Insights

“In and through Community lies the salvation of the world.”  M. Scott Peck

Why does the vast majority of community living projects, of all types, fail?

In our view, most of us have three big misperceptions:

Misperception 1:  Modern, open minded people are well suited for living in community.

The reality is we are not well equipped for community living.  Modern society conditions us to prioritize independence, not interdependence.  Very few of us have experience in true community.

Misperception 2: If we try hard enough, over time, a community will work itself out.

There are a number crucial elements to get right in building a new community and missing a major one can sink a new project, if not initially, then eventually.  Over time, things don’t actually just work themselves out, but instead people tend to burn out and leave, and the community eventually disintegrates.

Misperception 3: The community does not need to be “spiritual.”   

Living in true community, is by definition, a spiritual practice.  For a true community to succeed, individual members need to make a deep commitment to supporting the needs of others and the community as a whole.  This involves adjusting one’s priorities, letting go of personal biases, and accepting certain tradeoffs.

In true community one can’t simply ignore a neighbor they don’t agree or get along with. Differences need to get worked through and compromises made.  That takes work not everyone is up for.

A group of people living in close proximity might be a condominium or cohousing development, or an ecovillage project.  But green homes, common houses, and communal permaculture gardens do not make true community.

M. Scott Peck in his book on community, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, points out that:

“True community is not simply an aggregate of people, but one which has made a commitment to each other to learn on an ongoing basis how to communicate with each other: how to communicate more really, more authentically, more intimately, more vulnerably.”  

A well known community building expert pointed out that starting a community is like doing three things at once:

  1. Getting Married
  2. Starting a Business
  3. Going on a long overseas trip with lots of itineraries and lots of baggage.

Diana Leafe Christian called living in community “the longest, most expensive, personal growth workshop you will ever take.”

In all our research it is communities that willingly embrace these realities (Findhorn, Plum Village, Sirius, etc.) that thrive and stand the test of time.

Here are some good articles on building community.

From Alexa Clay (www.alexaclay.com):

Why Most Communities Fail

From Diana Leaf Christian (www.dianaleafchristian.org):

“Structural Conflict” — And Six Ways to Reduce It

From M. Scott Peck (www.fce-community.org):

Community Building Stages and True Community

The Different Drum – Chapter on True Community

From Jeff Golden:

Common Fire’s 10 Hard Earned Tips For Community Success

From Liz Walker (http://ecovillageithaca.org/):

EcoVillage at Ithaca Best Practices, Lessons Learned

EcoVillage at Ithaca – 21 Years of EcoVillage Planning and Living

 

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