Pros and cons of coliving community depend on the particular needs and preferences of community seekers. In general, challenges are similar to those that families, churches, and civic organizations find difficult. Communication and fairness are consistent needs. It is often inconvenient to engage in joint decision making, and new norms need to be learned. For communities who manage to stay together, benefits include better physical health and sense of connection, support with child-raising, friendship, personal growth, cost saving, shared resources, and a social safety net for members.
Challenges of Coliving Communities
Low Staying Power of Common-struggle Communities
Communities often have formed around a need for practical support. Ethnic enclaves in large cities developed from a need that new immigrants have for a shared language and the comfort of a place where they could purchase familiar foods. Like those organically-formed communities, the common struggle of ethnic groups has also prompted formation of intentional communities such as the kibbutzim, which Bang (2007) describes as long-lasting examples of successful development across a whole spectrum of shared versus individual ownership. Reportedly, the kibbutzim have become increasingly individualistic over time, coinciding with a lessened political support for socialism as people became more prosperous.
Alexa Clayis, co-author of The Misfit Economy, writes about the relation of communitarian experimentation in relation to hard times.
Generally, intentional communities fail at a rate slightly higher than that of most start-ups. Only a handful of communities founded in the U.S. during the 19th century’s ‘golden age of communities’ lasted beyond a century; most folded in a matter of months. This golden age birthed more than 100 experimental communities, with more than 100,000 members in total who, according to the historian Mark Holloway in Heavens on Earth (1951), sought to differentiate themselves from society by creating ‘ideal commonwealths’. The largest surge in communitarian ‘start-ups’ occurred during the 1840s and 1890s, coinciding with periods of economic depression. But it would be a mistake to see intentional communities merely as a knee-jerk response to hard times. In historic terms, a broader discontent with industrial society has led to people flocking to communes, utopias and spiritual settlements, from eco-villages and ‘back to the land’ style settlements designed to create sustainable lifestyles and a stronger relationship to nature, to communities founded with spiritual or idealist visions for transforming human character and creating new blueprints of society. Of course, the ‘cult’ label is never far behind. Many intentional communities have had to fight their own public-relations battles in the wake of negative or sensational publicity. (para. 3-4)
Unfortunately, “common struggle” communities tend to lose their appeal when life gets easier. People don’t feel a need to rely on each other. Worse is when life doesn’t get easier and community starts to degrade. People in the same struggle start to fight over limited resources instead of pulling together for their common good. Others move away in search of better prospects.
Low Staying Power of Marriages
The staying power of cohabiting groups, particularly in the WEIRD world, is low. For example, in the most typical cohabiting group, the family, divorce is high and multi-generational cohabiting is low after children are of adult age. If we can’t even keep couples together, how do we think we’re going to keep more people than two together? Looking at the mechanisms of interaction in a group, when we take out the legal trappings, it is more obvious what happens by default and what can happen with intention. Western society is currently experiencing fewer marriages, and a resurgence of young adults remaining economically dependent for a decade past the age of emancipation (Pew Research Center, 2019). Many have taken the religious aspect of holy matrimony out of cohabitation and parenting, and still find reasons to stay together. The legal and ceremonious aspects have served a purpose in bringing some stability to family bonds, but they also have downsides such as the capacity for controlling and subjugating others who are economically dependent. In a setting in which we cannot dominate but only attract, how can we achieve group cohesion? When we can do so, it can be delightful. With women’s liberation—without legal, economic, and social pressures to stay in an unhappy marriage—couples are challenged to build in staying power by creating a more equitable arrangement. A common cause or conviction can give us the fortitude to stick it out when community life gets challenging, which means we can enjoy the times when community life is most rewarding.
