Our RAP (Resident Application Process) here at Lost Valley is one of the systems we have in place that allows our community to expand, while screening prospective residents for skills and values that align with our stated vision and mission.
In late August 2016 Tomas and I began our RAP with a one and a half hour phone call with the Site Manager, part of whose job description is fielding the initial inquiries of interested parties and sending them the application for residency should they still be interested in applying after such a phone interview or visit to the physical location.
Presently, our site manager is a woman and she is so competent in her job that often that initial call or visit is all the further the applicant goes. I call this person The Gate Keeper with all due respect and affection.
After a year and a half of perusing the Lost Valley website, Tomas and I were even more inspired to complete the application after our phone call . We received our applications by email and completed them online.
The first part is a standard rental application, including references, financial info, credit check and application fee. However, the really “juicy” part of the application is the opportunity to answer 18 essay questions related to living in community: personal goals, visions and other questions that are included to help the RAP Council (Site Manager plus three others) determine the suitability of each applicant for residency in the community. Again, considering answering 18 questions is often the second means of culling applicants who are more curious than committed regarding living at Lost Valley.
Filling out this part was akin to taking a college exam about ourselves. We dived in and completed the application within 48 hours and sent them back to our contact at Lost Valley.
We didn’t know at the time that EVERYONE would see our answers via the campus email network. I’m glad we didn’t know that beforehand. Since we arrived here December 1st 2016, Tomas and I have reviewed the answers of at least 10 potential residents and given our feedback to RAP for their consideration at the weekly RAP meetings each Thursday morning.
If the applicant is accepted, they are then allowed to move in — often into a dorm room (or two) until more permanent housing becomes available. Some people have their own RVs, which is another way that new people can be accommodated here.
Tomas and I officially signed our rental contract on November 17th of last year, so today is a three-month anniversary or sorts. We set up our life in the Large dorm in two tiny (80 sqf each) rooms — one for sleeping and one for everything else. We then left for two weeks to house and dog sit at my sister’s in Tacoma.
On December 1st, Lois and her dog, Cocoa brought us back down to begin our permanent residence at Lost Valley. We were then “on the clock” for our first check-in interview two weeks later to see how we were doing and if we felt comfortable, were experiencing any challenges, were making friends — like that.
The two week interviews are done over lunch or dinner and anyone in the community can attend and help ask the specific questions related to the applicant’s process at the two-week marker. It’s all very informal and serves as a great vehicle for Lost Valley Residents to get to know new people better and vice versa.
Once the questions have been asked for about 30 minutes, the applicant can ask Lost Valley any questions that they may have (10 minutes). When all questions have been asked and satisfied on both sides, the applicant(s) are asked to step out of the room, so the community can address any concerns or make any comments. The applicant(s) is then requested to return and the outcome of the interview is stated. There are three possible outcomes: 1) Progress (to the next stage) 2) Delay (a follow-up interview is scheduled to take a “second look”) or 3) Deny (community feels the applicant is “not a fit” and he or she is asked to find another place to live within a reasonable time.)
Tomas and I went through our two-week (Provisional Resident) interview in mid-December. We were “progressed” but not without some feedback from the community that humbled us a bit. It was suggested that we “hang back” a bit, listen more and talk less — see how things operated here. We received the feedback without reaction, which allowed our community mates to relax somewhat about our eager, golden retriever style of communicating with everyone.
We then proceeded to integrate ourselves into community life. We got onto the weekly Cook/Clean kitchen schedule and established ourselves as competent cooks and reliable cleaners. We applied for and were accepted for HIVE roles (helping to care for the common areas used by all residents and guests — a topic for another post.) We took part in pretty much every meeting, forum and educational offering AND we joined the fun of helping to ask those pertinent questions of those applicants who were behind and ahead of us in their own RAP.
And because five of the nine students who had recently graduated from our Holistic Sustainability Seminar in mid-November had applied for Residency, there were many interviews — at least for awhile.
Because our Provisional Interview (two-week) had been held in mid-December, we were assuming that our three-month (Resident Interview) would happen about the first of March. We were quite surprised to receive an email offering us that review on February 13th. Apparently, our Site Manager was counting from the date we signed the rental contract in mid-November.
Allrighty then! On we go!
I must admit I was a bit nervous Monday morning when I woke up. Throughout the day, I kept asking myself — How bad can it be? Surely, we will not be a “Deny.” So a “Delay” would be the worst of it — big deal. So funny how the mind works when acceptance by others is involved.
Our interview was really fun — we did it over dinner and at least 20 people came out for the occasion. We were asked many questions, including how we saw ourselves participating long term, how would we describe the basic principles of Non-Violent Communication, Permaculture and Sociocracy (Lost Valley’s governance structure — another topic for the future.) It was really fun and both of us enjoyed the process immensely.
However, while we were hanging out in the kitchen for the deliberation process and I was so nervous, I had to put away a couple of trays of dishes and pans to release my excess energy.
Upon return, we were told that the group’s decision was to Progress us to Resident status, which includes official voting privileges in all elections, except for Board elections and Members. My shoulders dropped about 3 inches and I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. This time, the feedback was celebratory and appreciative for our high level of participation and the many ways we have contributed to community life here during our first three months.
Tuesday morning I woke up and I felt “different” — somewhat like the morning after one gets married. I felt more grounded and settled. I felt accepted, appreciated and acknowledged. Tomas felt similarly. Our RAP process had taken us to official Resident status.
Yesterday, as I sat in our bi-weekly community meeting, I also felt “different.” I was even nominated for a position that was open for election. I was not elected but I was a Resident now and eligible to be elected. Wow!
We move forward at a much slower pace now. Unless there is something very unusual that would call us back into a follow-up interview beforehand, our next RAP interview will be the Big One — at the year marker for full Membership. We have a lot of time now to continue integrating and contributing in the many ways our hearts are being called to do.
We have a whole Spring and Summer season to flesh out whether or not this new-found Community (that seems to be delivering so many of the experiences our hearts were yearning for over the past 9 years) really is a “fit for us” — both ways.
From this place, I can’t imagine any other outcome next November except for Tomas and I to be welcomed as full Members of the Lost Valley Community. It will make for an especially wonderful Thanksgiving, don’t you think?
In any case, that’s a RAP!