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Intentional Communities

An intentional community is a planned residential community with a much higher degree of social interaction than other communities. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political or spiritual vision and share responsibilities and resources. Intentional communities include cohousing, residential land trusts, ecovillages, communes, kibbutzim, ashrams, and housing cooperatives.

It is important to note that in the context of intentional communities the above terms have different meanings compared to the legal forms of real estate ownership that may have the same name. For example the members of a cohousing intentional community may own their homes by owning shares in a housing cooperative.

The purposes of intentional communities vary. They may include sharing resources, creating family-oriented neighborhoods and living ecologically sustainable lifestyles. Some communities are secular; others have a spiritual basis. Commonly there is a focus on egalitarian values. Other themes are voluntary simplicity, interpersonal growth and self-reliance. Some communities provide services to disadvantaged populations, for example, war refugees, the homeless, or people with developmental disabilities. Some communities operate learning or health centers.

In the United States, at least one intentional community, on the west coast, operates through members who don't live together but share each other's services.

Christian intentional communities are usually composed of those wanting to emulate the practices of the earliest believers. Using "The Acts of the Apostles" in the Bible (and, often, the "Sermon on the Mount") as a model, members of these communities strive for a practical outworking of their individual faith in a corporate context. (See links below.)

According to the Communities Directory (1995), published by the Fellowship for Intentional Community, 54% of the communities listed are rural, 28% are urban, 10% have both rural and urban sites, and 8% don't specify.

The most common form of governance in intentional communities is democratic (64%), with decisions made by some form of consensus decision-making or voting. Of the remainder, 9% have a hierarchical or authoritarian structure, 11% are a combination of democratic and hierarchical structure, and 16% don't specify. Many communities which were initially led by an individual or small group have changed in recent years to a more democratic form of governance.

More information can be found at Eco-Villages and CoHousing.


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