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Potential problems with intentional community?  RSS feed

 
Esther Emery
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Location: Boise, ID
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Hi, Permies! I thought I'd try to embed my most recent video because I think permies might have an interesting discussion of this. When I decided to homestead I was really into the idea of intentional community. Several years later I'm not nearly as much into that idea. I made a video trying to talk about why. Just note that I am intentional about making clickbait titles on YouTube because that is what YouTube pays me to do. So please observe the title with that knowledge. The comment thread on YouTube is also interesting.


 
Amedean Messan
pollinator
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Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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Decent video. A good take away quote;

...and in some ways I think that the intentional part of intentional community is resonant with a consumer mindset that I should be able to pick out and purchase my community as if I were getting it off the shelf.


Yeah, that is a pretty good assessment in my opinion. Bit of a tangent but the forced smile is distracting when you see the frustration in the eyes. Its okay not to smile all the time on camera, lol!

 
Rob Bouchard
Posts: 41
Location: BC, Canada
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I agree, I don't like to rely on others, but we have a great relationship with our neighbors so if we did need help or they did, we would be happy to help each other out. I've hired friends for my business in the past with expectations of their abilities and it always ends up with friction when they don't deliver, or they think I'm not delivering. I find more reliability in helpers powered by hydraulics. Lol
 
Sandra Harriette
Posts: 39
Location: Maryland + DC + Virginia
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I saw this video before. Fouch-o-matic is the best! I felt like she had described my last 2 years.
 
Jd Stratton
Posts: 21
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I guess it was time to register instead of just read.

We planned our trip around visiting eco villages last year.
Six months in the RV and we saw one of our setup appointments...sort of.
(We had seven confirmed invites/appointments.)

IC does not police the listings well, if at all. Most of them we called about were defunct by the time they got the notices to update or be unlisted.
The site, I would guess, leaves all the listings there no matter what.
(Several people from now-defunct places told me they sent several notices to cancel their listing and received no action/answer.)

I would think it would have been easy for us to find a retirement home. It hasn't been easy at all.
As time passes, I think I would make a better "guy next door to the planned eco-community than an actual member. The little taste I had of a community meeting out West was enough to teach me this.

People in the seats of power within these setups seem to lose focus on diversity. I see too many of the same people, each with their own master plan...of which few seem to mesh.
The only places that seemed to make it, were either worshiping some guru (and demanded you worship them also) or took on an "egalitarian list of principles" to become a part of it.
This seemed to involve the swearing off of deodorant, refusing to see a mainstream doctor no matter what and/or handing your assets over for the cause.

Two years ago, I would have thought it silly not to seek others of like minded direction on line. Now I think the video and its mention of 'accidental' is right on the money.

 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Contrast ....


In this video, there is regret over not doing homesteading with more community.



 
Timothy Markus
Posts: 35
Location: Ontario, Canada
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paul wheaton wrote:Contrast ....

In this video, there is regret over not doing homesteading with more community.


My take is that they wished they had more community when they started, but I'm inferring that they mean the accidental community discussed in the original video, not intentional community.  They wished they could have been able to get advice and help from those already in the area with experience, while her earlier video had an issue with intentional communities not having the experience needed. 

I was looking into intentional communities a few years ago and found one in my area.  I was looking for a way to gain access to 1-5 acres in a cost effective way that would allow me to start homesteading at the very least.  Initially, the group was looking at an initial investment of $3-10k with 2-3 acre plots, which would be cared for in a sustainable way; it's this that initially drew me to the group.  Around here it is very expensive and restrictive to build unless you go north to unincorporated townships, which expect building to be to code, but there are no fees, no inspections, very little oversight.  The group was looking for land in the unincorporated areas, which was perfect.

Delving deeper, I soon found the reams of by-laws that this IC had drawn up, and found that they were far more restrictive than the municipal codes in incorporated areas.  That almost completely negated the main advantage of buying unicorp land.  That's where I should have dropped it. 

The group had identified a plot of almost 600 acres at a very reasonable price.  There were a couple of people who were going to fund about half of the price and they were looking for members for the rest.  The vision soon became 1/2 acre plots for everyone for $5k and you could buy a second 1/2 acre, and that they'd look for 40 or so members.  The other 500+ acres was to be common ground.  This is Canadian Shield country with very little soil and bare rock in many areas.  The goal was to be self-sufficient, but 1/2 acre of this poor land was the allotment.

The bylaws also allowed for dogs, but not cats, and the keeping of chickens or rabbits.  Maybe a goat.  You would have to allow inspection 'for safety' if you had animals, by a group that had no experience with livestock, with no restriction on frequency.  It then came up that many of those interested refused to live on the property if people raised animals.  In the end, I believe they settled on keeping chickens for eggs, but you couldn't ever cull them.  These are people who use the word 'permaculture' when describing how they will grow food. 

In the end, I had a few take-aways:

The group has great intentions, but I don't think more than one or maybe two people who are involved have any real, applicable experience.  I saw an awful lot of talk about people donating their tools for the group's use, how the sign-out would work, who would do what, tool shed, etc.  I don't think they could have filled a small tool chest with the tools they all owned.  Not a recipe for success in homesteading.

