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How I know what I do about starting successful new communities (& why buying land isn't it)  RSS feed

 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Posts: 45
Location: Earthaven Ecovillage, North Carolina; Ecovillages newsletter http://wwwEcovillageNews.org
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Here's how I learned what works, what doesn't work, and how not to reinvent the wheel on starting successful new intentional communities --ecovillages, eco-settlements, and so on.

I was the editor of Communities magazine and I was visiting a lot of communities as part of my job. I met dozens and dozens of founders of successful communities, and also of failed communities. I was "observing the landscape" of intentional communities that were trying to get started in the US in the 1990s.

Ninety percent failed. Usually they failed in conflict and heartbreak, but also sometimes in lawsuits. Ten percent actually got up and running. I wanted to know why. So I "observed the landscape" more -- of those that succeeded and those that failed. I didn't want to know what their founders believed, their theories. I wanted to know what they did. Their practical, replicable actions.

Like good Permaculture designers, who design a landscape that goes along with how nature actually works, the founders of the 10% successful communities designed their communities to go along with how human nature actually works. Like successful Permies who reduce excess labor and increase yield (of water, fertile soil, heat, food, etc.), these folks reduced excess conflict and increased their yield of good project management skills, good "creating community glue" skills, and good will, well-being, cooperation, collaboration.

Starting successful new communities involves basically three things: (1) good project management (this includes knowing about legal, financial, and land-purchase issues; shared values, shared purpose; clear agreements in writing; good record-keeping of meetings & decisions; good bookkeeping; effective labor contribution policy; etc.) (2) ways to create "community glue" (working together, solving problems together, shared meals, playing music, drumming, dancing, singing, playing frisbee, soccer, volleyball, chess, checkers, poker, parties, plays, skits -- everything involving doing things together that helps people feel a sense of "us.") (3) good process and communication skills (which means talking to each other in better ways than people do in mainstream, not-community culture).

When I do workshops I start off by drawing these three things in a circle with three thirds. I write each of these things in each third, then put in each of them the individual topics, like "Clear, thorough membership process" (which goes in the "Good Project Management" third.)

In the center of the circle I draw a smaller circle that's part of each third. It's blank. I fill it in with the words "Effective self-governance & decision-making." (By the way, the method I recommend is Sociocracy, also called Dynamic Governance, not consensus.)

Then I give people a 15-page handout, "The 19 Steps: How People Typically Start a Successful Ecovillage or intentional community."

If you'd like this handout, let me know and I'll send it to you. diana~at~ic.org

They read the handout, discuss it, then play the Timeline Game with it. This is 97 cards in random order on two or three long narrow tables that go the length of the room. Each card represents a different step, phase, task, activity, etc. of each of the "19 Steps." These 97 things include one-time tasks, ongoing tasks, ongoing processes, one-time research projects, ongoing projects, etc.

One end of the table says "start." The other says "finish." Their job is to replicate the reality of creating a successful new community but in a game simulation in the workshop room. First, they put the cards in the order down the table that an actual forming community group would really do these things. They can make parallel rows, since many of the things people do to start a community happen simultaneously. Second, they need to decide together how they're going to do this, how they're going to decide, who's going to do what. And how they'll decide when the game is finished, when they have the cards in the right order. So they're practicing both form and content. What they decide, how they decide.

Here's some sample cards about buying land: Decide site criteria for your land. Create land-search committee. Research zoning regulations in your desired counties. Research costs of applying for a zoning variance, if needed. Research financing sources for land purchase and development. Create down-payment fund. Create land-development fund. Create land-payment fund. Research possible legal entities for co-owning land together. Choose and get lawyer to create legal entity for co-owning land together. Research various aspects of land feasibility as part of pre-purchase contract. Buy land. Celebrate buying land. Hire Permaculture designer to do intentional community site plan for your land.

Well, there are still 84 cards, with equally specific steps in many other areas, not just land.

I read the post about a Permaculture Free community.

