How to Establish an Intentional Community

Through a cooperative and collaborative paradigm, we can achieve great things.

Group Of Urban Farmers Tending To Organic Crops
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Establishing communities is one of the more powerful things that we can do to work toward a fairer, more ethical, and more sustainable future for all. Creating community is all about bringing people together and recognizing that through a cooperative and collaborative paradigm, we can achieve great things. 

What Is an Intentional Community?

"An 'intentional community' is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. The people may live together on a piece of rural land, in a suburban home, or in an urban neighborhood, and they may share a single residence or live in a cluster of dwellings." —Geoph Kozeny

Decide Your Intention & Goals

One of the first things to establish is what ideas your intentional community will espouse and what your overarching goals for the community will be. 

Cooperation in various enterprises and associations is usually key to an intentional community. 

Goals may often be:

  • To provide for the material needs of inhabitants. (Food, water, shelter, energy, etc.)
  • To provide for many of the non-material needs of inhabitants. (Work, purpose, education, recreation and entertainment, a rich natural environment, etc.)
  • To provide a surplus. (To trade, share, and for outreach potential.)
  • To reduce the need to work externally. (Though the provision of material needs.)
  • To provide the opportunity for livelihood within the community. 
  • To reduce travel requirements and travel costs for community members. 
  • To allow for privacy within homes and gardens for family units as well as communal spaces. 
  • To enhance cooperation and collaboration through provision for human companionship, including inter-generational inter-relations.

Intentional communities usually come together with shared ethics and beliefs. What exactly those ethics and beliefs may be can vary greatly, and the degree to which community members must buy into those ethics and beliefs will vary too from one community scheme to the next. 

Whatever your intention, however, and whatever ideas underpin that intention, a community, especially at the early development stages, must make its ideas and ambitions clear and transparent to all involved. 

Financing a Scheme to Establish an Intentional Community

Another essential topic when establishing an intentional community is how you will fund its development and also how the scheme will be financed over time. 

One of the main barriers often imagined to stand in the way of the creation of intentional communities, co-housing schemes, or the creation of similar schemes is financing. Yet it is potentially possible to create new intentional communities without much initial capital in the development phase.

Funding possibilities could include:

  • Receiving the gift of land to a land trust intended for village development.
  • Development of lands already communally owned.
  • "Option to buy" agreements with willing owners, convinced by the vision for village development.
  • Working with an angel investor on a staged development.
  • Development of a co-investment scheme—clubbing together with others, each of whom agrees to put up a share of the initial capital required in return for a title' This option is most complex and challenging, yet could be an option for the majority of potential intentional communities. 

It can be interesting as well as useful to think outside the box somewhat when it comes to funding the establishment of your intentional community. The same is true of financing the community on an ongoing basis. 

A self-sustaining eco-village community must consider how they will pay for communal services and continued development moving forward. The role of a community trust is to establish a pool of funds for these purposes and administer those funds according to community intentions and ethics.

There are several different ways that these funds might be raised, but whichever is chosen, this is something else that should be decided upfront. 

Determining a Site for the Community

The site may often be dictated by opportunity: the land available in a given area. But consideration should also be given to the capability of any site in question to provide for basic food, water, and energy needs, both for now and in the future. 

A great many different locations might be considered, including:

  • Sites in a city block or suburb.
  • Sites adjoining an existing village.
  • Sites within a part-vacant village.
  • Sites isolated from any existing integrated settlement.
  • Sites in a previous village, now vacant or destroyed.
  • Sites as a new suburban development.
  • Specialized settlements on coasts or near wilderness areas. 

Mixed ecologies can be extremely beneficial to a future community. Any community which has access to, or will be able to develop, forest, aquatic, marine, agricultural, and market areas will have many more options available to it than one on the site with simple ecology.

Of course, the size of an intentional community (its budget constraints and how much it may wish to expand if budget is less of a concern) is important, too, when determining whether a particular site will be suitable. 

Human settlements vary in their ability to provide resources, develop a high level of self-reliance, and function in a cooperative and collaborative manner according to their population size and function. A community that starts out with 30 adults or fewer is likely to have the best chances of success, though it can be helpful to think about how a community can grow and expand over time. 

There is a lot more to consider. But the above may give you food for thought if you are looking for a better way to live with like-minded people.