[permaculture] Aug 22- 30 Slide Show and Book Signing Tour with Diana Christian Author: "Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities" LA, Idyllwild, Ojai, SB, SLO, Alameda, SF

Wesley Roe and Marjorie Lakin Erickson lakinroe at silcom.com
Mon Aug 8 10:47:12 EDT 2005

Aug 22- 30 Slide Show and Book Signing Tour with Diana Christian Author: 
"Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and 
Intentional Communities"

What works and what doesn't work in forming community Intentional 
Communities and EcoVillages? Diana Christian, author of "Creating a Life 
Together Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities", 
and Editor of Communities Magazine (www.fic.ic.org/cmag) talks about the 
process of forming these kinds of new communities. Gleaned from dozens of 
successful communities in North America , she shares the nuts and bolts of 
beginning and how to avoid fatal mistakes that cause communities to fail. 
Discussion be creating vision documents, decision-making and governance, 
buying and financing land and the organic process of growing community.
See article at end of email "Starting a Successful Urban Ecovillage" by 
Diana Christian in Hopedance Magazine www.hopedance.org issue #51

Public Talks with Diana Leafe Christian Donations $5- $10
FRI Aug 19 7:30 7:30 pm: Public talk and overview $15 LA Ecovillage 117 
Bimini Pl. LA 90004 Lois Arkin crsp at igc.org 213/738-1254 crsp at igc.org
Sat/Sun, Aug. 20-21, 2 day workshop: How to Start a Successful Urban 
Ecovillage, 10 am - 6 pm, LA Eco-Village, 117 Bimini Pl., Lois Arkin, 
reservations required, crsp at igc.org
TUES Aug 23 ldyllwild , 7:30 pm Idyllwild Park Nature Center Auditorium, 
25225 Hwy. 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549 "Scott Horton" 
<lasemillabesada at hotmail.com> phone 951-659-5362
WED Aug 24 7pm Ojai Kent Hall Help of Ojai 111 W Santa Ana St, Ojai 
sbpcnet at silcom.com 805-962-2571
THUR Aug 25 7pm Santa Barbara Downtown Library sbpcnet at silcom.com 805-962-2571
FRI Aug 26 7pm San Luis Obispo Downtown Library Bob Banner 
hopedance at aol.com 1-866-749-7819,805 544 9663
Monday Aug 29 7pm Alameda Point Collaborative 677 W. Ranger Ave. Alameda, 
CA 94501 Douglas Biggs <dbiggs at apcollaborative.org> www.apcollaborative.org 
?TUES Aug 30 San Francisco Commonwealth Club 595 Market Street SF ( 
www.commonwealthclub.org) Eric Corey Freed <eric at organicarchitect.com> 
(415) 474.7777, still being organized

For Tour updates contact Santa Barbara Permaculture Network 
sbpcnet at silcom.com, 805-962-2571,www.sbpermaculture.org
SPONSORS- Santa Barbara Permaculture Network, LA EcoVillage, LA 
Permaculture Guild, Ojai Permaculture Guild, The Alameda Point 
Collaborative, ADSPR, Organic Architect, & Hopedance Media.

Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and 
Intentional Communities, by Diana Leafe Christian, editor of Communities 
Magazine, foreword by Patch Adams. 2003 New Society Publishers, 272 pp.,

About the Author:
Diana Leafe Christian has been editor of Communities magazine, a quarterly 
publication about intentional communities in North America, since 1993. She 
has been interviewed by NPR and the BBC about intentional communities and 
has contributed a chapter on forming new communities to Creating Harmony 
(Gaia Trust, 1999). Her articles on ecovillages, financial and legal 
aspects of communities, children in community, and communication and group 
process issues in community have appeared in publications ranging from 
Mother Earth News to Communities magazine, the Communities Directory, and 
Canada's This Magazine.
Diana leads workshops for forming-community groups and educational centers 
nationwide and at communities conferences, on the practical steps to create 
ecovillages and intentional communities, including the land-purchase, 
zoning, and legal stages of these projects.
She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, one of the "successful 
10 percent" communities she began researching for this book.