Low Staying Power of Transactional Relationships
We all want the good feels. Some get it thru drugs. It’s unsustainable and usually ends badly. Some get it thru chasing an elusive goal such as money, status, or sexual desirability. If they attain the goal, they realize it doesn’t satisfy them. They raise the bar—striving until they die—or learn to get their good feels some other way. Relationships are transactional and commodified. We have become a culture that relies on paid services. These transactional moments, even when polite or friendly, aren’t the same as family or neighbors helping out, forming lasting bonds. They are based on the reciprocity of financial transactions rather than reciprocity of trust and care. Our mainstream culture no longer pushes us into interactions that help us experience non-transactional relationships. A growing number have no regular church participation. We can choose not to maintain or create a family. Many believe that only fleeting pleasures are possible and that relationships—especially by having children—aren’t worth the trouble. Especially for those with a past of uncomfortable or abusive relationships, it’s easy to fall into apathy and cynicism.
Resource: Book summaries https://blas.com/the-art-of-community/ & https://blas.com/linked/
Benefits of Coliving Communities
Belonging as a Physical Health Enhancer
It isn’t the survival of the fittest; it’s the survival of the nurtured. —Louis Cozolino, attachment therapist
Every model of what puts you at risk for psychological illness, early death, it’s all about connection. It’s not only connection, but there’s no model of well being that doesn’t include relationships, meaningful connection with others as a pillar, so it’s certainly to our own detriment that we lose those communities and don’t take the time to invest and value. I think the literature is really clear on it. How can we set ourselves up with lifestyles that are more conducive to that I think is something that we’re not yet at a collective level of motivation around. (Kellerman, 2023, 18:13)
Camaraderie in Cause-based Communities
I, back then tho, was much less concerned with governance and more interested in the day-to-day being with everyone and living out my young adulthood as part of a grand adventure….We were recent fugitives from the ‘60s so, structure did not come naturally to us….As for our large-scale decision making, at first it was all pretty consensual, but…. over time some individuals emerged as the true long term leaders….We back then were good at broader things like maintaining an extraordinary low level of violence in a group that large. We were good at recognizing and growing positive sparks in each other. We started out being really serious with each other and over time developed a vast and sophisticated collective sense of humor that lasts to this day….300 people and I know every one of them by their first name….We shared like nothing I ever saw before or since. (JohnCoate, 2018, para. 1, 2, 6, 7)
While the above may be enuf reason for some to experiment with coliving community, staying power appears to depend on members having a higher purpose than their own well being and comfort. A joint mission that gives us a reason to put up with some inconveniences, and gives us trust that others are willing to do the same for us. For the majority of people, it simply seems easier and gives more freedom currently to go solo and purchase the goods and services you need. For the majority of people, it seems easier and smarter to rely on money capital than social capital. The alternative is to go thru the learning process of how to get along, compromising, and putting up with inconveniences for a shared purpose. Sebastian Junger, bestselling author of several titles including Tribe, War, and Freedom, and winner of a Peabody Award and the National Magazine Award for reporting, states this about group cohesion:
There’s something about not living for yourself any longer that’s enormously liberating….I spent a lot of time in combat with American soldiers actually, and I think one of the things that drew these guys to war, often after a bad deployment, a lot of them sort of missed it, and I think what drew them was the loss of the experience of losing the primacy of yourself as the most important thing in your life. You lose that when you’re in a platoon. I mean you really have to think in terms of the group, and you first might imagine that that’s a loss. It’s actually, you gain by doing that. The focus on the self can be enormously tormenting and make people incredibly anxious. Like it’s not a good place to go. (Ferriss, 2021, 22:57)
Benefits for Families Living in Community
There are strong benefits to nuclear families living in groups that share resources and have social bonds including trust (Belic, 2011). Community can increase child safety and well-being, providing attention and meaningful responsibilities, which can prevent or alleviate addiction to internet-based pop culture trivia. With the high rates of divorce, it’s obvious that it’s hard to adapt to and commit to even one other person, so we’d expect the difficulty to be compounded trying to live with several. Yet there are also protective factors in community. Financial stress is one of the top two most challenging issues for couples (Pew Research Center, 2019), and coliving can help with that. In addition, having others to talk over challenges with, especially when done jointly as an informal mediation, can help alleviate daily misunderstandings and the emotional distance that can develop as a result. For single parents, living in a community of connected people means that there are readily available and invested father figures, mother figures, and for single children, there are likely to be other children around. Coliving community can result in less helicopter parenting, as there are others keeping track of who is coming and going. In a larger community of trust and support, children can experience more freedom and creative unstructured play outdoors.
