Sunday, January 13, 2013

Creating a Life Together

The book "Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities" is an excellent resource for anyone interested in joining or starting an ecovillage or intentional community. It provides step-by-step practical information on how to create a successful ecovillage. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction.

The Successful Ten Percent

I’ve since learned that EarthDance Farm’s experience is fairly common. Most aspiring ecovillages and community groups — probably 90 percent — never get off the ground; their envisioned communities never get built. They can’t find the right land, don’t have enough money, or get mired in conflict. Often they simply don’t understand how much time, money, and organizational skill they’ll need to pull off a project of this scope.

I wanted to know about the successful ten percent, those groups that actually created their communities. What did they do right?

I’ve sought the answer to this question ever since, in my years as editor of Communities magazine, and by visiting dozens of communities and interviewing scores of community founders. And I’ve seen a definite pattern. Generally, founders used the same kinds of skills, knowledge, and step-by-step processes to create widely different kinds of communities, from urban group households or rural ecovillages.

Creating a Life Together is an overview of that process, gleaned from some of the most innovative and successful community founders in North America. This is what they did, and what you can do, to create your community dream.

To give you an idea of the level of detail that the books goes into, here is the Table of Contents.


Part One: - Planting the Seeds of Healthy Community

Chapter 1 - The Successful Ten Percent — and Why Ninety Percent Fail
  • Lost Valley — How One Group Did It
  • What Works, What Doesn’t Work?
  • The Successful Ten Percent
  • Why Ninety Percent Fail
  • “Structural Conflict” — And Six Ways to Reduce It
  • What Will it Cost?
  • How Long Does it Take?
  • How Many People do You Need?
Chapter 2 - Your Role as Founder
  • What Kind of Person Founds a Community?
  • What Else You’ll Need
  • “If Only I Had Known!”
Chapter 3 - Getting Off to a Good Start
  • Don’t Run Out and Buy Land — Yet
  • When You Already Own the Property
  • Organizing Your Group
  • Getting Real about Finances
  • Collecting Funds
  • Raising Money from Supporters
  • Attracting and Integrating New Members
  • Creating “Community Glue”
  • Pioneers, Settlers, and the Flow of Members
Chapter 4 - Community Vision — What It Is, Why You Need It
  • Sound a Clear Note
  • Elements of a Community’s Vision
  • Your Vision Documents and Vision Statement
  • Do It First
Chapter 5 - Creating Vision Documents
  • More Than One Vision?
  • A Sacred Time
  • “That’s Not Community!” — Hidden Expectations and Structural Conflict
  • Exploring the Territory
  • Sharing from the Heart
  • Writing it Down
Chapter 6 - Power, Decision-making, and Governance
  • Power — The Ability to Influence
  • Focused Power, Widespread Power
  • How Consensus Works
  • What You Need to Make Consensus Work
  • “Pseudoconsensus” and Structural Conflict
  • Agreement-Seeking — When You Don’t Want to use Full Consensus
  • Multi-winner Voting
  • Community Governance — Spreading Power Widely
  • More than One Form of Decision Making?
  • What Decision-making Method Should You Use?
Part Two: - Sprouting New Community: Techniques & Tools

