Declaration of Values of the Botton Village Community

Herein we declare the principles and values on which a sustainable way of life shared in common with disabled and vulnerable people has gradually evolved in this Camphill community; values whose intrinsic worth and social effectiveness have been borne out in daily practise and continuing re-evaluation over more than fifty years.

A practical idealism informs the way of life in Camphill communities. It springs directly from two sources: the significance of Christ in the evolution of mankind and the earth, and anthroposophy, a modern, holistic view of the human being as elaborated in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

From these twin foundations we assert the following, which we hold to be self-evident truths:

Declaration of Values

1 That every human being is a sublime creation; an imperishable, immortal being evolving towards freedom through repeated lives on earth. Thus each person is a citizen of two worlds, the earthly and the spiritual, and each is a threefold being comprising body, soul and spirit.

2 That all human beings are created equal in their humanity, but unique in their gifts and limitations. That is, each is equal by virtue of the divine image of the human being impressed within, yet a sovereign individual in outer expression. And further, that their essential spiritual core is whole and healthy. This is true even where the physical instrument may be damaged or inadequate.

3 That every human life has meaning and purpose, and is subject to influences which cannot be ascribed to chance alone. Hence the particular destiny of each person, no matter how constrained, is in reality an opportunity for growth. This view underpins the conviction that a lifelong burden of disability is no arbitrary misfortune, but has far-reaching significance as preparation for a future life.

4 That every human being is endowed with certain inalienable rights, fundamental among which are: freedom of self-determination; equality before the laws of the nation; brotherhood with all mankind. No one may demand these rights for himself without also according them unreservedly to every other member of humanity, irrespective of nationality, race or creed.

5 That every human being is his brother’s keeper. This moral imperative to take active responsibility for the wellbeing of one’s fellows cannot be abrogated to the state, or to any institution. It becomes socially effective only when actively practised by each individual towards others. To this end, the creating of such conditions as will meet the full spectrum of spiritual, social and physical needs of its members is a necessary endeavour of any civilised group or society.

6 That all human beings are enjoined to assist in working to promote the good on earth, and thereby to further the progress of humanity. The good cannot be achieved merely by thinking, no matter how enlightened, nor simply by feeling, no matter how compassionate (although both may be powerful incentives), but only through altruistic action springing from the sovereign power of a moral conscience. This cannot be legislated for.

7 That every human being is endowed with self-will as a primary force for initiative, and may be used for good or ill. To curb it from becoming selfish by placing it in the service of higher aims is a cardinal virtue in any community which shares a common vision, for without such willingness to sacrifice personal volition when necessary, unrestrained self-will becomes destructive.

8 That no human being is an island. To be human means to live in mutual interdependence with other human beings, trusting in their differentness as a wellspring of collective strength and resilience. This precept is the touchstone for an ethical social life and may be summarised as:

The healthy social life is found when in the mirror of each human soul the whole community is reflected, and when in the community the virtue of each one is living.

9 That the true purpose of work is to meet the needs of others. This is an immutable law that applies in all realms of social life, and was first formulated in 1905 by Rudolf Steiner as:

‘In a community of human beings working together, the wellbeing of the community will be the greater the less each individual claims for himself the proceeds of his own work, that is, the more of these proceeds he gives over to his fellow workers and the more his own needs are met, not out of his work, but out of the work of others.’

To work for wages is to retain the value created by one’s own labour. It obscures the underlying reason for work and leads to inequity in the meeting of needs.

10 That humanity bears responsibility for the living being of the Earth, which has become the body of Christ, and for each of its kingdoms of Nature.

* * *

Although by no means exclusive to Camphill, the foregoing principles inform its vision and practice at every level, flexibly adapted to the life circumstances of each of its communities. As intentional principles, these are necessarily beyond the executive reach of any legislature or judiciary — in other words, they may be freely espoused by the individual but cannot be imposed upon him.

