Deep inside me, I am firm I do not own pointReturn, except technically. I have paid for the land, I fund its activities but I have no sense of ownership as I have with my other assets. If I were to visualise it ten years from now, i don’t see myself there at all. Instead, I see about 40 people at pointReturn. Ten form the core team, fully resident there; ten are visitors who come for periods of a month or more and twenty are beneficiaries of pointReturn’s surpluses. Maybe the 20 beneficiaries will reside elsewhere.
I can see working residents grow their own food, document their production and experiences, run courses for those that would return from the cities, care for their own inner lives and administer the whole project as a committee of ten. They get to keep a modest share of all the produce as reward for their labours, with which to pay for their personal needs beyond shelter and food. In the ten years leading to that status, I see my work as making the 17 acres realise surpluses of water, energy, food and cash. It’s a grand vision I know; for even stating it, I have been receiving compliments. But I am frequently overcome with bouts of panic and fright at the journey I have undertaken. A man of 68 must be permitted these scares. Because a man of that age knows well that no vision descends from dreamy mists to hard ground just because it is grand.
Nor, because one can spray money all over, trying to grow the vision. In the last three years, I have experienced despair even as I stood clutching a wad of notes. A dried up pond, a lack of colleagues or a lack of knowledge is not remedied by money. You need access to people with passion, knowledge, commitment and capacity for hard physical work. Rarely do you get qualities these in paid staff, as serial corporate training programmes testify.
In the last three years, even I as laboured alone or with contractors and paid staff, I had an eye cocked on the horizon to see if anyone was headed this way- with their whole life packed and carried on their backs, so to speak. There has always been a steady stream of well-wishers and enthusiasts. Tens of emails have expressed admiration, sought to visit, solicited advise or help or declared they would sculpt their own dreams some day. Volunteers from Chennai have been enthusiastic though their numbers failed to grow nor did a committed core emerge.
In ‘sustainability’ discussions we seldom factor in people who sustain things. All enterprises fail when people are not attracted to co-own the dream. How do you find them? You don’t. You must so go about realising your dream that they find you.