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Getting serious about Community - the practicalities  RSS feed

 
Jobob Fjord
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If you’re serious about creating intentional community you will take into consideration these important practical points.

Infrastructure
a. Water – on average a single person consumes 80 gallons per day
b. Roads / access – gravel / bridges / gates
c. Electric – standard 100 amp service per dwelling unit
d. waste handling – on average a single person generates 5 lbs of solid waste per day.
e. Sewage handling - [ solid black waste {toilet} & grey waste {kitchen sink, bathroom sink, washing machine}
f. Communications, i.e. phone / internet
i. My comments:
1. If you want people to live in your community you have to understand they are going to demand all of the above infrastructure as a bare minimum. While we can do our best to reduce our needs and consumption of these items, most people are not going to sign up to live without them for long periods of time.
2. These items are cost intensive and must be the first investments after land is acquired. While you may get all excited about a community garden or community project, these items should be later in your priority list. If you don’t get these infrastructure items in place fast, people are going to burn out living in their camper or tent and your community will experience attrition.

2. Geography
a. People living off of retirement funds can live anywhere
b. People living off of salaries must live near populated economic centers, i.e. cities.

i. My Comments:

1. What kind of people do you want in your community? Do you want only retired seniors? If so, who do you plan to do the manual labor, the seniors or hired help?

2. How long do you want your community to last? Just long enough for you to enjoy it during your last years of life during retirement? Or do you want the community to live on and prosper for generations?

3. My point with these questions is to get you to realize that a community of only seniors is not going to be self sustainable and it wont last long, maybe not even as long as you need it. A healthy community will have a diverse demographics of age. Usually older people have more money saved up, a higher income, have less expenses and fewer familiar responsibilities. Usually younger people have little savings, a lower income, more expenses and greater familiar responsibilities. The temptation for older retirees starting community is to buy land waaaay out in the boonies. They want to get as far away from the rat race as possible since they have lived in it for sixty years. However, they should realize that by doing so, you are going to exclude from your community younger wage earning families. Your going to be more likely to attract transient non committed single people who have to familiar responsibilities or roots and other retirees.

4. So ,why do you need young families in your community?
a. Young people have more physical stamina to do manual labor.
b. Young families will increase your communities population via pro-creation.
c. Young families bring family values.
d. Young people can care for older community members.

5. So how do you attract young families to your community?
a. Acquire land no more than an hour’s drive to a major economic center. An hour outside of a city can get you pretty deep into rural quietness and isolation, but also makes your community viable for young families who need to earn a wage to live. If you can find a place in the middle of two or more economic centers that’s even better.
b. Plan your infrastructure for family size dwellings. While a 10x10 cabin with a 15 amp extension cord and water hose will work for a single person, a family needs much more. Plan on a minimum of 100 SF per human of indoor space. Also a minimum of 5 kwh per day per human electric usage. Also plan on 80 gallons of water per day per human. These are MINIMUMS your infrastructure MUST be able to support.
c. Offer membership options that allow financing of membership financial requirements. Most young families don’t have 100k sitting in a savings account, but they can commit to a owner [ community legal entity] financed loan for a lot. Also offer opportunities to work off other financial requirements with manual labor, etc.
d. Make your community an economic center. If you look at successful egalitarian communities you will notice they all have a community business that the members work for. Basically the members are unpaid employees who are compensated with housing and food. You may not want to be egalitarian, but you should consider what economic opportunities you can offer to younger families. What will your community produce and sell to the “heathens outside the gate”? No matter if the economic energy flows in via wages earned outside the community or via goods sold outside the community, or from retirees savings earned in the past outside the community, the economic energy is going to come from outside your community, so drop any ideas of total economic isolation.

The process
a. Vision & mission statement – what are your shared values? What are your goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
b. Legal entity – how will taxes be paid, how will monies be handled, how will ownership be handled?
c. Finances – how will the necessary cost be paid for?
d. Community agreements – how we interact with each other, governance, etc.
e. Membership requirements – for admittance and also for banishment
i. My comments
1. A lot of people that talk about community don’t seriously consider the process of creating it. They jump immediately to the land or conflict resolution or images of waves of amber grain and women with flowers in their hair and naked toddlers running around. However without a process your community may never get beyond your imagination, and if it does it will probably fail like 90% of other intentional communities.