Particular Aspects

1 Social Structure

Botton Village is an intentional Camphill community. These intentions are to promote a way of life inspired by the principles enumerated above, and its purposes fall within the Charity Commission’s definition of ‘the promotion of community capacity building’. (See Appendix 1)

As a community in the true meaning of the term, Botton is defined by its collective intentions and hence is created with — not for — people who are disabled or vulnerable, in a shared, non-hierarchical way of life. The importance of this critical distinction from other social provisions has received little or no recognition in official circles, and yet it is crucial to an understanding of what a Camphill community is and does. Much that gives Botton its unique signature springs from these intentions.

Any group having a shared interest may be termed a community. A life community, however, is a unique creation by a group of people willing to engage with one another in an on-going commitment to each other’s wellbeing. In this important sense, members of such communities may be said to be integrated, not categorised, and hence the individual with special needs is seen as a person, not a condition or syndrome.

Community is a way of life, not a profession. Those who make it their home may bring professional capacities to it, but it cannot be made dependent on these or it becomes an institution. Since it is built on goodwill and not on intellectual ability it must remain non-specialised, open to all who share its values and wish to shape its future.

The character of a community is directly attributable to the kind and quality of its activities, and in Camphill these fall under three broad headings, cultural, social and economic, reflecting the threefold nature of the human being. As in Camphill communities generally, the rich social life of Botton has evolved as a direct consequence of meeting special needs in special ways, hence it is a social experiment in which people with special needs are pioneering their own social future. Although sometimes perceived (and criticized) as being a monolithic institution, in reality it is a tapestry of small, human-scale entities, and it is this complex variety that encourages innovation.

In this shared way of life, co-workers see themselves as enabling colleagues whose task is to help and guide. As unsalaried volunteers they do not seek material wealth or pension rights, but give to, and receive from, their community in freedom, without legal contract, on a mutually discretionary basis of trust. The essential features of this relationship between co-worker and community were examined and upheld in the comprehensive legal ‘Opinion’ of Peter Trevett, QC. (See Appendix 2) This resulted in Camphill co-workers being granted special status within the scope of Schedule E under Section 19 of the Taxes Act 1988.

The lack of enforceable rights between co-worker and community frees the co-worker to act out of personal initiative or conscience since he or she is not bound by any contractual obligation to the community, charity or company of which he is part, and so is free to accept or reject its directives. This freedom is a defining aspect of the Camphill way of life, and would be greatly compromised if co-workers were to receive a wage or salary, since this would establish the relationship as contractual.

From the foregoing it follows that a hierarchical management structure is inimical to a Camphill community for it disempowers those at the grass roots and undermines their will to take initiative. Having been built on the free initiative of individuals working together, Camphill communities such as Botton stress the democratic, collegial nature of their social forms. (See 1.3 below)

1.1 The Extended ‘Family’

An important feature of communal life with disabled adults is the extended ‘family’ group. This is a freely chosen, open-ended, non-contractual arrangement, hence it is a vocation, not a job. What distinguishes it from other arrangements in which staff work on a rotating shift basis is that it requires long-term commitment to a shared way of life between people whose ties are not familial. Usually, this commitment extends over many years and provides a security that would be far harder to achieve in other settings. It is the foundation on which a life-sharing community rests.

(The charge that ‘extended family’ is an artificial notion because it is not based on the bonds of a blood relationship misses the point. After all, husband and wife have no blood-tie either.)

As in any close-knit group, relationships grow and mature over time as shared experience leads to deepening insight into one another. Acceptance of uniqueness and recognition of each other’s strengths and limitations justifies the freedom to encourage or challenge, as in any genuine friendship. Without this freedom to engage, the tensions which can arise from time to time in a close relationship would remain unresolved and become unbearable.

Friendship is not a professional relationship. It requires no qualifications other than a genuine concern and understanding for one another. For this reason Botton resists the call to define the status of its so-called ‘houseparents’ and residents as anything other than human beings who freely choose to share their lives. It is a mutual relationship to which each contributes his or her unique qualities. Academic achievement is no guarantee of ability in social matters.

