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Podcast 037 - Intentional community

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Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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Credit: Marianne Cicala

Paul and Jocelyn begin a conversation about all of the possibilities, downfalls and challenges of an intentional community Paul begins with underscoring that any community is about getting along whether it is where you live or on a forum like permies.

He describes this podcast as a confluence of potentially helpful observations, beginning with being noble. Paul feels that only 5% of the population is noble; more often than not, people are generally just people. When things get tough or awkward, 90% will scatter or worsen the

Jocelyn talks about Paul’s experiences and experiments on this topic: he has run a house, run sites, run workshops on communities, forums and managed a farm. “Paul has experience, done research and attempts to avoid problems that he’s experienced in the past”. One of his biggest concerns with most attempts at intentional communities is that they are
designed with the expectation that everyone will be noble. Paul feels that any community has to be based on a system that includes the reality that people are human. One bad guy can bring it all down. He does a quick mathematical example where 50% of all marriages fail and that’s a community of 2 people or 1 relationship. Increase the community to 12 people where there are over 100 individual relationships and those are only surface relationships; once you add different layers of relationships, like work relationship, business relationships, role hierarchy etc., there are many 100s of specific relationships within this group of 12 people.

They talk about Diana Leafe Christian, the author of 2 premier books on communities: Creating a Life Together and Finding a Community. Paul’s attended one of her workshops and posed a question to her about intention communities with a central leader. She dubbed it a “thief-
dom” comparing it to a lord and his peasants and feels it would only be good for the lord.

Diana supports democratic communities where every aspect is agreed on by the inhabitants.
This approach is slow to change as alternatives to original suggestions are the norm which then have to be discussed, voted on, changed some more etc. As a result of this very slow to change community, other communities have agreed that suggestions for a change will move forward as long as only 2 or 3 vote against it. A true democratic society, where the majority rule of 51% adopts a change, rarely works in this communal environment since you may have 40%+ unhappy people as a result.

Basically there are 3 types of communities: 1. Dictator 2. General Consensus 3. Democratic. Regardless of the structure, most intentional communities fail and both Paul and Jocelyn share
personal stories, experiences and experiments.

This is such an important topic and I hope it is revisited often. Desire for these communities seems be increasing with the challenges present in today’s world.

Relevant Threads

False Dichotomy of Feudalism vs. Consensus
Non-consensus IC models
Creating a Life Together by Diana Leafe Christian
Community Forum
People Relationships
Diana Leafe Christian
Modern Fiefdom
Toby Hemenway
Bullock Brothers
Community Food Thread
Organic Community Meals $108 per Person per Month
Benifits of 20 People Sharing a Home
Ejecting People from a Community


Creating A Life Together by Diana Leafe Christian

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Posts: 172
Location: USDA 5b - Central IL
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You mentioned SHTF situation and a lot of people think that their neighborhood would pull together but we all have seen in Natural disasters that isn't always the case...its a little polyanna to think this way.

Its a good thing Jocelyn is there to keep you on track cause...squirrel...what was I saying....LOL.

How big of a house was this, the one where you lived with 12 people?

Sounds like at the Wilderness school you had some looters (Ayn Rand).

I think you have gone from SW Engineer to Sociologist/Psychologist.

I assume that you have somewhere on here your guidelines for an intentional community based on your model.

Interruption = Disrespect...I must say I found this a bit ironic coming from you which you did acknowledge when you interrupted Jocelyn.

Posts: 13
Location: Vista, CA
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I live in a 9 acre intentional community/ecovillage in San Diego County called the Emerald Village. We read Diana's books when we were first getting started, and managed to come up with a consensus model that works for us. We've learned a lot over the last 4 years, and are still together on the same land and have expanded to temporary work resident programs, several of us have had children since we moved here, and we've even hosted a permaculture design course.

It's not easy, and Paul's points that you can't always expect people to be noble are accurate. There's a level of trust needed though for it to work, and it took us years to get past our initial mistrust for each other. There's also a level of flexibility and willingness to sacrifice the perfect ideal to get a good and acceptable outcome. It's all a big experiment, and if you're not having fun and learning, then why do it?
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Location: New Zealand
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Good podcast, thanks.

I really like the way you meandered around lots of examples and detail and teased out 'stuff' in a really honest and straight forward way. I was once in a shared household which lasted about three years before disintegrating. T'was very disillusioning in my mid 20's. Now, in my mid 50's, husband and I...but mostly I, am really interested to look at ways to pass on the baton, and what possibilities there are for different ownership models or structures for allowing that to happen.
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