Annual report 2010

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EcoReality Sustainable Land Use and Education Cooperative Annual Report, 2010

EcoReality from Mount Maxwell.jpg

Thank you for your interest in EcoReality. The following steward's reports outline the activities of the co-op over its third year.

EcoReality was founded in April, 2006, for the purpose of creating an ecovillage on Salt Spring Island. Within days of incorporation, we purchased a 4.8 acre farm on Salt Spring Island, knowing that was but a test-ground for ideas, and that we'd require more land to accomplish our goals.

In March 2008, opportunity struck, and we negotiated the purchase of 37 acres of lovely irrigated farmland with two houses in the Fulford Valley, next to what is slated to become 63 acres of community farmland. Carol and Jan spent our first night here June 3rd, with James, Shannon, Sienna, and Rudy joining Carol and Jan in July, and Morris, Susie Anne, and Jesse joining them in December.

Our ongoing goal is to attract additional members, raise capital, and engage the public and political processes necessary to house perhaps 15 to 30 family units in a sustainable, low-cost manner.

Communication Steward's Report (Jan Steinman)

Duties

The communication steward is responsible for acting on behalf of efficient and understandable communications, both within EcoReality, and between EcoReality and the outside world.

This includes:

  • Service as statutory Secretary:
    • keeping and maintaining legal records, such as incorporation certificates and meeting minutes,
    • recording and maintaining legally required information, such as member and investment shares and shareholder information, working with the Finance steward as necessary,
    • taking meeting notes and/or minutes, or seeing that such is delegated and properly executed by a delegate,
    • maintaining and arranging access to public records,
    • filing required reports.
  • Providing mechanisms for organizing, maintaining, storing, and accessing our internal documents, information, and agreements, such as:
    • serving as librarian,
    • maintaining resource inventory,
    • maintaining information infrastructure,
  • Presenting EcoReality's "face to the world," including website, press releases, promotion, and recruiting.
  • Balancing our commitment to radical transparency with the need for personal privacy.

As a servant leader, my job is to make sure our members, Advisory Council, and involved local, regional, provincial and national government agencies, as well as the general public, have all the information they need to work with and within EcoReality. --Jan Steinman 16:58, 28 March 2006 (PST)


Accomplishments

Communications Statistics

Statistic 2006 2007 2008 2009 Change
Home page hits 13,312 18,126 65,438 110,967 69.58%
Meetings page hits 12,970 15,482 96,303 114,335 18.72%
Google references 3,190 3,220 7,940 10,700 34.76%
Emails 2,319 3,020 12,617 20,712 64.16%
Advisory Council 72 116 163 181 11.04%
Email List 72 116 220 327 48.64%
Members 4 4 9 6† -33.33%
Apprentices 0 11 18 16 -11.11%
Newsletters 4 5 13 23 76.92%
Meetings 19 16 65 71 9.23%

† as of end of 2009; three member as of date of this report.

Internal Communications

  • We now have numerous reports available from our database, including:

Outreach

  • Our website continues to be a successful communications vehicle for EcoReality, with a continued increase over prior years. We change the home page information regularly.
    • We continue to push the website by posting it in blogs and social networking sites that are focused on sustainability issues.
  • We hosted tens of guests, visitors, volunteer workers, and prospective members.
  • We continue involvement as volunteers with numerous groups in the greater community, including:

Improvement Opportunities

A number of planned initiatives have yet to be accomplished:

  • on-line resources:
    • resources inventory and tracking
    • time logging system is partially implemented, but is "guru based" and needs a good user interface so individuals can do their own entry
    • project management system needs improvement and more database support
    • keeping track of agreements is currently tedious, and needs database support

Challenges

  • We have been unable to raise the funds needed to secure our land, and anything we want to do in the future is currently in doubt.
  • Labour for doing things is increasingly limited. Our website, email, visitor support, newsletter, and publicity needs have all increased -- but the number of hours in a week has stayed the same! Thus I find I am unable to perform many of the income-generating activities that I did in the past, and the 2010 budget could not provide even partial support for this work as a paid position. This stewardship is not sustainable in the long term without additional support, whether financial, or by factoring off large parts of the job.

Future Plans

  • We are at a fiscal crisis point in our history, and future plans are on hold, pending resolution of our financial crisis.

