblioterre functions via sociocracy, which is only effective if people actively take part. Circle time commitments depend on how often each circle meets and how much the member participates in the circle. As we are just beginning to create our circles and are not yet on land, it is hard to give a time estimate. However, we would imagine that most circles would meet either weekly or monthly with meetings that last between 1-3 hours. There may be some circles that meet less and some that may ask members to do work beyond circle meetings. Meetings may also include group actions (i.e. Forestry Circle meets to make trails).
There is also some training required for all members: Indigenous Cultural Competency, Non Violent Communication, Introduction to Sociocracy, and Anti-oppression. Onsite members may be asked to complete additional training in the future, but this would be something that they would help to decide.
Is there a possibility of negotiating hunting and fishing on the land? How come there are no policies around animal safe space for the sovereign space?
The idea for Biblioterre is to create a space where collective ethics can be practised in order to make a bigger impact, and to cultivate a supportive environment where “limitation breeds innovation”. The Biblioterre model can be thought of as an “all-out ecological truce”, wherein we hope to demonstrate the connections between the problems that our planet faces. In the best of cases, animals are our pets and service animals. Otherwise they are our workers, our food, our pests, our clothing, our household products, our aphrodisiacs, our insults, and our medical test subjects. Or they are the invisible collateral damage of human development.
We recognize that many people may maintain reciprocal relationships with non-human animals that include hunting and fishing; taking only what is needed, honouring the life given, and giving back through gifts and thanks. Although there are better ways to hunt, better ways to treat work animals and more humane ways of exterminating pests, our culture has not yet broken through the concept that animals are here solely for human benefit, each with a dollar value. It is only in relatively recent history that the scientific world began to refer to animals as conscious and sentient. Now our planet is facing a mass extinction crisis due to human behaviour, and so Biblioterre would like to do a project that compensates for what is normal; that in a small way takes on the problem of extinction and animal subjugation creatively, by declaring an animal safe space, and attracting members who want to problem solve and encourage a deeper respect for all species. Animals have given to us humans without adequate reciprocity. We are in “debt” so to speak.
If Biblioterre is effective in its practices of ecosystem restoration, we can help ensure that populations of wild animals are healthy in surrounding areas (which will benefit humans who wish to hunt as well). We can track and observe deer populations for cases of Chronic Wasting Disease. We can create and preserve animal causeways that assist predators and prey in migration and safe road crossing. We can incorporate wild foods into our food forests to distract wild animals from our community gardens. Some members of Biblioterre would like to operate a small refuge for abused and neglected farm animals. Though Biblioterre would prioritize the wellbeing of these animals, the animals may have the added benefit of providing therapy, education, compost and tilling for community needs, even if they are not raised for food or money. Without a bottom line, we can build barns with more advanced fire protection technologies. There are endless ideas we can experiment with, if the community is willing.
When creating policies for Biblioterre, we tried to balance personal freedoms with societal ethics. People may do what they wish in their own personal space, but in shared spaces they would agree to follow collective policies. We are not trying to pass judgment on hunting, fishing, nor eating animals. Members of Biblioterre would be free to hunt and fish offsite, just not on Biblioterre land. This being said, if Biblioterre were to exist on the on a lakefront, a lake might not be “owned” by Biblioterre and thus would not be subject to Biblioterre policies. We hope that members of Biblioterre, who decide to fish would still practise respect and reciprocity while sharing in the gifts of the lake. In addition, we understand that there is crown land adjacent to many properties where Biblioterre’s policies would also not apply. We encourage members who may wish to hunt and fish near Biblioterre to please honour the safety of other members who may be using nearby spaces.
Any Biblioterre policies do not apply to the sovereign space. Our intention with the sovereign space is to not restrict hunting, but rather to recognize Indigenous sovereignty by encouraging participants to connect with traditional hunting practices as a means of reconnecting with traditional ways of seeing. Along with a loss of land, Indigenous cultures have had their languages repressed, and these languages embody a different outlook on animals. These languages contain views of animals and nature as family, as relations worthy of gratitude and respect. If we are going to advocate for ethical hunting practices of any kind, what better place to start than with this initiative?
There are so many unforeseeable possibilities that will unfold over time. There may be droughts and food shortages or infestations, or other circumstances that may cause us to sit down and revisit our animal safe space policies. This is what we want. We want a space where people can philosophize and criticize ethics, so that we are not blindly following rules but agreeing to a project that we all believe in. We hope by starting with the policy as it is we can set a precedent for discussions in the future.
Policies of Biblioterre are not set in stone. However, as we make decisions via sociocracy, all members must consent to any changes, and any changes must respect Biblioterre’s vision, mission, and pillars. Members of Biblioterre have agreed to keep Biblioterre land as a “safe space” for all beings regardless of race, gender, class, age, ability, sexuality, and species. This includes those beings who would otherwise be fished, hunted and farmed. If it is essential to you to be able to hunt on the same land where you live, you may not wish to live onsite.
Indigenous allyship – What is the vision around this part of the project and where is it at now?
As many know, Indigenous traditional land acknowledgements are more common these days than ever before. The main criticism these acknowledgements receive is that they are too “safe” and don’t go far enough. Though they demonstrate an important truth about the land Canada is built upon, they do not provide instructions for where to go next. Some of the starting members of Biblioterre have been exploring the questions around land justice for many years, in order to pay proper respects to peoples and cultures who have known and loved this land before us, and to develop a deeper relationship with the land ourselves.
Currently we have Indigenous advisors to our land project with whom we have shared many long conversations with over the past few years. They have given us a personal connection to the knowledge we have otherwise gathered from books, films, speeches, events, and friends, and they are connecting us to new people and to new ideas.
We have issued a call-out for project submissions from Algonquin project-leaders, with openness to people of other backgrounds Indigenous to these lands. To learn more about the kinds of responses Biblioterre has received, please speak with us directly.
Biblioterre’s idea for the 50% sovereign space initiative, is to collect different project leaders whom we trust to care for this land, who from there will reach out through their various circles of influence to bring in other project leaders who they trust, and thereby build this project organically over time. Biblioterre wishes to facilitate access to a space where people will feel safe and entitled to connect to land and culture without judgement. Biblioterre is seeking land near to the Gatineau river, which means we would be situated in the middle of a long north-south travelling route that connects several Algonquin communities. By simply opening up a piece of land, we could express a more meaningful acknowledgement of our place on unceded Algonquin territory, and help demonstrate a land-sharing model to other Canadian land-lovers. Biblioterre maintains a Allyship Circle, wherein members discuss this project on a regular basis and provide support to participants in the sovereign space, because the discussion is ongoing and infinite.
Which other intentional communities have inspired Biblioterre?
Inspiration comes from every community, be they pros or cons; they influence and shape Biblioterre’s model. Every current member will have a different inspiration.
Models mentioned in (Earthaven Ecovillage member) Diana Leafe Christian’s book, Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities, shaped the layout of our policies. The book teaches of the 10% success rate of intentional communities, and shares all the many ways of best preventing failure. We also read Communities magazine (delving into articles that explore how to address the tendency of intentional communities to lack diversity), and documents of other intentional communities (including Dancing Rabbit, OUR Ecovillage, Twin Oaks, TerraVie, TerraPerma, Whole Village, Green Valley Village, Denman Island, Valhalla Farms, and others).