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Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities Paperback – 2003
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An intentional community is a group of people who have chosen to live or work together in pursuit of a common ideal or vision. An ecovillage is a village-scale intentional community that intends to create, ecological, social, economic, and spiritual sustainability over several generations.
The 90s saw a revitalized surge of interest in intentional communities and ecovillages in North America: the number of intentional communities listed in the Communities Directory increased 60 percent between 1990 and 1995. But only 10 percent of the actual number of forming-community groups actually succeeded. Ninety percent failed, often in conflict and heartbreak. After visiting and interviewing founders of dozens of successful and failed communities, along with her own forming-community experiences, the author concluded that "the successful 10 percent" had all done the same five or six things right, and "the unsuccessful 90 percent" had made the same handful of mistakes. Recognizing that a wealth of wisdom were contained in these experiences, she set out to distill and capture them in one place.
Creating a Life Together is the only resource available that provides step-by-step, practical "how-to" information on how to launch and sustain a successful ecovillage or intentional community. Through anecdotes, stories, and cautionary tales about real communities, and by profiling seven successful communities in depth, the book examines "the successful 10 percent" and why 90 percent fail; the role of community founders; getting a group off to a good start; vision and vision documents; decision-making and governance; agreements; legal options; finding, financing, and developing land; structuring a community economy; selecting new members; and communication, process, and dealing well with conflict. Sample vision documents, community agreements, and visioning exercises are included, along with abundant resources for learning more.
About the Author
Besides editing Communities magazine since 1993, Diana Leafe Christian offers workshops nationwide in the USA on the process of forming new ecovillages and intentional communities. She is a member of Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina.
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Update, February 2016: It's been almost two years since I first read this book, and since then I've purchased land, created a web site and networking site, visited another project like mine that I found in the book, had a few special events, have gotten the first stages of our site plan county approved, negotiated with neighbors, began improvements on the land and existing structure, and have broken ground on our first residential cabin. I have all serious potential members of my project read this book, and we go over the most important topics together. Curious? Check out Ingenium Expressive Arts Village at www.expressiveartsvillage.com We're still in the beginning stages, but with resources like Diana's book and careful, meticulous planning, I do believe IT CAN BE DONE! :)
Wow. This has to be THE "mother of all books" on intentional communities. It certainly lives up to the title and subtitle on its cover. I think practical tools is a likely understatement as the book goes into much detail on many of the serious nuts and bolts of forming intentional community. I was and am beyond impressed with the information I found in Creating a Life Together; Diana Leafe Christian has done an exemplary job of bringing together a large amount of information and summarizing it into an intellectually digestive form. I am surprised at the breadth and depth of detail she has been able to bring into one volume and still maintain a level of readability that is unexpected for a book that seems like it should read more like an encyclopedia or some multi-step manual. My point; it reads very well. In fact, I read most of the book during a 3-hour flight...finding it almost as exciting as a mystery or action-adventure title on the NY Times Bestseller list. Really!
As I have already said, the book is everything it claims to be and more. The book draws on the collective experience of the author, Diana Leafe Christian, who has served as the editor of Communities magazine since 1993 and has many years of experience observing and living as a member of intentional communities. Additionally, the book also shares insight and example from a number of community models--their best and worst practices--so the reader is provided with "real world" experience to examine.
Creating a Life Together is divided into three primary sections. Part one deals with start-up issues; this section of the book is worth its cost alone. Part two is what I might refer to as the "engine room" of the intentional community and includes discussion about agreements, policy, legal advice and entity, property concerns, zoning issues, neighbors, and financing. It covers most of the mechanics involved with forming an intentional community. While this aspect of community might seem burdensome and/or boring, it absolutely cannot be overlooked and I believe Diana has done a great job of presenting this information fairly and highlighting its importance as well. Part three shares about the nature and development of the community itself...the people factor as it were, describing how people thrive, are nourished, and deal with conflict within the close confines of this type of neighborhood. There are many great examples of how it is done right and how it is done wrong in this section along with a number of very good resources. The book is rounded out with a great compilation of resource material found in the appendices featuring examples of community vision documents, sample community agreements, and information that I found extremely helpful for setting up a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. There is also a great list of books, websites, and other organizations at the end of the book that can serve for next steps or deeper study into specific areas relative to the intentional community model.
I am so very glad to have found this book. Certain aspects of it caused pangs of depression as I considered some of the aspects of community forming that aren't so exciting for me, but I am glad to have the reality check and awareness of these aspects brought to my attention, so I have both eyes open as I proceed with learning about (and hopefully becoming part of) an intentional community. If you are considering this type of lifestyle, this book is a "must have" for you. Don't miss it!