Creating a Life Together is an overview of the process of forming new 
ecovillages and intentional communities, gleaned from founders of dozens of 
successful communities in North America formed since the early '90s. This 
is what they did, and what you can do, to create your community dream. It 
attempts to distill their hard experience into solid advice on getting 
started as a group, creating vision documents, decision-making and 
governance, agreements and policies, buying and financing land, 
communication and process, and selecting people to join you. It's what 
works, what doesn't work, and how not to reinvent the wheel. This 
information is not only for people forming new communities - whether or not 
you already own your land. It can also be valuable for those of you 
thinking about joining community one day - since you, too, will need to 
know what works. And it's also for those of you already living in 
community, since you can only benefit from knowing what others have done in 
similar circumstances."
Diana Leafe Christian is author of Creating a Life Together: Practical 
Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities (New Society 
Publishers, 2003), about forming communities in today's financial and 
zoning climate, based on the experiences of successful community founders 
in the 1990s. She has been editor of Communities magazine, the Fellowship 
for Intentional Community's quarterly national publication about 
intentional communities in North America, since 1993. For the past six 
years she has led workshops on the practical steps to form intentional 
communities. Diana is a member of Earthaven Ecovillage.

"Wow! The newest, most comprehensive bible for builders of intentional 
communities. Covers every aspect with vital information and hundreds of 
examples of how successful communities faced the challenges and created 
their shared lives out of their visions. The cautionary tales of sadder 
experiences and how communities fail, will help in avoiding the pitfalls. 
Not since I wrote the Foreword to Ingrid Komar's Living the Dream (1983), 
which documented the Twin Oaks community, have I seen a more useful and 
inspiring book." --Hazel Henderson, author, Creating Alternative Futures, 
and Politics of the Solar Age.
"A great deal of research and trial-and-error has been assembled here, and 
every potential ecovillager should read it. This book will be an essential 
guide and manual for the many Permaculture graduates who live in 
communities or design for them." --Bill Mollison, co-originator of the 
Permaculture concept, author of The Permaculture Designers Manual, Ferment 
and Human Nutrition.
"A really valuable resource for anyone thinking about intentional 
community. I wish I had it years ago." -- Starhawk, author of Webs of 
Power, The Spiral Dance, and The Fifth Sacred Thing -- and committed 
"Creating a new culture of living peacefully with each other and the planet 
is our number one need--and this is the right book at the right time. 
Creating a Life Together will be instrumental in the ecovillage courses I 
teach. I can't wait to tell people about it." --Hildur Jackson, cofounder, 
Global Ecovillage Network (GEN); co-editor, Ecovillage Living: Restoring 
the Earth and Her People.
"A comprehensive, engaging, practical, well-organized, and thoroughly 
digestible labor of love...This book is a gift to humanity, helping to move 
forward the elusive quest for community, fueling a quantum leap towards a 
fulfilling, just, and sustainable future." --Geoph Kozeny, 30-year 
community activist, producer/editor of video documentary "Visions of 
Utopia: Experiments in Sustainable Culture."
"Before aspiring community builders hold their first meeting, confront the 
first realtor, or drive their first nail, they must buy this essential 
book: it wil improve their chances for success immensely, and will 
certainly save them money, time, and heartbreak. In her friendly but firm 
(and occasionally funny) way, Diana Christian proffers an astonishing 
wealth of practical information and sensible, field-tested advice." 
--Ernest Callenbach, author, Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging
"While anyone can build a village, a subdivision, or a housing development, 
the challenge is filling it with people who can get along, who can reach 
agreements, and who can achieve far more together than they ever could 
alone. If your aspiring ecovillage or intentional community gets even this 
far - and this awesome book will show you how - then maybe you have a 
realistic chance of living sustainably, and by example, of changing the 
world. My appreciation grows daily for this thorough, practical, and 
engaging guide." --Albert Bates, Director, Ecovillage Training Center, and 
Board member, Global Ecovillage Network
"Developing a successful community requires a special blend of vision and 
practicality woven together with wisdom. Consider this book a marvelous 
mirror. If the abundant, experience-based, practicality in this book 
delights you then you probably have the wisdom to realize your vision."
--Robert Gilman, founding editor of In Context, A Quarterly of Humane 
Sustainable Culture

Review by Geoph Kozeny
If Creating a Life Together had been available in 1972, probably it 
wouldn't have taken me five tries to start a community that would last for 
more than 13 months. But with no such "how to" resource available, my 
cohorts and I plunged into it the hard way-by trial and error. After 
flailing around through those first four attempts, then living for ten 
years in a community that succeeded, and subsequently visiting 350-some 
communities to figure out what worked for them and what didn't, I was 
resigned to the idea that someday I'd have to write the definitive manual 
on creating and sustaining intentional communities. I'm eternally grateful 
that Diana Christian did it first.

