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Creating a Life Together [Paperback]

Diana Leafe Christian
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Paperback, Feb. 15 2003 --  
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Book Description

Feb. 15 2003
Folks who want to create an intentional community will welcome this unique guide to what will (and won't) get you started in the right direction. Based on the experiences of intentional community founders over the past decade, this inspiring book is filled with practical information, vivid anecdotes, success stories, and samples of documents from established communities including vision statements, member agreements, meeting minutes, and other legal documents.

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An intentional community is a group of people who have chosen to live or work together in pursuit of a common ideal or vision. An ecovillage is a village-scale intentional community that intends to create, ecological, social, economic, and spiritual sustainability over several generations.

The 90s saw a revitalized surge of interest in intentional communities and ecovillages in North America: the number of intentional communities listed in the Communities Directory increased 60 percent between 1990 and 1995. But only 10 percent of the actual number of forming-community groups actually succeeded. Ninety percent failed, often in conflict and heartbreak. After visiting and interviewing founders of dozens of successful and failed communities, along with her own forming-community experiences, the author concluded that "the successful 10 percent" had all done the same five or six things right, and "the unsuccessful 90 percent" had made the same handful of mistakes. Recognizing that a wealth of wisdom were contained in these experiences, she set out to distill and capture them in one place.

Creating a Life Together is the only resource available that provides step-by-step, practical "how-to" information on how to launch and sustain a successful ecovillage or intentional community. Through anecdotes, stories, and cautionary tales about real communities, and by profiling seven successful communities in depth, the book examines "the successful 10 percent" and why 90 percent fail; the role of community founders; getting a group off to a good start; vision and vision documents; decision-making and governance; agreements; legal options; finding, financing, and developing land; structuring a community economy; selecting new members; and communication, process, and dealing well with conflict. Sample vision documents, community agreements, and visioning exercises are included, along with abundant resources for learning more.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Diana Leafe Christian is the editor of Communities magazine, presents workshops on forming intentional communities, and has been a keynote speaker on intentional communities. She is a member of an intentional community in North Carolina and has contributed to New Age Journal, Yoga Journal, Shaman's Drum, among others.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves TEN stars Dec 29 2003
Format:Paperback
As a member of a group of folks currently planning an intentional community, I can testify to the fact that a million and one totally unexpected questions (not to mention the expected ones!) leap up to bewilder anyone thinking about creating an alternative living experiment. There are philosophical questions--what do we stand for (not just what are we against)? what's our vision?--and there are the nitty-gritty questions that have to do with land ownership, trusts, zoning permits, nonprofit status, and so on. Until you're actually in the process, you have no idea of how complicated the creation of an intentional community can be. No wonder fewer than 10% of planned communities actually get off the ground!
That's why Diana Leafe Christian's book is so invaluable. Written by someone who's been part of the intentional community movement for years, and a member of an ecovillage, "Creating a Life Together" could easily be subtitled "everything you always wanted to know about forming an intentional community but were afraid to ask." Especially valuable is its discussion of composing vision statements, thinking through what kind of land is right for your group, dealing with bankers who are likely to be wary of intentional living in the first place, and different strategies for conducting initial meetings and making group decisions--you'd be surprised how foreign consensus-style decision-making is to most of us.
A growing number of folks are searching for meaningful, peaceful, self-sufficient, and eco-friendly lifestyles-in- community that offer alternatives to the consumer-driven world. But building these communities is hard and sometimes perplexing work. Take all the help and advice you can get-and Christian's book is at the top of the list.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive How-to Book about Housing Communities Jan. 22 2005
By Judith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Note: Even for those who aren't interested in living in "intentional communities," there's great guidance in this book that is relevant to forming a nonpfrofit housing community.

Christian candidly explains the many ways that a group of people choosing to live as interdependent residents, whether of just one house or several houses on commonly held land, both complicates and facilitates adjusting to the inevitable quirky expectations, needs and requirements of different, even if simpatico, individuals. Although Creating a Life Together is intended for those who want to start something more like a modern-day commune, some of which qualify as ecovillages, the points and principles in this book are relevant to sharing one residence or living in separate dwellings but making a commitment to share co-owned land with multiple homes. Either way, you're sharing your day-to-day lives as an extended family bonded by choice, not by blood.

Only 10% succeed

Christian's guidance and opinions are based on many years of living in intentional communities and serving as editor of Communities magazine. She starts with describing what the 10% of communities that succeed have and in common and what tends to make the other 90% fail, over before they truly get started.

