We’re Launching the Lifeboat Academy!
It’s our latest and biggest project:
The Lifeboat Academy
at Highgrove Farm and Commons
Imagine if there were a living lab – a physical space in the community – where we could sustainably feed ourselves, heal the local ecosystem, and learn how to work in harmony with nature and each other – would you want to be a part of it? Now imagine an interconnected network of these local labs scattered around the globe, sharing information and resources to get through, and even thrive, whatever might be coming.
That’s the vision behind the Lifeboat Academy at Highgrove Farm and Commons – to develop a model of resilience and regeneration at the person, place, and community level that can be easily replicated by practically anyone in their home community.
A Social Benefit Company based on the Fair Share
All our work is based on the idea of the “fair share footprint.” We see this as the foundation of a new, healthier way of thinking about resources and the economy, one that can heal the damage done by extractive capitalism. We believe that each person should have access to their “fair share” of resources and that with that comes an obligation to care for those resources responsibly. We also believe that we are all better off when we find ways to work together effectively for mutual benefit.
That vision is baked into our organizational DNA. The enterprise will be set up as a Social Benefit Corporation, so our commitment to the community and the environment will be written into our by-laws and as an on-going experiment. Those commitments will be converted into tangible goals against which our performance can be measured.
The work will be guided by a Stewardship Council with 16 seats to represent the diverse needs and interests of the people served by this common pool of resources, building on Elinor Ostrom’s rules for effectively managing the commons using Sociocracy 3.0 as a framework for cooperation.
A Place-based Action-Learning Commons
The experiment is focused on maximizing quality of life within a sustainable footprint. We see this in very concrete terms. We estimate that Highgrove represents the “fair share” of 16 people – the resources available to feed, house, and provide for our needs. Our first big production goal is to be able to provide the equivalent of a complete diet for 16, with minimal outside inputs in a way that is carbon-neutral or carbon-negative and resilient in the face of climate chaos.
The enterprise is also an experiential, place-based learning centre, staffed by 6 caretakersfarmers and 2 interns with space for an additional 8 learner guests. In addition, we will make our learning available online to support a network of virtual learners and “lifeboat builders” around the world. Our first big educational goal is to support the establishment of 100 new place-based lifeboats.
The enterprise will be financially independent, with multiple income streams to provide additional financial resilience. We anticipate income from food production, value-added food services, onsite visitors, online learners, and special events. Profits will initially be re-invested in farm / community infrastructure development and eventually invested in adding more footprints to the commons by investing in other local living labs.
All of this work, though, depends on freeing these 16 footprints from the bonds of extractive capitalism. That’s why we are seeking project partners in this work. We are looking for people who are willing to invest in this vision for the future. Specifically, we are looking for “fair share holders” and those willing to invest in 10-year social performance bonds.
Social Impact Bond Holders
Bond holder dividends come in the form of tangible progress on the pro-social goals of the enterprise:
- A demonstration of carbon-negative, climate-resilient food production.
- Increasing local food security.
- The creation of structured affordable housing.
- Increased bio-diversity, eco-system health and carbon sequestration.
- The establishment of 100 local, place-based resilience networks.
- A demonstration of effective, non-coercive forms of cooperation and mutual aid.
- Dissemination of resilience and regeneration skills through onsite experiential opportunities and an online community of learners.
Bond holders have the added benefit of being able to leverage their equity in the project and the assurance that their investment is backed by the real estate value of the properties in the event of non-performance.
Fair Share Holders
Fair Share Holders are individuals, groups of individuals pooling resources together, or organizations. Fair share holders benefit even more directly than bond holders. They have the opportunity to serve on the Stewardship Council and have access to the shared pool of resources. For example, a local arts organization could use the commons to host community events. Likewise, in addition to knowing that their investment is backed by the real estate value of the property, they get a special “insurance policy” in the form of the right to come and live within the supportive, resilient community we are establishing in the event of social disruption.
Have questions and want to know more?
We have a more thorough proposal and FAQ here.
Hear from our partners:
Founder of the Bioregional Catalysts and Weavers Guild
“Who couldn’t use a lifeboat in these crazy times? How about one filled with community members who all want to see the best for each other? Ben Kadel and collaborators are bringing years of experience and a lot of heart to this project. I’m excited to see how this evolves.”
Social Change Consultant / Owner Wit Works Ltd.
“I’m excited to be creating a human scaled, humane environment where we can do our best, based on effective thinking and social research, building human resilience.”
Collaborative Home Ownership
PhD Student, University of Victoria
“This work fundamentally rethinks the structure of our food systems and communities, building resilience and adaptation at local human and ecological scales. This comes at a time when we need new models and new leaders to elevate and emulate new ways of thinking and acting to address embedded social and ecological issues that allow growth and healing at all scales.”
Rebecca S. Krantz, PhD
“I have been a friend and colleague of Ben’s since the mid 1990s when we met in graduate school in Wisconsin. I have worked as a farmer, a social scientist, a community organizer, a group process consultant, a leadership coach, a philanthropist, and a writer. In many of these roles I have benefited from Ben’s ability to synthesize and make accessible ideas and practices from many disciplines and walks of life. The Lifeboat Academy project particularly appeals to me because in the coming changes, we are going to need more of what Margaret Wheatley calls islands of sanity: Places where we can reconnect with ourselves, each other, and the more-than-human world; where we can learn and practice resilience, restoration, regeneration, and re-indigenization. I am looking forward to the journey.”