I was frustrated and sad reading what various folks wrote in this thread. Frustrated, because many of the suggests express the same kind of terminal naiveté that makes 90% of all community start-ups crash and burn. Frustrated that these folks may not realize their community dreams if they believe the well-meaning but grossly mistaken advice in these posts.

People are writing just as if starting a human settlement was a matter of buying land and doing a Permaculture design on it and then voila! intentional community, Permaculture-style.

Or the idea that if a large enough group of owners bought a large enough property and had a locked gate with a no trespassing sign, they'd somehow be immune from the negative consequences of violating county zoning regulations. Or that people just need to find a sparsely populated county and then they could do whatever they wanted to, re building codes, zoning regulations, or state health regulations. Or that the important things to figure out are how many people might get together how much money to buy how much land with how many building sites with how much land for each site.

Or that creating a successful intentional community, ecovillage, eco-settlement or whatever -- one in which people cooperate in healthy and productive ways, have mutually beneficial relationships with neighbors, and are safe from being shut down by the county -- is a matter of buying land, enough land, land in the right place.

In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.

Intentional communities are embedded in the wider culture and subject to its laws and regulations, like it or not. The idea that you can go so far out in the country that no county officials will know about you is a myth. It's New Age naivté. It's magical thinking. Flying under the radar will work only if the group is really small and innocuous and doesn't piss off any neighbors. If the group ends up having someone move next door to them (which they can't control) who is an outrageous sociopath or otherwise emotionally volatile and irrational, they'll eventually piss him off whether they mean to or not. And in retaliation for his real or imagined slights, the neighbor turns you into the county, whose guys have to respond to complaints, even if they'd rather continue turning a blind eye.

The worst places for zoning regulations being enforced, relentlessly, is California, Oregon, and Washington, and on the other side, Massachusetts and it's neighbors. The thing to do is not to try to fool counties. The thing to do is shop for counties that have no zoning regulations at all. You'll find them in central and eastern Tennessee, most of Missouri, parts of western North Carolina. I live in an ecovillage in a county with no zoning here in North Carolina, and that's on purpose. Our founders searched for a no-zoning county to buy land in.

Zoning regulations aren't building codes; these are separate. Zoning has to do with how many houses can be on how many acres; how many unrelated adults can live in one house; how far any buildings are from the property line, etc. Whether or not you need sidewalks, street lights, what sizes your internal homesite or leased lots are. Building codes are about whether or not you can use cob, or non-loadbearing strawbale, etc. Things like roof-water catchment (illegal in Western states), composting toilets, constructed wetlands, etc. are usually regulated by the health department of the state, not the county.

Community founders need to know the laws about these things well in the counties they're interested in -- BEFORE they buy the property.

There's lots more to say about what works well, and doesn't, in starting new communities, but I've smoked my keyboard long enough. Let me know if you want that handout, "The 19 Steps."

Diana
 
Adrien Lapointe
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Posts: 3422
Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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Diana,

have you seen examples in the successful 10% where founders went and bought land in an appropriate location before forming the community and then got people to join them?
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Thank you Dianna for dispelling that isolation myth. I prefer the term New Age Mumbo Jumbo. I like the Magical Thinking one.

Here's my situation. I already have land. I want something that looks like an ecovillage in some ways but not with any sort of shared ownership or decision making. I've managed my life and finances on my own for most of my 48 years and don't plan on changing that. I'm simply concerned with getting the zoning to allow greater density of buildings and people. I'm also concerned with being allowed to build with appropriate materials. I already possess all of the necessary skills to build and manage a little town of 6 -10 residences. Basically what I'd have is a low impact, self sufficient rental community where people could pay that rent in cash, labour or products.

