This page is intended as step-by-step help for a group coordinator who has a group of three to eight members that seem ready to discuss plans to create a future intentional community together.
Overview of Founders’ Guiding Documents
Your founders team needs to have agreement on core values, vision, and mission. Simply sharing the fun and the financial benefits of intentional community isn’t going to get you thru the challenging times. Similarities related to your values are likely what drew you together in the first place, but it can be helpful to clarify whether you can agree on what mission will best align with your values and group capacity. If your group is small and has a high degree of alignment from the start, your group might draft your vision and mission statements in one day. For larger groups and/or those with less alignment, it likely will help to break up the steps over several meetings. This will give members time to think and research in between writing sessions. It might take months to come to agreement on decisions about your vision and mission; it would be a mistake to plunge into a purchase without ensuring that you have agreement on your vision and mission.
These terms sometimes seem interchangeable. It’s helpful to understand the distinctions.
- Core values: describes why an organization exists, clarifies what motivates members to work toward the mission and vision
- Vision statement: describes what you want to bring about in the future (big picture purpose)
- Mission statement: describes briefly who it primarily serves, how it serves (kind of product or service it provides), and where (its geographical region of operation)
- Tagline: condenses the mission into five words, for networking and marketing purposes
From left to right, the terms used in headings for this page progress from more abstract to more concrete, and from far future impact to immediate impact. An ecovillage plan is used as an example.
|core values >||vision >||mission >||goals >||objectives >||task assignment|
|human thriving, species survive, & ecological regeneration||village of members living sustainably, new in my area||50 small cob houses, garden, composting toilets, leisure||reach 150 members, make contract, buy land together||create founder team, find various types of guidance||search Match for Free page and consultants|
Discover Overlap in IC Types
The group coordinator might take a first step to see where your group members have overlapping interest in one or more preferred community types. If someone interested in your founders’ visioning meeting hasn’t completed the 28 matching questions for an ICmatch profile, it could help determine compatibility if they complete those questions. The backend matching was designed to make it easier and faster to determine key areas of alignment before you start the difficult work of planning your future intentional community together. If it’s easy and obvious where your group members overlap, you might find this step takes only a few minutes. If you have a larger group, up to the recommended limit of 8 or 12, with varied interests, you may find it takes two or more meetings to discuss this overlap to the level of detail it deserves. See our worksheet for Determining Compatibility of Group Members. A reminder at this point to avoid “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” Others can be invited to enjoy the meal and contribute in other ways. It’s best to get this started when you have five to eight members, before your size makes agreement overly complicated, if not impossible. Including all founding members in one meeting can be more efficient than having numerous side conversations.
Your group probably has quite a bit of alignment if ICmatch sorted each member as a match with the group coordinator. Yet some may have been invited to join your Team Up page without IC type being a match. If you notice there is someone who has no overlap with any of the other members, it could help to discuss this before you meet for the exercises described in the next steps. It could be disappointing and feel like wasted time for a person who isn’t a good IC type match with the others. For example, one person who loves their urban job might not have noticed that everyone else is interested only in rural off-grid IC types. Be aware that the best outcome may be a split in the group, which might lead to some member leaving to join with others they have the more overlap with. Don’t set people up for disappointment. Only invite those who you feel excited about working with. If you feel this might be too limiting, get some guidance about who to include. Others can decide later if they agree with your initial plans or not.
Core Values Discussion
Even if you feel like your group members are closely aligned, a values clarification exercise can help deepen the discussion. This type of exercise guides you to see whether you all (a) have the same definitions of your shared values, (b) prioritize them differently, and (c) have varying ideas of how to express the values. This clarification can help you confidently move into the next step of discussing a shared vision. You might suggest that your group members come with the same number of core values, between 2 and 10 to keep the discussion manageable. See the following online resources:
- Printable values sorting cards
- Online sorting process (no printing)
Vision Statement Co-creation
A vision statement describes an inspirational future of a business or other group. It should be concise, challenging, unlikely to be impacted by market or technology changes, and general enough to encompass all of the organization’s interests and strategic direction. A vision statement is intended to motivate and attract like-minded individuals as well as focus member’s efforts on creation of core competencies. See the step-by-step guide to creating an IC vision statement.
Mission Statement Co-creation
The mission says what you do on a practical level every day. It is going to sound like a type of product or service, even if it is not purchasable. Your IC mission will at a minimum provide housing to someone, possibly your core group. If it doesn’t have a housing component, it could be an excellent business or non-profit project or company, but IC implies shared residence or shared land on which there are residences. Your mission may include providing intangibles such as a sense of belonging, access to shared resources that facilitate specific shared interests, and implementation of shared values. Try to pare it down to one or two sentences, so you can get clear yourselves about what is at the core. This will also help you communicate the mission to others more effectively, within the amount of time they are likely to be willing to listen. See the step-by-step guide to creating an IC mission statement. Here is a sample template:
We are a [rural, urban, peri-urban…] [ownership structure] [ecovillage, vanlife travelers coalition…] joined for the purpose of [major focus of what you do for livelihood or service, type of resource sharing [be specific if you wish, or purpose bigger than yourself, such as your shared values]. We provide [name your product or your service from a business venture, ceremony or practice of a spiritual or religious tradition, and/or a shared leisure pursuit] to the [target market].
Goals and Objectives
The goals conversation can happen much later. Bringing them up here is only to highlight the difference between how the mission and goals are typically discussed in organizational leadership. Goals are one level closer to practical actions. For example, you might have as part of your mission to reduce your output of pollution and landfill waste. Many different goals could contribute to this mission: buying food in bulk to reduce packaging, commitment to avoid disposable products or decorations, a commitment to purchase biodegradable non-toxic products which would have a higher price if not offset by lower bulk price, preference for activities to celebrate special occasions instead of purchasing gifts that accumulate as clutter. The specific goals could come later. The mission can include more detailed goals if that’s important for your group, or you could leave those to be worked out as opportunities evolve.
Make S.M.A.R.T. goals:
- Specific: What are the actions you will take? Is there a number that can define your goal?
- Measurable: How will you know when you meet the goal?
- Achievable: Do you have or can you realistically gather the needed resources to achieve the goal?
- Realistic: What results you can feasibly achieve without burning out and losing members?
- Timely: What is the time you’ll set for meeting your goal or re-assessing it if not met?
How These Documents Help Your Founder’s Group
By completing the vision and mission statements, your founder’s group limits who will be attracted to the group. Most potential members will self-select as you make these documents available online, and point to them as the first part to read when others are interested in your group. You shouldn’t need to repeat the visioning and mission statement creation unless (a) you have people present (such as newly added life partners of founding members) who deserve accommodation, or (b) you have many new members and want to revisit the alternatives before solidifying the vision and mission as part of the official bylaws.