Reply To: Community Onboarding Processes

  • Nicole

    December 7, 2023 at 11:20 am

    Something I’ve noticed in eco-communities that have lasted a long time is that they have something that I like to call a “strong membrane”.

    While not being cut off from the world, these communities exercise a very disciplined and discerning process when it comes to who they let get involved, especially at levels of leadership or special resident privileges.

    In my research, this is an emerging pattern demonstrated by communities that have (to-date) lasted an average of 30 years.

    This membrane grants them immunity to irresponsible spaceholders, demanding or difficult residents, and those who would alter the essence of the community and its core intentions. The membrane is reinforced by several layers of a) time b) presence c) measure of contribution, which can be different from d) measure of commitment.

    a) Time : typically measured continuously, as in time elapsed since getting involved or how early the member joined

    b) Presence : physical presence in the community, how much a member (actively) shows up determines their access

    c) Measure of contribution: in the form of finances, labor, gifts, resources, etc.

    d) Measure of commitment: qualitative measure of one’s commitment to the vision and the ongoing success of the community

    Often our strength is also our weakness, and here are some problems faced by these communities:

    1. Intergenerational leadership

    2. Relying on a membrane of people alone, without process

    3. Inflexibility to changing times

    1. Intergenerational leadership

    These same communities face the struggle of learning how to allow young leadership to permeate the membrane. When the membrane manifests as general distrust of newcomers (young or old), the passing of the torch becomes difficult. I have noticed that communities with strong apprenticeship programs that allow youth to directly work with and learn from the elders, as well as a gradient of power transfer, results in a smoother transition. Besides being able to maintain the logistical side of the community, younger generations need to be gifted with the ability to recreate whatever their predecessors have that makes the community remarkable.

    2. Relying on a membrane of people alone, without process

    In the case that some or all of the original founders move away (or pass away), communities that haven’t proceduralized their process so that anyone can do it, instead of relying on someone who acts as their human filter and “vibe check”. Here there is need to pay special attention if there is an identity-based criteria for the community — such as a lifestyle choice or spiritual affiliation — because these check marks don’t function as a strong enough filter for people who will be harmonious long-term community members.

    3. Inflexibility to changing times

    Currently we are witnessing the first wave of ecovillages struggle to adapt to new technologies and different cultural contexts. This is not to say that some communities are handling these brilliantly, but it’s a natural hiccup in generational shifts. Examples include new technologies like @revillager built specifically to be used in communities not finding traction in communities that still use email to communicate daily needs. Communities that have a spiritual focus but aren’t closed off to alternative views also thrive, allowing for secular customer base that may even become interested in their way of life.

    I’ve been reflecting on community onboarding processes lately, and these are my insights, synthesized.

Welcome to the tribe of tribes