Let's start our #YearOfCommunity series of posts from reflecting on what being a "community" even means. It's a word we personally use to name various groups of people who consciously make the decisions of doing something together and put effort and energy in creating relations, implementing ideas and overcoming potential conflicts or difficulties. Within this definition we include for example intentional communities of people who decided to live together, neighbourhoods or villages which want to tighten their bonds and go beyond tipping the hat when crossing ways on the street, collectives and organisations which don't live together but have a common mission and will to implement it while taking good care of interpersonal relationships, etc. During this year we want to share with you our thoughts and experiences with all kinds of communities we mentioned here, although our main focus would be on intentional communities. Let's check some of the definitions proposed by others.
Wikipedia got it quite nicely saying that: "An intentional community is a voluntary residential community which is designed to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork from the start. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision, and typically share responsibilities and property."
The specific type of intentional community we are particularly interested about are ecovillages defined by GEN Europe (Global Ecovillage Network) as "manifestation of conscious human innovation and creativity: groups of people living out their principles, regenerating their environment, and increasing their sense of belonging and purpose as a community".
Putting it in our own words, an ecovillage is a community of people who share the same vision and values and come together to co-create their living space in a sustainable and responsible way, with respect to nature and to each other, gaining love, protection and a sense of purpose. There are many different types of communities and ecovillages around, some of them squat old villages and have a shared economy in which they share all resources, others keep independent economies and rent the same building together. Some are very much structured and organised, while others sort of go with the flow. Some consist of just a few people, others have a few hundred members. Some are based on spiritual beliefs, while others prefer to stay away from it. Some focus mostly on co-living, and others have a strong mission and purpose larger than their own group. One thing is clear, creating a community is no child's play - some say that no more than 10% of communities survive the first 2 years. Indeed it's worth keeping in mind that behind the idyllic picture described above, it's actually hard work which requires a lot of self awareness, vulnerability, effort and openness for improving interpersonal skills, including conflicts, honest feedback, etc. We will try to have a look at common problems and challenges in one of the next posts.
During the recent years we visited quite some communities and ecovillages and we will come back to those stories, meanwhile sharing with you also our current experience of being in Arterra - an ecovillage in Spain. Stay tuned :)