Further, none of us is a fully complete human being; each is lacking in something. The lack of intellectual prowess in those with a ‘learning disability’ is often compensated for by such qualities as tolerance, trust, interest and love, far in excess of the so-called ‘normal’ person. They have much to teach us! In short, to describe the extended family in terms of ‘service provider’ and ‘service user’ denies this profound contribution. (See 1.4 below)

1.2 Social Scale

The need to retain a human scale in social life is important if people are to feel secure, embedded in a setting whose boundaries they can encompass. In larger communities such as Botton, small clusters of houses, or ‘neighbourhoods’, have been created to overcome the alienating effects of anonymity. These local groupings encourage interaction and involvement at many levels, making genuine brotherliness possible and overcoming a ‘them and us’ perception of administration.

We all feel more at ease in surroundings which express something of who and what we are. So in our houses and public buildings we try to reflect the need for forms and colours which harmonise with our (often inexpressible) inner states. This has a subtle but real therapeutic influence whose efficacy we have come to acknowledge over the years.

1.3 Hierarchy & Power

As a way of life, Botton has strong ethical values. It has replaced the usual incentives of power, status and wealth by service, non-status and common ownership. Its social structure is therefore not hierarchical but rather a matrix of interlinking groups, each charged with responsibility for a particular aspect of community life. All are answerable to the whole community and subject to its scrutiny — which is not essentially different from society at large.

No administrative group is exclusive or closed. Anyone may join and participate in any group they choose. In practice, those with the necessary skills, inclination or willingness to shoulder its responsibilities gravitate naturally towards a particular group. Membership evolves gradually over time, within the constraints of continuity.

Everyone, without exception, has a voice in the future of their community. Weekly neighbourhood meetings are designed to encourage grass roots involvement, while larger Botton forums are called from time to time to engage everyone in wider issues.

It is important to recognise that while authority may be vested in a group, the power of veto never is. The exercise of power over others is hostile to a non-hierarchical setting. Therefore decisions are not reached by voting because, although expedient, a majority having power to disregard the minority aggravates the sense of powerlessness felt by minorities everywhere. In Botton, collective decisions are reached when consensus emerges through due process, without voting. It can take longer, of course, but the need to reverse hasty decisions is far less likely.

Doubts and disagreements have a necessary place in any open debate, and therefore consensus does not imply unanimity in every detail. Indeed, in any community the resilience to adapt to changing circumstances is enhanced by the differences within it. However, a measure of give and take is expected since the building of a common future is in the interests of everyone. This process may be cumbersome at times but life, like Nature, is meant to be effective, not merely efficient.

1.4 Terminology & Status

In espousing the Declaration of Values cited above, it is clear that a Camphill community is far more than a provider of services to vulnerable people. It is not — and cannot be made into — a business without losing its essential nature. To view the relationship between a villager and his or her community as a commercial partnership is a gross over-simplification. Vulnerable people have much to contribute to society and it is a tragic misunderstanding to reduce them to mere passive consumers or recipients of care.

To protect against exploitation, state benefits are now so tightly ‘ring-fenced’ that each beneficiary has gained almost complete autonomy in meeting his own needs, and therefore greater control in the exercise of personal choice. This purchasing power is seen as a triumph of reforms intended to lift the disabled person out of dependency on others, but it can also be an unwitting cause of loneliness. Moreover, as a tool for self-determination it presumes a mental capacity able to cope with today’s pressures and complexities. For many people the need for relationship and a sheltered community remains of greater importance for their wellbeing.

Terms such as ‘special needs’, ‘learning disability’, ‘service user’ and so on, were coined to overcome the pejorative connotations associated with earlier labels. Unfortunately, attitudes are less malleable; usage soon attracts a new patina of derogatory meaning and another term must be devised to remove the slur in a never-ending round of political correctness. It would be more honest to acknowledge the fact of disability and use language to convey it unambiguously. This seems increasingly to be the case; some newspapers now freely use the phrase ‘mentally handicapped’ once more. Many labels are ill-fitting at best; at worst they obscure the reality they are meant to describe.

2 Accountability

2.1 Trust & Self-Worth

All social life is founded on trust. It is the primary source of our security, hence the corollary that where trust is lacking, social life breaks down and insecurity sets in. Therefore in any community it is necessary that trust be cultivated as an active principle. If it is broken, the first endeavour must be to rekindle it rather than immediately to devise protective controls. These should be a last resort used only when all else fails, if only because lack of trust breeds suspicion.

