Open Source Real Estate Development
The Open Source Movement is one of the most fascinating models to emerge from the technology revolution. Wikipedia (which is Open Source) describes Open Source as "a philosophy, or pragmatic methodology that promotes free redistribution and access to an end product's design and implementation details". Open source is not a new idea, but it gained a new name and profile when software engineers encountered a fundamental disconnect between their training - where they learned the timeless principle of engineering that intellectual property is shared to enable civilization to invent new and better - and their employment, where their work is then deemed proprietary, trade-secret, copyright, patented and closed in way that throttles invention to serve the pecuniary interest of investors who indirectly paid those engineers. The problem with the closed system comes when the companies use their fiscal and legal power to provide products or implement systems that are profitable for their investors, but do not well serve the people who buy or use them. On the one hand, corporations have proved to be a most effective way to organise people to get things done (because people will work hard for pay), but on the other, sometimes what they do is not good for humanity or living systems.
In the computer industry, open source means that one buys the hardware, but the operating system and the templates to use the hardware are developed by people committed to freedom. This web site is written using open source software that provides not only the source code, but then a very flexible template so that ordinary, non-technical people can tailor the template to fit their needs.
The idea that VillageTowns are open-source real estate development came from a background discussion between a US journalist and ViTo author Claude Lewenz in preparation for a video interview. In giving analogies, Claude explained "it's sort of like the open source movement - you buy the hardware, but the operating system is free... both free to use, and free to change." The lightbulb went on, as both realised this was the opening line for an elevator speech, and indeed in subsequently testing of it, people get it.
The hardware includes the land, homes, plazas, public buildings and commercial work places. People pay for that just as they would buying a computer or Android cell phone. The operating system is the governance document, what the Stewards call the Social Contract. The template is found in the three books, most notably in VillageTowns - the Next Step.
The future villagers pay for their buildings, and the purchase price includes a small percentage that the Stewards collect to seed the next project. However, the Stewards do not collect the net profits from the economies of scale derived from subdivision and simultaneous construction of 4,000 homes. Instead those profits are retained by the organizing company. When the project is built, the Stewards turn over the stock in the organizing company to the citizens who live in the VillageTown. In this way, the community secures economic wherewithal to secure its own freedom - both economic and social.
The other aspect of open source is how it is created. It is a team effort of volunteers who bring their skills together, self-organise and work hard to make a functional toolset that others can use. This is no different than a community where volunteers step forward to take care of various community concerns. It is similar to the jury of ones peers, where based on theory that a group gets it right more often than a sole professional (see James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds). The Dynamic Engagement process used by the VillageTown during its design phase is based on this same principle.
To be clear, the process used by Dynamic Engagement is probably closer to the jury system than the software programmers because to participate in programming, you must be an expert whereas to be on a jury, you only need to be a citizen with some common sense. Like the jury, the future villagers are supported by professionals and they work within a formal framework. The experts advise them on what works and what does not work in creating a design code, but the values that govern that code come from the people who must live with the results.
It's your life, it's your money and it's your future home.