We’re Launching the Lifeboat Academy!
It’s our latest and biggest project:
The Lifeboat Academy
Imagine if there were a living model of resilience right in the heart of your community – a physical space where we could demonstrate ways to sustainably feed ourselves, heal the local ecosystem, and 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 models scattered around the globe, sharing information and resources to get through, and even thrive in, whatever might be coming.
That’s the vision behind the Lifeboat Academy – 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 Place-based Action-Learning Commons
The heart of the model is a living experiment focused on maximizing quality of life within a sustainable footprint hosted in an experiential, place-based learning and retreat centre.
All our work is based on the idea of the “fair share footprint” as the foundation of sustainability. We see this as the key to a new, healthier way of thinking about resources and the economy, one that can heal the damage done by extractive capitalism.
A small team of dedicated caretaker/farmers are given the challenge of providing the equivalent of a complete diet for the “footprints” we steward, with minimal outside inputs in a way that is carbon-neutral or carbon-negative and resilient in the face of climate chaos.
Visitors have the opportunity of living and working alongside this team to experience for themselves the beauty and benefits (and challenges) of a regenerative lifestyle. We hope in this way to inspire new “lifeboat builders” around the world and support their efforts through webinars and online support.
A Social Benefit Company Based on Food Sovereignty
Ultimately, community resilience depends on local food sovereignty. We believe everyone should have access to their fair share of resources, which comes with an obligation to care for those resources responsibly. And we believe that caring responsibly and cooperatively for the land is good economics.
That vision is baked into our organizational DNA. The enterprise will be set up as a Social Benefit Corporation (B-corp), so our commitment to the community and the environment will be written into our by-laws and, as part of 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 one seat to represent each “footprint” and 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.
The Stewardship Council coordinates efforts for the overall good of the whole and tasks out access to and care for particular assets through agreements or leases. For example, a local arts organization could use their “access” to the commons to host community events in exchange for managing and caring for the event space.
The enterprise is set up to be resilient financially as well. Part of that resilience comes from multiple income streams. We anticipate income from food production, value-added food services, onsite visitors/learners, online learners, and special events and retreats. Profits will initially be re-invested in farm / community infrastructure and eventually invested in adding more footprints to the commons by investing in other local learning commons.
All of this work, though, depends on freeing these initial 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 stewards” and those willing to invest in a 10-year social mortgage.
The social mortgage works much like a traditional mortgage, but the interest on the loan is paid 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 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.
Mortgage holders receive payments from the B-corp to pay down the principle and 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.
The social mortgage in essence allows caretaker / farmers free access to the land in exchange for the opportunity to convert hard work, intelligence and care into earned equity. Eventually, these efforts will allow the B-Corp to hold the land in trust at the community level to ensure perpetual access for those willing to care for the land.
Fair Share Holders / Stewards
Fair Share Holders are similar to traditional shareholders of corporations. They own a legal, tradable share in the company along with the right to shape the course of the company and how profits are shared. The major difference is that shares for the company are capped at the number of “fair share footprints” that the property represents. As shareholders in a B-Corp, these rights come with the responsibility to care for and steward the resources of the property to support our community and environmental purpose and a commitment to the on-going experiment.
Fair share holders may be individuals, groups of individuals, or organizations. In other words, people may own fractions of a footprint. Shareholders have access to the shared pool of resources in exchange for taking the responsibility of caring for those resources. The flexible share structure allows people to invest with as little as $1,500 (for a 1% portion of one “fair share”), with access to resources (and responsibilities for care) scaling with the proportion of fair share ownership.
Eventually, fair share holders have the possibility of earning an “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. Again, access is proportional to share, so for example, someone with 25% of a “fair share” could have access to the living in the community 25% of the time – in essence a sort of “intentional community timeshare” which we like to think of as our “timeshare-croppers.”
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.”