Do you have any experience with that model and any advice on how to proceed. I imagine this sort of thing lives or dies based on bits of paper. All I need is that paper. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You mentioned a 90% failure rate under the community model. Is that 90% failure out of the gate and then many more over time ? Twenty years in, what is the statistical likelihood that a community that survives the first year will still exist in a form you'd call an ecovillage ?
 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Posts: 45
Location: Earthaven Ecovillage, North Carolina; Ecovillages newsletter http://wwwEcovillageNews.org
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Thanks for the questions, Dale and Adrien. Yes, I've seen examples that worked fine when someone or a group bought land first. What they need is to not think they're "done" at that point, but keep on doing all the crucial steps of forming a community. It's much better to make certain important agreements before people move to the land. Because often people are so simultaneously excited and naive that they just move to the land, thinking that's what creates community, now we're living in community. They're so glad to be "in community" at long last! They have wonderful congenial shared meals and work parties. Everyone gets along so well! They're all living in joy and delight . . . for awhile.

Then the things they forgot to discuss and and agree on or postponed till later come up, as they run into these unclear, undecided issues, one by one, as they live on the land. Ooops! And there's no conflict like desperate, money-based, basic-survival-level fears and projections, than folks who put their life savings into a project and have certain assumptions, expectations, and damn-straight certainties . . . that aren't shared by other people living there. "You thought what . .. ?!" "You assumed we'd all do what. . . ?!" Civil War, 21st-century style. And only because things weren't crystal clear and thorough.

Dale, re your idea, while most intentional communities have shared ownership and shared ownership, it's not absolutely necessary to have a sense of community and "many hands make light work." You could very well be the sole landowner with various work exchangers or residents who live there for various lengths of time. The key, once again, is clear, thorough agreements in writing, with both parties signing them.
Even more . . . getting the agreements notarized. If you have one family owning the land and the rest work exchangers or tenants, you can have a fine community energy going -- but please don't call it a community or an ecovillage, as it will set people up to expect more rights, and to resent you as the Lord of the Manor. But please do know that you'll have high turnover. High turnover may be just fine, too, as long as you thoroughly screen the people who apply to live there (ask for and call references) and you are crystal clear about their rights and responsibilities, and yours.

When people share ownership & decision-making, they have "bought in" emotionally too, and thus stay longer, or just stay there period. When they have neither, they can emotionally afford to be there for awhile and enjoy it, and then move on when other opportunities or adventures beckon. So you can have a fine community-like atmosphere (remember, don't use the C word, or E word) with a variety of lovely (well-screened, well-oriented) folks who stay for a few months or a few years. And every two years or so, a whole different bunch of folks will be there. But that's absolutely OK if you -- and they -- all know all of this in advance.

Good luck!

Diana
 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Posts: 45
Location: Earthaven Ecovillage, North Carolina; Ecovillages newsletter http://wwwEcovillageNews.org
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Re the question, how am I figuring 10% success and 90% failure, egads, I don't have much precision on this. This is my rough, armchair statistician guess, based on what I saw back in the 90s, and . .. based on what others in the US and newer friends in Europe also noticed when they looked at this too, here and in Europe.

So roughly, it includes small groups who've met for a few weeks or months in each other's living rooms, groups who buy land, groups who buy land and move onto it. More of the former than the latter. I do know of at least two groups, one in VT and one in SC, that were on their land for three-plus years and then decided to disband. The longer they've been living there, the more traumatic it can be.

Diana
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Thanks again Dianna. The time frames you mention of a year or two are actually quite a bit longer than I would expect many to stay. My other business is a tour bus thing and I want one to feed the other. I could see having some visitors only stay a week while others stay a month or more. A few would stay longer but they would be the ones who teach a variety of skills from blacksmithing to cob building to mushroom farming.

So for some, it would be a working vacation, that includes some travel and skills development while for others it would be a live where you work arrangement.

I expect that there would be an intermediate group who wish to try out communal living before going somewhere long term. I would send them off with a little report card.

