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Do people have success with intentional community?

 
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I'm newer to the idea of intentional community.  I love the idea, I have even talked about doing something like this for years but never knew the term.  I am curious to know though if people have ever had success? We would love the idea of joining a community that isn't spiritually based, allows community members to be autonomous in what they do as long as it's within certain guidelines that the community has voted or agreed upon and has at least 5 acres or more per family.  My issue is I see a lot of people posting looking for people but haven't seen anyone saying they have done it and love it. We have kids so I am a bit afraid of what I might end up with.  
 
steward
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I've lived in a few intentional communities. Visited many. It's about like marriage. Some work really well. Others are really sucky!
 
master pollinator
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I recommend anyone interested in intentional community read Creating a Life Together, by Diana Leafe Christian.  It is about how some intentional communities succeed when most fail.
 
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I've lived in a couple of intentional communities, I've been living with the same group now for about 18 years. I think living communally can be by far the best way to live.   The good stuff runs the gamut from the kind of Halloween party you can throw with 25 people helping to having people who can drive you to doctor's appointments, walk your dog when you are out of town, help you with your relationships, teach you to cook or fix a car.

Starting a new community is very hard.  There are a few long lived secular groups around - I suggest you look at them carefully and see what it is about them that has allowed them to flourish.  Our community will celebrate its 51rst anniversary tomorrow.  

I'd heartily second the recommendation of Diana Leafe Christian's book because most new communities fail in the first five years. There are very real legal, organizational, and financial challenges, and Diana's book will guide you there. Another major cause of failure is that people can be hard to get along with. If you don't develop far better than average skills at interpersonal relationships, the group will likely fail. While there are clearly a few people who are the wrong people to have in your community, you can only live with the ones who are willing to live with you. If you know what you are doing, you can in fact do it with most people. We tell our students "if we can do it, anyone can."   You will read a lot about the search for 'the right people,' that works as well as it does.

Your requirements seem reasonable to me.  I don't understand about the acreage, but, if that's what you want, sure.  Why that is important to you? If you are planning to make a living off working five acres I hope you are very enthusiastic about a large quantity of hard work. As far as I know, very few communities (if any) support themselves completely by working the land.

 
Sami Muggy
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George Lafayette wrote:
Your requirements seem reasonable to me.  I don't understand about the acreage, but, if that's what you want, sure.  Why that is important to you? If you are planning to make a living off working five acres I hope you are very enthusiastic about a large quantity of hard work. As far as I know, very few communities (if any) support themselves completely by working the land.



George: I would love to know how to search for the intentional communities that seem to be working well, any suggestions?  The reason for the land is that we would like to do a large garden and raise animals both to sell and to eat ourselves.  In order for us to do that we would need the space.  I wouldn't mind sharing these things with others but to do so we would need to increase the amount of production which would mean more land needed.  Our final goal is to be producing 80% of our own food and then offsetting the other 20% with the income we would be making from the sale of our produce/animals.  If we could make enough that my husband could work freelance outside the home occationally that would be a dream come true!  I will definitely look into getting that book!!  
 
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George: I would love to know how to search for the intentional communities that seem to be working well, any suggestions?  The reason for the land is that we would like to do a large garden and raise animals both to sell and to eat ourselves.  In order for us to do that we would need the space.  I wouldn't mind sharing these things with others but to do so we would need to increase the amount of production which would mean more land needed.  Our final goal is to be producing 80% of our own food and then offsetting the other 20% with the income we would be making from the sale of our produce/animals.  If we could make enough that my husband could work freelance outside the home occationally that would be a dream come true!  I will definitely look into getting that book!!  



Hi Sami. I'm assuming you've been to https://www.ic.org/ already, but I guess you can't really tell which ones are "working well" necessarily. You can find communities that have been around for a while, and I guess that is one way to define working well or success. I'm sure you can find folks who have lived at long standing intentional communities and they might argue the community isn't working well, but I think it's also a matter of finding the right fit. Once you go visit somewhere I'm sure you'll leave with plenty of ideas about where to visit next.

One community that I could confidently direct you toward is the one I've helped start, Bear Creek Community Land Trust! We happen to have a few 10 acre leaseholds available, as well as some smaller options, and are actively seeking families with children. Let me know if you'd like to come for a visit or had any questions!

Good luck with your search! There's a lot of options out there.

