What financial input is expected of me?
Some communities require that you buy your space from an outgoing member. This can either be on a cash lump sum basis or by raising a mortgage in the traditional way. The outgoing member takes this money with them. Having joined, you then pay a maintenance sum on a monthly basis to cover heat, light, power etc. Other communities require no capital sum but that you pay rent instead. This is usually higher than the maintenance because it often covers a mortgage repayment as well as heat, light etc. A third type of community may be a charity and you live there in return for work done. In these last two cases you take no money with you when you leave. For income-sharing communities you might be expected to bring your capital into the community as collateral. In communities where meals are eaten collectively you might log your meals and pay for them on a meals eaten basis at the end of the month. All communities work a variation on the above sytems.
What kind of work commitment is expected?
This varies, but might typically be between ten and fifteen hours per week. There may be a voluntary element. Some communities differentiate between domestic chores and other work. Three hours domestic, ten other etc. In all cases, consideration is given to fairness.
What kind of skills am I expected to bring in to a community situation?
There is a pool of skills in every community which is constantly changing as members leave and arrive. Practical skills are always in demand from painters to pipe benders, bread makers to bed makers, roofers to rolfers. What skills do you have? A willingness to share your skills is always a bonus, so too is a willingness to learn.
Will I be able to change from one living space to another living space within the community once I have moved in?
There may be systems set up to allow this to happen. Find out what they are. You may have to wait for someone else to move out first. One very large income sharing community in Denmark (150 people) has a “moving around” group, comprising a bunch of members who vet all applications from members who want a change of space. Very well organised. Smaller communities will have similar, less rigid methods. In rent-based communities it is not uncommon for one person to move and set off a chain reaction whereby all move around.
How does the community approach conflict resolution?
Ideally, every community will have a system in place for resolving conflict. There are basically three levels of approach. One-to-one face-to-face open discussion between aggrieved parties. Face-to-face meeting with a third party facilitator or mediator chosen by agreement between the conflicting parties, or a mediation group selected by the community and agreed by the aggrieved parties. Individuals may take their problem to the group, who then decide on the best method of approach and who co-ordinate and facilitate the process of resolution.
How are decisions made?
Communities tend to be non-hierarchical. Consensus is the norm with vote or veto used as a last resort.
Can I expect support from the community?
There will always be support in one shape or form from individuals living within the community. The extent of this support will depend very much on the nature, or level, of support required by the party needing that support. From personal experience, if an individual in need of support leans too heavily on other community members the tendency is for those members to back off after a while. If you need a counsellor or therapist, go to one. Some communities have co-counselling groups set up. If you need support because of a physical difficulty or change of circumstances you will need to negotiate with the group you join.
What is the community’s philosophy toward children and education?
The long standing communities have tried most methods of education over their lifetimes. Current philosophy is nearly always open to discussion and change. Make sure you discuss your ideas to the full. Find out how enthusiastic, welcoming and supportive other members are to your ideas for change.
How long does it take to join?
Longer than you think. You cannot rush your application. Wheels turn slowly in communities, sometimes very slowly. The more you try and rush your process the less likely are your chances of being accepted. If you are desperate for housing then sort it out, at least temporarily, before applying.
What arrangements does the community have for personal visitors?
This varies from community to community. In order to prevent personal visitors from overstaying their welcome, time limitations are often placed on them. These limitations vary depending on whether or not the visitor is occupying a community guest room or living within the personal space of the sponsoring friend. The former limitations are shorter on the grounds that the guest room will be needed by others in due course. You or your visitor may have to pay their share of food, heat, light and costs.
Can I bring my pets with me?
This is more contentious than you might expect. Negotiate with your chosen community as there may be arrangements in place regarding pets.
How do people in communities earn a living?
There is a difficulty in working full time whilst still retaining commitment to the community. Some people overcome this by working from home or by working part-time, or running community businesses. Whatever your preferences are, you must check out the issues of transport and the closeness to potential work, especially if the community is a rural one.
What kind of ideologies and social structures do embryonic communities discuss?
Check out the texts of existing embryonic and existing communities on the diggers and dreamers website to find out the whole range of ideological focuses encompassed. In general,these are the issues you will be discussing.
How long can I expect to be in discussion with an embryonic group?
Anything up to two years. Longer than this and you have to ask yourself: is this going anywhere? There are plenty of people who prefer dreaming to digging!
How do we go about finding an appropriate property?
All UK councils have a buildings at risk register. This is a list of properties in need of repair from country homes to architectural follies to farm houses, old castles and the like. A rich source of properties, some of which are for sale. The list provides addresses and contact names and numbers as well as details of the state of repair. Contact the local planning department for more details. Other routes are low-impact living or ecological buildings, perhaps self-build.
Where would I go to find other people who want to start a community?
It’s hard work starting a community by yourself! Ideas become better developed when they’ve been fashioned by several people. Visit some communities first – you may meet some like-minded people. Once you’ve got a handful of people and a clearer concept of what you want to set up, then place an advert on the Places needing People page of this website. Advertise in the national and local papers. Book onto one of the living in community weekends or week-long workshops run by some of the existing communities.
Are there any financial organisations sympathetic to co-operative/community living?
Yes, they include Radical Routes, Rootstock, the Triodos bank and the Ecology Building Society (see Links).
How long does it take to leave if I decide to move away?
Probably at least a months notice if you are in a rented situation. For those of you who may have invested capital then the process will be longer. If the community chooses the new member for your space not you, then this can take time. See above.