So you want to know how to create shared culture in your community, right?
In 2011 I launched a project in Manchester, England – Sustainable Housing. It took me six months to find a team of contributing tenants, but being inexperienced and under pressure, I failed to structure the enterprise as clearly as I should’ve done. As a result, the overriding culture in the house proved to be a poor fit for me, so in early 2012 I moved out to continue on with other projects.
One significant thing I learned from this experience is that if you want to create a cohesive community, there needs to be a shared culture, which I’ll define as shared values, beliefs and assumptions. If this doesn’t exist, the group won’t be pulling together and generating the enormous power that’s possible when people are making a collective effort. If this doesn’t exist, meetings go unattended, actions aren’t followed up and momentum is lost – at least towards the initial aims of the project…
So how do you create a shared culture?
You should be extremely clear about your intentions upfront and ask people to agree to upon ground rules from the start; but covering all bases is a tall order for any individual, especially when you have time constraints imposed upon you. People always have a lot to to say if they’re volunteering their time, especially when it comes to their lifestyle choices, so…
Attempt 1 – I allowed everyone to help shape the project, which ultimately created a model that was unsuitable for me. C’est la vie. If you’re coming together to establish a community, everyone needs to have a say in the way that community is realised – but it’s important that you’re on the same page from the beginning. Occasional differences of opinion are inevitable, but these can be minimised by ensuring that you have roughly the same aims and motivations in mind.
Attempt 2 – at The Local Veg Box I was a lot clearer about the direction I wanted the venture to take from the offset, which attracted people with a more specific focus. Perhaps the recruitment process was more successful because people knew the direction in which they were heading, which made them feel more comfortable. The working environment that evolved as a result of this sense of direction was excellent, which you can get a sense of in This Video. The packing room was full of enthusiasm and fun. It’s also important to note that our purpose and direction changed slightly as we went along. So perhaps the important point here is to have a stated aim to rally around, whether that ends up being the final destination or not.
Taking the best from both efforts, it seems to me that the trick lies in being clear about your objectives from day one, then allowing the social environment to evolve around that original structure (thereby creating a shared culture!), whilst giving your aims the freedom to evolve, also. So, keeping that in mind – I’m now slowly working toward the establishment of an intentional community – for anyone thinking of doing the same, here’s…
Attempt 3! – with this project, there’s a large emphasis placed upon the facilitation of independent lifestyle choices, so it can’t be too prescribed. However, some basic understanding of direction is still important. The way I think is best to do that is to keep conversations going with people around the topic of intentional community over a long period of time – it’s important to get them talking to one another and sharing their perspectives. That is partly the purpose of this website – sharing perspectives and building a shared vision of, and momentum towards, the community. We may lose or gain people along the way, but over time I expect a shared, collaborative culture to emerge from this web of connections and interactions.
Here’s your chance
Let us know how you could see your life transpiring in an intentional community!
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