Ecovillages, Intentional Community, Cohousing, Cooperatives, Healthy & Livable Communities,
Group Process & Creating Community Anywhere! A People & Planet Gateway & Guide.
This is an introduction, overview and directory of links to a wide variety of ideas and projects that help create stronger, healthier community. We start by looking at a number of alternative and experimental forms of community, including ecovillages, cohousing, intentional community, cooperatives, related topics and links. We then look at a variety of creative ways that you can find or create stronger community where you live today (without moving or joining an alternative community). We include resources on how to go about this, and the interpersonal issues and group process that can be involved. We also look at the "Healthy Community" approach, and how it can lead to a better lifestyle and a more sustainable world. This page includes definitions & examples; related events; organizations; publications; listings; links; how to find or create a community, more.
What is "Intentional Community"?
"Intentional community" is a general term that represents a wide variety of living alternatives. They range from the highly unusual, to quite conservative arrangements of potential mainstream interest. An intentional community is a group of people who have chosen to live or work together in pursuit of a common goal or vision. Thousands exist today, rural or urban, communal or individualistic, spiritual or secular, big or small. They can be based around any number of themes, such as economic cooperation, equality, environmental sustainability, education, health, participative government, personal growth, social activism, spirituality, voluntary simplicity. "I.C." includes ecovillages, cohousing, land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives & other related projects and dreams.
Are intentional communities cults? dispelling the myths
Ecovillages are sustainable communities and neighbourhoods, urban and rural, committed to living in an ecologically, economically, culturally and spiritually sound way. The physical and living arrangements vary widely, from loosely strung networks to much more cooperative or communal agreements. Many offer fascinating opportunities for visitors, volunteers and interns. Examples include the Ecovillage at Ithaca in upstate New York and the Whole Village just northwest of Toronto, Canada. Subscribe to the Ecovillages in Canada updates list.
Lists of Ecovillages in Canada and beyond:
In a cohousing neighbourhood, each family or individual owns their own private home, but some facilities and resources are shared. This varies, but could include a gathering or dining area, a playground or playroom, daycare, vegetable garden, office equipment, workshop, etc. Terra Firma (2) in Ottawa, Ontario and the Ecovillage at Ithaca in upstate New York are two examples.
Co-operative housing are cooperatively owned and managed housing developments. Residents share the responsibilities and control of their homes. They are often government-sponsored. Some have a high sense of community and sharing, others much less so. Among other things, this depends on the physical design of the development, and whether there are well-designed common spaces, indoor and outdoor. Also known as "housing cooperatives", "co-op housing", or "housing co-ops".
is co-op housing? | Co-op
A "co-op house" is often a shared, rented house, but in some cases, it is co-operatively owned by the occupants. In either case, the intent is to find like-minded persons with whom to live. If someone moves out, the existing residents seek and select a new housemate (rather than the landlord doing this, as often happens in student housing and rooming houses). This generally leads to a much more stable and pleasant situation. Most co-op houses have at least some degree of community, perhaps sharing meals, cooperatively maintaining the house, etc. Some co-op houses in the US and Canada can be found amongst the other intentional communities listed in Communities Directory or Reachbook. Many others can be found through rental listings in local and alternative media such as Toronto's Now Magazine; or by checking the bulletin boards and newsletters of local community centres, special interest groups (environmental, vegetarian, activist, etc.), health food stores, food co-ops, vegetarian restaurants, etc.
Not to be confused with "Cooperative Housing" developments (see above).
In this context, communes are small, often rural communities which feature a higher degree of sharing than found in most western towns or cities. Its members are likely to share property and/or their work and income. Some people use the word "intentional community" interchangably with "commune", but this is not correct. Intentional community is a broader concept (an "umbrella" term) that includes communes as well as a variety of other situations and arrangements, such as cohousing.
