How to Write Rules and Agreements for an Intentional Community

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Contents

Introduction

This document is intended to help the reader understand how to produce a legal agreement for their community. It is available at http://www.mitra.biz/communities_plain.htm and written by Mitra Technology Consulting.

Problem

Some common problems found in legal documents of community groups:

  • Many people on the community do not understand the legal agreements they have, or think they are different from what they really are.
  • The legal agreements often do not match what the community would like them to be.
  • People feel disempowered from working with agreements they don't understand.
  • Communities without clear, understood agreements, had much bigger fights, because they couldn't refer to a common agreement. Attempting to put together an agreement AFTER things had broken down, inevitably failed.
  • That while legal documents, and choices for structure, differed widely, the topics agreements covered, or needed to cover, were common.

Recommendation

Producing community legal agreements that everyone is committed to, should follow a process.

1. Figure out what your common vision for the community is - there are lots of ways of doing this, and I do not cover them here, other than some pointers.

2. Work through these questions, figure out answers you can all agree with, figure out what other questions you need answering.

3. Write up these answers clearly, in PLAIN ENGLISH.

4. Take the result to a lawyer who understands community law (most do not!), ask them to put a collection of documents together that follow your plain english draft, make sure they tell you - and don't leave it to you to figure out - anywhere that your plain english draft doesn't match what they have produced. The lawyer should advice you of the appropriate legal structure, some notes on the choices are at the bottom.

5. Make sure that everyone who joins the community reads the Plain English agreements, and gets independent advice that the Plain English version matches the legal one. Typically the way this works is that after the first person has asked a lawyer to do the review, that others can use the same lawyer much cheaper.

Communities that already have legal agreements should follow a slightly different process.

1. Someone familiar with legal docs, should work through the legal documents, take each clause, and put a note into this framework of what the document says (in Plain English) and a reference number.

2. Work through the plain english version with the rest of the community, and check if it is what you really want.

3. If it is not, then go back to your lawyer and ask them how to change your agreements to match what you really want.

More detailed recommendations are available at http://www.mitra.biz/communities_plain.htm[.]

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