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paul wheaton
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I think most people have already decided that they will never be part of community.

And ... I have visited with dozens of people that were part of community for years or even decades and have now come to the conclusion that community is not for them. 

To address the first group, I see a lot of people that I think would be an excellent addition to a community, and I think their life would be far richer for it.  The usual problem is that they cannot think of a community that would work for them.  Usually they think of an example that is distasteful and assume that ALL communities are like that. 

To address the second group, I think they are just battle weary.  I think it would be good to find a place that has all of the positive that they once craved (and may still crave) and the downsides are mitigated. 

I think a good exercise is to simply express what would be ideal.    Complete with concerns and the level of mitigation for those concerns.

Is anybody reading this certain that they would never be part of any community?  What crazy thing might make it possible?

Is there anybody reading this that used to be part of a community and currently is not?  What would get you interested again?


 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Here's one hang-up I have: home ownership. I have this cultural and personal bias that a responsible adult owns his/her own home. If I'm renting, it just feels sub-standard somehow. In my circumstances, and from what I understand about ic's (which is admittedly little at this stage), I think it's highly likely that I would have to rent to live in a community.

It's probably offensive to be so open about my renting bias, and I by no means intend to offend anyone. I rented for a large portion of my adult life, and I understand and highly respect a variety of reasons why folks rent (whether by choice, or not).

With where I'm at now, it might make much more sense for me to rent again (for many reasons), but this hang up I have about it prevents me from considering it.

There are a bunch of other issues, of course, that go along with owning versus renting, but this is the very first part of it for me.
 
paul wheaton
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I think most IC's do involve ownership.  Earthaven, for example.  My impression is that Diana owns her place free and clear.  That's a big perk with IC stuff.  You can usually get in way cheaper than conventional means.

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Please tell me there are others out there with trepidations about community. Maybe not with comments as dorky as mine, but I would love it if you chime in, too!

Here's a BIG reservation of mine. I used to work for Naturopaths; and I worked at a very, well, shall we say 'hippie-values' private school. It seemed there were lots of folks in these alternative circles who had boundary issues.

Living in community is also an alternative lifestyle. It has not (yet?) become mainstream. Because of this, and my experiences, I'm worried there could be high percentages of folks with boundary issues in intentional communities, too.

Was/is this a skewed perception on my part, or have others found this boundary issue with alternative folks?
 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Location: Earthaven Ecovillage, North Carolina; Ecovillages newsletter http://wwwEcovillageNews.org
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This is a response to Jocelyn's concerns that living in an intentional community might involve renting rather than owning, and what she refers to as boundary issues.

In most communities I've seen, the members don't rent but buy in and share property ownership with the other members.

The only communities I've seen in which people rent are (1) some shared group households in cities in which everyone shares a rental, (2) some cohousing communities where one or two households rent rather than owning their cohousing units,  (3) a few rural communities in which members rent houses owned by the community, or (4) provisional members of a community (new people who aren't full members yet) who live in onsite in rental units until they become approved as full members and then buy in.

There are at least two kinds of "buy in."  One is when everyone  co-owns the whole property with all the other members.  If the community is in a city, the co-owned property could be a co-op house or co-op apartment building. At Earthaven where I live, for example, we co-own everything and lease own own small homesites. A second way of buying in -- as in cohousing communities and in a small number of non-cohousing communities --  is each member  owns their own housing unit and the land beneath it with a deed, and co-owns all the common areas with the other members. 

Regarding boundary issues, could you say more?  Do you mean you think people who live in intentional communities might tend to violate other people's boundaries? Or not have boundaries themselves? And what would that look like if so? I can't quite picture what you mean. Thanks!

Diana
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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I appreciate the specifics on how ownership typically works in community--thanks for your detailed reply, Diana. Obviously, my perception was skewed by meeting a few folks in renting situations.

Let's see if I can succinctly describe what I mean about the boundary issue. I'm worried it's largely subjective and skewed as well, which is why I brought it up.

It seems that in the alternative circles I've traveled, there are folks who overstep normal boundaries quickly, and then yank back in areas they perceive as important boundaries to uphold but which are usually minor issues to most everyone else.

So, let me try to paint a hypothetical example. Suppose there is a massage therapist who cleans more than anyone else, brings in supplies, practically sacrifices herself to be part of an alternative healthcare clinic, but then rails, withdraws, or throws a fit if you use a word that seems chauvinistic to her. Not enough boundaries with helping or being part of the group, then too sharp a boundary with how others talk. Does that paint a picture?

In my limited experience, I came up with a theory. It seems to me that some folks who have had really difficult, perhaps even horrible issues or experiences, then turn to alternative lifestyles to heal. Whether those lifestyles involve alternative health care, alternative education, permaculture, living in community, or whatever doesn't really matter. And it's truly healthy and fabulous that these folks are looking for a healthier path. It's just that sometimes, the horrible, awful past that led this person to buck the mainstream is still affecting them, and isn't quite healed yet. Might never be totally healed.

The reason I came up with this theory, is because it seems to me there are higher percentages of folks with these kind of boundary or emotional issues in the alternative circles. I'm curious if others think this is true, too, or if it's just me. 