2. Just like the bible is the document that defines the rule of life for the Christian, a community needs written, agreed upon, legal documents that constrain the individuals of the community and the community as a whole. If you think that people are just going to be nice and behave because we are friends or family or Christians you are very naive. Just ask anyone from the 90%.

3. While you have your own ideas and vision of the community, it is important to discover what the “group vision” is. There are many exercises that a group can do to discover this vision. What you discover may not be exactly what you hoped for. But if you want the group vision to be exactly what you hoped for, then you should fill your community with clones of yourself.
4. While I have this item listed as third, it is actually the most important point. What is the most critical component of community? Is it land? Is it infrastructure? Is it the people? You already have community with distant family, and neighbors and friends that you don’t share land with. You can have community without land, but you can’t have community without people.

5. The how and why and action plan of community is the absolute most critical first step. So many times when I hear people talk about community the say things like. “Well we already have the land, so the hardest part is done.” Or in their search for community they seek out the perfect parcel of land that can support their vision of agriculture for the community. What happens when your first focus is on land is you end up buying the land yourself and hope others come and join you. Most of the time however, other people don’t share your estimation of the land or vision and you end up owning the land all by yourself. How lonely is that?! If you want community DON’T BUY LAND UNTIL YOU HAVE YOUR PROCESS COMPLETED! Then look for land TOGETHER.





 
Michael Bushman
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Location: Sacramento, CA
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How many have you created, what size and how long have they existed?
 
Rose Pinder
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Location: Otago, New Zealand
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1. If you want people to live in your community you have to understand they are going to demand all of the above infrastructure as a bare minimum. While we can do our best to reduce our needs and consumption of these items, most people are not going to sign up to live without them for long periods of time.


I live in a tiny home and don't need most of those things. Having all of those things as standard will mean that only people with money will be able to afford to live there, which builds in class distinction.

Some of the numbers seem high to me, especially in a permaculture context which is about creating closed systems that don't produce waste (eg composting toilets can replace sewerage systems). I can make 80 gallons of water last a fortnight

For me getting serious about community is also about understanding that the planet cannot afford our current standard of living and lifestyles. This doesn't mean we have to be impoverished, but there are many ways we can live good lives without having such a big impact.

The other things in your list seems like good topics to be thinking about. Mostly I think it's that old permaculture adage "it depends". For instance, the Kotare community in NZ is rural and is setting up a local economy within the community and surrounding area so that people don't have to work in the city (or for the man) http://kotarevillage.org.nz/economy/

The whole family/age thing seems incredibly important to me and is something that often seems to be missing.

I agree that having very clear processes is important too.

Just been working through a lot of this myself.

 
Jobob Fjord
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Michael Bushman wrote:How many have you created, what size and how long have they existed?


Hi, I was introduced to intentional community last November 2014 while I lived in my camper with my family in a forming intentional permiculture community. We had to leave for a lot of reasons, but hope to live communally again soon. My knowledge is mostly academic reading the works of Diana Leafe Christian. Last month I had the honor of facilitating a visioning exercise for the community we were living in. Unfortunatly we were not able to sucessfully put a vision statement together. So the communty goes on now, still with no vision, no mission, wondering aimlessly, or more precisely the community is going in the direction of the one founders vision. My comments are based off of my limited experience and frustrations with the people and ideas in that community, and with the people who stood outside and made judgements about my experience there. I find myself now in the company of many people who express a kind of romantic idea of community and wish they could attain it, yet they never take any steps to achieve it. They seem to think if "they build it, they will come" or they believe that a community doesnt need any process or even governance and christians will just get along. My comments are really just regurgitated from "Creating a life together" but with my experiences to reinforce it.

here is more of my experiences: www.camperlifenow.blogspot.com

 
Jobob Fjord
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I live in a tiny home and don't need most of those things. Having all of those things as standard will mean that only people with money will be able to afford to live there, which builds in class distinction.

For me getting serious about community is also about understanding that the planet cannot afford our current standard of living and lifestyles. This doesn't mean we have to be impoverished, but there are many ways we can live good lives without having such a big impact.

The whole family/age thing seems incredibly important to me and is something that often seems to be missing.