Jan Steinman

Ecology Steward's Report (Shannon Cowan)

Duties

Ecology Steward - Shannon Cowan

Ecology is the study of interactions between organisms and their environments. As the EcoReality Ecology Steward, I stand for the wisdom and intrinsic value of unobstructed energy flows derived from the sun, and the transformation of that energy as nutrients sustaining biological organisms. This steward speaks for the wisdom and intrinsic connections within the living and non-living elements of the ecosystem: including flora, fauna, cycles of nutrients and water, including the natural timing of processes and cycles of decay as well as creation and maintenance.

This steward's primary task is to represent the conservation of the land-water resource base upon which we humans depend, seeking to mimic natural cycles and patterns. This steward will empower and encourage others to observe and consciously communicate about our human impact on the natural flows of energy and matter in this system.

This steward will learn and practice principles of ecological science, especially pertaining to human production of food within a forest-field non-human ecosystem. This steward will regularly investigate structural information, and collect data where needed to inform decisions at EcoReality which affect the ecology of the site and its surroundings. For example, inspiring self and others in the group to learn and practice tools to measure the effect of human settlement and development on successional stages, the important keystone species and their role in habitat conservation and overall ecological health, the degree of relationship of ecosystem components/factors to one another (trophic relationships, population growth, competition, diversity measures), as well as biotic inventories.

The Ecology Steward is distinct from the Permaculture Steward, who shall deal primarily with how human settlements and buildings are incorporated with the land-water ecosystem. The Ecology Steward will have a large role to play in the site Permaculture Design process and any proposals toward permaculture development at EcoReality.

No Ecology Steward report was filed.

Finance Steward's Report (Carol Wagner)

Duties

The Treasurer is the steward of finances, and speaks for the best interests of those finances, recognizing that money is only a tool.

For example, the steward of a hoe might decide that the best interests of that hoe were in keeping it pristine, in locked storage, never to be touched or dirtied, forgetting that it is only a tool. Likewise, a financial steward might choose to never spend a penny, but invest and grow a group's finances, forgetting that money is but a tool.

That said, the Treasurer is ultimately responsible for the financial health, and that may mean resisting impulsive spending by others.

To that end, the Treasurer's biggest responsibility is to maintain and enforce a budget, which is to be agreed upon by various committees.

Until land for an ecovillage is secured, the Treasurer may also be called upon to manage an acquisition trust fund. The trust fund's money will be "off-budget," meaning it will not be available for the day-to-day operation.

The Treasurer may also be called upon to manage and track labor and other contributions, which are non-monetary credits used to acknowledge contributions of goods, materials, or labor by its members.

In an egalitarian group, the Treasurer is expected to fill a spot on the stewards' council, which is responsible for carrying out policy decisions via consensus. All leaders are expected to act as servant leaders rather than traditional business executives or managers.


My background has been bookkeeping since 1970. For the past 15 years, I have owned and operated my own bookkeeping service. I have been the treasurer for two non-profits. I pride myself in being very detail oriented, and I love to have everything in balance.

As Finance Steward, I will keep track of all the finances in a clear and concise manner. The “books” will be open to examination by any of the members upon written request. I believe in being ethical and right-principaled in my business dealings.

--Carol Wagner 11:21, 19 Apr 2005 (PDT)

Accomplishments

Nearly 2,400 feet of deer fencing was completed at a cost of $6562.42, and we received a grant for $4130.36 for a net cost of $2432.06.

  • Class A Investment Shares as of 31 Dec 2009 are:
    • Carol $326,925.97
    • James $46,617.09
    • Jan $326,925.97
    • Shannon $46,617.11
  • The balance at 31 Dec 2009 in the checking account was: -$1151.16. (with deposits made on 2 Jan 2010 of $4945.64)
  • There is $71,209.79 in Restricted Funds (capital account).
  • There is also $5.00 in Member Shares at Island Savings, for a grand total of $70,063.63.
  • Income Statement (Profit & Loss) shows Income of $22,780.63 and Expenses of $5,892.56, with a net of $16,888.07.
  • The Balance Sheet shows the Total Assets as $1,963,966.85 and the Liabilities as $1,954,069.76 with Equity as $9,897.09.

Improvement opportunities

We need to attract more members to increase our capitalization so we can own the property free and clear. This needs to happen in the next few months, or we will be putting the property up for sale.

Challenges

There is the ongoing challenge of finding more investors, with the standing problem of having nowhere for them to live.

Future plans

At this time (26 May 2010) it looks like the plans are to sell the property and get on with our lives, beyond EcoReality.