I mentioned this to a friend and she had an interesting reply. She said she lived in a community in her twenties, and it seemed to her that the residents in that community all brought their unresolved family of origin issues to the group. In her view, the community was basically rife with folks processing stuff and she was relieved to eventually separate herself from it.

In my partnerships, I do look forward to the growth that comes from having buttons pushed (believe it or not) and how a mature, loving kind of intimacy can help each partner move beyond old patterns. That's a partnership, though. I would find it exhausting and draining if community members tended to be reactive and needy in these areas like the massage therapist example, or as my friend experienced when she lived in community.

I'm not at all opposed to processing stuff and being intimate and real in my relationships with people. It's just that I'd like to think I'm able to reign in my "stuff" to stay reasonable in my working, neighborly and even community relations. And I guess you could say I'm hugely doubtful that many of those drawn to community can do similarly. Diana has provided thorough examples of screening processes, which I'm sure is a huge chunk of preventing too much craziness in a community, but I'm still doubtful. And, I'm wondering if the odds are stacked a bit in favor of emotional drama.

 
paul wheaton
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Reading this makes me think of something else.

I would like to be part of a community where everybody is much smarter than me.  And everybody has their personal gobbledygook worked out much better than me.  That way, when I'm there, it will be this amazing growth experience and yet I will still get treated like a peer, rather than the lesser person I actually am (by the definition I've given above).  This fantasy seems like a fantastic soul building experience. 

I mean .... it's okay to wish for stuff ... or maybe I'm just so obnoxiously arrogant that I don't realize that nearly every community meets this criteria. 

My life experience seems to be stuff where I discuss something with somebody in my community and I know 100 times more, but the person calls me horrible names and tells me I'm stupid and ignorant.  It becomes a soul draining experience.  What I have learned is to avoid these people. 

In community, it is really hard to get away from such people if they are in community.  So then it becomes wise to not get into the situation in the first place. 

Dilemma:  I really, really want to be part of community.  And at the same time I really, really don't want icky people to hassle me.  So it seems the thing to do is to find (or create) a community that doesn't have icky people.  But people seem so nice when you first meet them.  It is usually later that find out about the icky stuff and, well, do you move from community to community until you get it right? 

 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Location: Earthaven Ecovillage, North Carolina; Ecovillages newsletter http://wwwEcovillageNews.org
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Hello,
Well, now that I know that by "boundary issues" you meant "reactive" and "needy," I certainly know what you mean. And I agree with your theory, and your friend's experiences living in a community. In my experience a high percentage of troubled and unhappy people often want to join intentional communities and the other kinds of alternatives you described.

In my experience, there's a spectrum of ways people can live in community. Some communities can be comprised of  people who are relatively high-functioning and emotionally balanced most of the time. They can have some members who sometimes, or often, behave in less-than-ideal ways, but the group's general tone, culture, expectations, and agreements bring them back up again.

At the other end of the spectrum are communities  of people who  seem not to function well in life, or who seem to be emotionally upset much of the time. These communities tend not to last long, usually.

And then a whole range of communities in between these examples.

I wrote Creating a Life Together to help communities function more like the former, and wrote Finding Community to help people seeking community know how to get a sense of where a group might fall on the spectrum.

It seems to me that just as the abundance and yield of a garden depends on the fertility of its soil, so the daily life functioning of a community depends on the emotional well-being and maturity of the people who live there.

AND . . . individual community members (like anyone anywhere) have wide ranges over any given set of days or weeks of how they function. And how communities function changes over time, too.

So let me tell you about Earthaven, where I live. When reactive and needy people come to visit, and/or want to become Exploring Members, we get to know them and can see this. Either they don't pursue membership (because their own internal unhappiness makes them not want to stay) or some of us either subtly discourage them, or outright ask them not to pursue membership, and they don't.

Once in awhile someone like this slips through our process and becomes a Provisional Member anyway. In this case the same thing occurs: either they choose not to pursue it or some members ask them not to pursue membership.

And sometimes, people in this situation continue to pursue full membership. Then their request  for full membership becomes an agenda item in our meeting. In which case those of us who don't want them to become members can either say nothing at all (and live with the consequences over the years) or block the proposal. For most of Earthaven's history, when people who wanted to become full members triggered unease in some of us, because it seemed that their behaviors, if continued, would cause problems, we did not block their membership. We let them join. And then regretted it when they drained and exhausted the group with their issues.

Recently, about five of us had concerns about two people who wanted to join. We met with them one by one and learned that our concerns seemed justified. The membership committee told them that five of us planned to block, so they withdrew their request to become full members. But other full members said, "Wait, let's bring the proposal to our meeting anyway (the people wouldn't have to attend) and hear the reasons these five people don't want them to join." So we did that.

As it turned out, seven people blocked the couple's membership, and seven others stood aside. Meaning that 14 people out of 45 didn't want them to become full members. So finally, our community has learned to say No.

Diana

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Thanks, Diana, for the concrete examples--again. "Reactive" and "needy" is a very good way to put it.

Perhaps there's a different type of "reactive" person in what Paul's describing - perhaps a "defensive" person who is intimidated by those with more knowledge.

And yes, I get defensive or reactive myself sometimes.