What is a
A cooperative is a business that is owned and controlled by its members. There are many kinds of co-ops, in addition to housing: food co-ops, credit unions, worker's co-ops, agricultural co-ops, etc. Even though you can't live in a food co-op, it can help provide a strong sense of community and social networking. Legally, a "cooperative" is a legal arrangement that serves as an alternative to for-profit incorporation. Co-operative housing is one example (see above).
More loosely, the term cooperative can also refer to a smaller or temporary project, with no legal structure, but that is operated in a cooperative spirit. However, this could become risky to the participants if any substantial money became involved.
Collective has a variety of definitions, ranging from informal team work, to legal cooperative agreements (see above). It can refer to a project, enterprise or living situation. The general idea is working together towards some goal or vision, with at least some degree of sharing (of skills, resources, decision making and/or profits).
(B) Create Community Anywhere
Healthy Community Extended, Recurring or Temporary
For most people, moving into an "intentional community" is not an immediate option many are not particularly interested in the concept. But we all need community, if we are to thrive as individuals and as a society. In today's urbanized environment, dominated by cars, mass media, and rat-race lifestyles, community can be hard to find. Here are a number of places to start.
Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, by Meg Wheatley (website & book). www.turningtooneanother.net "I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate, or public meetings. Simple truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well. What would it feel like to be listening to each other again about what disturbs and troubles us? About what gives us energy and hope? About our yearnings, our fears, our prayers, our children?" Meg Wheatley www.turningtooneanother.net www.margaretwheatley.com/turning.html
Conversation Cafés and Meetups are a new approach that is receiving a lot of attention. Here is a blurb from ConversationCafe.org: "Why Conversation Cafés? Because when you put strangers, caffeine and ideas in the same room, brilliant things can happen. For that very reason, the British Parliament banned coffeehouses in the 1700s as hotbeds of sedition. Might we brew up a similar social liveliness now? With democracy, critical thinking and "the ties that bind" all under siege, this may be the most radical cup of coffee you ever drink". For listings of Cafés in Canada and the USA: www.ConversationCafe.org . Follow this link for more information on conversation cafés. Meetups offer a similar approach. How such get-togethers are structured and facilitated can help ensure a positive experience: see the section on Community & Group Process, below, especially the links on talking circles, listening circles, etc.
Well designed and facilitated meetings, conferences, retreats and other events are great for meeting new people who share your interests; experiencing different forms of interaction; and trying out short-term volunteer roles. To find lots of great events, gatherings and activities on progressive themes, see our extensive Progressive Calendars directory. What you do while you're at an event will enhance or limit your experience and enjoyment. See our article on How to Make the Most of Meetings and Events (primarily for participants) and How to Organize and Promote an Event (for organizers and volunteers). See also the section on Group Process, below, especially the resources on "Open Space" techniques, "talking circles" and "listening circles".
Learning Centres & Places can also offer community, connection and growth. Our Learning Centres & Places Directory is a unique listing of organic, ecological and community learning centres across North America. It lists a diversity of places where people of all backgrounds can gain new experiences and inspiration. It includes ecological farms and gardens, strawbale and solar-powered homes, organic food co-ops, nature retreats, resource centres, environmental education centres, wilderness trips, ecovillages, educational programmes and more. Many offer great workshops, workbees, courses, retreats, volunteer opportunities and apprenticeships, as well as other social and experiential activities.
Clubs, groups and activities related to things that interest you, or things that almost anybody can do (such as walking) can also offer community and friendship. See our links to Healthy, Green Recreation & Sports. See the section on Community & Group Process, below, especially the links on talking circles, listening circles, etc., for how to improve the community and interpersonal experience within a group.
Environmental and activist groups, progressive organizations and companies. Similarly, environmental and other groups who work on themes that interests and motivates you, can be a great place to meet people and find (or create) community. You can participate in their events, meetings and activities; volunteer; or find employment or entrepreneurial roles. You will find many groups, organizations and companies on this and the various other pages of the People- & Planet-Friendly Directory. For a listing of over 700 environmental groups in Ontario, see the Ontario Environment Network, especially their Environmental Resource Book. For environmental groups across Canada, see the Canadian Environment Network, The Green Pages, and the other networks and directories found on our Progressive Calendars page. For links to many organizations and companies that focus on positive, community-based solutions, see our Sustainable Living Directory. For volunteering and employment, see the GoodWork website and the Green Job Links page.
