The right way to expel someone
Throwing someone out of their income sharing intentional community is not like asking them to leave a club, or even firing them from their job. You are stripping them of their social network, work opportunities, health insurance, housing, childcare system, vehicle access, personal accounting services and more. If we throw you out of the commune, you need to start over again from scratch. This is why we try to be very careful about it.
Acorn uses a consensus based system, which gets especially tricky around throwing people out of a group. Ideally, you can do “consensus minus one”, which really means everyone in the group except the focus of the expulsion process (and any romantic intimates or dependents). In the past, Acorn had a contentious member who was a hard worker and had a number of allies. Members who wanted this person to leave, felt there was no chance to find a consensus, and so (in part) the controversial member did not feel like they needed to do much to take care of the concerns of those who were upset with them, because in part they were secure in their “tenure” type position, and they felt the people bringing up the issues were being too sensitive.
Acorn is now looking again at it’s expulsion policy. Irena’ proposal is we link this to the regular clearness process and if some group of people feel like their concerns are not adequately addressed in the clearness process they can request another clearness in less than 3 months to make sure it can be completed. Presumably, this will get around the problem of controversial members dragging their feet in these processes. If the concerns continue unaddressed, then the membership will vote on whether the person can stay, and if over 50% of the full members say they can, then the controversial member can stay and their clearness process is complete.
The problem with this plan is that it moves power disproportionally away from the person being expelled to someone who might want them thrown out. If unmodified this policy will occasionally have the opposite of its desired affect, where we have given the tool for removing someone to a single member who does not have their thinking very clear about the person in question.
For someone outside of community it is easy to think “Well, this single person complaining will not overwhelm the 50% vote so things should turn out fine”. This would be true if you could eliminate the “process fatigue” aspect of the proposal. The problem is when peoples membership status is on the line, even when there is virtually not chance they will get expelled, they freak out about it a least a bit and often more. They just want it to go away.
In the worst case, a single person who is upset with another member, could drag out their clearness process, say that they were not satisfied with the focus persons response to their concerns. This can have an acidic effect on the person who’s process is incomplete. They feel badly treated by community generally, rather than the individual specifically, because the communities process is creating the problem.
And as is our way at Acorn, Irena’s proposal is going to get tweaked to avoid this problem, before we make it policy. Stay tuned.