Diana Leafe Christian wrote:
It seems to me that just as the abundance and yield of a garden depends on the fertility of its soil, so the daily life functioning of a community depends on the emotional well-being and maturity of the people who live there.

AND . . . individual community members (like anyone anywhere) have wide ranges over any given set of days or weeks of how they function. And how communities function changes over time, too.


Beautiful.

It reminds me of an example I had about a mother who would let her children know her mood by saying things like, "today I have patience the size of a pea," or, "today I have patience the size of a watermelon!"

It's lovely to interact with those who are self-aware, and incredibly useful to know how to encourage a community of folks with healthy relationship skills.
 
                    
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allow me to put in my two cents worth.
Community or commune?

from my personal experience: I lived the first few years of my life in a community like they  had existed for hundreds of years and the  this particular lifestyle basically faded away in the middle of the last century.  I experienced the tail end. 
Communities interacted with the "world out there" but basically there was a pretty strong local economy.  YOu had farms, which had their "headquarters" house, barns etc in the village, with  fields and meadows in the surrounding countryside.  The poorer members of the community worked on the farms. Often it was the young,unmarried who got their first job there and stayed with it until they saved  enough to buy a piece of land and build a house.  Big farms also might have a family living permanently on the place in a house just for them.  The family would have a garden, goats and chickens, maybe a cow, they would get the feed/hay from the farm and worked for the farmer.  The community would have a blacksmith, he made farm implements and repaired them, nails and tools, and shoed horses; a cobbler/shoemaker who made shoes and repaired them;  a spinster who made her living as the seamstress.  If there was lots of work in one house, for instance a daughter getting married, she would come and stay and work in that house. There would be  a bakery and a brewery, a pub or two, a butcher who butchered at his place, but also came to your house.  There would be a few masons, carpenters, roadworkers employed by the community, a cabinet maker who made furniture, doors, windows and coffins.  There would be a store or two.  Most families would raise most of their basic  food,  keep goats or a couple of cows, chickens and geese. Fowl was free ranging. Children had to tend to the flocks of geese in fall to keep them on harvested oat fields. The community had some communal land that was used by all for geese, for instance, and at times to bleach linen.  There was a midwife, a priest, a barber and a teacher.
Two supplement income some families would produce brooms,  tool handles, clogs, hayrakes, wooden spoons during winter. There were also several wood turners who made household items like bowls and platters, rolling pins, butter molds, needle boxes, table and chair legs.  These items were sold at big markets outside of the community.  Since I grew up in a mountain village with large forests, the raw material was wood (lets not forget the sawmill). In other areas the local industry  might be  pottery, if there was a lot of clay there, for instance.  In my area, but before my time, they also grew flax and it was spun and woven into linen which was sold. 
Fences were maintained, this was not communal living.  I would call it intensive neighborhood.  People depended on each other for help in emergencies,  for their social life and entertainment.  Certain work was done in cooperation,  for instance to put a roof on house or barn, the neighbors pitched in.  There was  music and singing. In winter the women and girls would congregate in different houses to do the spinning.  Of course I was a mere child but I felt very secure in my world, knew everybody,  learned a lot because I liked to watch what people were doing. The community was pretty busy and humming along since most people were at home. Crime was about nonexistent, though some boys might have a fight over a girl.  Everybody stayed pretty much on the straight and narrow, after all, what would the neighbors say.
Of course you had all kinds of people. In my community were two women who were mentally ill,  but they lived and were accepted for what they were. The community provided some security for them by being there.  I remember laughing as a child as this one woman was dipping water out of the creek for hrs. My mother told me different.  There were a couple of, well, slow learners, mildly retarded. I remember one little guy, he lived at my cousins farm, his folks were dead, The farmhouse was big  and he had a small room next to the horse barn.  He did a little work and ate with the family and the farmhands, and stayed there til he died. Everybody was kind to him.  And there were the few families who were slobs, drunks and served as a bad example. 

Communal life can work very well, and has for many hundreds of years,  but I think it needs a strong underpinning, like a common belief, as in religious orders of the Catholic Church, or the Shakers. I understand there are some communes that function well among  Moravian brothers and Hutterites.  No doubt about it, I miss living in a good community greatly. However living in a commune for me is just a tad too close for comfort.

 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Elfreide B, I loved your description of growing up in a mountain forest farming village. I'm thinking, by your name, that it might have been a German-speaking country, so I'm imagining a tiny farming village in Switzerland, Austria, or Germany. I am forwarding your post to my friends and neighbors here at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, where I live. We are in the process of creating a tiny agricultural village in a mountain forest setting. I think we'd all benefit from hearing how life was in your village, because sometimes memories of community life in the past can help create beautiful images and goals for those of us trying to create community life now and in the near future. Thank you so much.
If you'd like to see how we're doing right now, in the early stages (only 15 years) of our ecovillage project, please see http://www.Earthaven.org

Diana Leafe Christian
 
                                        
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
So, let me try to paint a hypothetical example. Suppose there is a massage therapist who cleans more than anyone else, brings in supplies, practically sacrifices herself to be part of an alternative healthcare clinic, but then rails, withdraws, or throws a fit if you use a word that seems chauvinistic to her. Not enough boundaries with helping or being part of the group, then too sharp a boundary with how others talk. Does that paint a picture?

In my limited experience, I came up with a theory. It seems to me that some folks who have had really difficult, perhaps even horrible issues or experiences, then turn to alternative lifestyles to heal. Whether those lifestyles involve alternative health care, alternative education, permaculture, living in community, or whatever doesn't really matter. And it's truly healthy and fabulous that these folks are looking for a healthier path.

The reason I came up with this theory, is because it seems to me there are higher percentages of folks with these kind of boundary or emotional issues in the alternative circles. I'm curious if others think this is true, too, or if it's just me. 

I mentioned this to a friend and she had an interesting reply. She said she lived in a community in her twenties, and it seemed to her that the residents in that community all brought their unresolved family of origin issues to the group. In her view, the community was basically rife with folks processing stuff and she was relieved to eventually separate herself from it.

In my partnerships, I do look forward to the growth that comes from having buttons pushed (believe it or not) and how a mature, loving kind of intimacy can help each partner move beyond old patterns. That's a partnership, though. I would find it exhausting and draining if community members tended to be reactive and needy in these areas like the massage therapist example, or as my friend experienced when she lived in community.

I'm not at all opposed to processing stuff and being intimate and real in my relationships with people. It's just that I'd like to think I'm able to reign in my "stuff" to stay reasonable in my working, neighborly and even community relations. And I guess you could say I'm hugely doubtful that many of those drawn to community can do similarly. Diana has provided thorough examples of screening processes, which I'm sure is a huge chunk of preventing too much craziness in a community, but I'm still doubtful. And, I'm wondering if the odds are stacked a bit in favor of emotional drama.




Your example is interesting, because the picture you paint is of someone who contributes more than their fair share (I don't quite see the issue here besides for them...) but also reacts strongly to the use of chauvinistic language...which I belive is an issue that all communities these days need to address somehow. Now I understand the way the person reacts may be counterproductive and difficult, possibly because of past experiences, but that indicates to me an issue that needs resolving - just in a way that doesn't undermine day to day life. But there may be people in the situation who overstep peoples boundaries unknowingly by using sexist language, probably also because of life experience.

I belive everyone has some amount of such issues, many of them are create and/or accentuated by the alienation that "civilized" social structures nescessitates. We have also (almost) all been raised in nuclear familly settings, so to jump into community is a pretty huge change and everyone has some amount of baggage.

We all need to heal from social alienation, but we can't do it without community, but we can barely create community without healing...gotta start somewhere.

Not to say we shouldnt be selective in creating our communities, just pointing out that we have to accept that everyone will have issues of some sort and working out good processes to deal with them constructively. Obviously, in a social framework where identity and drama make a relationship with one person unnecessarily challenging, having many close live-with relationships is not an easy choice...but what choice is there if we want to foster a change in culture?

Recommended: My Name Is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization by Chellis Gelnndenning

It's just that sometimes, the horrible, awful past that led this person to buck the mainstream is still affecting them, and isn't quite healed yet. Might never be totally healed.


So true, and there are so many awful pasts and presents in this world right now, everyone is going through a healing crisis thats been generations coming. Time to break the sick patterns and we can't do it alone.
 
                                        
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Bytesmiths wrote:
I'm coming to a different realization, that "intentional" community is not such a good idea.
...
I feel the same way about community at times. I love community when it happens, but I'm increasingly cynical about those who seek to force it to happen.


Well said, I Absolutely agree with you, I don't think any of my points disagree with that.

Community (aka learning to relate to each other) is NESCESSARY, but like most things, CANNOT BE FORCED

But, as you say, a central focus, a well articulated main point of affinity and shared goals certainly are essential...which I believe requires some intent, hence I do think "intentional community" is an appropriate term. I just think it needs to be intentionally about something concrete, not something abstract.

To try to build "community" (whatever that may be) without shared experiences , values and goals is impossible...
because you can't learn to relate to each other if you have nothing to relate about.

That being said, people who want to just "do sustainability" and dismiss the importance of community seem to me to miss a point also...community can be sustainable in ways isolated alienated identity building consumers cannot be. (not that there is a hard and fast line mind you, everything comes in spectrums) And we can (potentially) accomplish so much more as an self-organizing group than alone. Doing one or the other "alone" is missing that they are most often intertwined, probably a result of reductionistic/dualistic mindsets which often constrain us.

 
Diana Leafe Christian
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I resonate strongly, and emotionally, with what Bytesmiths has just written.

I was having breakfast in Portland last June with and Robert and Lianne Gilman and two other community activists, Guillermo and Jodie.  Robert Gilman is the ecovillage visionary who wrote "Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities" in 1991, and who, with Ross and Hildur Jackson, helped start the formalized aspect of the worldwide ecovillage movement in the early 1990s.  He's currently a consultant to GEN (Global Ecovillage Network), and a city councilman in the town of Langley, WA, where they've been working for several years (with Robert leading the way) to create an ecovillage-like, Transition Town-like place there in Langley, with local food, local energy, a local economy -- an underneath it all, sustainable zoning. Anyway, it was a wonderful group of community friends to be having breakfast with.

We came up with an idea (which Guillermo and Jodie first tried out in a community shared organic farm project they started in Portland) of starting a new community but NOT using the "community" word at all. Of NOT using a word that would draw those who wanted connection and "family." That would draw people who wanted to join a community so they could feel accepted, valued, included, snuggled, heard, or helped out socially or emotionally. (Does this sound familiar?)

Instead, wa asked, what if a group promoted not "community," but the starting of something called "a small, ecologically sustainable human settlement," that was seeking members to help manifest that dream. It would be seeking farmers, gardeners, beekeepers, welders, people who could repair things (from autos to small appliances), entrepreneurs and people with already existing small cottage industries, investors, home-builders and carpenters, meeting facilitators, administrators, bookkeepers. It would seek founders and early members with certain qualities: confidence, high-self esteem (not arrogance), good will, happiness, focus, disciple, work ethic.

We all knew that "the community spirit" would arise naturally from a group of people like this who were drawn to creating a "small, sustainable human settlement." In our theoretical idea, we'd draw the happy and confident and skilled, and deflect away the lonely, needy, and unhappy.

Now, doesn't everyone have the right to live in community? Not just the competant and confident? Yes, of course. However starting a community is a whole different thing. It takes competent, conflident, go-getters (who don't need community to make their lives feel better) to start one, take it from me!

I wish I could go back and write Creating a Life Together all over again. I'd suggest to community founders and forming groups that they don't call the project a "community." That they do what our breakfast group outlined instead. And then, years later, when they're up and running and thriving, their buildings built and their gardens and farms producing  . . . that then they call it a community, and then they welcome folks who just want "community." Because by then the would be so solid and stable and well-functioning that they could absorb the impact of folks who might take up a lot of conflict-resolution time, but who are folks who want to live in community, and want to contribute, give, and share, just the same.

Whew!

Fortunately, these days things seem to be going well at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, where I live. But Oh!, if our founders had only known to do this, it would have saved Earthaven years of delay, distress, and discouragement, which happened from time to time over the years when individual people's personal unhappiness or personal emotional issues slowed down or demoralized the process of building a sustainable village from scratch.

Diana

 
paul wheaton
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Diana, it always warms me to the core to see you here. 

This thread is so ..... delicious.

I was recently at the bullock brothers farm .... such a beautiful place.  I was interviewing two of the people living there.  One had been there for .... I think ... three years.  (I recorded the converstaion, but my damn camera garbled it!)  I asked "would you call living at this farm 'community'?"  "Absolutely!" - The people living there obviously share a strong bond and my impression is that personal strife is near zero compared to some other communities I've visited. 

Of course, it isn't "The Bullock Brothers Community" but "The Bullock Brothers Farm." 

I guess the point I am shuffling toward is ... when it comes to the collective psychology of community, each person feels like they were born a master chef.  After years of lousy food, the communitarian keeps thinking "I used to be a lousy cook, but now ...  NOW I'm a master chef!" (twinkies for breakfast again?)  - In the meantime, there are very few places that are serving up excellent community: either due to decades of trial and error, or due to sheer luck, or maybe natural talent.  Something that would really help is a good cookbook complete with 20 recipes for community.  Of course, while most people would turn to a cookbook to make their first ever oatmeal cookies, the weird programming of people is they are certain (errantly) they are born with community expertise to fill a desert case with the best french pastries anyone has ever tasted, so they don't need a cookbook. 

Well .... I feel like I either said something really profound or I'm just muddying the waters.

And don't get me started on "too many chefs in the kitchen!" 


 
Fred Morgan
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Hi all, a very interesting forum if I may say so, and a very interesting concept. I have been enjoying reading what you all are saying, which seems to be strong in common sense and respect.

I like so many I think desire community, but fear lack of control. An age old problem I am sure. The idea of having a project so resonates with me since we do (reforestation and sustainable forestry in Costa Rica) have one of some size (786 acres and growing).

We have a community of 45 workers, what makes us different of course is that there is only one owner and the vision, though shared, comes from one couple. (us) We are trying to transition more and more so that the company will be true to its roots while including the vision of others, but it is a slow, careful process.

In some ways, we are like an intentional community since most of our workers believe in what we are doing, and more than a few actually live on the properties. But having a single owner might well disqualify (who is the employer as well) it as one. Not sure.

Anyway, I am more than a little interested in what you all are saying, who knows, I just might figure out how to eventually turn our company into a community.
 
paul wheaton
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crtreedude wrote:

I like so many I think desire community, but fear lack of control.


This reminds me of a key concern.

If a community has icky people, then you need a way to get rid of icky people.  At the same time, what if I put ten years of my soul into something and then the community decides that I'm icky. 

 
paul wheaton
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So if one is to lead an interesting life, then perhaps community is not a good fit.  Because an interesting life draws ridicule from the mob for being different.

My recent chicken article is an excellent example. 

So if I have "a year to change their mind -- or a year to change [my] behaviour!" then it sounds like a large portion of my life would need to be dedicated to justifying my existence, or to change myself to be something I am not.  Neither of these sound appealing.  Therefore, it sounds like I am not a fit for community.  A further conclusion could be that the only people that are a fit for community are those that are willing to be what the community wishes them to be.

Hence, the epidemic of "founder's syndrome" in community:  it took a powerful character to start a community.  But once the community is rolling, the rest of the community does not care for such a powerful character.

 
                                        
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or you could co-found a community based around whatever you consider an interesting life with people who also want to do whatever it is you consider interesting...
 
Robert Ray
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Paul,
Your initial post mentioned creating an exercise on what would be ideal let's try and run with that. I'll give five concepts that I think would make a good community and let's hear five of yours.
Common vision: whether it is susainable agriculture, religion or waiting for the next Hale Bopp comet a common vision or desire has to be established.
Ownership: A vested interest in a community would make one want to have the community succeed.
Mentors: Having members wanting to share their experience and educate others
would be essential.
Shared responsibility: Equal voice for each member with consequences for successes and failures shared to a degree.
Reassessment opportunity: While a communuity grows there could be a need to alter the initial vision, with commuity consensus of course


For me a communal system would not work I just have too big of a personal bubble but the idea of striving with a community to attain a common goal is appealing.
 
Robert Ray
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Bytesmith,
  To clarify, yes  consensus would be a key point, even a steward or council could make a decision that would be detrimental on some scale and that would require shared consequence.
So many degrees of community, my personal bubble/space would be satisfied if I owned my own portion/plot and had my own dwelling.
Having been on non-profit boards and organizations I have seen first hand where there is contention even when one has a common beneficial goal, accepting differences of opinions and being acceptant of mentorship or a differing view is where many have an issue. I can only assume that it would be the same in an intentional community.
How would/do you handle a issue of contention in your ideal community?
 
Robert Ray
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Bytesmith,
Ouch! First off my mother is a Canadian. My cousins still own and operate farms in Canada.
Secondly I agree with  Nehru, " Failures come only when we forget our ideals our objectives and our principles".
Ownership in a broad sense would be a legacy I guess. If I were to build maintain and take care of a piece of property and pay the "Tax Man" it would be an investment in my view so ,yes, I guess the ability to sell my piece of heaven or leave it to family would be part of my ideal community.
Wether restrictions are in the form of permits or a community steward there would of course be restrictions. Perhaps the restrictions presented by a steward would be more appealing than a government inspector because there is a connection there. But even a community is hampered by restrictions of the government as you illustration points out.
"Inability to work together"  is a bit broad..... no?
So your description of how to handle conflict is a good map for a community in problem solving.
But we disagree a bit on a conmparison of Americans, Canadian Americans and Canadians
 
Robert Ray
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Bytesmith,
To say that those in the US are "self righteous, unyeilding and unable to work together was a tad unfair. Just as making an assumption that Bush or Obama's actions are approved by one and all.
A comment off the cuff like that is like calling someone a racist, there is no defense once the claim or charge is made even though one denies it, any argument that ensues is lost.
So I have given my five initial five components of what I would like to see in my ideal community experience and you have polished them. How would you handle things like profit of the community should it occur?
Equitable work loads?
Members degree of participation as they age? Or are injured/sick?
 
paul wheaton
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Bytesmiths wrote:
Now wait a second, Paul -- are you saying all those who "lead an interesting life" are also "icky people?" Because that's the parallel you just implied.


I'm saying it is relative.  I'm saying that one person's interesting life is another person's icky life. 

Bytesmiths wrote:
I'm sorry, but I get irritated when you post a provocative statement (about "icky people" and then morph it into a general indictment of community. I think you've done this before.


Well, I do "my thing" all the time.  I think it is a good and healthy thing.  Are you saying that you find it "icky"? 

Bytesmiths wrote:
But it's all about attitude, and if your complaint is (as it seems to me) that people who are antagonistic about community are unlikely to be successful in community, then I whole-heartedly agree with you!


My point is not that they antagonistic about community.  Not at all.  In fact, quite the opposite. 

Founder's syndrome is an important demonstration of my point.  I didn't make this up.  It is a problem that happens often enough ith IC's that it has a name!




 
Robert Ray
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I think Wikipedia's defintion covers what Paul is refering to. Paul could confirm my supposition.
 
Fred Morgan
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Bytesmiths wrote:
I've never seen a concise definition of "founder's syndrome". In fact, many of the definitions I have seen disagree with yours. And yet, you write of it as though it were "term of art," or well-defined and well-understood by all. I think you did make it up -- at least the definition part that is in your head.

Paul, perhaps you should add your working definition of "founder's syndrome" to this discussion so we can better understand what you mean by it, because I am unable to ascertain a consistent vernacular definition for it.


My idea of the founder's syndrome is perhaps what is often experience in business where the founder often has to be replaced if the company is to grow beyond say 20 employees. This is due to a founder driving things, not by communication or by protocol, but by personality. Easier to sustain in business if you are the owner.

Often when a company goes IPO (initial public offering) a condition is that after a short period of time, the founders will take a back seat in the company. Rarely is this a smooth transition.

To do something new and different you often need someone who is visionary, but if the system is to mature, the visionary has to go visualize something new. Just like plants and systems, a community has to mature. A problem can often occur when the direction of the group violates the ideals of the visionary, who then will feel betrayed.

 
Robert Ray
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crtreedude,
I like your illustrations of Founder's Syndrome. I think that any vision has to be able to change as the organization grows and develops. Any good leader has to listen and be open to suggestions.
Begin with good juice and end up with a fine wine.
 
