Two More Strategies For Responding to People Wishing to Join Your Community

Many people will want to join your retreat community. You need a strategy for how to selectively respond positively to the opportunities some of these people represent and how to absorb them at low risk.

The chances are that from time to time, you will have people approach and ask to join your community, and they will be good people who you’d like to be associated with, but the space and capacity constraints of your present retreat will be such that you simply can’t fit more people in.

Some of these people might be known to you – people who, until now, have been mildly skeptical about your prepping, and perhaps also people who have said ‘I don’t need to prepare, because if something goes wrong, I’ll simply come to you’.  Others might be members of what we term the ‘third wave’ of refugees.

There is of course a degree of risk and uncertainty at opening up your retreat to total strangers.  History is full of examples of people charitably and hospitably welcoming strangers into their homes, only to have the strangers attack them when their guard was down (see for example the Campbells massacring the McDonalds at Glencoe in Scotland, 1692).

In a previous article about accepting more people into your community after TSHTF we concluded

Of course, prior to TSHTF, you also need to exercise a modicum of discretion as to who you allow to join your community, but while you are building your community during normal times, one of the greatest considerations will probably be to simply grow your community as much as possible due to the three benefits of strength in numbers, economy of scale, and diversification of risk.  [We italicize the key part now, not in the original article.]

This is very true.  But what we did not consider in that earlier article was the best way of planning and preparing to add additional members into your community after TSHTF.

Happily, there are more ways to bring new people into your overall umbrella community than simply opening your doors wide and unreservedly welcoming them into your house and life right from the start.

Strategy One – Probationary Members

Here’s a suggestion.  Somewhere on your property, and moderately removed from your main retreat, build a fairly spartan shelter.  If you encounter people who seem to be worthy additions to your community, you can invite them to live in your guest shelter.  You can subsidize their energy and food needs for a season or so, by which time (and under your direction) they should have had ample opportunity to prove their value as hard-working and productive members of your community.  In other words, they first become probationary members of your community, and with less than full rights, and with less than full trust and risk required on your part.

If it transpires that, during the probationary period, the newcomers prove themselves to be worthy additions to your community, you can then help them build a more comfortable secondary retreat, releasing the shelter to accommodate the next group of potential community members.

This admission process also defuses some of the anger and stress of dealing with people who wish to join your community.  You no longer have just the one possible response – an apologetic or aggressive ‘No’ – you now have an impersonal process that allows people to apply for probationary status and to earn the right to become full community members.

Clearly there is a limit to the number of people you can have as probationary members at any time, both in terms of the number of extra people you can fit into your shelter and the number of extra people you can support, and also in terms of a relativity between the number of people in your main community and the number of probationers – you want to make sure that your core group remains larger in total number than your probationers so as not to tempt them with thoughts of taking over from you.

Diversity Issues

You also want some diversity in who you accept as probationers.  By this we don’t mean some sort of ‘affirmative action’ program that allows people who really don’t qualify, on their own merits otherwise, to join your community.  What we mean is that you don’t want to have a large group of people, with loyalties and affiliations among themselves, to join your community and then take it over and make it theirs.

Your initial core community may possibly be a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and places, and it could then risk being overwhelmed by a large unified block of newcomers who end up socially dominating the expanded group, or forming an alliance among themselves with a view to becoming the new power base in the larger overall community.  So you want to keep your new probationary members as small groups of people who have lesser ties to each other and who are keen to assimilate into your overall community.

There’s a historical example for that, too.  Do you really think the Indians who welcomed and helped the original US pilgrim settlers, and at that first Thanksgiving, ended up being pleased with the results of their hospitality, and benefitting from it?

Another example would be the difference between US immigrants 100+ years ago – people who came to the US and who were willing to accept the new values and language and social structure of the US, and some of the more modern groups of immigrants (many of them illegal) who strangely combine a desperate desire to live in our country with a hatred of our country and a desire to preserve their own ways.

Strategy Two – Separate Communities

These social concerns lead to the second potential response for when more people wish to join your established community.  Rather than making them probationary members of your community, with a view to their eventual integration into your community, why not designate an area of your present land and lease or tithe it to the newcomers.  You’ll help them establish a second independent community on the far corner of your land, in return for which you’ll receive a fair annual rent for your land.

You can also establish reciprocal trading relationships with this new community, reciprocal support agreements (if one of you have a bad crop, the other will help out until the next season) and of course, a mutual defense pact.  Your community will be strengthened by the presence of the other community, and it in turn will be strengthened by your community.

In this case, both communities benefit from having a healthy successful nearby second community, and you reasonably isolate yourself from any potential power struggles within the other community.  A group that might have been a troublesome faction within your community has now instead become a positive life-enhancing neighbor.

Plan Your Growth Strategy in Advance

In our earlier article, we spoke about preparing a set of guidelines and rules for who you’d add to your community well in advance, so your present community members understand the way their requests to add their friends and family will be fairly evaluated.

You also need to plan how you will be able to accept additional people into your community – whether as somewhat instant ‘full’ members as discussed in the earlier article, or on some sort of probationary or supplemental basis as suggested here.

You need to have somewhere for them to live, you need to have food for them to cover the time it will take from when they join until when they start to generate enough food to support themselves, and you need to have a plan for what you can do with such extra people, and the additional equipment and other resources needed to make best use of them.  You need to have additional land which can be cultivated or in other ways made productive, and of course, additional land for new people to build houses and settle on.

Of course, your first priority will always be ensuring the viability of the exact group you start with.  But, looking into the future, your viability is massively enhanced as your community grows, so you need a way to respond positively when people who would clearly add value to your community approach you and ask to join.

So, as you plan the initial design and scope for your retreat, be sure that it can be expanded and enhanced.

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