Some of the Benefits of being a Full Member
Apprentices and Fellows who successfully complete their three month stay at Windward are capable of applying to become Assistant Steward members of the Windward, and start working towards earning their full membership, so it makes sense to take some time to talk about the benefits Windward members enjoy.
- More Free Time
- Less Wasted Effort
- More Financial Security
- More Physical Security
- Greater Access to Tools and Skills
- A way to Escape the Experience Trap
- More Positive Interpersonal Relationships
- The Satisfaciton of Knowing that You're part of the Solution
More Free Time
A key benefit comes from the way membership changes the "Time is Money" equation. Often money and time appear to be interchangeable, but there's a crucial difference in that you can always create more money but you can never create more time. Once a day is spent, it can never be replaced, and in the long run our time is our most precious resource.
Most people spend the majority of their waking day in job related activities -- things they do in order to have a place to live, food to eat and the monetary resources needed to do the things that bring them pleasure -- for most people a job is a means to an end that has little if any connection to who they are as a person.
One result of that disconnect is that they have precious little time available to pursue the goals and interests that bring them joy -- to follow their bliss.
By way of contrast, Windward enables its members to avoid "the cubicle trap," meet their basic needs in a direct and efficient manner, and still have most of their day free to do the sorts of things that make them happy -- be that gardening, wood working, hanging out with the animals or just lying under an oak tree reading a good book.
In that sense, our membership allows us to live independent, self-fulfilling lives now, not decades from now when we reach retirement age.
How do we do that, you ask? The question's a fair one, but the answer is a bit complex, which is one of the reasons why there's a two year apprenticeship involved in becoming a full member.
Folks at Windward putting on a play
Part of the answer has to do with our ability as a group to take advantage of economies of scale; that allows us to buy in quantity when things are cheap instead of having to pay market rate at the Safeway.
Part of the answer lies in the division of labor; since we're the ones dividing our labor within a cooperative context, we're the ones who get to reap the benefits.
Part of it lies in our ability to trade skills and resources among ourselves, thereby avoiding the market place altogether. The result is that we can get by quite well on a fraction of the funds needed to sustain a person living on their own, and since we simply don't need as much money, we don't have to spend as much time chasing it.
Since Windward already owns the land, buildings and essential equipment, we only need to maintain and improve, which is a lot easier that starting from scratch. And it sure beats having to cope with monthly payments on a thirty-year mortgage :-)
And what's especially neat is that because our monetary needs are greatly reduced, we're often able to generate the modest funds we do need by doing work that would otherwise be considered a hobby. There's nothing nicer than getting paid for doing some creative craft that you enjoy doing anyway.
Less Wasted Effort
Why work a job to earn money and buy eggs when you can raise the chickens yourself?
There are many labor saving devices that we'd all have a hard time living without such as a good washing machine and drier. And while a modern standard of living pretty much necessitates having access to equipment of that sort, it isn't necessary to own them -- which makes it sad that so many people spend a significant amount of their time working to purchase them when all they actually need is ready access, not actual ownership.
That isn't to say that there aren't tools that are particular to a person's interests and craft, things they wouldwant to have control over, but a washing machine isn't likely to be one of them.
Because full members have ready access to a wide range of these basic resources without having to put out the effort to duplicate what the community already owns, they're able to focus their energies and resources on acquiring the tools needed to pursue their true interests.
While the example of a washing machine, or an arc welder, or a sewing machine may not be very exciting, what is exciting is the way this principle amplifies one's ability to meet one's needs -- within the community and without the fuss -- thereby freeing them up to focus their time and resources on the things that really do matter to them, and all without having to sacrifice their quality of life or delay doing the things that matter to them.
In that sense, full membership means that a person can get on with doing what truly motivates them without having to spend years acquiring and paying for the basic suite of resources that we all depend on. In that sense, gaining full membership is like when you draw the "Proceed Directly to Go" card in a game of Monopoly.
Storing away hay duff collected off the floor of a local farmers barn, we provide the service and reap the rewards of extra stores of animal food.
Windward's core assets -- land, buildings and improvements -- are owned by a non-profit controlled by the members through a rigorous set of by-laws. Because these core assets are paid for and can't be sold off or mortgaged unless the vast majority of the community agrees, a member can be confident that they'll be able to enjoy the use of community resources indefinitely.
Since Windward is an "expense sharing" community, they'll still be expected to pay their share of the montly expenses in the form of "dues," but they're going to have to cover some level of overhead no matter where they live. However, because we work together as a team to meet our core needs, we're then more able to pursue our personal interests. Since this type of association creates a much lower cost of living, each of us are free to invest our surplus resources (time, money, talents, etc.) in ways that help us create value, value which can then be traded for what we personally want, or kept as capital for future projects.
It's this ability to provide the necessities through group effort while still retaining the personal freedom to persue one's interests whichs creates a financial security which is very difficult for someone just starting out to achieve in the consumer world where it's everyone for themselves and someone (usually the newbie) is going to get the pink slip.
In this day of endless refinancing and debt consolidation, Windward offers its members the security of knowing that their essential needs can be meet within the community thereby relieving them of having to rely on a for-profit company that might lay them off, out-source their job or fail due to adverse market forces. A full membership in Windward lifts that fear, and ensures that at least the basics will always be covered. It's remarkable how much more creative people can be when they don't have to worry about paying for the consumer lifestyle.
And because our long-term needs are covered, members can take the time needed to develop long-term, income producing projects that wouldn't be possible -- often for cash-flow reasons alone -- if they were working alone and had to cover all their overhead at market prices.
The only thing certain about the future is that it will embody substantial change, and each year the rate of change becomes a little faster. Just what sort of world we're going to be dealing with ten years down the road is anyone's guess.
