Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Intentional Communities

The key word in Intentional Communities is 'intentional'. It means that people have decided to live together, have chosen to live together. Intentional Communities are often households or clusters of households that are tied together by a common project. There is a large spectrum of intentional communities, ranging from very communal (see my next post for a little more on this--I will also have an upcoming post on Egalitarian Communities, which is a name that many of the more communal communities have taken on) to co-op households (both a form of intentional community and a form of cooperative--see my last post for a bit on this--these are popular with college students as well as young adults in their twenties and thirties) to cohousing (sharing some common areas but having private households--this is currently the fastest growing form of intentional community--popular with somewhat older adults, particularly adults with children and those over 55) to ecovillages (these are the hot new form of community, incorporating sustainability into the mix, and can overlap with other forms of community, particularly both the communal and the cohousing). Land trusts are also sometimes seen as a form of intentional community.

Intentional community is a way to live deliberately with other people. Intentional community gives us a chance to practice what we preach, to try living harmoniously, compassionately, ecologically, simply, sustainably, equally, the whole nine yards. It's a way to have people around that you can talk with, share ideas with, work together with, build with, connect with, and sometimes just get a sympathetic ear from.

It is also a challenge. It's easy to imagine perfect communities in your head, but real communities--of all types, but particularly intentional communities--are messy places where people discover that it's not easy to live with other people, particularly those different from you. And in intentional community you soon discover that everyone is different from you. (You've all agreed that you're interested in, say, compassionate living. Suddenly you discover everyone has a different idea what 'compassion' means--and you are finding it hard to be compassionate with someone who likes to leave their dirty dishes in the sink or play their music loudly or invite lots of people over without warning. Unless that person is you and you are wondering why no one has room in their hearts for your idiosyncrasies.)

If it sounds like I'm talking from experience here, I am. But I still live somewhat communally and I still want to live more that way in the future. Why? Because I weigh the benefits I listed two paragraphs above against all the difficulties and I've decided it's worth it. And I also live in community because intentional communities are laboratories for social change. All the things I've talked about in my blog so far, generally apply to group living.

Now, I don't believe that everyone should be living in intentional community, but I do think a lot of people would benefit from it--particularly since there are enough varieties of community that it should be possible to meet a variety of different needs. Also, if you are interested in social change, and want to try living it, rather than merely theorizing about it, intentional community is one place to start.

For more on Intentional Communities check out the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. They publish a Directory of Intentional Communities (both a web-based version and a print version that you can purchase from the website). For more on co-op housing, The North American Students of Cooperation is a good source of information. The Cohousing Association of the United States website is a useful place to search for more info specifically about co-housing. For anyone wanting to know about ecovillages, the Global Ecovillage Network might be a good place to start. More on community land trusts (a way to share land, if nothing else) can be found at the National Community Land Trust Network. And if you are interested in the more communal variety of community, (I will be posting quite a bit more on it later) the Federation of Egalitarian Communities is a good place to start.

Quote of the day: "In the analysis of peace, oppression or ecological issues, you need always to consider how your actions impact on others. In community, you must do the work of learning who other people are and how they see things differently, and honoring that, so that you in turn will have your views honored. That is group work, and it is essential for world peace. The same is true for oppression issues, and for how your use of resources limits or enhances others' use of resources. You have to build up from small units; you can't leap to the national or international model without knowing how that works in a group of eight or twelve. Communities I know are doing this work, discovering how groups can get to know each other well enough to function in healthy, non-exploitive ways." - Laird Schaub
Word (or phrase) of the day: Civil Society
Hero(es) of the day: Robert King Wilkerson


Raines said...

You've named some great resources on community living there. You might want to add books such as Diana Leafe Christian's on Finding Community and Creating a Life Together, as well as my friend Dave Wann's Simple Prosperity and earlier works.

It would be great to hear more about your weighing of the benefits and what you do to minimize/reduce the difficulties. There's too few communitarians blogging or otherwise publicly sharing their experiences, so people don't realize how widespread the movement is.

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach
Planning for Sustainable Communities
at Berkeley (CA) Cohousing

P.S. Do you have a link or source for the Laird quote? It sounds like something you'd find on his Community and Consensus blog, but it didn't show up in my searches.

SoapBoxTech said...

This one hits close to home indeed!

I have been feeling a strong need to work at developing such a community here in one of the exploitation centers of NW Alberta. A half section of prime farmland next to a landfill (energy) and large marsh-lake (life force)will be lost to sale if I cannot do so (or come up with a million dollars) in enough time.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for your comment--and thanks for the additional resources. The Laird Schaub quote is for an article he contributed to the book, 'Circles of Strength', edited by Helen Forsey--which I explain in my next post (as well as referencing Laird blog).

Good luck with developing a community in Alberta--I think the world needs as many different communities as we can get.