Notes from Windward: #67


With a Little Help from our Friends

Walt goes into how things get paid for at Windward

     Todd recently suggested that it might be a good time for some comments on how Windward funds itself and the work it does. One way to describe our organizational structure is that we're an expense-sharing cooperative; each on-site member pays monthly dues currently set at $400/month which cover the basics such as a place to stay, food, utilities, use of the laundry room, storage, internet access, etc.

     Windward doesn't have a common business where we work in exchange for room, board and pocket money. We could do that, and many communities have gone that route, but we just aren't willing to invest that level of control in our corporate structure. If we wanted to work for the corporate machine, we would have--and once you hand financial control over to the corporation--even your own corporation--you've started down a slippery slope. We're much more comfortable keeping the corporation financially dependent on the membership.

     Instead, each member works to develop their skills and interests to the point where they can become financially independent within the context of the cooperative. Financially, a person can be said to have made a profit when their income exceeds their expenses; by working together as a group, we're able to use principles such as the division of labor, the economies of scale and the accumulation of capital to meet our common needs far more easily, and quickly, than we could if we were trying to go it alone.

     Moreover, within our network we have a remarkable range of skills and insights such that we're able to build on each other's skills to create value, value which can then be traded for income.

     Just the shift in mindset from "making money" to "creating value" goes a long way towards transforming work from something which one does in order to live, into a way that we can express the values that give our lives meaning. Because our overhead is low and our resources broad, we're able to develop income streams that wouldn't be lucrative enough if they had to bear all the costs incurred when living alone. Part of the secret as to how this works can be found in observation that a joy shared is doubled while a burden shared is halved.

     One way we're able to cover the basics so cheaply is that Windward doesn't have any paid employees. We do ask each person on site to put in two hours a day either operating Windward (such as cooking the noon meal) or improving Windward (such as building the propagation green house), but that's roughly the amount of time that most people expend getting to and from work, so it's not an imposition. Beyond that our people work on the projects that interest, enhance or just simply amuse them.

     Some months we have more funds to apply to operations than others, depending on how many members are currently on site. Over the years we've had as many as seventeen and as few as three members on site, which is one of the reasons why we've steadfastly refused to take on debt for anything other than land. When there's more people here, more work gets done, and when there are less people on site, work still gets done, just not as quickly.

     In practice, our members have typically contributed more than the minimum dues. This is our home, our opportunity to pursue our interests, and so we spend our surplus funds developing the parts of Windward that reflect our interests. Since sustainability must necessarily encompass all our needs, it doesn't really matter what aspect of sustainability someone wants to work on--what does matter is that growth is happening and good things are being developed.

     In addition, we have a network of friends who appreciate what we're doing and contribute towards various projects. A good example of that would be the 8'x12' greenhouse we're using to create our propagation facility. It's a very nice unit made from all-heart redwood with polycarbonate sandwich sheathing. Barbara bought it when she was living in California, and when she decided to make the move to Washington, she donated it to Windward. Todd and his brother carefully took it apart and hauled it north, and our 'terns, both this year's and last, put in a lot of work preparing the thermal storage foundation, and reassembling it.


     As an example of another funding source, we recently received some much appreciated recognition from the Explorer's Foundation, an honor that was accompanied by a donation to further our work. Those funds are being used in part to purchase an unusual, 1 1/2" dump valve that will play a key role in our medium-size aquaponics system.

     As the Beatles sang, "(We) get by with a little help from our friends." If there's a project at Windward that interests you, and that you'd like to see move forward a bit faster, then ear-marked donations are welcome.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67