I get asked that a lot. But I think it is the wrong question. A better question is “What is the difference between a neighborhood and a community?”
Typically, a neighborhood is built to improve the wealth of a developer or landlord. The ultimate goal is profit. On the other end of the spectrum is a people-based model, where the bottom line is maximizing the happiness index & meeting the needs of the residents. Many places fall somewhere in between.
Most of us are very familiar with a neighborhood already. Let’s outline a few commonalities.
- You don’t get to pick your neighbors.
- You might have an HOA, but even with that or perhaps because of it, you don’t really have much say in what happens in your neighborhood.
Now, onto the less familiar – a community. Well, there is no single correct answer, because there are many types of communities. So, lets focus on what is commonly found in an “intentional community”.
- Shared common values.
- Egalitarian decision-making model: Each person has an equal say.
- Select your neighbors
- Lower cost of living
- Lower carbon footprint
- More Free Time
- More interactions your neighbors
- Defined conflict resolution policies
Living in Community
So what exactly does a day in the life of a intentional community look like? Lets use Twin Oaks Community near Charlottesville, VA as a case study.
NOTE: There are many flavors of intentional communities. Twin Oaks may not appeal to you.
Community is creating a space that meets the needs of the members, using your preferred combination of infrastuctures & tools to increase social cohesion.
At Twin Oaks, someone is cooking you two organic meals a day, growing your vegetables, doing your laundry, grocery shopping & personal shopping, fixing your cars, BUILDING YOUR HOUSE.
This sounds like I am describing Beyonce’s life. I can almost hear Robin Leach narrating this blog.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Twin oaks is situated on 450 beautifully wooded acres, with numerous buildings, including a professional restaurant-sized kitchen, dance hall & gathering area. The community, which consists of about 90 adults & 15 children, currently has 1.5 million savings in the bank.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S STILL MORE!
They have an 80% reduction in their carbon footprint. (Twin Oaks is really strong on logging paperwork, so they are an excellent place to track such data.)
How are they able to accomplish this? They take a 3 pronged approach:
1. A network of libraries.
Just as you would check a book out of a library, they have libraries to check out cars, bikes, tools and even clothes!
If that sounds like an uncomfortable or unusual idea, ask yourself which is more important to you? Access or ownership? Do you need a lawnmower to take up space in your garage all the time, only to use it once a week for 20 minutes? Coupled with all of the maintenance time & costs falling on your shoulders? Or do you simply need access to a lawnmower for 20 minutes a week?
A video by BBC4 showcasing the Community Clothes Library at Twin Oaks Community.
A worker cooperative is a for-profit business. But instead of profit being the bottom-line, the bottom-line is the happy index of the employees. And all of the employees are owners. Future blog posts will detail why this setup empowers employees and increases productivity. Twin Oaks has several worker coops, but the 3 main ones are a tofu factory, a seed business & a hammock business.
3. All Volunteer Economy
People select which jobs they want within the community and either work at one of the worker coops, or work within the community, or split their time between both. The person cooking you your meals? A volunteering fellow community member. The one fixing your car? Another volunteer. The one buying your groceries? You guessed it…another volunteer.
There is one caveat. For some reason, no one ever seems to sign up to wash dishes, so every week or two, each community member washes dishes for an hour or so.
Here, once you complete your work, all your remaining time is truly free time. You don’t need to run to the grocery store or cook dinner or take your car in for repairs or any of the numerous 2nd & 3rd shift chores/responsibilities that invade our modern lives.
A Nod to our Successful Roots
As a species, we lived interdependently until very recent history. Living communally is not a new concept. Along those lines, living in a small house is also not a new concept. Modern living leaves us stretched thin & stressed, particularly if you are raising children. The tiny house movement coupled with the intentional community movement is a nod to our successful roots.
Working together & relying upon one another creates a strong glue…a sense of togetherness. A true definition of community. Instead of not knowing your neighbors or building taller fences.
The approach that Twin Oaks takes is one of many. And you certainly don’t need to adopt all their methods in order to improve your sense of community. But to avoid becoming another neighborhood, you will need to take measures to grow the community “glue” & make the residents feel invested in and empowered within the community.
Future blog articles will outline additional methods & resources. Sign up for the newsletter to be notified when blogs are added!
What Do You Think?
Do you agree? Disagree? Would you rather live in a neighborhood or a community? Comment below.
Additional Resources / Related Blogs
BBC4 video touring Twin Oaks