---"Jenny spent two months with us here and during that time she helped out in the kitchen, the garden and with the animals. She tried out many crafty things and was so good at pottery decoration which she enjoyed that it became the chief component of her daily duties during her last month here. She has become good friends with her room mates. Her boyfriend, Rick worked out very well and also got along with everyone. Feel free to call me with any questions. Dale"---

This sort of arrangement would allow people to try things out to see how they like it and to build a resume to help them in finding a place to sign on long term. By sending off dozens of happy Jennys and Ricks, word of mouth advertising of my place will permeate a wide area. The short stay model would also give me dibs on great long term candidates. If it turns out that Jenny would like to run the pottery business and Rick wants to run the blacksmith shop for several years, then a deal would be struck. There are other vacant properties near me. The perfect situation would see our imaginary duo start their own farm and business a short distance away. They could still pop in to teach classes but neither of us would be totally dependant on the other.

I've met a few people who started out in their youth as woofers on someones farm where there was no plan for them to ever move beyond being that person's serf. One guy stayed for eight years before he finally realized that time was passing him by. The hippy slavery model is not something I aspire to. If I develop a good reputation, I should have no trouble finding new recruits and I would not want to prevent others from reaching their potential by having them stay too long. There are other places that offer equal partnership and ownership. If communal living works for them, then that would be their better long term choice.

For people who want to do all sorts of good, interesting stuff, my place would be a good choice. They don't have to commit time or money beyond the brief prearranged period. Most importantly they'll learn to live with people who represent a broad swath of the political spectrum. I've been compared to Attila The Hun but I have friends who reside somewhere left of La La Land. So often ideology becomes the driving force for insular groups. My priorities are good stewardship, ecologically sound building and self sufficiency. These are values that the majority of people can get on board with no matter their social, political or financial leanings.
 
Crystal Smith
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Location: Muskegon, MI
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Hi Diana,
I am very interested in reading "The 19 Steps". I'm not sure how you're sending it to people but if you can, my email is ilucrystal@live.com. Thank you so much for your post and sharing your knowledge with everyone. This has def. opened my eyes, and helped me see where we need to start. -Crystal
 
Daniel erline
Posts: 72
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Diana ... Of those 10% who survived did they have any religous connections?

For those who may be interested i found a great 300 acre piece of land at the end of the road in its own valley with no zoning in south central Ky for 170k that hasn't been logged in over 60 yrs and has wonderful bottom land but the agreement is that the buyers can't log it for sale or subdivide it as the previous owners want to keep the land as pristine as possible.

email me thru my web site below in my signature if you have the funds to purchase it with over 50% down. I will gladly help you purchase it . it has 3 house one large 2 small and a few small cabins and two barns with electricty to the one barn and wells and nut groves and 7 acres of good CSA growing land.

Do not ask me exactly where it is or who the owner is as they want only a specific type of conservation minded people to own it or they won't sell it. They do not want to be bothered etc etc but i can't do it myself due to the age of my mother who is now 90.

 
Linda Sefcik
Posts: 72
Location: Central Oklahoma
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Maybe I'm jumping ahead of myself, not having read much on this topic here in the forums...
but...

There are many "ghost towns" all over the country... not abandoned because of toxic issues.
There are communities that simply are dying because... people move where the jobs are.
Seems... it would be a simple thing to just say...
"hey, lets all move to Hillville"... and create a community is a semi-mainstream way.
I've seen small town houses sell at auction for next to nothing... maybe owing taxes.
The infrastructure would already be there, streets, main street, some sort of sewage system.

Has anyone seen this done??
 
Michael Drotor
Posts: 41
Location: Verde Valley, AZ
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Hi Diana,

Thanks for such an awesome bunch of info. I've been researching intentional communities for at least five years now and I think you're spot on. Every community that I've seen that started or is attempting to start in a lackadaisical fashion is either stumbling, imploding, or long gone. Contracts, agreements, and rules are super important. I really think there's a happy medium though. It's good to plan for and document some major things but I'm seeing way too many communities that have gone way to far with mircomanagement and seemingly set in stone rules/requirements. In fact, every community effort I've pursued has led to disappointment in some way or another. Usually, it's with the land owners not appreciating the amount of skill and labor that it takes to accomplish certain tasks.