Chapter 7 - Agreements & Policies: “Good Documents Make Good Friends”
  • Remembering Things Differently
  • Giving Yourselves Every Chance of Success
  • Your Community’s Agreements and Policies
Chapter 8 - Making It Real: Establishing Your Legal Entity
  • Why You Need a Legal Entity — Before Buying Your Property
  • Using a Lawyer
  • Finding the Right Lawyer
Chapter 9 - The Great Land-Buying Adventure
  • Legal Barriers to Sustainable Development
  • Shopping for Counties — Zoning Regulations, Building Codes, Sustainable Homesteads, and Jobs
  • The Proactive Land Search
  • Friendly Loans from Friends and Family
  • Onerous Owner-financing (Better than None at All)
  • Do-it-Yourself Refinancing with a “Shoe Box Bank”
  • When One Person Buys the Property
  • Acquiring Fully Developed “Turn-Key” Property — Confidence, Persistence, and Negotiation
  • If at First You Don’t Succeed …
Chapter 10 - Finding the Right Property
  • Choosing Your Site Criteria
  • How Much Land Do You Want?
  • Raw Land — Lower Initial Cost, Years of Effort
  • Developed Land — Electricity, Toilets, and Showers
  • Fully Developed Turn-key Property — Move Right In (With a Big Financial Bite)
  • Buying Property like the Professionals Do
  • Conducting the Search — On Your Own or with a Real Estate Agent
  • Investigating Likely Properties
  • Taking Property Off the Market While You Do Further Research
Chapter 11 - Neighbors and Zoning
  • How Zoning Issues can Impact Community Plans
  • Zoning Issues and Your Property
  • Gambling with Former Use Permits
  • Seeking a Zoning Exception
  • Negotiating for What You Want
  • Zoning Exceptions, Neighbors, and Public Hearings
Chapter 12 - Financing Your Property (Loans You Can Live With)
  • About “Renting Money” — What You Should Know
  • Private Financing
  • When One Member Buys the Property
  • Protecting Your Sole Owner with a Triple Net Lease
  • Owner Financing
  • Bank Financing
  • Drawing on the Cohousing Model
  • What about Grants and Donations?
  • Refinancing Your Property
Chapter 13 - Developing Sustainable Human Settlements
  • Earthaven’s Development Process
  • Listening to your Land
  • Creating your Site Plan Yourselves
  • Avoiding “Urban Refugee Syndrome”
  • Creating Privacy in the Midst of Community
  • Designing for Conviviality
Chapter 14 - Internal Community Finances (Can We Afford to Live There?)
  • Rural Communities — How will your Members Make a Living?
  • The Risks of Community Businesses
  • Keeping Member Assessments Affordable
  • Joining Fees
  • Housing Arrangements
  • Site Lease Fees and the Debt Load
  • Labor Requirements
  • Building Equity
  • Can People Afford to Join You?
Chapter 15 - Legal Entities for Owning Property
  • Checklist for Choosing a Legal Entity
  • How You’ll Hold Title and Arrange Members’ Use Rights
  • Organizational Flexibility
  • How You’ll be Taxed
  • Overview: Corporations and Non-profit Corporations
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
  • Homeowners Associations — Tax Advantages (and Disadvantages)
  • Condominium Associations
  • Housing Co-ops — Separate Ownership and Use Rights
  • Non-exempt Non-profit Corporations
Chapter 16 - If You’re Using a Tax-exempt Non-profit
  • Advantages of a 501(c)3 — Donations, Tax Breaks, Limited Liability
  • Disadvantages of a 501(c)3 — Onerous Requirements, Irrecoverable Assets
  • Land-Owning Entities and 501(c)3 Corporations — The Best of Both Worlds
  • How One Group Retained Control of its Board
  • Title-holding Corporations — Collecting Income from “Passive” Sources
  • Private Land Trusts — Protecting the Land
  • Community Land Trusts — An Irrevocable Decision
  • For “Common Treasury” Communities — 501(d) Non-profit Corporations
Part Three: - Thriving in Community

Chapter 17 - Communication, Process, and Dealing with Conflict: The Heart of Healthy Community
  • The “Rock Polisher” Effect
  • Nourishing Sustainable Relationships
  • The Roots of Conflict: Emotionally-charged Needs
  • High Woundedness, High Willingness
  • Seven Kinds of Community Conflict We Wish We’d Left Behind
  • Twenty-four Common Sources of Community Conflict
  • The Fine Art of Offering Feedback
  • Receiving Feedback — Listening for Kernels of Truth
  • Threshing Meetings
  • Creating Specific Conflict Resolution Agreements
  • Helping Each Other Stay Accountable to the Group
  • A Graduated Series of Consequences
Chapter 18 - Selecting People to Join You
  • Select for Emotional Maturity — the “Narrow Door”
  • But is it Community?
  • Passive Victims, Outraged Victims
  • Membership Screening and the Law
  • Dealing Well with Saying “No”
  • How Can You Tell?
  • Questions, References, “Long Engagements”
Appendix 1 - Sample Community Vision Documents
Appendix 2 - Sample Community Agreements
Appendix 3 - Setting Up and Maintaining a 501(c)3 Non-profit