As I compare the topics featured in Creating a Life Together with my 
ancient annotated list of things to include in my intended book, I'm 
thoroughly impressed with how she covered the bases. It's all here-from 
conceiving a community, through building a vision and gathering a group, to 
finding and buying land, and ultimately how to get along together and make 
it work. (See excerpt, "Accountability and Consequences," pg. 16.) Further, 
it's written in a readable, captivating style that makes extensive use of 
interviews and vignettes from the everyday life of real communities. (As a 
testimony to Diana's thoroughness, pithiness, and the relevance of the 
information, the publisher, a former communitarian himself, chose to 
publish a book twice the length he'd originally agreed to once he read the 

The breadth and depth of this work should come as no surprise to anyone 
familiar with Diana's credentials. As editor of Communities magazine, she's 
perused scores of insightful and practical articles over the last ten 
years, and, always looking for a good story, has sought out and interviewed 
dozens of veteran communitarians, especially community founders, about what 
went wrong and what worked well. (Not to mention learning many hard lessons 
firsthand, through the break-ups of two community start-ups she was 
involved in before joining Earthaven, one of the communities profiled in 
the book.)

Creating a Life Together includes abundant examples from thriving 
ecovillages and communities as well as numerous anecdotes from groups that 
failed (although the latter sound strikingly familiar, they're usually 
presented as fictitious models) - making for a very effective 
community-building guidebook.

Information is presented logically, using the metaphor of growing a 
successful garden: Planting the Seeds of Healthy Community (major bases to 
cover and planning pitfalls to avoid); Sprouting New Community (techniques 
and tools); and Enriching the Soil (communication, working with conflict, 
adding and sustaining members). However, this seemingly straightforward 
order is offered only to make the concepts easy to digest. "Don't assume 
these steps are linear," Diana cautions. "The process of growing a 
community is more organic - simultaneously ongoing and step by step." She 
makes it clear that circumstances may dictate swapping the order, doing 
many steps at once, skipping steps if appropriate, and even adding new ones 
of your own.

The "Seeds" section examines basic concerns, including a general overview 
of what has worked and what hasn't, the founder's role and its challenges, 
crafting a clear vision, raising start-up funds, and establishing effective 
and empowering decision-making structures. The "Sprouting" section, 
comprising the bulk of the book, focuses on the critical importance of good 
documentation, legal structures, working with lawyers, finding and buying 
land, zoning, refinancing, balancing privacy with group involvement, and 
setting up internal community economics. The "Enriching" section digs into 
the most critical aspects of sustaining a community once it's established: 
how to work with the beliefs and emotions that underlie conflict and 
agreements for handling conflict, constructively offering and receiving 
feedback, and how to help each other stay accountable to the group. 
Additionally, a very helpful appendix features numerous sample documents of 
community visions and agreements, several dozen extremely helpful 
community-building resources, plus links for finding hundreds more on the Web.

Creating a Life Together is a comprehensive, engaging, practical, 
well-organized, and thoroughly digestible labor of love. Hopefully scores 
of wannabe community founders and seekers will discover it before they 
launch their quest for community, and avoid the senseless and sometimes 
painful lessons that come from trying to reinvent the wheel. This book is a 
gift to humanity-helping to move forward the elusive quest for community, 
fueling a quantum leap towards a fulfilling, just, and sustainable future.
Geoph Kozeny, a 30-year community activist, is producer editor of Visions 
of Utopia: Experiments in Sustainable Culture, a two-hour video documentary 
on intentional community. geoph at ic.org; http://www.store.ic.org.