In argument in favor of contracts and verbose agreements, I remodeled/replumbed/refloored a large portion of a mobile home located on a biodynamic farm, over a few months, for about $1800, ran power to and totally wired their 20x40 greenhouse for $300, and helped with fences, ditches, thistles, harvesting, etc for free. I did all of this with a recently torn meniscus and was in terrible pain the whole time but I really did a lot. In the end though, I wasn't able to get the mobile home rentable for the winter and that meant that the male of the couple that owned the farm would either have to finish installing the floor covering, install the cabinets and paint, or get a part time job through the winter, so they talked trash about me to our mutual friends even though I did about $30k worth of work for them for $2k. I had no formal agreement with these guys other than I got to eat some veggies, got $10/hour, and got to park my old army truck/mobile cabin on their property, with no hookups. Had they made me promise that the mobile home would be ready for winter, I would have turned down the job, especially considering the fact that I discovered that instead of just needing a bathroom remodel, over half of the mobile home was falling apart with water damage and black mold, it was falling off its foundation, and all of the plumbing was defective, leaky, recalled, plastic tubing. I didn't get into details and contracts with these guys because I considered them good friends. Again, if we had, there wouldn't have been any confusion. (M & E, if you happen see this and think I've got it wrong somehow or feel differently, get in touch. I love you guys )

In argument against excessive paperwork/regulation, I haven't been able to find a place to live and grow yet because of rules that were made because someone that came before messed up. For instance, I have a pitbull. He's the sweetest dog ever and wants nothing but to sit in someone's lap and lick their face. Since people that didn't have control of their pets brought them into communities, a large percentage of communities that I look at don't allow dogs, especially "aggressive breeds". Another issue is strict work requirement schedules. Most people that I've met that are genuinely interested in permaculture/community, are creative, free spirits. They are into art, music, writing, adventure, and inventing. I'm a writer, inventor, musician, and adventurer and sometimes, I'll get inspired with an idea, and in the pursuit of it, because an artist must act when the inspiration is there, either stay up all night and record a song, draw out an invention, or write posts like this. On the other side of things, my adventurous and hard working nature has earned me a few debilitating injuries so on some days, I can build an entire barn or install a solar array, and on some days, I have to sit in a chair, medicated, trying to think of good memories so I don't feel so depressed about the pain I'm in at the time. When people hear this stuff, they tend to assume that I'm not going to be very productive and am making excuses in advance when nothing could be further from the truth. They think this way because of people that came before and ruined it.

So, I think that community rules should be more like the ten commandments instead of a county code book. Basic issues that affect everyone should be covered but in order to survive and grow, sometimes individual circumstances need to be addressed as they happen and exceptions for rules made in accordance.

Thanks again for taking the time to post your thoughts!

Hi Danie,
I discovered this forum because of a link that you posted on the hip forums. I'm DannyD over there. Just wanted to say that you're an inspiration

Hi Linda,
Your post hit home with me. Even though I don't really like the way traditional towns are setup, if enough like minded people moved to one, things could transition to sustainability rather quickly. It would have to be enough people to get involved with and take over the local government though. This is happening here and there though. Jerome, AZ is a great example. The town has been run by a bunch of old timers that were set in their ways for a loooong time. Now, they have a female mayor, who, I think, is 25 years old, and other younger, more forward thinking people in the area are starting to influence local policy. It's a cool place and getting better but it's still a little too touristy for me.

The reason your post hit home is because I used to live in OKC and a bunch of friends and I drove through a tiny town in central OK one night and we were talking about buying up the town for months afterward. My friend that had a 2 foot mohawk declared himself mayor and police chief! lol
 
Linda Sefcik
Posts: 72
Location: Central Oklahoma
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@Michael,
Of course... everyone is different... and communities, too.
One thing is certain... people change.

I don't know if this is still true,
but back in the days of the "hobo's" they had hobo code.
For example:
If you saw a piece of white cloth tied to a fence
it meant that the farmhouse would let you sleep in the barn.
If there was a red cloth... you were not welcome.
(And hobos... had a sympathic streak for each other.)