At Windward, we don't have a crystal ball that tells us what's coming, but what we do have is the time, resouces and skills needed to keep a handful of projects in the development stage, so that we have a variety of options to bring on line depending on what happens down the road. That's important because the more viable options you have, the more financial security you have.
As an individual, if you make a personal decision to invest in something that doesn't work out, you're stuck. As a group, we're working with dozens of potential income generators, and even if most of them don't pan out, then that's okay because some of them will.
A Community Water system that reliably provides for the needs of the community.
One of the problems people, especially single people, have to deal with "out there" is the need to secure their possessions, a problem which is effectively solved by Windward's cooperative living arrangement.
Windward is a place where we feel no need to lock our dwellings or remove the keys from our cars. When a stranger arrives, there's always someone here to greet them and inquire as to the reason for their visit, which allows us to come and go without having to wonder if our stuff is going to still be here when we return. In a day and age when people feel compelled to put bars on their windows and install elaborate security systems, we are quite happy to look out for each other, a time-honored way that not only is more secure, it also feels more secure.
We enjoy delicious water straight from our own well, we can go for a two mile jog and never leave our land, and it's rare to even hear the sound of an automobile, let alone have to deal with the stress of traffic noise. It truly is remarkable to live in a place where it's common to see an eagle on your way into town.
Greater Access to Tools and Skills
Opalyn practicing weaving on a table loom.
In order to achieve a significant degree of sustainability you have to acquire a substantial set of tools and skills such that you can build, maintain and repair your life-support system. You also need a place where you can store all that stuff, and actually find it when it's needed.
In the competitive world, access to those key tools and skills is restricted so that those who have the access can retain a competitive advantage over those who don't, whereas in a cooperative association such as Windward, the incentive is to cross-train and provide mutual support so that the group as a whole is empowered and effective.
By earning a full membership, a person has proven that they're able to participate in that process effectively, and as a result they gain access to the tools and resources owned by the cooperative, and to a conditional degree, to the tools and skills possessed by other members. That combination opens the door to a wide range of options that would not be available to someone starting out on their own in the consumer world.
Likewise, if you're going to develop your own business, you're not just going to need to master your core business, you're also going to need a host of associated tools and skills in order to be successful, and you'll find most of those resources available within the community.
The result is that a full member can look to other members of the community for support and input as they explore a potential market niche to see if it's truly worth developing. Given the realities of the market place, most new ideas won't work out, but the trick is to be able to test market a concept without having to expend a lot in the way of start up costs. That way, if it works, you've got a winner, and if it doesn't, you've not tied up a lot of time and capital, and are free to move on to the next possibility.
This advantage also applies in the area of hobbies. You might, for example, think that you'd like to learn to spin wool into yarn, not for sale necessarily but rather just for the pleasure of producing something for your own use out of Windward grown wool. Using the community's spinning wheel, you can learn the skill, and if you find that it is something you want to do, then you can confidently spend a few hundred dollars you'll need to get just the right wheel to suit you. Think you might want to become a weaver? A few weeks with one of the community's looms will give you enough experience to know if it's something that would justify buying your own loom.
A Way out of the Experience Trap
Twenty-somethings are especially vulnerable to getting caught in the "Experience Trap" which is often described as not being able to get a meaningful job because of a lack of appropriate experience, a lack which comes from not have been able to get that meaninful job in the first place.
Windward's focus on sustainability requires us to cover all the key bases, so it's not that hard to craft a situation that matches a member's interest and goals, an operational profile that enables to build their resume by practicing the skills needed to break through into their target market.
For example, someone who wants to become a resort chef needs a place where she can perfect her skills, and be ready when the season opens and an opportunity presents itself. By building a membership here, she's able to polish her skills, wait for the right opening to come along, and when that chance presents itself, she can grab it confident in the knowledge that she can focus on doing her best for the big-money season, secure in the knowledge that when the season's over, she can return to Windward to rest, recover and prepare for the next opportunity to present itself.
More Positive Interpersonal Relationships
We live in a time when most people don't know their neighbors, not because they're particularly antisocial, but because keeping up with what it costs to live the consumer lifestyle leaves very little time to invest in building friendships or developing common interests with others. Even married couples complain that the demands are such that they find it difficult to take the time needed to work on their relationship.
Windward is not like that at all. Because we have intentionally formed a community of like-minded people who enjoy working with the land, who enjoy working with animals, who enjoy coming together to do things for the common good, whether that's digging a patch of new potatoes or putting up a batch of elderberry pear preserves, we have lots of opportunities to build a sense of common enterprise, of good will and mutual support.
That isn't because of any sort of organizational standard of behaviour; it's just that folks who don't enjoy what we're doing aren't going to want to stay long enough to be considered for full membership.
At Windward we've been careful to strike a balance between the need to come together to do what needs doing, and the desire to go our own way the rest of the time. It's this easy blending of the cooperative with the personal that allows relationships to develop, something which rarely happens in the competitive, consumer world where everyone has to look out for themselves, and make sure that they're not losing ground to the competition.
The Satisfaciton of Knowing that You're part of a Solution
Homemade peasant bread with flour milled at Windward
The old truism still holds; you're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem. And the biggest part of the problem isn't that people don't care, it's that they don't see how they can make a meaningful difference. By working together to create and utilize sustainable systems, our members become living proof that change is possible, that we do have options, and we can make a difference.
And while the direct impact of one working model maybe small, the implications are huge. By showing that it can be done, we not only get to enjoy the benefits, we also get to enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that our example will encourage others to make positive changes in their lives and in their neighborhoods. And that's a very good feeling.