A single mother reported her experience of escaping isolation by living currently and for the past 12 years in a cohousing community of 20 families, with an enclosed courtyard of common space in the middle of apartments on all sides:
When I moved in here, I was newly divorced with two little children. I didn’t have work, so I was kind of isolated.…I had to find this place, and I found it. It was a miracle I found it. We live 20 families together…[children speaking] It’s like a big family. I have friends in the school and I have friends at home…..It’s nice to have grown-ups who are always looking out for us. If I’ve hurt myself down in the hall, then someone always comes running….[mother continues] I like these elderly people living here, because they are kind of grandmother and grandfather for my children. I feel they love my children as much as I do….It saved me, kind of, to find it, because I needed to be surrounded by other grownups, not only my own very small children. (Belic, 2011, 39:12)
This mother reported that the community eats together nearly every evening. Each family cooks once or twice a month for 40 or 50 people, which takes 4 or 5 hours each time. She compared that with the 2 hours daily it would take to cook and clean up after a single-family meal. Also, children 14 or older take their turn as a small group to prepare community dinners. She continued by describing the time it frees up:
Everybody is talking about stress. And the families with small children have stress because they come home from work, they have to buy, they have to cook. And when I come home and I’ve had my shower, and then I have two or three hours for my children. (Belic, 2011, 42:40)
More Happiness in Community
Mia Mingus expresses the longing many of us feel:
Because on the one hand, it’s true, I don’t belong anywhere, like many of you also probably feel. And on good days, it can feel like a slow, dull, throbbing ache, while other days, it can feel acutely, excruciatingly unbearable. Belonging can be a hard thing to believe in. It can be a hard thing to believe you deserve. It can be a hard thing to be able to even feel.
A millennial interviewer from the School for Ecocentric Evolution & Design Strategies says the following:
What have we been missing, being in this world of separation?…What do we gain by finding community again? (18:52)….It feels really good and natural to have a group of friends that you really like and some of whom you love who feel like brothers and sisters…and you can count on them….Some communities have that. (SEEDS, 2019, 21:20)
Ed Diener, Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois, states a similar finding:
We studied some of the happiest people and we found without exception that all of them had close supportive family and friends. That didn’t mean that they loved everybody or you know they got along with everybody, but what it meant was every one of them had close family and friends. (Belic, 2011, 27:52)
Journalist and news anchor Dan Harris spoke of his realizations about an increased level of social connection:
My happiness level went through the roof from regular social engagement. And this actually speaks to a huge issue in our culture, which is the lack of prioritization of social connection, which has led to a pandemic that predated the current pandemic, which was the pandemic of loneliness, which is a major contributing factor—from the evidence I’ve seen—to depression, anxiety, drug abuse, suicide. You know, there are many contributing factors here from the way we live, you know, the way our societies are structured, the myth of individualism where we think we could do everything alone, social media, which is further sort of taking us out of, you know, seeing each other in person. And I think this is a gigantic social issue. And on an individual level, to be practical about it for your listeners, I think being deliberate about cultivating interpersonal relationships will pay unbelievable dividends….one incredibly powerful one is just having good relationships. It’s just right there in our evolution. We evolved to be social creatures. This is how we survived. And yet we have, as the great writer Johann Hari has written, we’re the first generation to voluntarily dissolve the tribe, but we need the tribe. (Ferris, 2020, 1:17:52)
Not everyone is lucky enough to have had functional sane and supportive family numbers. Some come to community hoping for the respect and acceptance they didn’t get from their families. Some call this a chosen family. When kindness and connection has been inconsistently experienced, it is more likely to be seen as more valuable. Yet, when in-person connection has been missing, some aren’t aware of the potential enjoyment it could bring; many have learned to value physical comforts and the supposed admiration or even envy of others, as commercial marketing and social media have increasingly promoted an online idealized image. Community is the opposite. People close to you see the warts and all, and you see theirs. You may feel more vulnerable, but you also can feel truly seen. My teen, after living in community, said the following:
When you need a hug, there’s always someone close by to give one. People closer than friends are always there. You don’t have to have all your interaction through social media. You get to be around people who see the world the way you do. (“J.” M. Castaneda, 2020, personal communication)
Marissa King, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management, states the following:
Our relationships are necessary, but it’s also where joy comes from. In many ways, I would argue, even the purpose of living. It’s being a part of great community. And that humaneness is what it’s all about.” (Gervais, 2021, para. 2)
Community as a Path for Self-development
It’s easy to be a holy man on top of a mountain. —from The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
“The idea that a group supports the individuals within it towards greater self development is in itself a strong community binding factor” (Bang, 2007, p. 163). To last, a group must be willing to tolerate the discomfort and uncertainty that will surely arise. After a honeymoon phase when new members may be on their best behavior, tensions will surface, and this is a growth opportunity. If they don’t surface, then it likely is because one is brow-beaten or in an unhealthy self-imposed subservience. One intentional community founder and decade-long member, Miriam Martineau, spoke of how challenging it is to achieve a balance where individuality and commonality are balanced effectively:
We both had the sense that the way into the future is through collectives learning, how to collaborate and evolve together….We have seen versions where there’s a very strong sense of the collective, but if you would speak to the individuals it felt like there had been a loss of the individual….There’d been a bowing down to a dogma or a teacher or teaching or a religious path for example….We visited a lot of communities….There’s also communities where the individuals are very strong, quite empowered and sovereign and living their life, but they’re struggling hugely to have a sense of togetherness, down to simple things like they would say, “we try to have a weekly meditation together; we do it, but no one ever shows up.”…Our sense was always there’s a third way….We have experienced it as a state. We think it’s possible and very necessary as a stage….that we’re working to help create it, and that is this deep sense of coherence amongst people and shared intention and shared values and a shared path, but there is no loss whatsoever in the sovereignty of each individual. If anything the uniqueness of each person is even uplifted and encouraged….and one of the keys that we did discover ourselves…is that in our experience the only way to get that third way is actually thru spiritual growth and maturation in your intrapersonal discernment, in your knowing who you are, where are you coming from in any moment. (Future Thinkers, 2021, February 11, 10:58)
Finding the right community won’t fix an individual any more than finding the right significant other. We each need to do our own inner work, tho others can assist in healing, hinder healing, or traumatize us. Seeking healing probably isn’t the best reason to join a community, but if this is your path, go in with a resolve to learn about yourself from the mirror living with others provides. To keep from becoming obnoxious, we need to be open to others’ feedback. To keep from becoming dysfunctional in our own approach to living, it helps to have others who see our biases and who are willing to tell us their perspective. Also, when joining an established community, keep contact with at least one support person outside the community who can help you maintain a wider perspective. When a whole group has a different view, it can make an incoming individual question their assumptions, which can be healthy, or question their boundaries, leaving them vulnerable to unfair treatment. On the flip side, Christian (2003) warns that taking on members that have more emotional, physical, and/or economic needs than the community can adequately support can be disastrous, even to the point of breaking up the community.
We can let community and consensus-based decision-making compensate for our bias. In community we help each other get past our weaknesses and maximize our strengths. We don’t have to become perfectly balanced as individuals because we help balance each other. When everyone else can see our problematic patterns, but we can’t see the extent to which we are blocking ourselves, they may wait until a time we seem open, then ask if we want feedback. We sometimes need skilled facilitation of group processes to reach the group’s potential for emotional benefits. See our list of group circle processes including decision making, trust building, and problem solving. In order to help others, we need to be able to tolerate the discomfort of knowing about their pain.