Good Work / Sustainable Livelihood. If you are working with others who share your values, you are more likely to experience or create strong community and friendships. For many ideas, resources and opportunities see our GoodWork website, the Green Job Links page, the Sustainable Living Directory, and the Organic Opportunity Directory.
Support groups on various themes and interests, whether face-to-face or on-line, are another option. Many groups and related resources are listed in Google's Web Directory under "support groups". Here is a list of "emotional support groups" on the internet (or do a Google search for "support group" (quotes included), plus a word describing your interest or concern). For some ideas on how to run a simple and effective group, see the section on Community & Group Process, below, especially the links on talking circles, listening circles, etc.
Churches and church groups (and other places of worship) are worth considering (even if you're an atheist, some churches have a lot to offer, and will accept you whatever your views). Here are some links to a few religious and spiritual organizations and resources related to ecological, activist, social justice themes. Or look in your Yellow Pages under "Churches".
Rural communities and homesteads (progressive, social ones) can put you in touch with a sense of community and purpose that is hard to find in the city. Volunteer visits to organic farms and gardens, known as Wwoofing, can offer a remarkable, enriching experience to those who know that a change can be as good as a rest. Some also offer a remarkable community experience, especially for those who know how to make themselves helpful and stay for more than a day or two. For more ways to connect to grassroots, rural community, please see our Organic Opportunity directory.
Travel, especially budget travel, can lead you to new experiences about community. Wwoofing can be a great way to travel. You can wwoof on the the other side of the planet or discover a whole new world right in your own state or province. Rural Youth Hostels are an undiscovered gem that can offer a somewhat similar experience. Visits to one or more intentional communities can be the focus or part of such travel. Many intentional communities offer flexible ways to visit, from a few days to a whole season. You could participating in a workshop, a visitor program, or some kind of apprenticeship, internship, work-exchange, barter or volunteer arrangement. Here's an article on How to Visit a Community; there are many other resources and links elsewhere on this page. See our Green Travel links for many more ideas.
On-line, print & broadcast community. The internet, print and broadcast media can offer interaction and connection in many ways. See our Alternative Media, Resource & Networking Guide for many links to alternative and interactive media. Or see Google's section on Online Communities.
Simplicity & frugality by letting go of some material trappings, and by socializing with others who are more self sufficient and/or focus on things other than material wealth, you might find a much stronger sense of community. See our Sustainable Living Guide; Frugality Websites, Books & Resources; Simple Living Websites, Books & Resources; Voluntary Simplicity Articles; Frugal Living Links. Simplicity Circles can be a great way to meet with others who share the same goals and offer mutual support.
Other places to find or create community: potlucks, food co-ops (see above section on co-ops), child-care co-ops, etc. For many more ways to find and build community, see the next section, "livable communities". See also: How To Build Community (poster, t-shirt, notecard, post card)
Healthy, Livable Communities
For some, living in an intentional community has benefits not available elsewhere. But for the foreseeable future, most people will continue to live in more conventional arrangements. So the question for the rest of us is: How can we make our cities, towns and neighbourhoods happier and healthier places to live?