The active placing of trust in others is a powerful means of enhancing their feeling of self-worth and may bring about a remarkable transformation, especially where self-esteem is low. To be trusted by one’s colleagues encourages both personal initiative and a heightened sense of responsibility; in short, it brings out the best in the worst of us. (See 2.4 below)

2.2 Risk & Personal Destiny

Risk is part of life and accompanies everything we do. Despite our best efforts, the vagaries of ‘chance’ can never be fully anticipated. Camphill recognises that life is subject to destiny, i.e. to spiritual as well as earthly laws, and that it is no more possible to eradicate risk than it is to legislate against destiny. Being an instrument of destiny, risk is acknowledged as having a definite, although hidden, significance in every life. Fear of risk, and a systematic approach to its avoidance, can stifle initiative and deny opportunities for development.

Obviously, a known risk of accident or harm should be recognised and lessened whenever possible by reasonable means, but the greatest safeguard is, and always will be, the consciousness brought to bear on it. Personal and/or group consciousness is therefore primary, and no system, policy or procedure can ever substitute completely for it. A system is only as good as the human beings who use it, and the weakness inherent in any system of safeguards is that, once devised and installed, we come to rely on it rather than our own vigilance. Complacent reliance upon ‘safe’ systems and protocols can lead to disregard of early symptoms: sometimes a greater hazard than the risk itself.

While we acknowledge that a formal, documented risk assessment helps to raise awareness, and demonstrates that a course of action has been properly considered, we also know that it can never be perfectly watertight. Therefore a balance must be struck between the amount of time and effort devoted to formal procedures rather than to the myriad ad-hoc judgements made in the course of daily life. That a risk assessment is not documented does not imply that none was made (although in today’s blame culture ‘documentation’ has become the only acceptable way to show that it was). Similarly, an initiative which fails is not necessarily ill-judged — in personal growth and development we often learn more from our failures than from our successes.

2.3 Accountability & Audit Trails

Every action undertaken by an individual carries personal responsibility and is judged against prevailing ethical standards and judicial laws. For the Camphill co-worker, an additional dimension is recognised, namely that we will confront the full consequences of our actions after death when the law of karma prevails. Because we are subject to both earthly and spiritual laws, we strive to become fully responsible, self-determining agents of our own destinies in the knowledge that we can never evade the objective outcome of everything we do on earth. We embrace accountability in this larger sense too.

Personal accountability must be complemented by community accountability. This is an absolute necessity if the community is not to become isolated and inward-looking — or worse, a sectarian ghetto. We endeavour to make our interface with the world as transparent as possible, and to adapt to its ever-changing demands while also nurturing the essential values of a Camphill community.

From the above it will be clear that in complying with statutory requirements we seek workable, common-sense measures appropriate to each situation. These may at times seem unorthodox, but they derive from experiences gained in our shared, community way of life. We hope not to allow dry protocol to substitute for real engagement, and in our procedures we therefore try to reach a considered balance between useful outcome and needless detail.

2.4 Protection & Prevention of Abuse

In any organisation, the transparency of its social structures is a more effective bulwark against the risk of malpractice than any set of procedures or protocols — which does not mean there should be none — since the knowledge that one’s actions are open both to the challenge of one’s peers and to public scrutiny is a powerful disincentive to exploitation and abuse. Moreover, openness to scrutiny is also a potent means to encourage the best in us, which can bring peer recognition and esteem.

In addition to transparency in its social arrangements, Camphill’s other safeguard against malpractice is the exercise of moral conscience by co-workers who embrace its ethical values and willingly accept full responsibility for their own actions. We endeavour to meet the many situations which arise in daily life (even those involving personal risk), with our determination to help, rather than shelter behind the protection afforded by tick-box procedures. Pressures to substitute ever more conventional or bureaucratic practices should not be allowed to undermine this strength.

