Chapter 5
Taking the Long-Term View

Community is Not for Sale

How do we build shared living spaces designed to nurture community? This inquiry has fueled the evolution of PURE over the past two decades. Communities are like movements, they depend on collaborative action. An attempt to start one without understanding why is rarely effective.

As humans, we need to connect and belong

Our wellbeing depends on nurturing authentic connections with others. Historically speaking, most people that attempt to build communities are driven by a belief that something fundamentally needed is lacking. It can simply start from self-realization: “I feel lonely” evolving to collective approval: “so do many others around me” towards solution-oriented action: “let’s build a community”. When our actions are driven by a perspective on the gap between the current perception and desired situation, we seek to minimise the gap to create a new reality. It is imperative to take this into consideration if we desire to live in nurturing communities, as our yearning can be an impediment to experiencing that which we desire.

As social creatures, belonging is a basic human need. Our actions are driven by a predisposition to connect. Thus, when the circumstances are ripe, people will connect on their own. This is the challenge and opportunity presented by the modern shared living movement. How do we intentionally design shared living spaces that invite authentic connection?

We crave connection, yet we struggle (Inner Child, Burning Man, 2015)

Building a community is like raising a family

Any parent will tell you some version of ‘raising a family is  the hardest and the best thing they’ve ever done’. Fueled by compassion and care, it requires tough love, boundary setting and endless amounts of energy. Like raising a family, there is no instruction manual for fostering nurturing communities. However, most of the work is in the design and planning.

Intention

As Simon says, ‘start with why’. Our thoughts beget our words, beget our actions. Together they are the force of creation. As community facilitators, it’s essential that we clarify our intentions and align our actions. This will call our vision into being by attracting an aligned community of individuals. This might translate into the crafting of our mission statement, the design of our website and how we communicate about the project.

Care

With deep commitment, compassion and care, we tune every detail and every action to the clear intentions that drive the project. If we desire nurturing community, we must create the ideal circumstances for healthy connections to form between people. That begins and ends with safety. For people to bring all their passion and purpose to an experience, they must feel safe to do so. On a meta level, this manifests through the integration process and experience design. At its simplest level, this is defined by how one is received by the community and the events, experiences and rituals that bring people together and invite them to form nurturing bonds with one another.

Weekly family meeting, PURE in Bali, March 2020

Surrender

And the final ingredient is the most challenging of all: surrender. Just like our children, communities cannot be controlled. Any attempt will be rejected, often with great force. Communities are always interdependent and independent. This gets tricky when we’re building a for-profit enterprise that depends on community, and also requires strategies to mitigate risk by establishing control factors. Nonetheless, community is not for sale.

People almost always love being treated well - with genuine hospitality, this is the secret ingredient. When the focus is hospitality and creating an exceptional experience for others, community will be the natural byproduct. When wellbeing is the highest priority, people live well. Healthy relationships go hand and hand with a healthy lifestyle. It’s time to stop being obsessed about community building and start focussing on the core: the wellbeing of individual human beings as a natural force of healthy community.

Community event, Paragons of Possibility, hosted at PURE, October 2020

At PURE, we believe that modern shared living templates is becoming the primary format for how humans choose to live. The most successful ones will empower an integrated lifestyle while balancing individual needs with the common good; the desire for community with the need for privacy. They will present the foundation, structure and process by which community emerges interdependantly and organically.

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