This weekend I had the opportunity to connect with three different groups in Guelph who are all experimenting with Intentional Learning Communities. Come follow my adventure...
Friday Night: Onean House
This is a small bungalow in Guelph that was bought by a friend of mine and graduate of the University of Guelph, Arthur Churchyard. Each year they fill it with a group of young University students, giving them the opportunity to experiment with an eco-community lifestyle. For many people this serves as a gateway moment into a life of sustainable and intentional community living.
The lawns have all been turned into gardens, even the driveway has been repurposed through the creation of large garden boxes. They have a chicken coop in the backyard and at times they have also experimented with backyard quail.
Rent for the house is not the cheapest in the area, but you are paying more for the experience of living in community with other like-minded people. The extra money you pay is also reinvested into the house through different retrofit projects, such as a solar water heater. At the same time, in the long run, you often save money because you grow much of your own food and your energy expenses are reduced. More importantly, though, are the intangibles of being part of a community of people who are experimenting in an alternative lifestyle.
1) Though more expensive at the front end, an eco-community lifestyle will be cheaper in the long run.
2) Building a larger community of people around the house through regular potlucks and socials ensures continual occupation of the space
Sunday Morning: Mary-Kate’s House
This is a great example of what a major impact a single family can have on their neighbourhood. Mary-Kate has always had a passion for an eco-community style of living. Finding herself living with her husband and kids in downtown Guelph she decided to work on creating this lifestyle in her own neighbourhood. They got backyard chickens and engaged their neighbours in helping in exchange for free eggs.
They bought the small apartment building across the road and started filling it with people who had a similar passion to them. Soon friends joined them in the area, people wanted to move there because of the environment they were creating. Soon, the houses around them were purchased and the fences came down, creating a large shared common yard instead of individual backyards. Efforts were made to create channels to connect kids with their neighbourhood friends so they did not have to be on the street.
The power of one family to make a difference can draw in others who want to be a part of it and soon a new community culture grows.
Sunday Evening: Sustainable Intentional Living Community (SILC)
SILC is a group of older Guelphites who are really interested in building an intentional living community in downtown Guelph. They are taking their time with it and making sure it is being done right. The group meets regularly for potluck socials. This helps build relationships and also creates space for some of the more serious conversations, such as how to build this community. The group has done a good job learning from others and bringing in experienced people, both locally and abroad. This past fall they brought in Diana Leafe Christian, a leading expert in intentional communities, both for a community event and to work with the group.
All those who are seriously interested in being part of the community are expected to:
-Attend a weekend workshop on non-violent communication
-Learn how to use Sociocracy as a method of decision making (this has been the agreed upon decision making method)
The project is still at least three years away from completion but the group is doing a really good job of laying the ground work for future success.
It is important to do a large amount of work upfront when creating an intentional community. This can foster a strong culture and provide opportunity to discuss expected behaviours when living intentionally. The pay-off for this work is rich and rewarding.