Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological concept first introduced by Abraham Maslow in the 1940s. It proposes that humans have an innate set of needs that guide our behavior. The hierarchy is arranged in five tiers and suggests that humans must satisfy their needs in order from the bottom up. Most notably, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests that once our basic physiological needs are met, our motivation to seek higher-order needs like esteem and self-actualization increases.
Our whole modern society is built around renting the fulfilment of these needs. That’s why people go to work every day at jobs they hate; not for the false promise of “getting ahead” or moving up in the social order, but because capitalism has built a system where the fulfilment of our needs has become a subscription model that we have to find a way to pay for. This is what we are trying to change with this project, because all of our needs are things we can fulfil ourselves, together, through permaculture and mutual aid.
Shifting the source of fulfilment for our needs to sustainable alternatives to today’s fragile incumbent institutions is the most central point of what we are doing. The goal should never be economic growth or the making of money, but rather, it should be to survive and thrive without relying on fragile external infrastructure like power grids and grocery stores or supply chains for the essential needs of the community.
At the base of Maslow’s hierarchy are physiological needs; these are fundamental biological requirements for human survival like food, water, shelter, clothing, and excretion. In order to feel secure in meeting these needs without relying on fragile external institutions, intentional communities can build their own systems such as permaculture farms for food production; rainwater catchment systems; compost toilets; animal tractors; biogas energy generation; regenerative soil practices; cold frames and greenhouses for year-round food production; and more.
Safety and Security Needs
Once our physiological needs have been met, we can turn our focus towards safety and security needs. Safety of body is important for health security both physical and mental in nature. Work security is important both financial prosperity but also psychological stability that comes with having a secure job or role within an intentional community. Health security refers to access quality medical care which can be provided through mutual aid networks or other forms of direct support between members of an intentional community. Lastly, security of place refers to feeling safe in one’s home environment; this can be achieved through fostering a culture of respect and open communication in one’s intentional community.
Love and Belonging
The next tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is love and belonging. This includes family, friends, sexual intimacy, and other forms of human connection. Intentional communities provide an opportunity to cultivate these relationships in unique ways, especially when you consider the broad network of these communities full of people who are working on the same project you are. By living with others who share similar values and goals for the future of their community, intentional communities are able to provide support networks that are difficult to find elsewhere.
Once our love and belonging needs have been met, our focus shifts towards esteem needs like self-esteem, recognition, and respect. Self-esteem comes from your estimation of the way those people close to you would evaluate where you’re at; in intentional community, self-esteem is a natural biproduct of working together towards the goal of everyone getting their needs met sustainably. Intentional communities provide an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with others based on mutual respect for each other’s unique skills and talents. Additionally, intentional communities allow members to take on roles or projects that give them a sense of purpose or accomplishment which helps build self-esteem over time.
At the top of Maslow’s hierarchy are self-actualization needs. These refer to the need for humans to reach their full potential through morality, creativity, problem solving, spontaneity, and more. Intentional communities provide an opportunity for members to explore new ideas through collaborative projects that serve the common good while helping individuals achieve personal growth at the same time.
Bringing it all Together
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is an excellent framework to keep in mind when designing intentional communities. Central to what we are doing is deliberately finding ways of shifting the source of fulfilment for our needs from fragile incumbent institutions built on ten-thousand-mile supply chains to instead find fulfilment in sustainable alternatives that we can create together.
To be clear, you don’t need a community for most of this; a family or even a very small group can do all of this successfully, but a lone wolf can not. The difference with community is that permaculture and mutual aid become far more resilient against unexpected problems, and far better able to integrate a diverse range of perspectives which will — by definition — always come up with better answers to new problems than a smaller group ever could.