How To Build Community (poster,
t-shirt, notecard, post card) (read
or buy online)
(C) Community & Group Process
For all kinds of groups and organizations, your approach to communication and decision-making determines whether you will succeed or fail. It also determines whether community and friendship will form. There are fun, easy and powerful techniques that can be used in everything from small groups to large projects and organizations. Some of these techniques need to be experienced, while others can be learned independently. Here are some links to get you started:
Meeting & Group Process www.ic.org/nica/Process/meeting.html
Talking Circles & Talking Stick Circles en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talking_circle
Discussion Techniques olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/discussion/
How to Build Community (poster, t-shirt, notecard, post card) (read or buy online)
Working Together for Social & Environmental Change www.planetfriendly.net/active.html
Throw Away Your TV www.adbusters.org/metas/psycho/tvturnoff/ www.tvturnoff.org www.whitedot.org www.turnoffyourtv.com/tv.links.html http://directory.google.com/Top/Society/Activism/Anti-Media/ www.dmoz.org/Society/Activism/Anti-Media/
(D) A few Intentional Communities
Here are just a very few examples of residential, intentional community. Each one is very different from the others resist the temptation to stereotype. Please note that as this page is not regularly maintained, these listings may be out of date, see the other sections for links to many more...
Please note that the communities listed below are people's homes not tourist attractions. If you contact them, please be respectful and considerate. They may or may not be interested in visitors or new residents at this time. For an article on how to visit a community, see: www.ic.org/pnp/cdir/1995/06kinkade.html
Village, Caledon, north of Toronto
Toronto Catholic Workers, Parkdale,
Toronto. (intentional community, co-op houses)
Common Ground Cohousing Group, Ottawa. Common Ground intends to build a 30,000 sq. ft. cohousing community of 20-30 member-owned units with shared common house and green space close to Ottawa's downtown. We are a diverse mix of people who want to live in a safe, comfortable, supportive, accessible and consensus-based community. If possible, we will include a few affordable rental units and environmentally friendly components where our budget permits. www.coground.ca
Listings & Directories
USA & Beyond:
Ecovillage at Ithaca, Ithaca,
New York. (ecovillage, cohousing)
Twin Oaks, Louisa,
Virginia. (intentional community, commune, ecovillage)
Dancing Rabbit, northeast
Missouri. (ecovillage, intentional community) www.dancingrabbit.org
Gaviotas, Colombia, South
Communities, Ecovillages & Cohousing
Worldwide Listings & Directories
(E) Events & Gatherings
Upcoming intentional community
and ecovillage event calendars:
Annual / bi-annual / semi-annual
Communities Conference, (annual, weekend in August) held at Twin Oaks Community, Louisa, Virginia, USA. A weekend of workshops, community-building, networking & fun! Cooperative living, appropriate technology/sustainability, community economics, intentional relationships, group decision-making, tours, much more. At the 42-year old Twin Oaks Community, one of the best-known intentional communities in the United States. Participants from all over North America; ride-sharing arrangements. Affordable sliding-scale rates include meals & rustic camping. Two hours south of Washington DC. www.communitiesconference.org | www.twinoaks.org [related sites: www.ic.org www.ecovillage.org ]
North American Cohousing Conference (bi-annual) Experience first hand what life in cohousing is really like. 2010 conference is June 18-20, 2010, in Boulder, Colorado, USA. For more information or to register: The Cohousing Network www.cohousing.org/tours_events | www.cohousing.org/2010/overview | www.cohousing.org
Art of Community, (semi-annual), location roams around USA. A weekend of workshops & networking with the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC). Join hundreds of community enthusiasts for presentations, workshops, slide shows, a community products store, information tables, and a joyful experience of community. fic.ic.org/aofc/ | events.ic.org/events/ | www.ic.org
The Toronto Ecovillage Project meetings bi-weekly at a downtown Toronto location (441 Spadina). Free, all welcome. To find out more please email us at regenesiscanada (at) gmail.com or visit www.theregenesisproject.com or call 905-417-8918. (revised Oct. 2010)
