Rural System's

Decent Work, Decent Lives

The Rural System Underlayment

An Appendix from

Rural System? Just Dreaming …
A For-Profit Conglomerate for Meaningful Jobs
Healthful Communities
and Improved Natural Resource Management

by Robert H. Giles, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

This is my appendix about my concept of "the good." It is a statement of policy-like objectives discussed in the book. Perhaps it should be placed up front and not seemingly diminished as an appendix. I have placed it here for the same reasons that I prefer not to discuss my personal religion. If what it is does not show clearly, then there is hardly any need for discussing it.

There are several layers planned or imagined to be behind the way staff and participants in Rural System work or do business. No one is told what to believe or think or what attitudes to hold, but we like to communicate our intent and direction as well as merge those layers for our staff as well as customers. This appendix suggests that the content of the book and its intentions can be tested against the statements here. I believe they are consistent and, if not, adjustments need to be made over time.

Staff and participants have these ideas collectively as a code of conduct that landowners and citizens can expect from us while working with all aspects of Rural System. It attempts to express, even in a limited way, what we stand for and believe in, and how we operate and address public, client, and personal concerns. We try to extend our limits and correct quickly our failures in living and working to this creed.

We do not hide that we are profit oriented but we hold that "long-term bounded profit" is a key phrase, an index to how well we are improving and sustaining the environment and the quality of life for rural people of the region. We the people are dependent upon our communities and both are dependent upon that environment all together. We allow citizens ways to participate in restoring, producing, and managing the rural environment and in gaining personal and family profits (net gains) from doing so. Of course there are many gains other than profits. This profit is an index to and prerequisite to most of these other gains.

We understand quality performance as that which

Quality is never accidental; it is always the result of intelligent effort.  
  John Ruskin, English historian

Following the sequence of benefits (suggested by the SPOEVIIIMM acronym), we guarantee courteous, prompt work to deliver cost-effective, practical services, that meet your objectives ... and we work hard to help you clarify and articulate those objectives. Our products are of high quality, safe, reasonably-tested while often being innovative, and we guarantee them and are willing to provide reasonable returns or replacements if there is significant dissatisfaction. We have select products grown under superior conditions devoid of known toxic agents.

We offer many, diverse opportunities and seek to meet your personal as well as group needs and interests within the rural context.

We seek out and offer special views but work to achieve a lasting, diverse pastoral and forestal viewscape. We seek to impede destruction of scenes that are important to many people and to build a regional visual "personality" or spirit.

We move reasoned ideas into testing and prototypes when and where we can find risk-taking investors.

We move observations and data to information and seek to build a workable knowledge base for improving models leading to decisions and action throughout the rural region with its evolving needs and challenges.

We encourage developing places and times for reflection for (at least) they can provide inspiration. Inspiration also comes from opportunities provided for observations of plants, animals, natural systems, and scenery as well as special behavior of individuals and groups.

We know that there are individuals and "loners" but we know of the needs for relating for help, for teamwork, and for many religious, cultural, and recreational reasons.

"Community" has expanding meanings for us. We work for planned synergism. Thus, we offer many memberships providing secure opportunities for and knowledge from such associations.

Events combine benefits, but a few can be singularly spectacular, at least for individuals. Special lectures, tours, and group meetings on "the green" seem likely events but electronic conference calls and Internet exchanges may be true events when they take on special meaning and discovery for some people.

Memory seems personal, but some of us hold that it is a shared thought or process. We work to provide products, services and opportunities that produce pleasant, perhaps exciting, consoling, and helpful memories. We work on developing memory skills but also on helping people gain images, art, and tasteful small objects that focus and assist in pleasant or useful recall.

Our concept of Decent Work includes actions and attitudes of:

  1. being efficient with energy and time
  2. having sufficient resources for a quality life
  3. minimizing waste
  4. maximizing embodied energy
  5. sharing expertise
  6. using sampling concepts reasonably
  7. being gentle on the land
  8. achieving and maintaining health, both physical and mental
  9. having concern for children becoming fully human
  10. being or being supportive of superior parents and parenting
  11. having high literacy, always learning
  12. being diversified
  13. avoiding conspicuous consumption
  14. engaging in meaningful physical and mental work
  15. gaining full control of impulses (aggression and immediate gratification)
  16. displaying appropriate manners and attention to shame
  17. being supportive of and assisting others, living in an environment of teamwork
  18. having standards, minimal and non-negotiable
  19. enhancing conditions for tomorrow's citizens
  20. being clear about the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.