As the story goes...
my grandmother always had a pot of sauerkraut and potatoes on the stove,
and traveling "handymen" were always finding their way to the farm.
They swept the yard... or whatever little job was needed... and got a meal.
My dad remarked, "You'd think there was a sign down there on the road."
And there probably was.

Seems a good watch dog would be a plus -- keeps away deer and raccoons.
You should charge for the service. Good luck.
 
kirk dillon
Posts: 61
Location: Maple City Michigan
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Diana,

I realize that a good deal of the things you pointed out would still apply here, but most of the concerns and pitfalls you have highlighted are because the people "live" on the proposed property. the following is a revised version of a previous post of mine and I would appreciate your comments on it as well as anybody else that would like to chime in.

I have no land suitable for permaculture and I'm not sure if I can afford the expenses, whatever they might be, associated with it. There is vacant land near my home that could be farmed. I'm also sure there are many, many people in the same boat as me. My idea is to create C.P.C.'s "Community Permaculture Cooperatives". Permaculture Farms, Purchased and Setup By, Of, and For a Cooperative of People. The idea is that together, a group of people could better afford and manage a cooperative farm that they could all benefit from. NOBODY lives "on" the farm. but they share the farm and the security that it provides. Farming together, but not living together. Everybody keeps their existing housing wherever that may be, with it's anonymity, privacy, security, debts, profits, etc. Ideally the farm(s) would be centrally located so nobody would have to drive far to get to them. Everybody Helps With Everything; Buying everything needed to get started, (including the land and structures), Designing the Farm layout, Designing the Crop layout, Erecting structures, Landscaping, Planting crops, Harvesting crops, Processing the produce, (canning, cooking, drying, freezing), Eating the produce, Sharing in all decision making. If a group of 10-20 "like minded" people, (or more), bought 5-10 acres, (or more), they could produce plenty of food for all, including things like wheat and oats etc. and because the Co-op would be a permaculture farm without any housing on it, the taxes would be much lower. The farm could be run as a business and any excess could be sold for profit. Food or other items, (firewood, medicinal herbs, decorative flowers, seeds, compost, gardening classes, tours, etc.) could be specifically tailored for local stores or markets. The farm(s) would not have to be "divided up" among members because they would cooperatively own and run them. Having a "Processing" building on the farm(s) would allow them to have much higher quality pro-grade equipment for everybody to use. (maybe get rid of our individual low grade stuff at home).

I know that there would need to be provisions for people that for whatever reason decide not to stay with the co-op, but anybody starting into a "permaculture" project understands that it's a very long term thing. Worst case scenario the individuals that decide to move on would gain great experience doing "something" permaculture related and will always be able to use that in their future endeavors. There are certainly thousands of places where a CPC would work, (there could be many "inside" a single city), and all of them would be good for the planet.
 
Queenie Hankinson
Posts: 37
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Diana--I agree with much of what you say except that at the heart of what people DO or what they even think or how they even process written mission statements or relate to each other IS BELIEF. It is very important to know what others believe just to ensure that when you talk of "sustainability" or community it means the same thing to everyone else. It is not enough to have great book keeping or other logistics--those are pragmatic things and while helpful are not the stuff that usually end in lawsuits. Most lawsuits or failure (IMO) comes from failed expectations or feelings of betrayal.

It can be as simple as one person believing that no one besides actual owners can fish in a certain pond and another believing if he wants to share his portion of fish with his relatives and let them fish, he should be able to have guests. Each would have a different BELIEF about what sharing is, and what constitutes their "rights" to the land or pond or forest or total community.

I have been in a lawsuit before and though there were legitimate concerns on both sides, it all boiled down to interpretation and how each party FELT. That is not about book keeping or plans (all which are very important) it was and came down to interpretation and the idea of what constituted "sharing". (One party felt they could invite anyone to be their guest and fish out of the pond that the others had paid to stock AND their "guests" often decided to picnic on the land of the other party who did not wish to have strangers outside their patio window --the "guests" not only left the pond area but strolled the private gardens of the 2nd party) This ended in a nasty lawsuit that lasted for 3 years + and caused rifts in the community as each had supporters and detractors.

