Managing the Members of Your Prepper Community
If you follow our advice, you will seek to create or join a community retreat of like-minded folk rather than attempt to survive on your lonesome.
The inescapable reality is that one person, one couple, one family, even one extended group of family and friends; all these small groupings of people are probably too small to viably survive a Level 3 and possible even a shorter Level 2 scenario (defined here). See our section on Communities for articles on the need to be part of a larger community.
As you probably already know from personal experience, it is difficult enough keeping everyone on the same page in any small family unit with a more or less understood hierarchy of authority.
This problem grows as the community size grows, and probably in an exponential rather than linear manner, and as it loses the bonds of family, it becomes even more anarchic. At the same time, an appropriate and cohesive community government and management is clearly essential, and becomes more necessary as the community increases in size.
With a very thin line separating success from disaster, and with no external support resources eager to come rushing to your aid if there are problems, you have to optimally solve all problems that come your community’s way; you have to get it right every time, and you need the unanimity of support of your people united behind you in common purpose. You have to be able to organize and manage the people in your group and to have them working cohesively together, rather than doing a dozen different things, a dozen different ways, with no coordination.
How to achieve this?
Even Homogenous Groups of People are Naturally Very Diverse
Even if your prepper retreat community is only your own extended family, that is probably an enormously diverse group of people with very different views on things, and of very different ages and backgrounds.
You might have the weird aunt, the obstreperous uncle, the drunk cousin, the addicted nephew, the strong-willed imperial grandmother, the aged infirm grandfather, the rebellious teenager, the left-wing sister and the right-wing brother, and a spouse that you either do or don’t get on well with, to say nothing of all the other stereotypes that uncomfortably end up taking roost in all families.
Invite in another family group, and all of a sudden you have all their foibles too.
As you become a community of people from different backgrounds, you’ll also encounter very great differences in personal and financial power. One person might be struggling to make ends meet, the other person might be a dot-com millionaire. One person might be a high court judge, and the other might be a high-rise janitor.
Indeed, here’s an interesting paradox. With all due respect to the millionaire and the judge, both of whom are used to being in positions of great authority and view themselves as very successful and very wise; when it comes to surviving in a Level 2 or 3 scenario, it may well be that the much more practical skills of the janitor or working class wage earner are more helpful and valuable, and the life/world experiences of these people more attuned to deciding how to operate the community as a whole.
There’s another point as well. Just because you are all apparently united in terms of being concerned about how to survive possible future adverse events, that does not mean you agree on much at all. You might have different views about which possible risks are the most important and which are the least important. You might have different views about how to prepare for and respond to each risk.
You might have different views about how the community should be funded, and different views about the community’s social values. Some of you might anticipate a dystopian ‘Mad Max’ type of future, others of you might cling to a utopian hope of the nobleness of spirit of people allowing for a cooperative graceful decay in social support without major disruptions. Some of you might seek to mandate that everyone be trained in self-defense and carry weapons with them all the time; others of you might wish to create a gun-free oasis where everyone treats everyone else with positive courtesy and respect. Some of you might be beyond Attila the Hun on the extreme right of social values, others of you might be way to the left of Marx.
How can you accommodate all these very different opinions and value systems in your community without coming to blows and having your community splinter and fail?
The High Stakes Associated with Your Community’s Values and Direction
Some people might think ‘we won’t have any problems, because we are all fellow preppers, so we all have a common set of values’.
Unfortunately, as we have just touched on above, the concept of being ‘united’ because you are all preppers is a total fallacy. This one point of commonality no more unites you in all other respects than would, well, all owning Chevrolet cars, or all liking music performed by Bob Dylan.
Because you are not just debating a trivial point like whether you should go out for Mexican rather than Italian food, or whether you should open the cabernet or the merlot, but instead are discussing matters which you view as being literally life and death, we anticipate that levels of heated argument could quickly become the norm rather than the exception.
One person might believe that the most important risk to protect from is that of nuclear attack/radioactive fallout, and is insisting that you all live in underground bunkers with hydroponic systems in the lower levels for food, whereas the person adjacent sees that as a non-event and instead worries about an economic collapse and insists on developing a self-supporting rural economy with everyone living above ground and working outdoors in the fields.
Another person might believe the most important risk to protect against is an EMP event, and insisting on creating a lifestyle that does not rely on vulnerable electronics at all, which the person opposite embraces technology and insists on using it as much as possible to help enhance the community’s standard of living.