The Whole Village a group of singles and families from a wide variety of backgrounds who have come together to build an ecovillage and biodynamic farm on 190 acres we have purchased in the Town of Caledon, northwest of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Regular events include orientations, group tours, volunteer workbees and more. More info/register if possible: www.wholevillage.org (click "events calendar")
(F) Organizations & websites
Ecovillage, Intentional Community, Cohousing:
1. Ecovillage Network of Canada. A network of forming and existing ecovillages and interested persons in Canada. Annual gathering (planned August 2002, in Ontario) http://enc.ecovillage.org email@example.com . E-mail discussion group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ecovillage/ Member of the Global Ecovillage Network www.ecovillage.org http://gen.ecovillage.org
2. Fellowship for Intentional Community www.ic.org Links to hundreds of communities around North America: http://directory.ic.org . Communities forming, seeking new members, people seeking community, etc: http://reach.ic.org . Printed "Communities Directory" with descriptions of over six hundred communities, plus related articles and resource directory: http://directory.ic.org (can be purchased or viewed at some libraries). The Fellowship offers a variety of publications, referrals, support services, sharing opportunities for a wide range of intentional communities, cohousing groups, ecovillages, community networks, support org's. They host "Communities Conference" every September at Twin Oaks in Virginia ( www.twinoaks.org ) and the "Art of Community" semi-annually at various locations around the USA. http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/growingplace
3. Canadian Cohousing Network www.cohousing.ca Vancouver: 604-878-3311 , Toronto: 416-738-0850. Collaborative Housing Society of Ontario www.cohousing.ca/cohsng6/ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cohousingontario/ (Dorothy Mazeau 905-857-8738 firstname.lastname@example.org) Newsletter ($15/yr) incl. list of cohousing groups in Ont.
Other related sites:
6. Healthy, Sustainable, Walkable Communities This
sites are about making your town or city more healthy and
sustainable (not exactly about "intentional
7. National Cooperative Business Association www.ncba.org . Food co-ops in Canada: www.onfc.ca (Ontario Natural Food Co-op). What is a co-op? www.umich.edu/~nasco/coop.html Links: http://dmoz.org/Business/Cooperatives/
8. World-Wide Orientation to Organic Farms & Gardens (WWOOF) An amazing diversity of organic farms, gardens and businesses have opportunities from a few days to a few months where you can work in exchange for accomodation, organic home-cooked meals, learning and fun. Locations across Canada and around the world. Working/learning opportunities vary from organic farming & gardening, to cooking, carpentry, business admin, creative work, childcare, solar power, sustainable living skills. Everything is negotiated between you and the host. From solar-powered to strawbale homes, from herbs to orchards to rare-breed cattle, from swimming holes to gourmet cooking the variety is endless. Year-round; all ages. Membership is $30/year; this gets you a fascinating booklet describing over 400 organic farms, gardens & businesses across Canada. Also known as Willing Workers On Organic Farms. Canada: www.wwoof.ca email@example.com John Vanden Heuvel, WWOOF Canada, 4429 Carlson Road, Nelson, BC, Canada, VIL 6X3. Tel. 250-354-4417 (please call Mon-Fri 9am-5pm Pacific Time). USA: www.wwoof.org/joinDet.asp , www.wwoof.org/wpusa.html , www.wwoofusa.com , www.smallfarm.org/newoof/companions.html , www.organicvolunteers.org , www.wwoofca.org Worldwide: www.wwoof.org , www.wwoof.org/how2join.asp Article: www.emagazine.com/september-october_2000/0900gl_travel.html See also: www.planetfriendly.net/organic.html
For more, see:
(G) E-mail lists, discussions & newsletters
Here are a few lists of which I'm aware, in Canada and the US...
Intentional Community "Reachbook" For people looking for community; communities forming; communities looking for people ...as well as a place to post about resources or just to say hi. Based in the US but also includes Canadian listings. Searchable web-based postings (not an e-mail list) http://reach.ic.org (a project of www.ic.org)
People- & Planet-Friendly www.planetfriendly.net (includes many events & announcements of interest to ecovillagers & cohousing folks in Canada).
(To send a posting to one of the Yahoo-hosted lists, just remove the "-subscribe" from the e-mail address).
