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The Big Answer

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Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community

a book by Diana Leafe Christian

(our site's book review)

Finding Community—the Need to Belong Is What Makes Us Human

The Amazon blurb says that Finding community is as critical as obtaining food and shelter, since the need to belong is what makes us human. The isolation and loneliness of modern life have led many people to search for deeper connection, which has resulted in a renewed interest in intentional communities. These intentional communities or ecovillages are an appealing choice for like-minded people who seek to create a family-oriented and ecologically sustainable lifestyle—a lifestyle they are unlikely to find anywhere else. See Why Do We Need Communities?.

However, the notion of an intentional community can still be a tremendous leap for some—deterred perhaps by a misguided vision of eking out a hardscrabble existence with little reward. In fact, successful ecovillages thrive because of the combined skills and resources of their members.

Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community presents a thorough overview of ecovillages and intentional communities and offers solid advice on how to research thoroughly, visit thoughtfully, evaluate intelligently, and join gracefully. Useful considerations include:

Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community ". . . is a guide to help readers research, visit, and evaluate each potential new community in terms of their own long-term social, spiritual, and financial well-being. It offers case studies, anecdotes, and a “What It Costs” sample comparison chart to give a sense of the wide range of joining costs. It includes important questions to ask (of community members and of yourself), signs of healthy (and not-so-healthy) community, financial & legal considerations, common pitfalls to avoid." (Source: Finding Community, The Fellowship for Intentional Community)

Christian uses success stories, cautionary tales, and step-by-step advice to cover typical time-frames and costs; the role of founders; getting started as a group; vision documents; power, governance, and decision-making; legal structures; finding and financing land; zoning issues; sustainable site plans; selecting new members; and good process and communication skills for dealing well with conflict. She covers researching, visiting, evaluating, and joining communities.

Community Circle at OUR Ecovillage
Participants in a 2006 workshop led by Christian at O.U.R. Ecovillage, British Columbia

Intentional Community—Who Earns the Money and How?

Earthhaven Ecovillage has a website that explains how one earns a living while living there: "Earthaven is an independent-income community, which means each community member is responsible for earning her or his own living. Below are some of our businesses and other ways some of our members earn a living. We are in the process of developing our own village-scale economy, and so encourage Earthaven members to make a living here in the village, by operating their own small-scale ecologically sound businesses, by hiring each other whenever possible, or by telecommuting to outside jobs. We also encourage members, when possible, to invest in other members’ homesite development projects and businesses. We would someday like to establish our own small credit union, through which we could deposit funds and make loans to our members for homesites, home construction, on-site business development, and so on. Meanwhile, many of our members do earn a living here at Earthaven, often with various part-time incomes. For example, one of our members has three Earthaven-based income sources: woodworking, selling books (in another member’s business), and counseling." (Source: Earthhaven Ecovillage)

Whay Others Say about Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community

The mission of Earthhaven Ecovillage is to create a village which is a living laboratory and educational seed bank for a sustainable human future.

Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community provides intriguing possibilities to readers who are seeking a more cooperative, sustainable, and meaningful life.

Diana Leafe Christian, author of Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community, is also the author of Creating a Life Together and editor of Communities magazine. She lives at Earthhaven Ecovillage in North Carolina.

“Open-hearted and hard-headed in equal measure—and with a delicious sense of humor.”—Liz Walker, cofounder and director, EcoVillage at Ithaca; author, EcoVillage at Ithaca: Pioneering Sustainable Community

“Like having an explorer’s compass and a roll of charts under your arm as you embark upon unknown waters. All the more important to learn these essentials before you’re out at sea!”—Jonathan Dawson, president, Global Ecovillage Network; author, Ecovillages

“Offers an amazingly knowledgeable perspective, warmly sympathetic but sometimes wryly humorous toward both communities and those who visit and join them.”—Richard Register, author, Ecocities: Rebuilding Cities in Balance with Nature; president, Ecocity Builders

“This stunning overview of ecovillages and intentional communities is not only a terrific read, but abounds with essential, profoundly important information for anyone seeking more community and a sense of belonging in their lives.”—Ernest Callenbach, author, Ecotopia, and Ecotopia Emerging

"For anyone interested in starting an intentional community (including housing co-ops, co-housing, eco-villages, etc.), hands down the most valuable resource out there, and the most important place to start, is Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities, by Diana Leafe Christian. There is tremendous wisdom in this book, and we highly recommend coming back to it time and time again." (Source: Community resources, Common Fire)

Pam Leo, in Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear, says that “parenting never used to be and was never intended by nature to be a one or two person job. Families work best when everyone's needs are met. It does take a village to meet the needs of children and parents.” This is more likely to happen in Ecovillages than in other living styles. And see Flat-gradient Nurturance versus Steep-gradient Nurturance to learn how to make any parenting win-win.

