“Community” Definitions

Communities Creating a New World

What is an Intentional Community?

Of all the different types of communities in this movement we see “intentional community” to be the most broad inclusive definition. We define an intentional community or community of intent to be any socially cohesive group of people working, living, learning and/or playing together in a circle of common understanding toward a common purpose or cause – whether it be cultural, social, political, economic or ecological.  Some intentional communities are based on a specific urban or rural piece of land.  Others are defined solely by their cultural or social unity or by their cause – some combine all of these.

What is an Ecovillage?

An ecovillage is an intentional community that strives to embrace the best possible practices in sustainable and regenerative systems design by integrating all aspects of community living – ecological, economic, cultural, social and political.   The “classic” definition of ecovillage – coined by Robert Gilman is:

“an ecovillage is a human-scale, full-featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development, with multiple centers of initiative, and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.”

An excellent discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this definition is found this link.

Kosha Joubert, President of the Global Ecovillage Network, more recently has defined an Ecovillage as an intentional or traditional community consciously designed by its inhabitants, in which people consciously value what they have and integrate this with innovative technologies to make their lives more sustainable, and that the whole process is locally owned by the people living there. This is in order to regenerate social and natural environments. Sustainability is not enough and so this has led to a redefinition that it is important to regenerate the social and environmental fabric of life. The last part is that this works in all four dimensions of sustainability, socially, environmentally, economically and culturally[5]

Most ecovillages do not come close to attaining full integrated sustainability or regenerative ability.  What’s crucial here is the striving toward this – the intent to ever evolve toward increasing sustainability and regenerative ability.

Four Quadrant Sustainability

All of these community types might be included in the definition of “sustainable” but often that term is just reserved for ecological sustainability.  For a community to be defined as an “ecovillage”, we understand that to mean that they are striving for sustainability in an integrated way including all 4 of the following aspects of community:

  • Ecology – Technology:  embracing and developing renewable and sustainable technologies and working closely with Nature through the application of the burgeoning field of permaculture to provide food, water, raw materials and shelter in a sustainable harmonious and  beautiful way.
  • Social – Political:  working on new “social DNA” through the use of individual and group facilitation techniques, personal and group empowerment processes and developing new ways of sharing power through cutting edge political structures and decision making methods.
  •  Economy developing new ways of generating and sharing wealth of all kinds through new paradigm economic tools, relationships and systems.
  • Culture & the Arts – unleashing the possibilities of new cultures through gathering, play, ritual, and the expressions of the Arts.


What is a Sustainable Community?

A sustainable community is one that seeks to create a culture whose way of life can continue indefinitely into the future while maintaining the integrity of the ecological system upon which it is based.   “Sustainability” is often used in the environmental movement since the vast majority of our present technological systems are not sustainable ecologically.  Many sustainable communities however extend this concept to include social, economic and cultural sustainability as well.  When they do – we consider them ecovillages.  Ecovillages strive to be sustainable communities – and as the graphic below shows  – sustainability is not necessarily a static goal nor does it represent the pinnacle of being an ecovillage.

What is a Regenerative Community?

A regenerative community takes sustainability one step further – with the essential realization that in addition to our systems and practices being sustainable indefinitely – they need to be contributing to the integrity, diversity and collective intelligence of the systems upon which they are based.  Permaculture is the practice of humans working with Nature to co-create natural systems that inherently increase in bio-diversity and ecological integrity while also – as a natural result – providing food, raw materials and shelter for humans – not as the primary output but as an integral result of increasing ecological integrity for all species and the Earth itself.

What is a Transformational Learning Community?

Many new groups are forming as “learning communities” – or “communities of practice”.  These groups are drawn together in the study of many of the essential elements of our shift to a sustainable, regenerative future.  We consider them “transformational” because either the body of practice and knowledge they are bringing forth is transformational for humanity at this time or the members of the learning community experience transformational growth by being part of the community.

What about Indigenous Groups, Transition Town Groups, Church Groups, or Sustainability Projects?

To us they are all “communities of intent”.  First People’s Groups or Traditional Villages were the first ecovillages and we have much to learn from them.   VillageLab wishes to support all groups working toward a sustainable, thriving, culturally diverse and positive future.  All these groups have so much to offer and teach and we see them all as potential partners and recipients of support.  See our “Who Benefits” page or view this graphic to see 12 different types of communities and projects we welcome working with.