Carol Wagner

Program Steward's Report (James Cowan)

Duties

The program steward provides support and resources to anyone doing a workshop, class, presentation or any other kind of event at or sponsored by EcoReality.

EcoReality has a mandate to do programs on a regular basis for education, networking and public outreach.

My strengths as a program steward are in the logistics, planning and resources for events. My love is in supporting others and doing logistics.

The ongoing time budget for this stewardship is 10 hours per month.

Last edited by James Cowan 17:18, 11 December 2008 (PST)


Eleven events hosted by EcoReality

2009 saw EcoReality host eleven events on Salt Spring Island. All of the events related to EcoReality's vision of sustainability and each one touched on food production.

  • Dec 28, 2008 - January 4, 2009 EcoReality Winter Retreat: This was an opportunity for EcoReality members and residents to discuss business items, engage in social activities and do strategic planning for the year. There was one event where we invited the larger community and that was a "Show and Tell" on New Year's Eve.
  • Jan 3, Alec Ellsworth and Shannon presented "The Urgency of Now," a presentation on global crises that they are doing as part of a trans-Canada bike tour.
  • Mar 29 - Apr 4, EcoReality Spring Retreat. Similar to the Winter Retreat, this was attended by members and residents. Again, there was a show and tell that involved the larger community.
  • May 30, Film maker Paul Manly presented his documentary, You, Me, and the SPP, about the growing trend to transfer local power to multi-national corporations.
  • June 12, EcoReality hosted some 20 students from Simon Fraser University, who took part in educational activities in sustainable living, Permaculture, and land development process, in addition to taking part in "hands-on" sessions making soil, watering plants, transplanting, making hay, and much more.
  • June 17, our advisor, Diana Leafe Christian covered a wide range of topic, including recruiting and why people come and go, and why this isn't a problem.
  • June 27, Greenpeace International co-founder Rex Wyler talk on climate change. This event was hosted at EcoReality and included Rex Wyler signing copies of his latest book.
  • July 25, Paula LaPorte of EcoNest. This event was hosted at EcoReality and featured discussions about natural building.
  • August 16, Eco Living Tour. EcoReality was a host on this island-wide event and hosted over 200 people throughout the day.
  • September 18, EcoReality conducted two days of an eight-weekend Permaculture Design Course, facilitated by James Richardson of Vancouver, teaching soil management, appropriate technology, invisible structures, guilds and perennial food systems, and hands-on activities
  • October 1, Starhawk at Fulford Hall. World renowned author came and gave a talk about climate change, transition towns and many other topics around peak oil and sustainability. Almost 200 people attended the event at Fulford Hall. This has been EcoReality's largest event to date and was a financial and public success.

James Cowan

Group Process Steward's Report (Shannon Cowan)

Duties

Duties of Group Process Steward

  • vibeswatching at meetings, gatherings, work parties, events
  • learning what is the pattern language of “Good Process” for this particular group : **includes elements of ritual,
    • facilitation,
    • acknowledging individual voices
    • acknowledging and celebrating co-operative behaviours,
    • giving attention to timing & space management, beauty, inspiration
  • stewarding feedback sessions in whole group about its own process,
    • so individuals can see what they’ve co-created in the eyes of the whole, take responsibility and make necessary shifts to stay on the path
  • learning to observe structural conflict
    • to assist the group in finding a common way forward when it occurs
  • observe and recognize when interpersonal conflict becomes a barrier to Good Process
    • between members,
    • and/or with self-involvement
  • stewarding effective gatherings to work on process issues
    • conflict resolution at group level,
    • heart circles,
    • Compost communication sessions
    • communication skills workshops
    • consensus training
    • facilitation training

Accomplishments

  • Negotiated spot for EcoReality in Facilitation Training Series for Intentional Communities in the region (2 year series – 8 sessions at 8 different communities)
  • Attended 4 of the Series weekends in Facilitation Training Series between April 2009 and January 2010.
  • Facilitated special meetings in May-July dubbed Process Sessions to address large topics in need of group listening and alignment (eg. Consensus, Communication model learning process, stewardship and others)
  • Co-created and stewarded agreement of Communication model learning process
    • researched and compiled data from members and from other intentional communities for individual and group learning in communication skills:
  • Co-created and stewarded agreement of Conflict resolution protocol
  • Co-created and stewarded agreement of Compassionate communication
  • Established compost communication sessions
  • Guided group through compassionately digesting feedback from 2 departured members in July
    • Brenden Morris’ name for this session is apt: it describes a gathering of community members to express any of the week’s feelings (positive and negative, the whole range), emotional content, thoughts or concerns to allow it to be heard, blended, acknowledged and then composted or transformed into rich, neutral soil for growing strong, healthy community members
  • facilitated approximately 20 compost communication meetings July through Dec 2009
  • educational events offered opportunities to develop process skills in generating self-feedback and improvement over time
    • group trust in capacity to improve and move forward together as a team was furthered

Challenges/Opportunities to Improve

The group has acknowledged publicly that we have traveled together through a year of “Process” learning together.

