When I first arrived at Planting Justice a co-worker had told me that the canvassing team was a “non-hierarchical” entity and that we were going “full commie/hippie”. I was very excited having come from a very corporate canvassing background, so I was ready to have a say in how my work was run...and perhaps co-operatively run the work with my fellow comrades.
At first I was expecting it to be like the college I had attended in which there was an honor code, as well as the tagline “communism, atheism, and free love”. This honor system that was put in place by the students and was often discussed on campus, the honor code was a living breathing thing by which our school somehow ran itself. My school was extremely inspirational in realizing that the world did not need any rules, and that we could all discuss about how we feel about certain community normalities and how we could collectively run ourselves with them in mind.
After my first couple weeks the team had decided to email their visions for the collectivization process. Then we took a couple of days off the street to verbalize our intentions for the group in terms of individual roles, role rotation, how and where we fit in with Planting Justice, and of course parsing out how we generally work as a team: emotionally, physically, spiritually, and professionally.
These meetings were very helpful, albeit difficult, but in the end it got us closer to where we needed to be to transition over to being a full collective. However as time passed on, tensions grew high again even in our newly non-hierarchical work environment. Soon we recognized that we hadn’t finalized any of our agreements, and that some people were working off different norms in our community. I then went back to my original idea that had come from our first visions initiative.
My vision had consisted of something that was along the same lines of my college’s honor principle. This meant that the team would have to not only discuss the community norms as we had before, but we would have to type them up and have everyone sign a document stating that they all agreed to what everyone had been creating over the past couple of months.
Now while this might seem pretty straight forward, it’s actually pretty radical (duh)! Think about all of the workplaces where people are signing away their souls to some strange corporate entity, or just generally the reality that many people are not getting the respect that they deserve. To me, the community norms that were set up for the canvassing team represent love, respect, responsibility, and equality. In our community we are now more comfortable in holding each other accountable for our roles, creating a safe space to work, and also expressing our true feelings about situations that may arise. It’s also pretty amazing that we were able to write this ourselves, and that the word boss does not apply to our community any longer.
With the risk of this sounding a little deluded, I hope that one day that community norms will become a part of every work place- or just generally every intentional group. The canvassing teams community norms have already inspired the rest of Planting Justice to write up their own community norms, as a whole organization as well as within Transform Your Yard and the Education Program.