We Are Either Earth's Caretakers or Earth's Curse

Each human is either part of the problem or part of the solution; we're collectively damaging the environment, so what matters is what we do individually
Each human is either part of the problem or part of the solution; we're collectively damaging the environment, so what matters is what we do individually

We're collectively damaging the environment, so what matters is what we do individually. See:

"There's nothing new about the concept of the ecoVillage. People have always lived together in small communities sharing skills and supporting each other as they grow their food. The only difference is the 'eco' part. Hundreds of years ago everything was 'eco' as Sunray Kelley notes in this interview about natural building. Only with the advent of industrial processes that are collectively damaging the environment have we recognised a need to return to a more natural 'eco' way of life. Many people still live a low-impact life in small communities all over the world. They grow their food together, build their homes together and contribute to the community with their particular skills providing each other and neighboring communities with local goods and services. Making the transition to an ecoVillage or Intentional Community is no easy task." (Source: Find an ecoVillage or Intentional Community,

Many people still live a low-impact life in small communities all over the world
Many people still live a low-impact life in small communities all over the world

Diana Leafe Christian Recommends Sociocracy for EcoVillage Governance

Sociocracy, also known as dynamic governance, is a system of governance which seeks to achieve solutions that create harmonious social environments as well as productive organizations and businesses. It is distinguished by the use of consent rather than majority voting in decision-making, and decision-making after discussion by people who know each other. (This reminds us of the family meetings in Parent Effectiveness Training as well as Alexis de Tocqueville's observations of community and democracy. Tocqueville thought that through associating, the coming together of people for mutual purpose, both in public and private, Americans are able to overcome selfish desires, thus making both a self-conscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning according to political and civil laws of the state. America, he said, in contrast to the aristocratic ethic, was a society where hard work and money-making was the dominant ethic, where the common man enjoyed a level of dignity which was unprecedented, where commoners never deferred to elites . . . His book Democracy in America correctly predicted the judgment of the wise subordinated to the prejudices of the ignorant and much else, however, he saw much to admire about America such as volunteerism and community spirit.)

Watch Dynamic Governance for Intentional communties.

Diana Leafe Christian will be leading a 2018 seminar: Sociocracy for Intentional Communities and Member-Led Groups

Sociocracy, “governance by peers and colleagues,” is an effective self-governance and decision-making method Christian now highly recommends. Based on the values of equivalence, transparency and effectiveness, when Sociocracy is used correctly it tends to result in better meetings, getting more done, being better organized and feeling more connected to other group members. (Sociocracy is sometimes also called Dynamic Governance in the US. It’s exactly the same thing.) Unlike current democracies, it is also a governance structure designed to make sure those values will be applied as equally as possible for everyone. Sociocracy may be idealistic, but it applies democratic principles much better than the current pseudo-democratic oligarchy the U.S. has, as a de facto, unacknowledged reality.

"Consent vs. consensus" "Sociocracy makes a distinction between 'consent' and 'consensus.' Consent is defined in sociocracy as 'no objections,' and objections are based on one's ability to work toward the aims of the organization. 'Consensus' as practiced by many groups is not applicable in businesses because it is often based on the 'good of the group' rather than the larger organisation. While neither consent nor consensus is usually practiced as requiring unanimous agreement, traditionally consensus is often confused with both unanimous agreement and the exercise of personal values. Consensus is most often practiced as a full-group decision-making and not distributed decision-making. In sociocracy, consent is defined and practiced in conjunction with the other principles and can support a complex organizational structure."

Other Sources of Wisdom about the Requirements and Potentials of Effective Community

Cohousing playground next to Common House—cohousing is one type of intentional community
Cohousing playground next to Common House—cohousing is one type of intentional community


This book is a must have for anybody looking at joining or is just curious about living in an intentional community. But if you would like the opportunity to see the good news of just what the potentials of an intentional community are, try reading the next paragraph:

Even though decent IRL community is mostly just a memory of great grandparents and mentioned in history and sociology books, you can have a community much better than even they had and save lots of money doing it. But before you hear the details, do yourself a favor and read, first The Forest Through The Trees, then MCs—Frequently Asked Questions, then see Drawings of Various Microcommunity (MC) Configurations, then read Good News and Bad News. Still willing to submit your family to an inadequate, unfulfilling, expensive, polluting lifestyle? Reread the novel. Are you starting to realize what you and your family and your community and your world are missing?!

MC with Japanese Garden—an MC is the optimal type of intentional community
MC with Japanese Garden—an MC is the optimal type of intentional community