For lots of interesting book reviews, workshop raves and other testimonials 
about Diana Christian's book and workshops, see 

Starting a Successful Urban Ecovillage
By Diana Leafe Christian (article in Hopedance Magazine www.hopedance.org 
Issue #51)

I've been fascinated by ecovillages ever since I become editor of 
Communities magazine, 11 years ago. Then I wrote a book about how to start 
successful new ones. And now I live in one: Earthaven, in the mountains of 
North Carolina.
My favorite definition of ecovillages is that ecovillages are "human-scale, 
full-featured settlements in which human activities are harmlessly 
integrated into the natural world in a way that supports healthy human 
development, and which can be successfully continued into the indefinite 
future." (Robert and Diane Gilman, 1991). "Human-scale" means you know 
everyone in the ecovillage and can feel that your voice counts in the 
group's decision-making. Maybe this is 20 people; maybe 120. "Full-featured 
settlement" means you live there; work there; grow or otherwise get your 
food there; and your social, cultural, and spiritual life is there. Urban 
ecovillage activists point out that in a city, your work, and social, 
cultural, and spiritual life may not be on-site but nearby, accessible by 
bicycle or public transportation..
Ecovillages can be intentional communities, educational centers, or 
traditional indigenous villages, depending on how ecologically sustainable 
their vision and purpose. Do any real ecovillages exist, given that we 
don't yet know "the indefinite future." I don't know, however, I believe 
there are "aspiring ecovillages." I'm aware of four urban ones in the U.S.: 
Los Angeles Eco-Village, EcoCity Cleveland, Cincinnati Ecovillage, and 
Ecovillage Detroit.
I also believe it's a whole lot easier to create an ecovillage in an urban 
setting than a rural one. First, unlike their country cousins, urban 
ecovillagers aren't challenged by where they'll find decent-paying jobs to 
pay off loans for purchasing and developing their ecovillage 
property-they'll probably keep the urban-based jobs they have. And while 
their urban property will probably be far more expensive than that of their 
rural counterparts, they'll most likely get permission for a higher 
population density, and thus divide their loan payments between more 
people, making their property relatively more affordable. Further, urban 
ecovillages are more likely to buy property with existing utilities and 
buildings, which, because of rising construction costs, can be less costly 
to retrofit than the new construction and new utilities required when 
buying undeveloped rural land. For the same reason urban ecovillage 
residents can often live on-site sooner, and more comfortably, than if they 
had to deal with clearing brush, building roads, and starting buildings 
from scratch.
I also believe urban ecovillages can make a bigger difference in our ailing 
culture. For example, living more densely in cities helps preserve farmland 
and wilderness from human development. Living in cities also conserves 
resources, since it's cities and towns, not the countryside, that offer 
large-scale cooperative ventures such as public transportation, shops 
within walking distance, food co-ops, various other kinds of worker-owned 
co-ops, and apartment buildings with central utilities, which waste lots 
less natural resources than individual single-family homes. Urban 
ecovillages can also influence far more people, and provide green and 
appealing alternatives to the painful realities of blighted neighborhoods 
and dead downtowns While people travel across the country to see what we're 
doing at Earthaven, we would have a lot more impact if our natural 
buildings, off-grid power, organic gardens, and constructed wetlands were 
smack in the heart of downtown Asheville, where thousands of people saw us 
Since the early 1990s I wanted to know what it takes for newly forming 
intentional communities and ecovillages to succeed. So I began interviewing 
founders of communities that succeeded and those that failed. The major 
steps seem to be establishing a core group with a particular vision and 
purpose, choosing a decision-making process, creating agreements and 
policies, creating a membership policy, choosing a legal structure, finding 
and financing property, and moving in and renovating (or developing) that 
Yet I also learned that no matter how inspired and visionary the founders, 
only about one out of ten new communities and ecovillages actually seemed 
to get built. The other 90 percent usually floundered around, sometimes 
from lack of money or not finding the right property, but more often 
because of gut-wrenching conflict, and, occasionally even lawsuits.
I began to see a pattern. Most new-community failures-rural or urban-seemed 
to result from what I call "structural" conflict: problems that occurred 
because founders didn't explicitly put certain processes in place or make 
certain important decisions at the beginning. creating one or more 
omissions in their organizational structure. Several weeks, months, or even 
years later the group would erupt in major conflict that could have been 
largely prevented if they had handled these issues early on. Naturally, 
this sets off a great deal of interpersonal conflict too, making the 
initial "structural" conflict even worse.
While a normal amount of interpersonal conflict can be expected, I believe 
that much of the structural conflict in failed communities could have been 
prevented, or at least greatly reduced, if the founders had paid attention 
to at least six crucial elements in the beginning. Each of these, if not 
addressed in the beginning can generate structural conflict later on. 
Here's what I found:

