The following is a definition by Sky Blue, who was introduced early on to intentional communities by parents who had met in one. Sky lived in seven different ICs over the last 27 years. They were formerly Executive Director and are currently on the Board of the Foundation for Intentional Community. The following is quoted with permission from a presentation:
While it can be easiest to think of an intentional community as a place, at their core, intentional communities are about relationships of sharing. People sharing space, sharing resources, sharing purpose, sharing lives….Intentional communities come in all shapes and sizes. They usually have some kind of organizational structure, a membership system, and something that defines what it’s all about, the intention that makes it an intentional community….And living with others with a sense of shared purpose satisfies our basic human need for meaning. (Slide 5)
Sky and their consulting partner Avi Kruley came up with the following criteria for intentional community:
- Residence: People choosing to live together
- Rationale: A commonly understood intention or purpose of the community
- Responsibilities: Cooperative governance and management
- Resources: Collectivized economies based on mutual support
- Relationships: A sense of connection and social interactions that build culture (slide 7)
To clarify, collectivized economies can take the form of shared resources such as vehicles, tools, insurance, or a business partnership. It does not necessarily mean income sharing, though some intentional communities do partly or fully share income. Let’s dig into each of these points.
People choosing to live together could look very different from one community to another, but there are three main configurations:
- separate houses (or vans/RVs) on the same plot of land
- separate self-contained apartments within a building
- share a livingroom, laundry, and kitchen with separate bedrooms or external sleeping spaces
A commonly understood intention or purpose of the community could vary widely. The community types page describes a number of these purposes, falling into the following general categories:
nomadic or time-flexible stays
shared cultural values
self-sufficiency & sustainability
care and social safety net
community as a work team
Cooperative governance and management can range from anarchy, to full consensus, to an autocracy, as long as everyone is in agreement with the system and able to work together. Read about options in the governance guidelines page.
Collectivized economies based on mutual support also have a wide range. This could range from sharing only the land parcel to full income sharing.
A sense of connection and social interactions that build culture are also concepts that can vary widely. Connection can come from shared values, shared identity, or simply friendship. Social interactions that build culture can be work and/or leisure. Members might run a small farm together and a community supported agriculture (CSA) business. Members might work at different types of jobs on or off site but participate in the same art form such as theater or dance. They may share one or more favorite sports or leisure activities.