Seeking long-term sustained profits from the land requires retaining and building its productivity as well as its many benefits for diverse potential users of private lands. To this generalized end, the staff tends to develop highly-related programs, reflective of the above dimensions of decent work that include:

See Chapter 16 Ecosystem Mgmt.

Governing thoughts and concepts:
1. We have a strong bias toward modified "general systems theory" and its usefulness as an aid in organizing and communicating within the complex enterprise. (Chapter 6) Modular subsystems with a common objective and set of policies can excel in natural and rural resource management.
2. Those principles of biology and ecology shown to allow species and systems long term survival can be used to advantage within Rural System.
3. We attempt to share ideas and knowledge, test the goodness of some of them on the land, and gain energy for the fight ahead for an environment fit for humans.
4. Rural System can be considered an experiment, a test of the soundness of an entrepreneurial paradigm for sustained natural resource management.
5. Land is a working platform with unlimited opportunities for producing ideas, products and services. The platform or "factory" must be tended very carefully if it will improve and sustain profits
6. Dynamic and chaotic social and environmental conditions, as well as resources undergoing predictable transitions, can be estimated and profits sustained if managed with computer optimization as a whole system.
7. Major fossil energy shortages (of various types) will occur within 20 years and such shortages can be the source of major profits if preparation is made for those conditions.
8. A "rationally robust strategy" (Giles et al., see References below) needs to be used in rural resource management.
9. Ranging, comprehensive diverse outdoor recreation and tourism, can excel in a region with evidently increasing quality of rural life and natural resource management.
10. We link the results of successful diverse economic development to the requirement that a sound index to such results (not necessarily the processes) must be stable or increasing
11. We link sustaining the desired conditions achieved to having designed, diverse, managed ecological systems.
12. Having a rural concentration for efficiency and effectiveness, we work with influential trans border, urban, and trans frontier systems and seek cooperation.
13. We attempt prompt, courteous service. Old manners, the basics, remain good for our potential and current customers ... and for us.
14.We emphasize the long-term in our strategies, models, and planning.
15. We welcome suggestions for improvements and attempt to offer incentives for making them and rewards for those that become part of the profit-base of the total enterprise.
16. Our facilities and appearance are safe, clean, and attractive and are part of our marketing base.
17. We provide progress reports and timely information as well as results for customers.
18. We maintain confidential records to enhance our competitiveness. We share information with loyal cooperators.
19. We compete with equals or lesser enterprises, concepts, and agencies. Competing with known superiors is irrational; competing with equals only assures wins half the time. Competition is done to win. An alternative is collaboration or forming a partnership.
20. Discrimination may be part of competition.
21. We do not "discriminate" in any of our programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. We actively seek to find employment opportunities for people who seem disadvantaged by circumstances beyond their control or major influence.
22. We do discriminate on the basis of ability, performance, dress, and appearance that may likely lead to profits; attitudes leading to group cohesion and positive synergistic results; and creative work linked to the objectives of the enterprise.
23. We engage in restoring physical and biological systems of rural areas and restoring (including preventing decline) associated quality of life of families and communities.
24. Information is a primary product, and we rarely provide it at zero cost.
25. Ability to do synthetic work is a resource that we sell. The results can also be sold. Empowering others (as with a computer program) to do work is more important than providing information.
26. Research results in theses and dissertations and government reports (e.g., NTIS) are rich "mines" from which wealth can be gained. Mining them is one of our tasks in the cold and dark.
26. We check into the fair trade provisions of cooperating companies and individuals and their products (clothing, crafts, coffee, tea, cocoa). We'll attempt to avoid including those not in compliance.

