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An intentional community is a planned residential community designed to promote 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. They also share responsibilities and resources. Intentional communities include cohousing, residential land trusts, ecovillages, communes, kibbutzim, ashrams, and housing cooperatives. Typically, new members of an intentional community are selected by the community's existing membership, rather than by real-estate agents or land owners (if the land is not owned by the community). Though intentional communities do not claim to be utopias in the sense of perfect places, many do attempt to live a different and better sort of society, and as such many draw on historical utopian experiments or ideas in utopian fiction.
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.
The purposes of intentional communities vary. They may include sharing resources, creating family-oriented neighborhoods and living ecologically sustainable lifestyles (ecovillages). 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.
Many communities have different types or levels of membership. Typically, intentional communities have a selection process which starts with someone interested in the community coming for a visit. Often prospective community members are interviewed by a selection committee of the community or in some cases by everyone in the community. Many communities have a "provisional membership" period. After a visitor has been accepted a new member is "provisional" until they have stayed for some period (often six months or a year) and then the community re-evaluates their membership. Generally, after the provisional member has been accepted they become a full member. In many communities the voting privileges and/or community benefits for provisional members are less than those for full members.
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.
A survey in the 1995 edition of the Communities Directory, published by Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), reported that 54% of the communities choosing to list themselves were rural, 28% were urban, 10% had both rural and urban sites, and 8% didn'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.
- List of intentional communities
- Communities magazine
- Egalitarian communities
- Epistemic community
- Jesus Army
- World Brotherhood Colonies
- New Vrindaban
- Intentional living
- Retreat (survivalism)
- Missional living
- House church
- Parachurch organizations
- Emerging church movement
- McLaughlin, C. and Davidson, G. 1990. Builders of the Dawn: Community Lifestyles in a Changing World. Book Publishing Company. ISBN 0-913990-68-X
- Christian, D. 2003. Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities New Society Publishers. ISBN 0-86571-471-1
- Intentional Communities Database
- Communities Directory, Online
- Intentional Communities website
- Intentional Communities Wiki
- Fellowship for Intentional Community
- Cohousing Association of the U.S.
- Ecovillage Network
- Diggers & Dreamers - the UK Guide to Communal Living
- EcoNomads - Travelogue and photos of a family visiting intentional communities around the world
- Directory of Intentional Communities and Ecovillages in Europe
- Christian Intentional Communities on the web
- Voices of Cohousing: Rebuilding villages in the city. - Documentary
- Communal Studies Bibliography
- The Farm Community - Intentional Community in Tennessee
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