1. Identify your ecovillage vision and create vision documents. One 
exhausting source of structural conflict is when various members have 
different visions beliefs about why you're doing the project in the first 
place. This can erupt into all kinds of arguments about what seem like 
ordinary topics-how much time the group works on a particular task, or how 
much money you allocate for a particular project. It's really a matter of 
underlying differences (perhaps not always conscious) about what the 
ecovillage is for. All ecovillage members need to be on the same page from 
the beginning, and must know what your shared vision is, and know you all 
support it. Your shared vision should be thoroughly discussed, agreed upon, 
and written down from the outset.

2. Choose a shared decision-making process, and if it's consensus, get 
trained in it. Most people resent power imbalances, and such imbalances can 
become an enormous source of conflict in an forming ecovillage. 
Decision-making is the most obvious point of power, and the more it is 
shared and participatory, the less this particular kind of power imbalance 
will come up. Shared decision-making means everyone in the group has a 
voice in decisions that will affect his or her life in the ecovillage. The 
way your decision-making method works must be well-understood by everyone 
in the group.
A more specific source of community conflict is using the consensus 
decision-making process without thoroughly understanding it first. What 
often passes for consensus in many groups is merely 
"pseudo-consensus"-which exhausts people, drains their energy and good 
will, and generates a great deal of resentment. So if your group plans to 
use consensus, you'll prevent a great deal of structural conflict by 
getting trained in it first.

3. Make clear agreements-in writing. People remember things differently. 
Your agreements-from the most mundane to the most significant-should be 
written down. Then if later you all remember things differently you can 
always look it up. The alternative-"I'm right but you're wrong (and maybe 
you're even trying to cheat me)"-can break up an ecovillage faster than you 
can say, "You'll be hearing from my lawyer."

4. Learn good communication and group process skills and resolving 
conflicts a priority. My definition of "good communication skills" is being 
able to talk with each other about sensitive subjects and still feel 
connected. This includes methods for holding each other accountable for 
agreements. I consider it a set-up for structural conflict if a forming 
ecovillage group doesn't address these skills right from the beginning.

5. In choosing cofounders and new ecovillage members, select for emotional 
maturity. An often-devastating source of conflict is allowing someone to 
join your group who is not aligned with your vision and values. Or someone 
whose emotional pain-which might come up weeks or months later as 
disruptive attitudes or behaviors-can end up costing you hours and hours of 
meeting time and draining your group of energy and well-being. A 
well-designed process for selecting and integrating new people into your 
group, and screening for those who resonate with your values, vision, and 
behavioral norms, can save repeated rounds of stress and conflict in the 
weeks and years ahead.

6. Learn the head skills and heart skills you need to know. Forming a new 
ecovillage requires many of the same planning and financial skills as 
launching a successful business, and the same capacities for trust, good 
will, and honest communication as building a successful marriage. Founders 
of successful new communities and ecovillages seem to know this, and those 
that get mired in wrenching conflict usually do not. So the sixth major way 
to reduce structural conflict is to take the time to learn what you'll need 
to know.

Not everyone in your forming ecovillage group needs to be equally skilled 
in these ways, nor must you possess all these skills and areas of expertise 
among yourselves when you begin. You can always hire training or expertise 
in whatever you need-from consensus to permaculture design.
"Forming a new community," says community activist Zev Paiss, "is the 
longest, most expensive, personal growth workshop you will ever take." I 
agree. But with the right tools and skills- and a the burning intention to 
make the world a more cooperative and sustainable place-it's totally worth it.

Diana Leafe Christian is editor of Communities magazine and author of 
Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and 
Intentional Communities (New Society Publishers, 2003) . Her articles have 
appeared in Communities magazine, Permaculture Activist, and Mother Earth 
News. She has been interviewed about the growing trend towards community 
living by the BBC, NPR, New Dimensions Radio, Canada's This Magazine. the 
AARP Bulletin, and the Los Angeles Times. She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage 
in North Carolina.
For more information, see Urban Ecovillage Network: www.urban.ecovillage.org.

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