From the beginning of the year, EcoReality members generated opportunities to transform and grow as individuals and in the process of “group”:

  • self-responsibility in the face of interpersonal conflict
  • learning the impact that individual thoughts, emotions and actions have on group
  • choosing actions and activities that create
    • co-operation,
    • trust,
    • enthusiasm,
    • alignment and
    • productivity

Challenges that presented opportunities for this growth and transformation included:

  • 2009 winter retreat in early January
    • group chose to give half agenda time to process unforseen heart issues and festering conflict
    • as skills were still raw and undeveloped, group was minorly successful at this stage
  • Susie Anne and Jessie’s early residency brought more conflict and learning to light
  • business agenda for 2009 spring retreat
    • overturned by heart issues and conflict to process together
      • gaining in mastery
      • use of outside facilitator and learning how that works and doesn’t and what time is needed for it to work in the future
  • May, EcoReality members acknowledged that the challenges of growing “strong personal relationships” were at times greater than the challenges of pursuing other sustainability goals
    • began to gain skill and mastery over preventing the breakdown point at group level
    • pursuit of diligence in personal relationships
    • practiced using tools of personal spiritual development, awareness
    • more skillful choices about guest management
    • choices for priorities of self-care and group-care on equal footing with productivity at various levels
      • farm,
      • development,
      • fundraising and
      • Co-Op administration and finance,
    • improved facilitation, and more.

Future Plans

  • Continued weekly compost communication, including readings, homework and compassionate communication focus (As choice of Communication model learning process that group has made
  • Host Facilitation Training Weekend July 2010
    • opportunity for up to 3 members to have guaranteed spots in training to improve group facilitation capacity
    • offers benefit of outside facilitation and process learning from other communitarians in region
    • offers resource and networking exchange
  • Facilitation mentoring within group from those going through training
  • steward action planning at critical points (April 1, July, September) using process skills
  • to continue to nurture relationships with other ecovillage group process practitioners and communitarians

Shan 20:03, 20 January 2010 (UTC)


Land Use Planning Steward's Report (Jan Steinman)

Duties

The Land Use Planning Steward speaks for the overall land use of the ecovillage. This will be an intensive responsibility prior to ground-breaking, but should lessen thereafter.

Duties and responsibilities prior to ground breaking include:

  • In collaboration with all members, coming up with a Permaculture design and site plan, for both built and natural environments.
  • Research, analysis, and synthesis from the Salt Spring Island Official Community Plan and Capitol Regional District Land Use Bylaw #355.
  • Liaison with Island Trust planners to assure compliance with what might be practical in a re-zoning application.
  • Liaison with public officials about needed zoning and bylaw changes.
  • Prepare and deliver presentations to public officials and at public hearings.
  • "Shepherd" the re-zoning through the process.

As Land Use Planning Steward, I intend to integrate Permaculture ethics, principles, and design patterns with the Salt Spring Island Official Community Plan and the local Land Use Planning Bylaw, to come up with a sustainable land use plan that has the greatest possible chance of getting through the re-zoning process. -- Jan Steinman 17:25, 8 April 2008 (PDT)


Accomplishments

We have had limited activity, because of shifting priorities and the constant wear of looking for funding.

Improvement Opportunities

If funding were secure -- or the responsibility of someone else -- I could put a lot more time into land use planning.

Challenges

Many of our biggest hurdles appear to be regulatory. We are in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and we have to carefully justify in terms of benefits to agriculture, our rezoning and strata development plans.

But the huge underlying issue is that we have not been able to secure the land.

Future Plans

After five years of seeking member-investors with limited success, EcoReality is beginning a new approach. We are seeking a zoning change that will enable strata title ownership of housing. This will make it possible for people to obtain traditional home owner mortgages.

But at the same time, we have to put the property on the market in order to meet our financial commitments.

Jan Steinman

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