E-mail Tips & Strategies: www.planetfriendly.net/emailtips.html (including how to use lists effectively)
(H) Books & publications
1. Making a Place for Community: Local Democracy in a Global Era, by Thad Williamson, David Imbroscio, Gar Alperovitz, David Thad Williamson, Benjamin Barber, 2003. www.yesmagazine.org/Reviews/williamson.htm (links to reviews and booksellers)
2. Communities Directory - A Guide to Cooperative Living. Descriptive listings of over 500 North American and 50 overseas communities; plus 250 resources & services; and 31 articles. Available by mail-order from the Fellowship for Intentional Community. www.ic.org , http://directory.ic.org , http://store.ic.org/products/communities-directory.html Telephone: 540-894-5798. Orders (US/Canada): 1-800-462-8240. In Toronto, available at the Metro Toronto Reference Library and Omega Bookstore. In Canada, try also Jillian Hovey's Sustainable Living Books, 416-410-7581 www.sustainablelivingbooks.com . The Communities Directory is one of my favorite books. It is... an invitation to a much deeper kind of wealth and economy, asking only for your joyful effort." Patch Adams, Gesundheit Institute
3. Community Bookshelf (mail order). "Books on community, co-ops and other aspects of alternative lifestyles and politics". Online and mail-order. http://store.ic.org/community-bookshelf.html Telephone: 540-894-5798. Orders (US/Canada): 800-462-8240
4. Communities Magazine (quarterly). Available at progressive bookstores, health food stores, food co-ops, etc., or by subscription. Published by the Fellowship for Intentional Community www.ic.org . http://fic.ic.org/cmag/ Write to Communities, 138 Twin Oaks Road, Louisa, VA 23093, USA, or call: 540-894-5798. Alternative bookstores in Toronto and Canada: www.planetfriendly.net/voices.html#bookstores
6. Cohousing, A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves (book). Kathryn McCamant & Charles Durrett, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley CA, USA 1994. (links)
7. Creating Community Anywhere (book). Carolyn R. Shaffer (Putnam, NY, 1993) (links)
8. Circles of Strength - Community Alternatives to Alienation (book). Edited by Helen Forsey (New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, 1993) http://store.ic.org/products/circles-of-strength.html www.life.ca/nl/writers/forsey.html
Other related periodicals, magazines, newsletters
For many more magazines on related topics,
(I) How to find or create an intentional community
Where to start? There are many more existing & forming communities than those that can be found in any list or directory. Ask around your neighbourhood, town or city. Read the bulletin boards in local health food stores, food co-ops, environmental stores, vegetarian restaurants, progressive bookstores, etc. Ask about co-op/shared houses and other cooperatives. Read the rental listings in your local alternative/arts newspaper (e.g. Toronto's Now Magazine). Get a copy of Communities Directory and/or Communities Magazine. Check out the Reachbook listings of communities forming and seeking new members. Join the Fellowship for Intentional Community and the Ecovillage Network of Canada. Subscribe to alternative publications and e-mail newsletters. Join or create a local food-buying coop, another co-op or local currency system.
Communities, Ecovillages & Cohousing
Worldwide Listings & Directories
How to Visit a Community www.ic.org/pnp/cdir/1995/06kinkade.html
See also the section on "Creating Community Anywhere", above.
Eco-Centres & Places (in Canada and across North America) www.planetfriendly.net/learn
Cooperatives & Cooperation www.planetfriendly.net/business.html#co-op
Alternative Voices (alt. media, websites, e-mail & community) www.planetfriendly.net/voices.html
Everything Organic (gateway to local
and organic food, gardening, agriculture,
Sustainable Living Directory www.planetfriendly.net/living.html
Progressive Calendars (event
calendars & directories) www.planetfriendly.net/calendars.html
Green Job Links (green, ethical jobs & volunteering) www.planetfriendly.net/greenjobs.html
The People- & Planet-Friendly Directory (contains
links to all the above & more)
Peter Blanchard (contact)
People & Planet | GoodWork Canada | Planetfriendly.net
an inspiring diversity of ideas, opportunities and things to do