The great thing about governance at Breitenbush is circles. We’re not squares up here, nor do we move in straight lines, and we certainly don’t rely on the pyramid for our power structure either. At Breitenbush it always comes back to the circle, both symbolically and in applied practical terms. Meetings provide a good example. We have lots of them, (it’s how this organism of a worker-owned co-op communicates with itself), and they always take the form of a circle—doesn’t matter if it’s the office team of 6 people on a Monday afternoon or the full membership during Business Renewal Days in February. Each meeting begins with a circle of hands and silence—to ground the energy and attune the group—then progresses into personal check-ins, followed by the agenda, finally closing with another circle of hands and silence.
There are circles within circles here and governance flows and spirals through them all. Ultimately, the power rests in the Members circle, a group of workers who have all lived at Breitenbush for at least one year (some for many more than one), and who have been accepted into membership by the Board of Directors at some point in their history. This Members group meets several times during each year to discuss and decide matters of great importance, such as next year’s capital improvements projects, or the Conditional Use Permit with Marion County, or the cumulative number of cats allowed to live here with their respective workers (currently 9). From the Membership ranks are elected the Board of Directors (BoD), a circle of 5 people who meet nearly every week, with a mandate to manage the affairs of the business and community. BoD agendas can be very broad, ranging from creation of the annual budget for the new fiscal year (a three month long dance between the Board, all teams and the Directors, involving every worker on land), to how to humanely capture or at least temper the demands of the raccoon who invaded the village last winter and learned to use the cat doors installed for the benefit of the afore-mentioned 9 cats. The two-year term of each Board member is a demanding job and comes in addition to the regular job held by that worker in one of the teams.
The symbolic function of the circle is to welcome and to include all within it, on equal terms. These circles of doing and being are held within the larger circle living in relation with Breitenbush—the tribe of deer in the meadow, the cycles of the seasons here, and all the people who relate to this land and these waters as sanctuary.
Peter – Business Director