BootsnAll Travel Network

project intentional community

by a community-minded spirit
Berlin, Germany

We have stayed in a few intentional communities (and more are coming up in the future) – everything from a group of friends living together “half family half commune” to the website-toting mission-statemented Permanent Hospitality Project Berlin, from families in Laos to a community house in Estonia.
We have seen different structures, different systems, different organisation, different communication, different ideals, different realities. We have also seen common threads. And we are left with plenty of questions, which I intend to throw out to cyberspace. Feel free to comment. Or even answer!

Is it uncharitable to turn people away?
We have been fortunate to have been taken in by people, who really did not have room for us. Did they need to? Would relationships in their homes have been less strained if they had limited themselves to the number of guests they could host comfortably without an extra eleven squishing in? Or were the stresses there anyway? Let’s face it, in the smallest place we have stayed, a 6m circular ger in Mongolia, filled with seventeen people, there was no friction at all. Who knows?

Can the “we’re all adults and will pitch in with whatever needs doing” philosophy work anywhere? Won’t a minority always end up doing the lion’s share of the work, while the rest “don’t see” the needs. Are people not going to learn to think if they are given a responsibility (aka chore <wink>) to be in charge of (ie do themselves or delegate out or find willing helpers to work together or pay someone to do!!) for a week? Are chore lists so bad? Would it hurt to let people know how much it is costing for them to take a five minute shower or boil a kettle of water? (Of course the Berlin group do not think this is a bad idea – they purchased a little doodad to help them work out exactly that while we were there. One hour of internet is the same as two cups of coffee.)

How does communication in a many-person household differ from smaller groups? How do you let newcomers know the routines/expectations/number of people who will be around for dinner? How do you resolve conflicts? To what extent can one person speak on behalf of the entire group?

Do all such communities have a common goal? What happens when someone joins, who does not share the original vision? How do you let people know what your vision is before they sign up?

How do equal-sharing communities work their finances? Who pays for what? How are decisions made about how to spend common money? Who is responsible for paying the rent, buying the toilet paper?

I told you there were lots of questions!

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One response to “project intentional community”

  1. victoria says:

    Good questions! I think one of the very basic conflicts, that will always be hard to resolve is that people have differing standards of cleanliness or views on what’s needed to run a household. As a pupil at a boarding school and later as a student at uni, I was guilty of not helping out enough plenty of times because I wasn’t too bothered about clean crockery. If given a nudge I would always do my bit, but I’m sure there were plenty of people who got annoyed that I had to be nudged. Now I’m a bit older and have my own house, my standards are higher than my husband’s, which is our main source of friction as a couple. Obviously as a couple, we work at this and try and keep the peace, but in a larger community there may be less incentive to make others happy unless you are really committed to the community project. You may have different reasons for wanting to live in a community to your fellow members. Some people may be truly into the idea of living with others for political/philosophical reasons, others may want to live more cheaply etc. Differing motivations bring conflict. There was an interesting BBC ‘experiment’ on this called Castaway, where they put a group of about 30 people on a remote Scottish island for one year and tried to create a community. Everyone was committed to the idea of the project, but for different reasons, and chaos ensued. I’m sure the TV cameras didn’t help, but it was an exercise in how NOT to do it!

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