Then she explains how and where to start and what steps to take in what order - and that is not jumping right into looking for the ideal land or property, despite how tempting that is when you're full of dreams and enthusiasm. Before you even get to that stage - or at least before you make an offer on any kind of property - you'll need to learn a lot about zoning, financing, housing and land trusts perhaps, and certainly what kind of legal entity will work best for what your group has in mind and exactly what each of you have in mind, from contributions of money, time and labor to what's acceptable and what's not in day-to-day living. You'll need to decide going in what happens when someone wants out, so you can protect everyone, both legally and emotionally.

First 6 crucial steps

She calls these six elements "crucial" to address in the formative stages:

Identify your community vision and create vision documents.
Choose a fair, participatory decision-making process appropriate for your group. If you choose consensus, get trained in it.
Make clear agreements - in writing. This includes choosing an appropriate legal entity for owning land [or a dwelling] together.
Learn good communication and group process skills. Make clear communication and resolving conflicts a priority.
In choosing cofounders and new members, select for emotional maturity.
Learn the head skills and heart skills you need to know.
Not a dream for dilettantes

Christian also offers fair warning that if you have a burning desire to start a new intentional community, you'll need that kind of passion and more: "It takes enormous amounts of time to pull off a project of this magnitude. Even if you meet weekly, you'll still need people to work on various committees that work and/or meet between scheduled meetings - gathering information, calling officials, crunching the numbers, drafting proposals, and so on - for at least a year, or even two years or longer, " she says. "The larger your group and/or the smaller your assets, the longer it'll take."
54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves TEN stars Dec 29 2003
By Kerry Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a member of a group of folks currently planning an intentional community, I can testify to the fact that a million and one totally unexpected questions (not to mention the expected ones!) leap up to bewilder anyone thinking about creating an alternative living experiment. There are philosophical questions--what do we stand for (not just what are we against)? what's our vision?--and there are the nitty-gritty questions that have to do with land ownership, trusts, zoning permits, nonprofit status, and so on. Until you're actually in the process, you have no idea of how complicated the creation of an intentional community can be. No wonder fewer than 10% of planned communities actually get off the ground!
That's why Diana Leafe Christian's book is so invaluable. Written by someone who's been part of the intentional community movement for years, and a member of an ecovillage, "Creating a Life Together" could easily be subtitled "everything you always wanted to know about forming an intentional community but were afraid to ask." Especially valuable is its discussion of composing vision statements, thinking through what kind of land is right for your group, dealing with bankers who are likely to be wary of intentional living in the first place, and different strategies for conducting initial meetings and making group decisions--you'd be surprised how foreign consensus-style decision-making is to most of us.
A growing number of folks are searching for meaningful, peaceful, self-sufficient, and eco-friendly lifestyles-in- community that offer alternatives to the consumer-driven world. But building these communities is hard and sometimes perplexing work. Take all the help and advice you can get-and Christian's book is at the top of the list.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read for Aspiring Eco-Villagers Sept. 23 2004
By Andrew S. Rasmussen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a product of the author's in-depth knowledge of the Intentional Communities Movement. Her intimate experience with successful ecovillage communities makes available key strategies and factors in community building. My only critique of this book is that the most important and useful chapter which should probably be first (choosing who to live with), is placed at the end. Incidently this chapter helped me take an honest look at myself and some of the issues i was carying at the time and made me aware i need to resolve them in order to be a more desireable community member.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible for Intentional Communities May 15 2007
By M. Swaim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a cofounder of an aspiring ecovillage I've found this book to be uniquely invaluable to forming a community. Since November 06, a group of us have been using this book to guide us along the path towards making our dreams of a creating a community come true. At each step along the way, the advice that Diana dispenses in this guide have served as discussion tools, as examples and as warnings on how not to proceed. She offers up numerous examples of success stories and of failures. There are many books on life in cohousing, or general overviews of the community concepts, but as far as I know, this is the only one to tackle the nuts and bolts issues of creating a community from scratch. This book is absolutely essential reading to anybody interested in forming a community or cohousing project. [...]
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars useful for explorers of intentional community issues June 6 2006
By Jonathan Betz-Zall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a longtime member of an intentional community I've made good use of this book in introducing people to the promises and conflicts that surround the concept. Although it's aimed more at founders than at people joining established communities, it provides enough background (and interesting stories, to boot!) for explorers to develop a certain familiarity with the issues that will serve them well as they seek their own special place.
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