2.5 Regulation, Inspection & Peer Review

Botton Village recognises its obligation to meet all statutory requirements, and in doing so tries to adapt to them in imaginative ways. It may even anticipate some, for example, its ‘care in the community’ and ‘person-centred’ approaches, although never formalised as policies, have been core aspects of its ‘supporting people’ vocation from its beginning in 1955.

Inspection is a necessary adjunct to regulation. Without it, no statutory authority can assure the public that safe practices are being followed. So rather than view inspection as a threat, it could be welcomed as an opportunity to explain our community way of life in the present climate of doubt and incomprehension. An authority might then find the confidence to advocate rather than tolerate Camphill for the diversity of choice it represents in the spectrum of social provision.

Peer review was common in Camphill’s early years as an informal ‘mirroring’ between colleagues. This required courage and a willingness to be challenged, albeit with love and genuine concern. Today, it has become a communal rather than personal event, without the discipline it once had. However, the need for continuing revue and objective evaluation, both on a personal and communal level, will have to be re-established as an indispensable tool for assessing the long-term relevance and sustainability of the village. Reflection is an essential instrument in guiding the community in a conscious and considered way.

The living fabric of Botton community has emerged not by implementing a theoretical blueprint, but from the countless discussions and slowly evolving practices of many people working together to create a common future which is uniquely theirs. While it exists in response to a broad spectrum of hopes and expectations among disabled or vulnerable people, it is not the answer to everyone’s needs.

Camphill has no political affiliation and is not a campaigning organisation. In the last analysis, it exists to meet the needs of suffering human beings whose destiny it tries to serve. In doing so it may effect change in the attitudes of society towards such people as an outcome of their spiritual-social mission, but that is not its primary aim.

We ask only that it be considered on its merits, on its practical results, rather than judged against a more arbitrary or theoretical social agenda. Any open-minded appraisal would recognise it as a valid alternative for vulnerable and disabled adults — and more importantly, as an effective choice against the ever-increasing limitations placed upon their life’s horizons.

Seen in this more positive light, communities such as Botton are not so much a problem as a solution in waiting. If society were able to listen and respond appropriately to the needs of the vulnerable and disadvantaged people who have chosen this way of life, many social issues confronting us all today might become opportunities for reform rather than cause for growing despair.

Appendix 1

What is ‘community capacity building’?1

7. The term ‘community capacity building’ means different things to different people. We understand it to mean developing the capacity and skills of the members of a community in such a way that they are better able to identify, and help meet, their own and others’ needs, and thus participate more fully in society.

8. Community capacity building as we understand it is therefore concerned with

• providing opportunities for people to learn through experience — opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them; and

• involving people in collective effort so that they gain confidence in their own abilities and their ability to influence decisions that affect them.

Thus individual involvement and collective activity go hand in hand: the aim is to encourage people in a community to join together with others so as to provide through collective effort what the community needs, but in such a way that those taking part also develop their own potential as members of society.

What do we mean by a ‘community’ for this purpose?

9. We mean a group of people who share a position of social and economic disadvantage or social disadvantage only. They may share that disadvantage by virtue of living in the same geographical area (a ‘geographical community’). Or they may share it because they have something else in common, such as a disability or membership of a particular ethnic group (a ‘community of interest’).

[Ref: ‘The Promotion of Community Capacity Building’. The Charity Commission. Doc. RR5, Nov 2000, revised Oct 2003]

Appendix 2

Extracts from the legal Opinion of Peter Trevett QC, 1998

6. …True community life is fostered and reflected in “non-hierarchical” decision-making processes which involve many different people who aim to reach a consensus as to what is to be done…

8. Camphill communities operate solely on a basis of mutual trust and shared belief. (…) A co-worker who chooses to leave has no rights against the community that he or she has been a part of, and conversely, the community has no rights against the co-worker (…) This lack of enforceable obligation between co-worker and community is an essential element in each community — the shared sense of purpose and belief which is fundamental to the successful working of a Camphill community cannot be imposed by any form of contractual or other legal obligation.

9. The lack of any enforceable rights between a community and a co-worker can work to the significant disadvantage of a community. (…) Disadvantages such as these are accepted because all communities agree that the fundamental tenets of the Camphill Movement are inconsistent with the imposition of any legal obligation on co-workers.