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Boundaries of Sustainability in Community-Oriented Organizations

Dilemmas for non-profit, non-monetarized and relief organizations (Part #1)

Membrane of sustainability around a community-oriented organization
Practical dilemmas in managing the membrane
Towards resolution of these dilemmas: the vital exchange
Transactions supportive of sustainability
Assessing transaction validity
LETS transactions: a possible way forward

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This is an effort to reflect on the strategies and policies appropriate to "non-profit" organizations (including NGOs) in a turbulent socio-economic environment under a variety of fairly well-known pressures. The assumption is made that, to some degree, such organizations are -- or could be -- "islands of sustainability". In some cases their appropriateness might well be of extremely limited duration -- for which "sun set clauses" would be desirable.

.However it is assumed that there are other circumstances for which the creation of more enduring initiatives is appropriate. It is questionable whether quality of life should be tied to an obligation to leave a community in response to economic pressures. It is the sustainability of these enduring initiatives under difficult circumstances that is the focus of this reflection.

In a turbulent socio-economic environment -- in which social safety nets are either non-existent, inadequate, or in process of being eroded -- these reflections are also considered relevant to community structures needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of that community. Such structures may be partially or completely non-monetarized. This would notably apply in the event of economic or financial collapse in the wider community when some form of "relief" organization is required. In such a context it is assumed that short-term policies, maximizing response to immediate needs, are not necessarily sufficient to ensure such sustainability.

Defining "sustainability" has become a fashionable game for many -- if one cannot do it, then define it? An early business definition of sustainable development was "sustainable competitive advantage". The sense that sustainability might necessarily have some kind of enduring quality to it is now also subject to challenge. Whether it will come to be reframed as equivalent to "planned obsolescence", or simply "profitability", remains to be seen.

In what follows, the emphasis is placed on not-for-profit organizations that exhibit a measure of significant continuity in roles designed to enhance quality of life in the larger community. The challenge of predatory and parasitical "non-profit" groups, that are also characteristic of a turbulent environment and "un-civil" society, has been considered elsewhere (/bank_x_h_1).

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