Another issue is that people often do not think of or plan for later eventualities. Life changing events like illness, or a change in finances often mean some cannot continue to contribute in the same ways that they had planned to when they signed on--a good community has to consider and prepare for this prospect.

Duties--resentment builds if a few think they are working harder or are more committed than others--it is important that each party understand what is expected not only of farm labor but also cooking, watching children (if applicable) helping maintain common areas, and taking their turns in various functions.

People also often find that a community is not quite what they had in mind and so it is not what they thought it would be. Communities are like extended families and like families if one is not careful (and even if you are) they can be dysfunctional. some people find that they HATE the get together or pot lucks or HATE how another family raises their kids or fails to raise them.

These kinds of things grate and are not included into bylaws or plans or financial bottom lines. If people hate the pot lucks or hate a certain person or group at the pot lucks they often stop going, then they stop contributing, and thus begins the failure.

There are many reasons that communities fail, but often it has to do more with the failed expectations of the members. Poor organization, cliques, cabals, factions, differing mores or perceptions, cultural differences ALL can contribute and I can guarantee that no matter what is written about the pragmatic aspects (which also can contribute) it is the human aspect that breaks down .

One of the most important aspects of any intentional community is that they allow membership on a TRIAL basis for a year with both parties allowing a reassessment process after that when the probationary member can determine if they "fit" or if they like to move on--integral to that should be that the community has a waiting list of potential candidates and retain right to buy back and rights of first refusal to a property with the understanding that within the first year, the community can buy back the property for no more than the price paid the year before.

It is all about organization and human nature and often neither is vetted to the level people should .
 
Peter Ingot
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Diana Leafe Christian wrote: If you have one family owning the land and the rest work exchangers or tenants, you can have a fine community energy going -- but please don't call it a community or an ecovillage, as it will set people up to expect more rights, and to resent you as the Lord of the Manor. But please do know that you'll have high turnover. High turnover may be just fine, too, as long as you thoroughly screen the people who apply to live there (ask for and call references) and you are crystal clear about their rights and responsibilities, and yours.

When people share ownership & decision-making, they have "bought in" emotionally too, and thus stay longer, or just stay there period. When they have neither, they can emotionally afford to be there for awhile and enjoy it, and then move on when other opportunities or adventures beckon. So you can have a fine community-like atmosphere (remember, don't use the C word, or E word) with a variety of lovely (well-screened, well-oriented) folks who stay for a few months or a few years. And every two years or so, a whole different bunch of folks will be there. But that's absolutely OK if you -- and they -- all know all of this in advance.



hear hear!

thanks for a great and very important thread. My thoughts:

Not everyone in the world lives in the USA, so some of your comments on zoning may not apply, or equivalent laws in other countries may not be as strictly enforced. There may be sense in these regulations. Some people seem to want to build on every available bit of level ground at the expense of potential food production.

"Hippy feudalism" sucks, but is way too common. Taking people on trial periods, before accepting them as full community members is good. Inviting people to start a new life and then chucking them out/pressuring them to leave a few weeks later is not.

At its most extreme, businessmen are starting to use the term "eco village" to describe new housing developments and even holiday complexes. IMO the word needs to be reclaimed

An alternative to starting a new community from scratch, might be integrating into an existing traditional rural community. Some "abandoned villages" are not entirely abandoned, there may still be property owners who love and care for their old house and land, even if they are no longer resident there full time. Cooperating with these people can be crucial. They often understand the land very well. Arrogant newcomers claiming to have a better way of life will get up their noses.