The group was all about consensus building.  It was clear early on that there was already a strong majority that agreed on nearly everything.  My (very real, I think) concern was that this majority would block-vote and, worse, really didn't have much relevant experience to base those votes on.  When those of the vegan persuasion said they wouldn't live with people who raised meat, and the group accommodated this, I was out. 

I'm not sure if Paul refers to his community as intentional, but I'd argue that the only way to make an intentional community work is to have a knowledgeable dictator.  I don't mean that negatively.

Being at the mercy of any group, be it HOAs or IC board of directors isn't a good thing and it's the antithesis of what I'm looking for.  I would imagine that most interested in homesteading, permaculture, farming and even gardening are not likely to love being told what to do.  I'm looking for less oversight, not more.

I think what Esther terms 'accidental community' is a natural system that's far more diverse and in balance far more than an intentional community.  In an AC, the people around you have already made some sort of go right in your area, while in an IC people are drawn to the community, but most haven't had any success or experience in the area.   I think you're far more likely to find someone in an AC who can do what you need but can't do, and maybe who needs what you have. 

I think that ICs can work, but I think most are doomed to failure.   It's hard to be forced to live and work closely with many strangers without people problems emerging.  At this point I would only consider joining an IC if they were 100% in line with my way of thinking about issues critical to me.  I think you need to find a group that fits you, rather than hoping a group will evolve to that point.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Timothy Markus wrote:
I think that ICs can work, but I think most are doomed to failure. 


There's something like a 90% failure rate!
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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My ideas about 'community': living together all in the same house ... will cause too much trouble! Living in different (tiny) houses on a large enough piece of land can work, but is still difficult.
I think the best way is to start some activities together with a group of people, who all stay in their own place. All members of that 'tribe' can go on living their own lives, but because they are part of a 'larger whole', they can enforce and encourage eachother. Because it is a group of 'likeminded' people, they'll help eachother reach some goals they can't reach on their own. F.e. they can have a permaculture food forest and farm-animals together, they can cook and eat together sometimes (once a week?), they can help eachother with 'odd jobs'.
A little bit like it was 'in the old times', when the neighbours always helped eachother, but also different, because you can choose your 'tribe of likeminded people'.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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That looks ideal to me, Inge.

 
Jd Stratton
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:My ideas about 'community': living together all in the same house ... will cause too much trouble! Living in different (tiny) houses on a large enough piece of land can work, but is still difficult... 


I think that pretty much sums it up.

There was a setup we looked at out West.
Religious folk, which for me is a HUGE red flag (I react very poorly to being indoctrinated...be it in your way of living, or your religion) however, there were around "50%" of the members there who did not share the faith. Anyway, we checked it out.
All around was broken gear.
Implements that needed a good welder. Solar that needed someone who knew wiring and electronics. Buildings that needed a machine to lift the bracing...etc.
I gave them a GMRS radio lesson and showed them how a walkie talkie could clearly talk 130 miles away.
I welded a few things up on the spot and explained how the rest could be done...along with the backhoe I would bring...

As we mixed with them, it became clearer and clearer they wanted to baptize us both and this pressure would never ease up.
In the end, I did not have to say no thanks. They did it for me. They said we would not really fit in.
Not because we were not into religion...it was because we were "too old to do the work they needed done in the next ten years..."
The phone is shut off now and no one is there anymore. I was looking into buying out the compound, but the taxes turned out to be a killer.


 
Todd Parr
pollinator
Posts: 1165
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Jd Stratton wrote:
I gave them a GMRS radio lesson and showed them how a walkie talkie could clearly talk 130 miles away.



I don't want to hijack the thread, but if you could make a post about that, it would be awesome.
 
Jim Fry
Posts: 90
Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
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I'm sorry to read so many folks have had less than stellar experiences with IC's. I've been to very few, so I am a bit surprised that apparently so many have difficulties. Our farm/museum/school/ic has been great, going on 40+ yrs. now. Hundreds of folks have come and gone, --we have lots of WWOOF'ers and visitors. For long term folks the longest stay was 20+ years, the shortest was something like 20 minutes (that guy really did not work out). It's been fun and informative. Probably the biggest problem has been expectations. What folks think they can do, or want to do, is quite different from what they actually can or will do. A small example of this is a "Green Party" woman who came here. She lived in one of the cabins for free, with food, electricity, heat provided for free. In return she said she wanted to work in the gardens. A week went by, nothing done. A couple weeks and then a month, still no gardening. Finally I went to her and asked what was happening, and she said yes she was really working hard. So, another couple weeks went by, and I had to ask her again what she was doing. She said, "Oh I'm working really hard. I get up every morning and pray real hard that the weeds will go away and the plants will grow well". Turned out that our expectations were not particularly in line. Last I heard she was back in the city protesting food inequality.

...About IC.org, we have been listed there for years, and have many folks find us thru their site. They have always been great. But it seems that in the last number of months they have lost their way. My observation is that they just aren't what they used to be. I do wish them well. And I hope they get back on (what I consider to be) a good track. We'll see. In the meanwhile, if you are looking for a place to visit, or more, give us a call or visit. Stone Garden Farm, ..on Facebook or IC. Or www.stonegardenfarm.com
 
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