Communal income generation

One way to have impact as a commune

Zarinah Agnew
May 28, 2018 · 8 min read

Over the years, the embassy community has been lucky to generate enough funds to put energy into projects we really care about. We have used the funds to create 2K in subsidized housing funds for people who need it, we have created a Solidarity Fund, we have organized free anti-violence & conflict resolution training, we have raised $800 in funds for therapy for those who need it but can’t afford it. We have helped fund security deposits for people in need (moving costs are abominable when you are living on the breadline), we have put 1000’s of dollars towards legal fees for our Second Life humans. This has been one of the ways that through collective living, we have managed to be greater than the sum of our parts, and this is how we do it.

Ceci n’est pas un hotel ❤

Our medium term guest program (32 consecutive nights or over) serves many functions, which I consider to be integral to our project. Guests coming in keep fresh ideas and life blood flowing through the place. They help ensure that the embassy is a node in a network with genuine flow, not a house with closed doors. We form deep bonds with many of our guests, and so many of them go on to be founding members of new and other spaces. Thus our guest program ensures that there is communal life blood flowing through the great artery that is the commune. Moreover, our guests really hold us accountable to what we say we are doing. They often want to question our carbon footprint, hear about our decentralised systems and governance, they ask us the probing questions that we need to be probed on, and have great ideas about how to solve them.

In addition to this, our guest program serves as an income generation stream. Our financial model is roughly such that residents cover the cost of running the commune, and surplus from our guest stays goes towards our social impact funds. In practice this isn’t always the case, at times we under budget / over spend for the commune, and income from the guest stays subsidizes things. We’ve had some ‘ceiling falling in’ disasters that have cost a fair bit and didn’t leave time for us to save, and in those times, having guest income and savings has been a real bonus.

Cobudget funds, went towards legal fees for the formerly incarcerated community & our revolutionary prison syllabus

We use a platform called cobudget for this collaborative funding. Collaborative funding is a way for people to influence decision making about how collective funds are distributed. By giving decision making control over the budget to the people who put those resources there, we all share control and responsibility for how those resources are used in a fair, functional way [].

The Embassy Free Store — funding by cobudget funds, and stocked with the things guests and residents leave behind

Communal income generation is amazing (totally different from work)

What has been surprisingly moving for me is the process of collaboratively generating communal income. That is, collaborating to generate funds that you know isn’t going to be spent on yourselves, but on people and projects that really need it. This is an amazing way to garner agency back in a disempowered world, and to be able to shape the world around us.

Radical Chambermaiding :) it doesn’t feel like labour when it’s for communal purposes

I found that I enjoy the process of curating the guest experience even if that is doing laundry and making beds, in a way that I do not when working in a hotel, knowing that my time and labour is going to fund meaningful projects. I find joy and meaning in ensuring guests feel welcome and are also questioning both their and our norms through their stays with us. This is a wildly different subjective experience from usual alienated labour that many of us engage in for our means to earn a living. I say this to make the clear distinction between a commune paying someone to do a job so that they have the means to pay their bills and survive, and a commune paying someone one to perform a task that supports communal income generation in order to engage communal impact and empower others to do the same.

Then of course, the process of collaborative spending is also wonderful. But more than that, the process of having collaborative impact, is deeply meaningful for many of us. So here then, are a few of the projects that we have funded over the last few years, with the income that our much treasured guests:

The Anarchist Library, funded by cobudget funds; guests get a personally selected book for the duration of their stay.

Thank you to all the guests, that have come through our doors, and have contributed to these projects:

Empathy & conflict resolution workshop // Funding Target : $750 // Accepted Funding : $547

“We are hosting a two day workshop on Mindful Communication and Conflict Resolution at the embassy this weekend. The facilitators are doing it bc they believe in the anti-violence training so much, but I’d really like to be able to pay them properly.I am collecting donations but would love some more so that we can make this sustainable.