"Decent work" is a decent concept. Mark Levin, Director of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Cooperative Branch, Geneva, Switzerland, described the results of thoughtful work on the idea in a paper in the Owners at Work newsletter of the Ohio Employee Center. The idea of decent work includes employment for people where there are conditions of freedom; not having discrimination or harassment; being provided sufficient income to satisfy basic economic, social, and family needs and responsibilities; having adequate social protection for workers and their families; and being able to have a voice and participate in decisions about the work place. These seem highly consistent with long-held tenets of people of the cooperative movement - people who strive for the traits of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others; honest dealings with fairness and accuracy, and accountability in local as well as the international trading and financial marketplace; reliable quality and fair prices, honest dealings with non-members; and a unique level of openness throughout the organization. The values of social responsibility and caring for others reflect concern for the health and well being of individuals within communities.

'Seems decent.

There are insights about the role that the community plays in the success of any enterprise such as Rural System (security, support, landscape, setting, infrastructure) and thus the opportunities for appropriate and fair participation. We are trapped by the insights of Friedman (2005) in "The World is Flat" about outsourcing of work and the flow of employees and their expertise. Efforts within Rural System tend to reflect with him that "The more lifetime learning opportunities that companies provide, the more they are both widening the skill base of their own workforce and fulfilling a moral obligation to workers whose jobs are outsourced to see to it that they leave more employable than they came. If there is a new social contract implicit between employers and employees today, it should be this: You give me your labor, and I will guarantee that as long as you work here, I will give you every opportunity - through either career advancement or training - to become more employable, more versatile." (Friedman, 2005:292)

We study how to become the "human factor" in regional land use policy and Rural System practice, in that we work for safety and comfort of workers, job satisfaction, high performance rations, and conditions seen as socially acceptable such as those of unions and OSHA rule conditions. We test ourselves for proper (truthful) labeling, branding, and "value-adding" attempts.

As we seek to describe desirable conditions of work together, we find they are much the same for life itself and when fully developed, become a description of the good life for each of us. We have found premises of social humanists consistent with much writing in the rural systems realm (Free Inquiry, PO. Box 664, Amherst, New York 14226-0664 (Spring, 2001) http://www.SecularHumanism.Org. We encourage thoughtful work with the following premises for ongoing efforts within Rural System. Discussions and suggestions for revisions are welcomed. We are particularly eager to see the rationale for excluding any one premise.

We create opportunities for decent work and income in rural areas through enabling investment and through developing opportunities for gaining or improving skills, particularly for self-employed people and for micro, small, and medium enterprises.

We work to create a positive, participatory culture.

We resist speculative financial markets and move toward a real economy based on savings, investment, and creativity that generate solid companies and quality jobs.

We promote social entrepreneurship and socially-responsible investment funds (e.g., limiting linkage between pension funds and stock markets).

We protect the value of savings.

We seek to relax perceived limits on local or national economic growth with environmental regulation, encouraging investment for developments with results that can be sustained using new environment-friendly technologies.
We are committed to discovering truths and to applying reason to understanding the universe and to solving human problems.

We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek departures in our thinking.

We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence.

We invest in information technologies and enable poor people, regions, and countries to access these.

We believe that discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.

We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.

We enjoy life here and now and seek to develop our creative talents to their fullest.

We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.

We discourage explaining the world in supernatural terms and looking outside nature for salvation.

We are committed to and work to see practiced the principle of the separation of church and state.

We believe in an open and pluralistic society and work to implement an effective democracy as a major way to protect human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.

We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.

We place policy options on a sound footing by promoting dialog among workers, employers, and representative voices of society.

We encourage open and free flow of communication and offer training and inducements to develop involvement in the enterprise (an ownership culture with knowledge of objectives, financials, production, and efficiencies).

We engage in participatory management where possible.

We attempt to secure justice and fairness in society and to eliminate discrimination and intolerance. We balance such efforts with those essential for Rural System success and survi8val.

We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.

We support the disadvantaged and the handicapped and support assisting them to be able to help themselves.

We attempt to protect and enhance the Earth and its resources, to preserve it and its productivity for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.

We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.

We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, and responsibility. We think our ethics are amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.

We are cultivating moral excellence. We participate in the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.

We seek realistic alternatives to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and for sources of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.

We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.

We believe in and work toward the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as humans.

We strive for consistency in actions displaying this underlayment that we consider decent work.

Perhaps you will share ideas with Rural System staff about some of the topics above.

Revisions: December, 2009