Share The Land

How To Build Intentional Communities

Are you sure you want to do this? Building an intentional community is one of the hardest things you can do. Have you visited many intentional communities? If not, you’re not ready; consider checking out nearby intentional communities on Starting a new community before spending a significant amount of time at a significant number of communities is a recipe for disaster.

If you’ve gotten your feet wet and participated in processes like decision making at existing intentional communities, you know it’s always going to be challenging to do this work, and also that this work is extremely important.

There is no substitute for experience. You must spend time at these kinds of communities before you can create one. If you have done that and you are ready, then here is the collected wisdom of many many others who have done this and learned the hard lessons so that you can take the next steps. Good luck, brave friend!

The Golden Circle

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Simon Sinek’s excellent TED Talk about how successful projects think about the relationship between why, how, and what. This is the lens through which our index is organized.

Simon Sinek why how what golden circle

The most important central concept is the reason why you are doing the project. Most people don’t understand the why, they gut stuck on the what. Without the “why,” the “what” will not work.

Intention starts with why. This lens can be applied to everything from fundraising to conflict resolution to building infrastructure. The why is the foundation for all your decisions and projects, and the how and what will be shaped by this intention.

Understanding why you’re doing something helps you find concepts that resonate with you and inform your decisions. It also allows you to branch out and find more resources from other leaders who specialize in similar thinking about what you’re doing. Understanding why you’re doing something can help guide the structure and create a holistic perspective of the whole project and all the important things you will need to address in order to succeed.

Who Are We And Why Are We Making This Index?

We are a loosely affiliated group of people who have spent years building intentional communities, communes, permaculture farms, and other adjacent and similar projects. You may know us from social media or television.

Emberfield Ecovillage Kitchen Construction

One of the key insights that led to the creation of this index is the fact that building these kinds of places is a very different art and craft than administering them or living at them. The tools, concepts, and skills are almost completely unrelated; it’s a fundamentally different kind of project, and there is less detailed information available for those seeking to embark on the project of building such a community.

Most of us use channels like TikTok and Youtube to try to get the word out about what we’re doing and how others can replicate our successes and learn from our failures. One of the challenges to disseminating information through these channels is that it can be hard to find the specific type of information or content you’re looking for, or to get a holistic high-level view of all the topics in one place.

During the construction of the Emberfield Ecovillage project in spring of 2023, we decided to create this index in order to help others find the many sources of these important details so that many more projects like ours can spring up all over the world. Seeing everything organized in one place was hugely important for me when I got my Urban Planning degree. Being able to conceptualize the structure and relationship between these topics is key to gaining a holistic perspective on the whole project and all the important things you will need to address in order to succeed.

Why do you want to build an intentional community?

  • Put good systems in place early: These are things everyone needs to agree on before you start.
    • Agree On How To Add People
    • Agree On How To Handle Conflict: It Will Happen
    • Beware: The Tyranny of Structurelessness
    • Agree On How To Remove People
    • Agree On A Shared Ownership Model
  • Once you have group consensus on how to add and remove people, how to resolve conflicts, how the land is owned; start raising money and buy the land.
    • Fundraising
    • Buying Land
    • Safer, Equitable Legal Structures for Ownership


How will you build this intentional community?

These concepts cover the way you connect your why to your what; these are more than philosophical paradigms, they are long lineages of history and experimentation. Finding the concepts that resonate with you will help you branch out to find more resources and leaders who specialize in thinking about what you’re doing in the same way you think about what you’re doing.

  • Important Concepts To Keep In Mind
    • Outward Focus: direct group tension and thinking outward instead of inward.
    • Mutual-Aid: helping others should be central to the mission.
    • Permaculture: improve the land rather than degrading it.
    • Arcology: build dense and close, preserve surrounding ecology.
    • Resident Stewardship: take care of the land and its plants and animals.
  • Urban Theory: Important takeaways from thousands of years of thought and experimentation.
    • The Dunbar Number: How big is too big?
    • Human settlements are processes, not places.
    • The settlements of the future will look as different from the settlements of today as the settlements of today look from the settlements of yesterday.
  • Build a Community Library


What will you build in your intentional community?

Infrastructure refers to the long-lived engineered structures central to economic and social development. These are the first and most important central pieces of any part of the built environment. They are the seed from which the physical structure of the community will grow. All of these major categories are vital for human survival and flourishing. The subpoints address the way your community’s situation may differ in its implementation of critical infrastructure from other communities.

In the words of Paolo Lugari of the famous Gaviotas community which successfully turned a desert into a rain forest, “Social experiments cannot simply import solutions from more temperate climates.” The examples we illustrate and explain here are a good place to start but the best infrastructure solutions for your community will never be the same as what works for someone else; it’s up to you to decide how and what to build so that your infrastructure is well suited for your situation.


  • Build Order: Where to start?
  • Developing Your Infrastructure
    • Buildings For People
      • The Argument For Shared Community Kitchens
      • Shared Living Spaces
      • Root Cellars
      • Climate Controls
    • Food Infrastructure
      • Responsible Irrigation
      • Companion Planting
      • Avoiding Pesticides
      • Regenerative Soil Practices
      • Growing Through Frost
        • Cold Frames
        • Green Houses
      • Chicken Tractors
      • Trellises and Espalier
      • Storing Food
    • Water Infrastructure
      • Sourcing Water
        • Rain Catchment
        • Wells
        • Surface Water and Filtration
        • Atmospheric Water Generators
      • Storing and Distributing Water
      • Heating Water
        • Passive Water Heating Techniques
        • Active Water Heating Techniques
    • Power Infrastructure
      • Sourcing Power
        • Solar Power
        • Biogas for Electricity
        • Wind Power
        • Microhydro Power
        • Power From Animals
        • Biodiesel
      • Storing Power
        • Batteries
        • Gravity
        • Fuel Cells
      • Climate Controls
        • Heating Your Spaces
        • Cooling Your Spaces
    • Workshops and Crafts
      • Managing Tools
      • Wood Craft
      • Metal Craft
        • Building Forges
      • Ceramics
        • Sourcing Materials
        • Building Kilns
        • Bioceramics
    • Connectivity Infrastructure
      • Cell Boosters
      • Satellite Internet
    • Recycling Infrastructure
      • Closing Loops
      • Ash
      • Compost
        • Composting Food
        • Composting Toilets
      • Metals
      • Plastics
      • Biochar
      • Fibers
        • Bioceramics
        • Making Rope
    • Sewage Infrastructure
      • Compost Toilets
      • Biogas Reactors
        • Biogas for Heat
        • Biogas for Electricity