Successful people, some say, hang around other successful people and are happy. Yet might these comfortable people be ignoring the pain of society and in fact remain in denial about injustice and disrespect that most of us contribute to either directly or indirectly? Communities do well to talk to each other about harmful behavior, which we are all capable of, remembering that when we’re judging others, it is often a result of seeing something in them that we don’t like about ourselves. It is best to discuss the behavior without labeling someone with a character attribute. Even if someone habitually acts a certain way, across domains, we should leave the clinical diagnosis to professionals, unless we have enuf rapport that we can give and take these observations. If we’ve been treated badly, after we get over feeling angry, we can feel regret for their condition while making sure we protect ourselves by setting boundaries. As individuals we need to practice humility and self reflection. Reportedly Ram Dass quipped, “If you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.”
Learning Not to Give up on Others
Even with a common cause, we give up on each other too soon if we haven’t been taught how to communicate compassionately with each other, nor how to forgive while maintaining appropriate self-protection. It is important to have boundaries, and to be able to leave when we need to. At the same time, if we can learn to tolerate more emotional discomfort than we have been taught to, more vulnerability and uncertainty, then we have a chance to mend the inevitable rifts and insults.
If we have enough insight to get thru our anger and sadness, to take a break but not impulsively quit when it gets hard, to give a partnership another chance without being coerced, then we can get to the point when real breakthrus can happen. We all have blind spots. A coliving community is sometimes able to shine a light on those, preferably in a gentle way, and balance the extremes of each member. Thus our differences become strengths instead of weaknesses.
Brene Brown (2017) found that people who experience a greater amount of contentment and enjoyment tend to have a belief that people are doing the best they can, and that the majority of people are redeemable. There are few people who are so hardened against others—or so biologically compromised—that they can’t be reached. Belic (2011) shows that some get satisfaction even from a one-sided relationship, such as interacting with artists thru their art, authors thru their words, or serving people one doesn’t interact with directly.
Community’s Practical Functionality and Quality of Life
Risk mitigation. In the United States, where an individualist approach has been favored over an increased social safety net, those who are without close trusted others must either accept risks or pay for every kind of insurance and service. Yet without a mutual reliance on family or close friends, even their legal will or final directive about what kind of medical care they do or don’t want at the end of life may not be honored, because the documents may not be available at the time they are needed. The documents would need to be delivered to the medical staff by people who care enough to keep track of them and provide it. We all at some point may need an advocate who we cannot pay, not a transactional relationship, but one of trust. Emotional bonds to known persons have been most trusted for ages. Establishing this trust takes time and commitment. It is also important to set up written agreements so that we don’t make assumptions that differ from others’ willingness to help. These don’t need to be and probably can’t be legally binding, but the effort helps clarify expectations.
Shared resources. These can benefit our individual economic well-being, for example thru rideshares, tool renting, shared subscriptions and services. We can share spaces and equipment such as in shared kitchens, libraries, playgrounds, gyms, workshop, and creative space. Many intentional communities have leveled up their governance practices and personal maturity to implement effective sharing. We can learn from them.