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lapinerobert wrote:
crtreedude,
I like your illustrations of Founder's Syndrome. I think that any vision has to be able to change as the organization grows and develops. Any good leader has to listen and be open to suggestions.
Begin with good juice and end up with a fine wine.


Thanks, I am a founder of our companies and I have to constantly safeguard myself against this, and let the organization mature.

Founders can be paranoid (perhaps not clinically, but definitely feeling like outsiders) to the group. They also don't tend to need the approvals of others, it is why they are so good at leading.

But they can definitely be a problem, since their method of leadership is not conducive to long term health of the community. Though it may be perceived as morbid, a good founder should always be thinking... "If I get ran over tomorrow, what will happen to what I have built?"

To be a true community, and not a cult, it has to be able to outlive the founder. Just like for a business to go public, it has to be independent of the founder.

If the founder realizes these things, they can transition from being the big mucky muck to being a very valuable adviser to the group.  In a business, this is easier because they have all that nice green stuff to play with and could use the rest.  Harder to achieve I suppose in an IC due to the fact they are still having to sweat with everyone else, or so I would think.
 
paul wheaton
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In 2005 I attended an intentional community weekend workshop where the presenter taught us about "founder's syndrome" in intentional community. 

The idea is that a founder works long and hard to get the land and get things started.  Lots of hard work and having to find a path despite a lot of negativity.  A founder needs to have a pretty thick skin.  And then the founder reaches out and brings lovely people in.  As things begin, there is lots of conflict and the founder attempts to find a smoother path. 

Eventually, you have a group of lovely people and the founder.  And the lovely people, being human, wish to improve their situation.  And their lovely vision is different from the rigidly practical vision of the founder.  It becomes clear that the obstacle to lovliness, is the founder.  So the founder is ejected.

I have met many people that have told me many stories to confirm that founder's syndrome is very common in intentional community. 

 
Fred Morgan
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paul wheaton wrote:
In 2005 I attended an intentional community weekend workshop where the presenter taught us about "founder's syndrome" in intentional community. 

The idea is that a founder works long and hard to get the land and get things started.  Lots of hard work and having to find a path despite a lot of negativity.  A founder needs to have a pretty thick skin.  And then the founder reaches out and brings lovely people in.  As things begin, there is lots of conflict and the founder attempts to find a smoother path. 

Eventually, you have a group of lovely people and the founder.  And the lovely people, being human, wish to improve their situation.  And their lovely vision is different from the rigidly practical vision of the founder.   It becomes clear that the obstacle to lovliness, is the founder.  So the founder is ejected.

I have met many people that have told me many stories to confirm that founder's syndrome is very common in intentional community. 




Much of this is similar to teenagers. Before they become the little monsters  they tend to think their parents can do no wrong, but as they transition, they can often go to the other extreme, their parents can do no right. The more the parent has used the first, the more severe the latter will likely be.

A founder often makes the error of not realizing it is a community, not a dictatorship. If you aren't going to have a revolt, it is very important you keep pushing decisions on others before they demand it. In that way, they will not think the only way to be free, is to be free of the founder.

Just like teenagers often reach the conclusion that the only way to be free is to be free of their parents.
 
Robert Ray
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Would you say that there is a follower syndrome as well? A charismatic leader could easily gain followers.
 
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When I think of founder's syndrome, my mind leads me to a space where the founder has done the math for budgets, taxes and possibly made agreements with neighbors so that the community can exist.  And then there could be new folks that want something .... different ... and don't give a damn about all of that.  Conflict arises.

And then there is a common community conflict:  the people that work hard and make lots of community contributions, and then people that think they should stop working so hard and take it easy.  I suspect the founder is a hard worker and might have expectations that others carry an equal share.  In the meantime, many of the others feel they could have an even better community if everybody was not forced to work so much. 


 
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paul wheaton wrote:
When I think of founder's syndrome, my mind leads me to a space where the founder has done the math for budgets, taxes and possibly made agreements with neighbors so that the community can exist.  And then there could be new folks that want something .... different ... and don't give a damn about all of that.  Conflict arises.

And then there is a common community conflict:  the people that work hard and make lots of community contributions, and then people that think they should stop working so hard and take it easy.  I suspect the founder is a hard worker and might have expectations that others carry an equal share.  In the meantime, many of the others feel they could have an even better community if everybody was not forced to work so much. 





Sure, common problem. One of the more difficult things is to recognize the difference between someone who agrees with you but isn't you. Lots of people want what you want (not even just what you have, but the same goals) as long as they don't have to do much to get it. And they can feel it is totally wrong that they have to modify their behavior to reach those goals.

Partnerships in business often have these issues as well.

In all honesty, any time I have anyone around me who's goal it is to arrive at a point of not having to work hard, I make sure they have no ability to make decisions. This is because what they want is not accomplishment, but to hang out in a hammock.  Though I have more than I ever need, the desire to continue to accomplish things does not leave me. I do take more naps now than I did, but that might just be because I am in my 50s. 

Younger people who's desire is to make a lot of money so they can stop working are very dangerous. They rarely do succeed at the lots of money due to wanting to quit when the going gets tough. The slow and steady folk usually are the better choice.

Founders often make the mistake of assuming everyone is like themselves, whereas it is rarely true. My wife does a good job of reminding me not to superimpose my values on others and think they will react like I do.

