Advice for Community Seekers from Laird Schaub
I had such an inspiring evening listening to Laird Schaub of the Fellowship for Intentional Communities speak last night at East West Bookshop. Laird lives on an intentional community in Missouri called Sandhill Farm. He’s been doing this kind of thing for about thirty years, so he’s got a ton of experience and wisdom when it comes to working in an intentional community and building consensus. In fact, he even does this professionally.
Here are some of his most important pieces of advice for anyone starting an intentional community (or even anyone who wants to start living more intentionally, really):
1. We are going to have to learn to share. It’s time to face the facts: resources are dwindling and we can’t live at the same rate of consumption anymore. Sharing networks, time banks, and product exchanges are great ways to make this happen in your community. The best part is that you do not need to own something to have access to it. You just need to manage the resource so people can all benefit. He told us about a neighboring intentional community in Missouri that shares three cars between 70 people in a rural area. Now that’s teamwork!
2. People are drawn to what you are, not what you dream of being. If you have a vision for your intentional community, become the change you want to see before inviting others in. In economist Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, mediocre companies become great only after leaders emerged who developed a ‘culture’ of greatness, inviting people in who shared in the long term vision of the company. Get all the people on board the bus first, before starting the engine and driving off.
3. Relationships are more secure than money. This is so crucial and true. When the shit hits the fan it’s the people who love you, not money, that are really going to be there for you in the end. Money is not secure: it changes value, prices go up and down, but a well maintained relationship based on mutual caring and closeness creates the kind of security that money just can’t buy. A security based on trust and valuing the other person and their needs. Invest in social capital today!
4. If you are having trouble reaching consensus, you’re not asking the right questions. It’s similar to the idea of “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Suppose you find that your group needs to build a roof for the house. Concentrate on deciding about only the important parts: how much it will cost, how much energy it will take or save, etc.–NOT what color the roof will be. If you are sitting around arguing about what color the roof will be, you will get nowhere. Reminds me of the sometimes long and painful meetings at Occupy! Which some people say is what did them in (although have to give them credit now for the People’s Bailout!).
These are some great ideas that can be applied to anyone’s life, not just those looking to start intentional communities. Again, it’s the small things we can organize that can make life easier and more fulfilling: sharing dinner with neighbors or friends once a week, carpooling, working on relationships with those around you. Laird ended the talk by saying his quality of life has never been better, and I believe him!