There is the person who believes it will be necessary to dedicate most of the community’s resource to building an impregnable fortress against the certainty of repeated and sustained attack by hostile forces, and next to them there is the person who sees little or no danger from other groups and wishes to concentrate on building up sustainable resources and to live in ‘regular’ housing rather than thick-walled castles.
How then can you possibly hope to find a middle path that pleases everyone?
That’s a trick question, because the answer to it is ‘You can’t and shouldn’t’. It is an unachievable impossible objective, and one best not attempted.
For example, if you ask the person wanting to set up in a deep underground cellar to instead agree to live in an above ground rambler, you are asking them to sacrifice their fundamental precept as it applies to prepping. They won’t do that.
And on the other hand, if your community ends up with both above and below ground structures, and simultaneously is both high-tech and low-tech, and is founded on principles of peace, love, and the nobility of one’s fellow humans while at the same time requiring everyone to be armed and ready to use deadly force, well, that’s not a community at all, is it. Which leads to a clear conclusion.
You Can’t Please Everyone
You should not try to create a community that is exactly what everyone wants. Clearly it is impossible to combine some of the polar opposite viewpoints, even in the limited examples in the previous section.
While there truly is wisdom in crowds, and it is beneficial to have a broad range of opinions and viewpoints in your community so that all matters are considered; at the end of the day, you have to focus your limited resources in some areas and de-emphasize other areas. You have to prioritize your prepping activities and undertakings.
You don’t want to be myopic and single-minded in your approach to what you do, but you do want to be focused on doing some things well, and having a clarity of mission and purpose. It is definitely true that none of us have a guaranteed accurate and complete understanding of what the future may hold, and so we need to be open to a range of possible future outcomes, but it is also definitely true that we don’t have limitless funding to create a robust survival solution for every possible future risk. We have to focus and prioritize.
As we start to focus and prioritize, we start to become a more attractive proposition to some potential community members, while becoming less appealing to other potential members. Hopefully the one part balances out the other part, but the important thing is that people who join are doing so having already, up front, agreed with the basic concepts of what the community will be all about.
The Community Mission Statement
Noting how ideally you will become a group of people with a reasonable number of shared values, it makes sense to codify these points, so that everyone understands what they are.
You need to create a community ‘mission statement’ – a similar sort of thing to a corporate mission statement – a statement of purpose for your community, enshrining its values, assumptions, and priorities.
Corporate mission statements have become a lot fuzzier and less focused, and have become cluttered with a bunch of politically correct irrelevant nonsense. The more specific you write your mission statement, the clearer a ‘guiding light’ and directional purpose you have for the future.
If you say ‘we are creating a hippy community practicing free love and natural living with lots of magic mushrooms and other lifestyle activities’ then people can choose to join it or not. You might instead say ‘we are adopting a strict Amish/Muslim/whatever approach to our community and everyone must fully comply with the lifestyle and philosophy underpinning it’ then again people are free to become a part of that community or not.
Once you have decided on the guiding principles and general direction and focus of your group, people can make an informed decision if they wish to participate, with the understanding, knowledge and acceptance of what it is they are joining and signing up for. The key thing is that people understand what they are getting involved with, and will hopefully self-select so that your community members are supportive of your community’s core values and precepts.
Sure, some people will choose not to join your community. But that is okay. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t try.
Here’s a rather academic analysis of corporate mission statements that might be worth reading, if for no other reason than to see the handful of sample corporate mission statements it highlights within it, ranging from very short to quite long.
If you do read the linked analysis, you’ll see that in part they are fairly dismissive of corporate mission statements. But a corporation has other governing documents over and above its mission statement, and it exists within a huge abundant morass of legislative requirements for how and what it does, and so it doesn’t ‘need’ a mission statement quite as much.
Your community is starting with probably no governing documents at all and little in the way of legislative oversight, and anticipates a possible future where legislative oversight may be even less present than it is now. And, unlike a corporation where the only things at risk are people’s jobs and investments (not that these aren’t important!) in your community, you’ll be facing life and death issues. The stakes are much higher for your community than for any company.
What Should You Put in a Community Mission Statement?
Think of a Community Mission Statement, perhaps, as you would the US Constitution – you want it to be broad in principle, but also reasonably short and easy to understand and not open to misinterpretation. It should be general and talk about the concepts at a high level – the overall strategies rather than the specific tactics.
As an example, the US Constitution says, in its sixteenth amendment
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
All this does is to allow the government to collect taxes. It doesn’t set tax rates, or specify deductions, or write anything like that into the Constitution, those details are subsequently managed by passing laws that conform to the Constitution.
