Just Move Forward! & "Pioneers & Settlers" re Solar Village in Utah. Cohousing-L Digest, Vol 65, Issue 13
From: Diana Leafe Christian (dianaic.org)
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 05:31:22 -0700 (PDT)

On Jun 12, 2009, at 6:16 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] cohousing.org wrote:

Sharon's and Charles' descriptions of the founders of Utah Valley Commons deciding not to wait illustrates two things I learned about what does and doesn't work well in forming new intentional communities, from my research in the 1990s about what seemed to make forming groups succeed or fail.

The first is the principle that the initial small group of founders does not wait for others to join them before creating their mission & purpose documents (or doing other early tasks), just as Sharon and Charles describe.

To _not_ take the approach, "We can't do this by ourselves . . . it wouldn't be fair to those who might join us in the future; they'll want to have a say in this too!" While I can see why people would want to follow their impulse to be inclusive and kind to people they haven't met yet, "Waiting for Godot" just delays (and delays) getting a firm and cohesive group together. I've known groups that took this approach. It didn't work for them, and they felt increasingly demoralized as nothing moved forward. They finally sprang into life once the group members decided to wait no longer. When the small founding group goes ahead and takes action, the new group members who join them understand and support the founders' shared mission & purpose. Then, as they come along, new members help the group with each next phase, such as choosing and learning its decision-making method, creating its site criteria, buying the site, and so on.

The second, closely related principle I call "Pioneers & Settlers." The small group of founders -- the "pioneers" -- are able to visualize what's not there yet. Visionaries with faith in their vision, willing to take an entrepreneurial risk. (Every founding group I've ever studied at any length included at least one, and usually several, folks entrepreneurial, risk-taking spirit.) However, some early members leave when things get too real. They step back and take a "wait & see" attitude. They want to know how the project will turn out before they invest their heart, time, energy, and money. I call these folks "settlers." Many of them will join the community, but later, after the pioneers have made some progress first. The settlers return, and bring their checkbooks.

The settlers need the pioneers to get the ball rolling, to make it happen. The pioneers need the settlers to help them with financial support when it's needed, and for many other kinds of support too.

It sure sounds to me like this is just what Utah Valley Commons did. And oh my gosh, the description of what they're planning to do sounds so wonderful and ecovillage-like I want to go visit them once they're built. Just need an excuse to go to Utah!


Diana Leafe Christian

Dear Sharon,

You are absolutely right! The UTAH VALLEY COMMONS decided over a year ago
NOT to wait until we had all, or even most, of the 40 households
committed. As you said, some good people will not make such a commitment until the project is further along. Instead, we decided to partner with a developer and seek outside investors -- and to put the infrastructure in
place for a cohousing community that will have these features:

1.  Passive solar design of all houses
2. Single-point solar power for the entire community. (Our own electric
utility company).
2.  Common ground-loop geothermal system for all houses (Our own
heating/cooling utility company).
3. Residential water from our own source and treated on site. (Our own
water utility company)
4.  On-Site waste treatment system with small package unit. (Our own
sewage utility company.)
5.  Over 40 acres devoted to organic gardening.
6.  Over 3 acres devoted to wetland.
7.  All houses built timber-frame and strawbale.

Our first ten lots will be sold at a substantial discount to the rest.
This is an incentive to early adopters.  We will be advertising very
widely once we get all the approvals in hand, including large billboards
up and down Interstate 15.

Thanks, Sharon, for understanding our vision so well. And please do pass the word -- we are very enthusiastic about our project, and welcome all

Best wishes,

Charles W. Nuckolls
Utah Valley Commons

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