These templates for intentional communities are intended to help groups in the forming phase especially. Documenting your agreements can help your founding members get on the same page. It also can help potential new members to understand whether your vision and decisions will be workable for them. If they are going to join in and make substantial contributions, they will want to either help make the decisions or know about the decisions that have already been made.
About the Templates
The lists are meant to tip you off to various alternatives you may not have considered, and prompts you to discuss important issues before they become problematic. While you may feel that everyone’s good intentions will lead you all to find a way that meets everyone’s needs, we have learned this is overly optimistic. There are many groups of idealistic and motivated communitarians who discover only after substantial investment that their fervent ideals are not in alignment with each other. Starting over is hard. From reading about many founders’ successes and failures, we’ve learned that tackling some of these challenging issues from the start can help groups succeed in their goal of community formation. The order in which they are placed is roughly the order in which they might be needed by a forming-phase group.
How You Can Use the Templates
Many of the templates are set up with multiple choice items such that the group can simply delete the items that do not apply to your group or are decided against. First cut and paste the entire page of a template into Google docs or somewhere you can all work on it. The document will already have the headings formatted to populate the table of contents in Microsoft Word. To create an automatic-update table of contents that will link to each section, complete the following:
- Delete the existing table of contents.
- Delete the sections that don’t apply to your group.
- Go to “insert” then “index and tables.”
- Select the tab at the top “table of contents,” then select “okay.”
In as much detail as you have agreed on, indicate the preferences of your group regarding the various topics. You might be surprised about what issues are deal-breakers for some. If your founding group doesn’t care that much about a topic, leave it open for future members to weigh in on. As your leadership team gets more clear on your agreements, the whole leadership team (or at least the ICmatch member who posted the group) could adjust your personal profile responses to match the group agreements. This way people who are a good match will find you. It will also save you time, because you won’t be reviewing profiles of people who aren’t a good fit with the group decisions.
Additional Detailed Templates and Examples of Documents
We recognize that each group will need something slightly different depending on the size, purpose, planned duration, and composition of their community. For groups that are at a phase in which they are planning legal founding documents, a much longer and more detailed set of agreements will be needed. We recommend taking a look at the documents of long standing communities of a type that matches some aspects of your community, such as the following:
- Twin Oaks shares their detailed legal documents detailing the decisions governing their income sharing commune. The Federation of Egalitarian Communities collects articles of incorporation.
- Co-abode shares an e-book for setting up a house share.
- ICmatch shares a detailed guide from a two-decades creator of a rent-sharing multi-tenant house.
See the Community Types page and the resources section for specific community types, for other specific examples of documents.
Condensed IC Description
This document will be a short overview, mostly used for communication and marketing purposes. It’s a brief description to help outsiders quickly understand the gist of what you’re about. It will list the overall community type (e.g., spiritual practice based resource-sharing commune or off-grid medical risk bubble tiny-homes on shared land. The template also encourages you to briefly mention any food production plans, how far along your group is in establishing the community (e.g., forming phase). The next few brief mentions are the number of members, type of governance process, mission, and links to group documents.
This topic comes first because in order to stick together and feel that the situation is mostly fair, you have to agree on how to decide and who decides.
Legal Structure of IC
These weighty and lasting decisions such as property purchase could be finalized several years after the community has been functioning as a decision-making unit and experimenting with living with or near each other. Until that time, your group may benefit from living as closely to the future contractual arrangement as the current housing arrangement allows for. The planned housing type and purpose of the IC will determine what legal structure and exact location makes most sense, so it’s helpful to discuss these topics together. See our list of legal structure options that has been reviewed by an estate planning lawyer for accuracy.
Why have a detailed focus on finances when community is supposed to be all about sharing freely and getting away from the self-centeredness of mainstream culture? It turns out that sharing can get complicated pretty quickly when people start to feel entitled based on reciprocity norms or what they thought was promised. This is one of the main topics that splits up forming-phase communities. In fact, in social research, it’s also reliably in the top two reasons why people divorce. If we can do a better job at creating realistic expectations up front and sticking to commitments to what we have decided is fair, we have a better chance of making it last.
This document covers topics that are prominent in the forming phase: financial risk tolerance, sharing rented space, visiting fees, required disclosures, application fees, joining fees, expected regular financial contributions, and recouping investments if leaving. These topics might be hammered out in more detail later, and formalized in legal documents, but at this phase they might be best seen as working documents subject to revision.
If you are trying out income sharing, you might find this budget form and budgeting description useful.
Here’s our template for writing up your group’s agreements to get you thru the forming phase:
This gets to one of the most attractive parts of community: a high quality of life at much less expense than it would take for an individual or family to own and maintain all the material comforts and possessions. Of course, it only works if everyone keeps the group’s agreements about shared items. There’s an adage that applies particularly to the tricky topic of resource sharing: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. While there is plenty of good will and generous intent to go around in the forming phase, there will come a time when this gets strained. Respect that human nature is complex. Even with the best of intentions, misunderstandings occur. As much as you may hate the tediousness, it is important to spell out the details.
Benefits and Accountability for Work Contributions
Regular Work Assignments
The previous sections covered work accountability agreements from a macro perspective. This section is about the day-to-day scheduling.
Meals, Food Production, and Health
Membership Selection Process (Joining & Leaving)
Here’s our template for writing up your group’s agreements:
General Use of Common Spaces
This section is about upholding shared agreements about what is or isn’t allowed in spaces that are shared, which could include the whole residence or property. This template includes the following sections:
- use of age-restricted recreational activities and visitor access to the shared spaces
- cleaning up after yourself
- what changes you can make without group agreement
- noise restrictions
- technology use
- parenting decisions that affect the community, such as the extent of supervision expected on site
- farm animal and pet restrictions
What is your planned conflict management strategy? See our notes from a talk by Diana Leafe Christian on resolving the three types of conflict in ICs.
D.L. Christian on IC conflict resolution
Cohesion-building (Getting Along)
This page details several available options for group processes, both some of which focus on conflict management: https://icmatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Peer-Circle-Processes.pdf
Here’s our template for writing up your group’s agreements: