“Intentional Community” or just an “Old-Fashioned Neighborhood”?

Much has been written about the “Intentional Community” or “Eco Village” where like-minded altruistic people band together to create an idyllic, Utopian lifestyle. We intend to enjoy an abundant community lifestyle without the pitfalls.

Despite best intentions, about 90% of these social experiments fail for different reasons including: – Unclear Vision or Mission – Common Ownership of assets that creates a crucible of conflict. – Insufficient resources to accomplish community goals. – Consensus government without the skills required to manage conflict or reach consensus. – Unrealistic expectations of a life of simple ease, basking in nature’s glory while leisurely tending a communal garden. History records that most IC’s never get off the ground, quickly crumbling into internal bickering and cynicism. See http://ic.org for some thought provoking insight.

The Villagers of Sewanee Creek believe there’s a better model of Intentional Community that simply harks back to an old, proven institution, one that survived the test of time before our unsustainable modern lifestyle of extreme suburban mobility isolated us from one another and blew it apart. Read the rest of my BLOG and you will see that there are many elements of Intentional Community which we share.

So, what’s different about our model from unsuccessful IC’s and why does it work? In the Old Fashioned Neighborhood Model:

  • The burden of common ownership or shared livelihood is not imposed on its members. In its place a good measure of independence with private property ownership keeps everyone accountable for their own life.
  • It is not a commune of social dropouts, lacking the financial resources to function in the real world. There is a cost of independent ownership that provides a necessary screen.
  • Only critical assets that would be unsustainable or impractical to hold individually are held in common. –
  • Group Participation in community activities is optional, although encouraged. It is no longer a burden, but a joyful choice.
  • A conscious effort is made to organize healthy activities using the assets of the Village. The clubhouse is, therefore, not eye candy built to make the development look nice. It has a purpose and is in constant use.
  • The community garden is in place and functioning at the outset so that as people move here, community assets are already actively in use in a scalable fashion.
  • Those who desire privacy and personal space (and who doesn’t at times?) are welcome to as much of it as they like. For those who are ready for something other than isolation, it’s ready and waiting.
  • It would be tempting to call this an “active adult community” also a popular model for retiring baby boomers, except that the Village strives to attract people who are (1) diverse in age, (2) diverse and accomplished in their talents and interests, and (3) want to interact with others to enrich their life experiences in diverse ways; and they take personal responsibility to make that happen. Hence, it is not a specialized golf community although there are wonderful golf courses nearby. Take the word “Adult” out and it’s closer to what we are. We are an “Active Community” with a purpose.

Hmmm… Maybe we are a hybrid, an “active  eco-community“? What’s the glue that holds the Village together differently from your typical suburban neighborhood? – People who choose to live here are attracted to the village because of shared values,  their love of nature, including the earth and all living things. People with those values tend to care about other people as well. They are the kind of people who go out of their way to help each other.

People choose to live here because of a clear, articulated vision that emphasizes the importance of community – caring for other people. They like people. They understand that life is enriched by sharing with other people. They seek to learn from others who have something to share and they enjoy teaching from the wealth of life experiences they have accumulated. They are the kind of folks who might intentionally linger on their front porch at dusk not to miss a neighbor strolling by. They also take comfort that, in a pinch, their neighbors would go out of their way to help, just as they would. And they know that’s not an idle promise because people who live here have first made the effort to be independent with things like renewable energy so that they have the personal resources to give back and become interdependent. I call that “provident living“. Subtle things, you might think. But then, the best things in life aren’t forced, but are the natural outcome of making wise choices about simple things that are often overlooked.

People will be either the problem or the solution. And I guess that brings us back to the word “intentional“. I believe good people of good intent in the right environment are the solution. Call us what you like. We are simply, the Village on Sewanee Creek.

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