Don't let the community get hijacked. I have seen several instances of communities starting and then one household, farm or business relentlessly self publicises at the expense of everyone else. For instance: Joe, David, Emma and Sue move to the abandoned Boondooks village and rename it Boondooks ecovillage. Joe names his house Joe's New Age community, and uses the internet to attract guests from all over the world, describing his home as an "ecovillage" . Joe never explains to his guests the distinction between "Joe's New Age Community" and "Boondooks ecovillage". Joe lets his guests stay as long as they like, tells them they are part of a free community where everything is shared (but he accepts donations to "the community"). Guests come and go, enjoy the place and tell their friends. Joe has a great time, but David, Emma and Sue (who wanted a quiet life) start to get annoyed when total strangers trample through their gardens at 2am and help themselves to firewood and food (because they heard that everything is to be shared). The guests wonder why David, Emma and Sue get so angry when asked if they are part of "Joe's ecovillage" too.

In amongst those gentle well meaning hippies may be someone using environmentalism or new age religion as a mask to conceal their real intentions (e.g. www.trinogo.weebly.com/english). Starting an ecovillage can be someone's personal ego trip, and being "Lord of the manor" can inflate ego's. The comedy movie "Wanderlust" got it about right. We certainly need to share and learn from our experiences, good and bad, if intentional communities are going to thrive in future.
 
George Lafayette
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Queenie Hankinson wrote:--integral to that should be that the community has a waiting list of potential candidates and retain right to buy back and rights of first refusal to a property with the understanding that within the first year, the community can buy back the property for no more than the price paid the year before.


Are there existing communities with waiting lists? I haven't heard of any in years. I would think it would be great, but I haven't seen that kind of real interest.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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George Lafayette wrote:
Queenie Hankinson wrote:--integral to that should be that the community has a waiting list of potential candidates and retain right to buy back and rights of first refusal to a property with the understanding that within the first year, the community can buy back the property for no more than the price paid the year before.


Are there existing communities with waiting lists? I haven't heard of any in years. I would think it would be great, but I haven't seen that kind of real interest.


There are lots of people seeking community. The fact that so many more have been forming in the past 5-10 years (see CDFI for stats) is an indicator. And many more people are out of work and need to sustain themselves in more direct (i.e. growing food) ways; doing that in community is a lot easier and less scary than alone.
 
George Lafayette
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:
George Lafayette wrote:
Queenie Hankinson wrote:--integral to that should be that the community has a waiting list of potential candidates and retain right to buy back and rights of first refusal to a property with the understanding that within the first year, the community can buy back the property for no more than the price paid the year before.


Are there existing communities with waiting lists? I haven't heard of any in years. I would think it would be great, but I haven't seen that kind of real interest.


There are lots of people seeking community. The fact that so many more have been forming in the past 5-10 years (see CDFI for stats) is an indicator. And many more people are out of work and need to sustain themselves in more direct (i.e. growing food) ways; doing that in community is a lot easier and less scary than alone.


Yes, I've seen growing interest, but I've not seen 'waiting lists'
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Here in Boston, we have an email list for coops in the area. There are at least 2 postings a day, of a coop looking for new members or someone looking for a coop (and there are many more responding to the ads). Then, there's the places that don't even put up an ad because they have so many people wanting to live there that they don't even need to advertise. You just have to know someone to get to live there. they don't have the energy to interview all the people they get that way, through word of mouth, let alone if they also put it out on the internet. I would imagine there's something like that in the bay area too, but maybe Boston is unique in having this one list-serv that really conglomerates all the postings on this subject. Now, granted many of these places are faux-ops or semi-coops rather than actually collectively-owned and so on, but they're still very much about community. "shared meals, shared groceries, garden, composting, we do yoga together," etc. "We are an LGBTQRXYZ-friendly, anti-oppressive, multi-generational etc. etc." in many of them. It's also true that there are places I'd expect to have wait lists that are still well-kept secrets. It's strange. It may also be location, low rent, but that's one of the benefits of living together rather than alone, so it's fair. I would also include people moving home to their parents as community, if not intentional, and that's increased a lot in recent years, hopefully getting less stigmatized.

 
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