The Constitution – and your Mission Statement – is and should be a document which is semi-fixed in form and difficult to change. The laws made by the governing body are more readily enacted and amended, and the regulations made under the laws are even more readily made and changed.
The Mission Statement should have general statements about the moral and social principles the group will adhere to, and how its governing structures will operate and be appointed. The Constitution should also have details on how it too can be changed or modified.
Ideally, you should also prepare a broader code of governance (ie the equivalent of the laws that have been enacted under the Constitution), and we’ll write more about that in subsequent articles. But, first things first, and so you should start off, right now, with a mission statement, or ‘definition of purpose’ or ‘reason for being’ or ‘plan of management’ or whatever else you want to call the document.
You’ll almost certainly come up with subsequent documents in the future, and make changes to what you start off with, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
Now for some very important things.
First, do we need to point out that this should be a written document. Don’t just think about it, and then tell people who will be joining you ‘This is our mission’ and talk casually about your general thoughts. Spoken words can be forgotten or misunderstood or disputed. Written words can indeed also be misunderstood and disputed (that’s what lawyers do for a living!), but at least they are there, on paper, and provide a starting point for subsequent discussions and analysis of ‘so what did we actually mean when we said that’.
Second, involve everyone currently identified as participating in your community in the creation of the founding document. You’ll want to do this carefully, and you’ll want to give everyone a chance to ‘buy in’ to the concept. Have a series of meetings where you draft and then think about, then revise and think about the form and content of your mission statement, and work through it until you’ve come up with something everyone agrees upon.
Now – one important thing. Although we are urging you to obtain broad agreement from all ‘stakeholders’ in your new mission statement, you don’t want to compromise its content or water it down to a meaningless jumble of empty statements – to use an example from above, you don’t want to end up with a community that will be half in an underground bunker breathing air through anti-radiation filters, and the other half in sprawling unprotected ramblers above ground.
If you can’t reach agreement with some of the people who are planning to join/form this community with you, then you should be delighted that you are having this discussion and disagreement now, prior to TSHTF, and at a time when you are not talking about life or death decisions and implications, and when any of your group can still back out of your community concept gracefully and switch to other communities more closely aligned with their views.
While you don’t want to force dissent and divisions, you do want to get the basic ‘ground rules’ understood and accepted now, and if you can’t get agreement, don’t end up with a useless compromise. Dissolve your group and form a new group with a more closely shared common view about how you wish to approach the future.
Another important thing – once you have created your mission statement, get every present and every future adult member of your group to sign a document acknowledging that they have read the mission statement, that they have had it explained to them to their satisfaction and they are sure they understand what it means, that they have had all the opportunity they need to ask questions and get answers about it, and that they accept the mission statement and agree to abide by it as a member of the community, and that they agree that if they subsequently have issues with the mission statement, they will either work through the formal designated approach to get the mission statement changed, and/or (if not successful) agree to either leave the community or abandon their dissent and appropriately and positively be bound by the mission statement as it changes.
This statement should also acknowledge that if the mission statement subsequent changes via the provision for amending it that exists, they agree to accept the revised mission statement, and/or to attempt its orderly change or to leave the community.
Get them to have their agreement notarized, to further stress their formal acceptance. This is analogous to the Naturalization Ceremony that new US citizens go through. They are tested on their knowledge of the US constitution and general form of government, and then they have to complete a formal oath agreeing to respect and uphold the constitution.
This agreement from each member may or may not have any legal force and binding nature at all, but it has a moral status associated with it. If someone complains, you can say ‘I understand your feelings, but you agreed to this when you accepted our mission statement – see, here’s your signature on the form here; and if you’re not comfortable with it now, you know what your choices are’.
It gives you the moral high ground, in other words. How you choose to use that moral high ground is up to you!
A Possible Form of Compromise
Although we said your community can’t possibly include groups of people with starkly opposite views, that’s not to say you should rudely reject such people when you encounter them. Because there is an underlying point of commonality – the desire to prepare for and to survive an uncertain and troubled future. You agree on that, you just disagree on how to best do this.
Why not suggest – and even help – people with different perspectives to set up neighboring communities. You can have the hippy commune to the north, the low-tech EMP-safe community to the south, the nuclear bunkered people to the west, and the high-tech group to the east.
If it turns out their view of the future is more correct than your own, then you might benefit greatly from their presence! And if your community and their community is both flourishing, you have trading partners, a broader diversity of people and resources, and enhanced ‘safety in numbers’.
You are still free to build your community the way you wish, and by welcoming neighbors, this in no way detracts from your vision and mission.