There’s a way in which we’re very rich. For example we have this pond with a wood burning sauna right beside it. And we have these wonderful Sunday evenings. And I have access to a wood shop and I can build whatever I want with an unlimited supply of Oakwood, which there’s no way I’ve had that out there. I give yoga classes. Other people can take my yoga classes for free you know. It’s just part of living here, so we have this quality of life. We’re able to offer different experiences and benefits to people that you just can’t do on an individual basis. If you look at the income we make collectively and individually, it’s nothing close to what a middle class typical person makes. And the reason we’re able to live this lifestyle you know, basically a middle class lifestyle, very comfortable, using a lot less money, is again because of this radical sharing that we do. So that frees up a lot more energy to provide other kinds of quality of life services and experiences. (Transition Bus, 2016, 11:10)
Another communitarian, with four decades at an income-sharing intentional community and farm, speaks of overcoming inherited inequality:
This comes out of a cultural background where we venerate property rights. It’s kind of like you got a golden ticket, and the other person doesn’t. I think we have to … figure out how to share resources rather than just own them. And community already does something; we’re gonna need to do more. We’re going to face more and more resource pressure as time goes by. More people, we’re not making more land. …we’re running out of oil. It’s like we’re going to figure out ways like how do we share equitably…. So let’s start now. … there’s more we can do than we’ve done so far, is the point I’m trying to make, and so one of the pieces here with respect to membership is talk about … the advantages to us of incorporating or being open to incorporating member renters as fully as we possibly can. It is for everybody’s benefit. (Shaub, 2022, 01:07:15)
A millennial interviewer from the School for Ecocentric Evolution & Design Strategies says the following:
I try to communicate the necessity of community….A lot of people think it’s this new age hippie thing….I see it as fundamentally necessary for us to go thru this collective shift so we don’t destroy the planet—and ourselves in the process. (SEEDS, 2019, 18:52)
Safety. Another benefit is a throw-back to small town lifestyles, where many don’t feel they need to lock their doors. You’re more likely not to have your purse or wallet stolen if you forget and leave it unattended for a moment. There’s a built-in neighborhood watch. There’s likely to be someone to assist quickly in emergencies.
The reasons many of us don’t live in communities anymore are varied. For one, many of us don’t seem to have the option to, but if we do look around and notice the options, or listen to others who have lived in community, we would find reasons such as those in the following list. There are hassles and there are benefits in both lifestyles. These are what I see as the trade-offs.
|Career choice||The family or friend businesses take you in or locals offer connections to work opportunities||Cronyism, not meritocratic; outside you make friends and new associates in a field of your choice, not for limited work options you have connections thru|
|Location||You are accepted and trusted (or not) based on reputation of generations||If your family members haven’t behaved well, you may suffer from that stigma|
|Finances||You may have tools, skillsets, or land to inherit||You may be prevented from taking risks, obliged to play it safe based on family consensus or community resources|
|Leisure||Close connection with others may obligate the to see your hardship in a way that prompts the to help, rather than spend on their own enjoyment||Close connection with others may obligate you to see hardship of others in a way that prompts you to help, rather than spend on your own enjoyment|
|Travel & adventure||Childhood and later adulthood may be good times to be settled in a place where you are known and will be looked after||In young adulthood you may see it as harder and less financially rewarding to live a place-based life, hard to rely on others, less likely to find a culture fit without moving|
|Habits and schedules||There are traditions and agreed on seasonal tasks and requirements that usually have some benefits||There may be less freedom to completely devise your own lifestyle, so novelty seekers may feel stifled|
|Orderliness||Working together becomes chaotic without rules and expectations, so predictable, often rigid systems & rules develop to facilitate cooperation||Rules are hard to change; creative types that want to try new systems to adapt to changing needs have an immense challenge to gain buy-in|
|Interests and talents||If less resources are devoted to new interests, at least there are local skillsets and tutors to help you develop||If wealthy, you may have access to try out and master new talents & interests through university or trying out different employment or entrepreneurship|
|Projects||Get help with projects important to you||You reciprocate to help others with projects important to them; this might be fun sometimes, but takes time|
|Health||Loneliness is epidemic; there are substantial health benefits to maintaining close social ties that last||Pressure of others’ expectations can be overwhelming for some, especially if pressured into a subservient position|
|Aesthetics (music, design, & art)||A place over time develops a predictable style that pervades and can result in a sense of charm||Creative types may feel stifled; the young often have distaste for styles of the past and prefer to invent new styles|
|Children||Children have often more sense of freedom in a community, because adults trust that they are safe as they roam among the community. They develop social skills as they engage in unstructured play among a group of peers that is often of mixed ages. They have real work that makes them not only feel important but actually makes an important contribution.||Community upbringing prepares them for many aspects of life, but not as much for the narrow achievements that will be valued on a college application or resume. Their leadership opportunities, tho likely more formative, aren’t expressible as “attended leadership camp.”|
|Learning of children & self||Children can be spared many mistakes as they learn from observation as much as experience.||Available schooling may not be ideal or the option you’d choose|
|Social life||Social interaction is built in. No one is lonely in a well-functioning community, tho there will be formal or informal hierarchies. Community rules and elders/leaders, if functioning well, prevent serious abuses or unwarranted ostracism.||Too many meetings; the fewer rules, the more meetings are needed to make specific decisions for a unique situation|
|Reputation||Once others know you, expectations can pressure you to stay the same, especially to behave well; people will find out about bad behavior, so you won’t get scammed by others||Within community there is no anonymity to try out new ways of being, to change your name or other aspects of identity, to escape your past and start over|
|Emotional or spiritual development||With time-tested traditions, or at least new traditions created with much deliberation, you learn from others||Its easy to find equanimity alone; easier to find it with a selected few; a great challenge to maintain it in a group|
ICmatch.org is intended to help you find your compatible people then talk thru the topics above to make agreements or compromise for the best possible compatibility.
