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."