-WY
 
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I've lived in communal living but it wasn't ecological centric.  To me, one possible issue is that communal living can attract the type of person that you don't want in your community- as in they're not there to further your work or goals, but they might be a fugitive or have some other issues going on.  Screening people isn't always the easiest but you can usually get a feel for someone in a trial run.  I've had success in mine but from what I've seen, they need someone who's really making things happen.  Well, everyone should be, but there needs to be at least.someone organizing effort and offering some leadership/guidance.  Leadership, not tyrannical rule. It takes a certain personality to pull it off.  If you get the right people together, it's great, though.  Really good times and some real close.bonds that you don't get often.  You get close to people especially living in the same house/shelter.  
I'm interested in a more ecovillage ic type of deal myself.  I would love my own but I feel like the purpose of a community is strength in numbers and division of labor, so better to find an existing one that fits me than try to start a new one
 
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I want to start one but I’m not sure where to find like minded people. Slowly but surely.

 
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Following!

Good post, great info shared here. Thanks to all
 
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I've been chewing on the idea of a framework for implementing communities, and writing some bits down.  Along the way, I discovered three Israeli models, the kibbutz, the moshav ovdim (commonly shortened to just moshav), and the moshav shitufi.  They vary primarily by level of Communism, from a kibbutz, where everyone shares everything, to a moshav ovdim where it's really a collection of individual productive households (e.g. they have their own land, livestock, and infrastructure) that share resource acquisition (buyers groups) and marketing.  In the middle is the moshav shitufi, where production is shared, both in feeding the community and producing things for sale, and resources are shared, but things like consumption management are left to individual households.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshav
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshav_shitufi
 
pollinator
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We have had amazing success with ours.

However... it is more of an intentional neighborhood than a community.

We each own our own parcel. No one tells us what to do with our land, or controls what we do, just the same as if we didn't live next to each other.

We do share expenses such as tractor maintenance, snowplowing fuel, gravel for the shared roads, etc.

We loosely try to, production wise, produce things that the others aren't. Raising certain meat animals, or certain crops en-masse, etc. For example, my brother raises pigs some years, or some years my dad does it, and I might buy one off them for the cost of feed/processing. Or the fact that I'm working on putting in large numbers of cane fruits, so that's maybe less of a priority for them.

We help each other when help is needed. We are family members and we spend holidays together, and are very tight-knit. But ultimately, we are also just neighbors. We aren't beholden to each other in any way, unless we choose to do so.

I think the typical communal living poses two big barriers for serious homesteaders. For one, most serious homesteaders don't want to put their blood, sweat and tears into land/facility/etc that ultimately will never belong to them.  And secondly, us homesteaders do tend to be a "don't tell me what to do" kinda people. I suspect having one where you can get around those concerns in some innovative way, would really help the success and for you to have some serious homesteaders.
 
pollinator
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J.D. Ray wrote:I've been chewing on the idea of a framework for implementing communities, and writing some bits down.  Along the way, I discovered three Israeli models, the kibbutz, the moshav ovdim (commonly shortened to just moshav), and the moshav shitufi.  They vary primarily by level of Communism, from a kibbutz, where everyone shares everything, to a moshav ovdim where it's really a collection of individual productive households (e.g. they have their own land, livestock, and infrastructure) that share resource acquisition (buyers groups) and marketing.  In the middle is the moshav shitufi, where production is shared, both in feeding the community and producing things for sale, and resources are shared, but things like consumption management are left to individual households.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshav
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshav_shitufi



these are good examples, and i agree interesting and worth understanding. the Moshav is a much more appealing model, and IMO a more functional example.

i had a close friend who grew up in a Moshav, and he told me a lot about it. he moved to america a long while before, after having faked insanity and gotten a discharge from military service, he immigrated to boston. Military service is apparently MANDATORY there, which is very intense and strange to me.

but anywho he told me of the Moshav set ups, and it sounded really quite ideal. being raised in such an individualistic culture, i think that makes it makes it more appealing than the all-in-one-pot type situation as a Kibbutz or many proper communes.

he described that everyone was given a house within the Moshav, and then choose to do whatever trade or service they wanted, although there was prompting to choose something needed by the community. but it was very much like a neighborhood, where there was private space to each family or person, they had there own houses and there was money exchanged for goods and services. but he also added that it was a regular custom to forgive debts, or help each other out and a lot of voluntary co operation as well.
 
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The two people I've known who did join a couple of those communities years ago said the biggest problem was that, while most of the members were willing to contribute, there were always  some who refused to do much of anything, but they always wanted to be the bosses and to take more than their share (as with governmental communism).