 
Brenda Groth
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often in our area we find that families form communities..especially in rural areas..used to be that all the land around here was owned by one family group..which included an entire mile of property..they would all work together supplying what each other needed, including hunting in groups driving the swamps to get the deer that their families needed for winter food and setting up trap lines.

part of that land was sold to my Father in law about  40 years ago..and we had formed a community out here of  family and a few friends that would stay with one of us..

I know it isn't the same as the communities that you folks are discussing..but in our community that was made up of family and friends..the people work together to put up food and firewood and to do repairs, provide water, etc. At one time we had 3 adjoining properties, my in laws, us and my son's in a row..when the inlaws died we sold their property, but the new owners are the share the work and help type of people too..so it is kinda still in the community.

my son has a homeless man living in his basement and he is working and sharing some of the expenses, but not much of the "work" around the property, which it was assumed that he would do.

I do think that "working" communities, even if they are family/friend groups, can be helpful but I also see where they can bring up social problems..we used to have friends that had a commune about 5 miles from us, but it disbanded for social reasons.
 
Robert Ray
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And just how big does a group have to be to be called a community?  Your example of "Family" is probably the most basic component. I liken it to a handful of gravel thrown onto the surface of a pond. Each edge of a circle touching or crossing into it's neighbor or other members circle yet everyone in the same pond. More important responsible for the health of the pond.
No matter where we live we are part of a community of some degree.
What I yearn for is a "Working" community. One that is interested in attaining or reaching as much as possible an import independent, locavore, sustainable lifestyle. So easy to say when I sit here and look about my consumer driven household and type on my laptop and ignore my cell phone ringing across the room. I have stuff but I have begun to realize stuff isn't what makes me happy. I was driven to acquire stuff instead of acquiring "enough". I'd be so much farther ahead if I had just known what enough was rather than followng the Jones's. I realize that I just can't have a cool slice of tomato on a sandwich in January where I live, but I can have a killer spaghetti sauce from tomatoes I harvested  and canned in August. My own hands made this and if it were a community our hands would have made it.
I look inside and see that I have been driven by consumer greed and not personal growth. Desire can be a powerful sin with a razors edge to balance on.
 
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Something perhaps that might be overlooked is that when you look at permaculture, you are looking at a system, in my opinion, which can continue permanently. The same perhaps should be considered for anyone who is going to be part of a community. If everyone in the community feels they need to put in more than their share, then I suspect it will work. But, if you have people who wish to live off the hard work of others, that sucks the life out of the system.

In our businesses, I require EVERYONE to be productive. We don't carry anyone. This creates an incredibly high moral. I don't require people to be incredibly productive, just more productive than they take out in the terms of salaries and benefits. The surplus expands the business, which means more people can participate.

Utopia to me is not a place where people can hang out in hammocks, but where their work is valued, and that all enjoy their labor.

again, just my dos colones
 
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well our family community started up the wood boiler for the winter last night. It feeds 2 houses and one large outbuilding now, but may eventually feed more.

it is great to have a centralized heating system for more than one household, as there are more than one household providing the firewood, kindling and putting the effort into maintaining the fire, which can be a lot on one person or family.

we are also discussing cutting our propane tanks here from 2 to one..as they are very close together..and we  could likely do well enough with one now that we neither use the propane for heating fuels unless the fire goes out or on cold summer nights..and we are making up systems for heating our household water with the boiler as well..as we can afford to do the work.

someday we hope to be able to put in an alternative source of electricity too..seems that somehow that wood boiler could be put to use for that too..if we can figure it out..but we are all on extremely fixed amounts of $ income that it is hard to get ahead on those projects.

this summer we shared with our neighbors bartering work for use of a back hoe..and they offered us use of a huge chipper this weekend..but we just weren't able to take advantage of it.

we have a tractor that we share for show plowing and yard work and wood hauling..and we share transportation and insurance on vehicles as well as maintainence costs for those vehicles..

i'm sure there is more....but just wanted to remark on the boiler..this is 11 months since we put it in.
 
paul wheaton
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And just how big does a group have to be to be called a community?


Ain't that the question.

My impression is that the word "community" has lost so much meaning that there are too many people that insist it means "two or more people" and others that will insist that it means at least 100.  So it becomes difficult to talk about anything when the foundation vocabulary is less than stable. 

 
Robert Ray
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I guess there could be a community of one but in my definition there has to be some form of collaboration for community to exist. I think but that could include collaboration with a neighboring community of one. So maybe not number of people identifies community but collaboration would?
 
paul wheaton
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I guess there could be a community of one


That would be some guy and all of the voices in his head? 

I think this is another space where it would be great to have a new word.  "shpitznit" could mean six or more unreleated people choosing to live under the same roof and share a kitchen. 

Diana Leafe Christian appears to be moving away from "community" stuff and towards "ecovillage" stuff.  My impression is that her general mission is the same, but that "community" has become so loosely defined that it is a quagmire of headache and heartache.  Whereas "ecovillage" has a stricter definition that offers a foundation to build something on.

 
The only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you. Or this tiny ad:
2017 Rocket Mass Heater Workshop Jamboree - 15 workshops in one event
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