Intentional Community as a Political Solution
The nation is too large a scale from which to make detailed policy that works for everyone. All of us who think we know the way the nation should be, we should find 10 to 100 people who believe similarly, and try that out. We will in that way find where we were correct and where we were wrong.
How to be subversive without notice, to be seen as a harmless fringe artistic or non-profit project? ICmatch.org is designed to foster how community can give grass-roots support to artists who are the truth-tellers and changemakers, and some of that support, even for those who don’t have funds to spare, is by providing home, so more of us don’t have to spend all our time working trivial jobs just to pay rent.
Creating the Good Society
Rather than isolate individual communities in sterile social laboratories, I want to begin looking at intentional communities as bearers of ideas, ideas that have as their intention to create positive change in the wider society. We are running a relay, and hopefully any sense of success will entail the handing on of the baton of social change, rather than trying to run the whole race singlehanded. (Bang, 2007, p. 152)
What we do know is that we in the WEIRD world need to give up our privilege to create a more equitable environment. “One way of measuring the quality of a society is by seeing how their weakest members are treated. By treating them well, we create a higher quality, something which benefits all the members of that society” (Bang, 2007, p. 106). In the following quotation, an intentional community member states how sharing brings perspective.
I think when we work in the community we realize that, you know my life is pretty good as it is, and I have something to give to somebody who maybe doesn’t have something that I have, and I think that makes people switch from sort of focusing on “what don’t I have” to “what do I have that I can share?” and that’s a very powerful thing. (Belic, 2011, 43:37)
The beginning sections of this book covered evidence that western society is now functioning on a shaky economic system that can’t last. To weather a severe economic crisis, we are going to do better in groups where there is trust and a variety of practical skills. Bang (2007), in describing his intentional community, says we don’t have to choose between focusing on the individual or on the betterment of society.
I identified two main trends, overlapping each other. One trend or impulse consisted of working with villagers in social therapy….The other trend consisted of creating an alternative society. Sometimes they conflicted or one tended to over shadow the other….In fact Camphill gives us the possibility of doing both at the same time, and this is one of the features that gives the Camphill movement such strength and vigor. There are plenty of alternative communities around where people can realize new forms of fellowship without having to come in contact with the mentally handicapped. And there are many institutions based on anthroposophy where coworkers can go home to their nuclear families at the end of an 8-hour work day and live otherwise perfectly normal lives….When in perfect balance, this gives the Camphill tradition a robustness that has carried it through over 60 years and into over 20 countries throughout the world. It combines ‘doing good work’ with ‘building a bright future.’ (p. 177)
Religions have a long tradition of trying to create the good society by way of intentional communities.
To consider the meaning of religious communities, we must consider their history, the meaning of membership, and the means by which the communal life is negotiated. Therefore, three primary meanings of the term religious communities should be considered: religious communities as religious orders, intentional religious communities, and organizations as religious communities. (Religious communities, 2019, para. 5)
Religious communities. (2019). Contemporary American religion. Retrieved from https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/legal-and-political-magazines/religious-communities