Event blurb Mindful Communication and Conflict Resolution is something wall need to work on. Our facilitators have been trained as Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) facilitators, and aim to will bring a new and distinctive style of workshop to the community. About Micheal A one-time graduate of MIT, Michael Brodheim ended up spending nearly 35 years in prison. While there, he encountered a conflict resolution program which forever changed his life. He emerged from prison a better person, not bitter in the least. One of his goals in founding MiCore is to create a prison-to-employment pipeline for formerly incarcerated men and women who, like himself, have been trained as conflict resolution facilitators.”

Prison Books // Funding Target : $300 // Accepted Funding : $53

“I am spending a fair bit on sending books into jails and prisons, and would love some help! These are a mix of their personal requests and also those listed on our

Embassy Free Store // Funding Target : $80 // Accepted Funding : $80

“Coat hangers to be installed on walls outside of the embassy to freely distribute clothing (from lost and found and other items)”

Dinner funds for the John Muir School // Funding Target : $100 // Accepted Funding : $100

“John Muir students and their families need either a $100 donation so they can buy ingredients for Back to School night. This will buy 10 lbs. of salad mix 12 lbs. of carrots 1 case of mixed bell peppers 1 case of mixed citrus 1 case of cucumbers”

Contribution to the EN Solidarity Fund // Funding Target : $500 // Accepted Funding : $369

The following are priorities of the Solidarity Fund are

  1. To create a financial commons where residents can come together organically to support each other financially
  2. To alleviate the stress of financial hardship and provide a supporting framework for self-reliant recovery
  3. To disperse the risk and uncertainty of lending
  4. To replace the oppressive mechanisms and agreements of lending with unwavering trust and acceptance

The Embassy Network Solidarity Fund is a completely open and transparent pool of money that anyone can access. Anyone may contribute, and anyone may take. This allows individuals to write their own rules around contribution and taking. The fund will have two stewards from each participating house to facilitate the transactions. The recommended concept behind contributing to the fund is that it is a donation to the commons. You are allowed to withdraw it in the future if the money is available, but it may not be. The recommended concept behind taking from the fund is as a loan up to $1,000. This fund is able to be perpetual if everyone uses it to overcome temporary hardship and pay it forward.”

Subsidized Rent Fund //Funding Target : $1,000 // Accepted Funding : $1,000

“I thought it would be nice to be able to offer a subsidized bunk for people who wish to stay with us but can’t afford it. We’ve done this a few times in the past and was previously been used. If we can do this regularly, then we can build up a little reserve for this!”

Second Life @the Embassy // Funding Target : $150 //Accepted Funding : $150

“As some of you know we’ve been building home with the Prisoner Rentry Network. So far this is a twice monthly D & D night, which has been really wonderful. The formerly incarcerated people (a.k.a. Second Life humans) have started coming to our group muse events and lectures also. I’d love a small budget just to order dinner together, buy resources for them and so on.”

Help Zhenya Fight the Venezuelan Food Crisis //Funding Target : $500 // Accepted Funding : $500

“I am working on a farming project in Caracas that will help set up rooftop gardens for families struck by famine — so they can grow their own food. Venezuelans have been living with hideous food shortages for the past 18mo and the government has halted all food imports. Urban communities have suffered the biggest impact of this politically created famine.

I am going to Caracas on August 1st with an organization called Regenerate to do nutritional assements and help local physicians address malnutrition in the urban slums. I will be advising Regenerate and local communities about the types of food that should be grown to meet the nutritional needs of the population.

As close friends, you may understand that this topic is near to my heart as I myself grew up amidst a severe food crisis in the former Soviet Union/Russia. Thank you so much for your support!”

Therapy fund for those who need it // Funding Target : $400 // Accepted Funding : $400

“There are lots of people in our community who could really benefit from some professional care but don’t have insurance. In the past, this has been paid for by housemates in an informal way, here I am asking for $400 for a specific person in need which I think will pay for 2 months of therapy.” [we did this twice, hence the $800 in total]

Creating an Anarchist Library // Funding Target : $200 // Accepted Funding : $200

“The idea would be to select 10–15 books from the book collective on Haight and to host a remote library in the house. My hope is that it will be educational and interesting, create awareness for guests around some of the things we read and study as a group, and will also drum up awareness about the book collective”

Embassy Network

Communities experimenting with culture and commoning

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