And these people said they had heard that was a common problem in other groups, too.  I never did hear what the legalities of the groups were -- can you oust the bad ones?  Grace said that if she  ever wanted to start one, she would start with known people who were dependable, rather than finding the place and then acquiring the members.

 
gardener
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The health of any community is in the final analysis a reflection of the health of the individual members.

If the individual members resolve personal conflicts well, have appropriate boundaries, are not narcissistic and constantly looking for others to meet their needs, manage their money well, are thoughtful and generous . . . the community will reflect that.  But if you have people who heighten conflict, are "my rights" focused, me-first in their expectations of others, and generally needy, your community will quickly become your prison.

Healthy people will still bring competing agendas and the potential for conflict, but at least they have a capacity to compromise and resolve disagreements.  But if people in the group are a bully, a leech, a gossip, an angry dude . . . no amount of dialog about structure or legal agreements or anything like that will fix them.

My second thought follows the first: if the leadership of your community isn't healthy, then the community as a whole will be a reflection of their dysfunction.  There may be some amazing people in the group, but ultimately, communities begin to reflect the leadership very quickly.  So before joining any community, look carefully at how the leadership deals with conflict, how they resolve differences, how they treat their wife/husband/children, and get an overall sense of their emotional and relational health.  Ask around and find out who may have left the community.  Find those people and ask, "So why did you leave?"  If you are consistently hearing that the leadership is unhealthy, a bully, dishonest, angry . . . then stay away.
 
leila hamaya
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i've lived in multiple intentional community projects myself, and some of the experiences were great (usually the first few months!) and then some of the experiences were horrible. through those experiences i have come around to many ideas, at least i can see clearly what doesnt work for me in community.

i came around to deciding that what i wanted was more of a neighborhood, more autonomy, more privacy...and much like neighborhoods are now...less people putting their nose in your business all the time...more respect for personal boundaries and other's autonomy and sovereignty.

i generally think the less you try to work out with a group of people the better,
also get it all writing , and especially important keep it simple, the KISS principle. i think communities should try to articulate their visions and idea clearly in some ways that make clear the rules, dos and donts, and keep all other expectations that are not clearly articulated to a bare minimum.
i think the individuals should also be proactive in articulating whats good for them, and also be clear about themselves, to put it all there.
but the less you are trying to work out as a group the easier it is to get along, share in the big important things, and just mind your business on what other people are doing or not doing. keep obligations low and encourage volunteer participation, sharing, and let things flow more organically.

so yeah at this moment of the whirl i dont think i would ever  again try to live in an intentional community proper...the all in one pot type, especially. it is just too complicated and i think most people are just wacky these days, we are all taught very toxic and exploitive ways, i dont find that many people who are committed enough to their own personal growth to be really great at creating healthy dynamics, and all smooshed together into the microcosm of community, all of these issues get majorly amplified.

anywho not to say i have everything figured out myself, i am a people too...with pros and cons.

its certainly more than just this, but this, unhealthy power dynamics, people getting too immeshed into each other...these projects arent always stable or very functional.

now i seek more land share, work trade, and smaller types of land shares...and also look for other people who have similar ideas about personal space, anti drama club, and also seek more a regular neighborhood type deal...

 
                  
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I've tried to set up 2 intentional communities since my hubby up and lost his mind, the farm and his life.  It really comes down to people selection, and screening.  IF I ever tried for that "third time is the charm" community, I would have a 3-month trial period.  And very clear rules. Free-loaders and slobs are difficult enough when they are family...but bringing another into your personal space just to get taken advantage of is disheartening. Frustrating.  Time consuming. Irritating. And getting rid of them can be difficult without CLEAR written agreements.

Sound like an old bat, don't I?

Just the voice of experience. I've cooked and done dishes for 4 adults, bought the food, done the chores, paid the bills, maintained the home and gardens only to have been overlooked when paychecks came or days off allowed a bit of labor.  And I'm not talking building raised beds or a barn, but simple stuff like sweeping a floor, or taking out recycling. Make sure you have found people with PURE intentions.  People that are crazy in a good way, like me!

That said, I would actually like to find a nice community, and join in.  I'm in college full time (on-line) but great with kids and critters...and can weed and water like a pro.  Years of experience and knowledge to share...which keeps me coming back to threads like this.  I have hope in humanity's overall good intentions.
 
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