Hi Rose,

I know where your coming from. My family and I lived in a crappy old camper for eight months. I have shared some of my experiences on the issue of crappy camper living on my blog. camperlifenow.blogspot.com

Beware of environmentalist terrorist in community. My family was living off of 5kwh a day in our camper, but that wasn't low enough for someone in the community. I think he would have been happy if we were reading by candle light and installed a 10k$ solar system on the roof of the camper. The infrastructure was also very crappy. Those numbers of usage are of course high because they are based on conventional american use. However, when a community starts to get permits for construction and zoning, they are going to have to build the infrastructure to be able to support conventional usage rates, even if the community doesnt need that much capacity.

What I can say about the average "communard" I have met is that they are extremely transient non wage earning singles. I dont know how they would eat if not for community. Family is critical for longevity.

 
Charley McDowell
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So do you own land? We're are you located? I'm in ca. Would you consider that area?
 
Russ Wolf
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Intentional Communes come in all sizes and flavors.
What you are describing is along the lines on Vilage Homes.
A nice video about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmFVxPjG2JI
While it is an amazing achievement, it's not a place I would like to live.
It's also not what comes to mind when I think of intentional community.

This what I think of when it comes to IC's
http://www.quailsprings.org/ (watch the video at the bottom)

It seems to me that your group lacks a clear picture of what it wants.
Take a min and read this posting
http://survivalblog.com/multiple-families-on-your-retreat-by-farmer-brown/
These are our lessons learned about establishing a multi-family retreat.



Just my thoughts.
 
Michael Bushman
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Location: Sacramento, CA
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Jobob Fjord wrote:
Michael Bushman wrote:How many have you created, what size and how long have they existed?


We had to leave for a lot of reasons, but hope to live communally again soon.

Unfortunatly we were not able to sucessfully put a vision statement together.

So the communty goes on now, still with no vision, no mission, wondering aimlessly,

or more precisely the community is going in the direction of the one founders vision.


So YOU left because the founder's vision didn't align with yours which to me sounds EXACTLY like they had a vision, just not one you shared.

Creating community is complex because we must often learn to compromise, especially if the land or the community isn't ours. I know MY vision isn't universal so I do not expect others to work to create and expend their resources to create MY vision so I work with others until I have the resources or the proven track record to implement mine.
 
Jobob Fjord
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Michael Bushman wrote:
Jobob Fjord wrote:
Michael Bushman wrote:How many have you created, what size and how long have they existed?


We had to leave for a lot of reasons, but hope to live communally again soon.

Unfortunatly we were not able to sucessfully put a vision statement together.

So the communty goes on now, still with no vision, no mission, wondering aimlessly,

or more precisely the community is going in the direction of the one founders vision.


So YOU left because the founder's vision didn't align with yours which to me sounds EXACTLY like they had a vision, just not one you shared.

Creating community is complex because we must often learn to compromise, especially if the land or the community isn't ours. I know MY vision isn't universal so I do not expect others to work to create and expend their resources to create MY vision so I work with others until I have the resources or the proven track record to implement mine.


Hi Michael,

The reasons we had to leave are many more and much more complicated than I want to go into detail on. The community that I was a part of had a pretty good feeling of having similar goals such as low cost living, alternative construction, farming, etc. However it was when we tried to put these ideas on to paper that we had difficulty. The land owner started the idea of community, but when it came down to actually creating it there was some resistance from him. Our vision session had in attendance about twenty people, and from that group we came up with a pretty good rough brainstorm of the words and ideas we wanted to be in the vision statement. The owner was disappointed that the word "Equity" was not one of the words chosen, nor was there a clear plan of how to pay for everything. We tried to explain that the mission statement which was to follow would detail those aspects.

That being said, I had already decided our living conditions in the camper were not going to work through this coming winter before the vision session.

I believe that there is wisdom to be found in everyones perspective. While I dont offer years of experience, or even a proven track record, I do have my experiences however brief. If they help you take them, if they dont then leave them. The experiences I share are a collection of mistakes, that I hope by reading others can avoid. I feel that I also bring a unique perspective having a family with toddler children living very modestly in a forming intentional community.

By the way, are you THE Michael Bushman, beekeeper extraordinaire?
 
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