According to Geoph Kozeny of Community Catalyst Project in San Francisco, California, an "intentional community is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. The people may live together on a piece of rural land, in a suburban home, or in an urban neighborhood, and they may share a single residence or live in a cluster of dwellings."
This definition spans a wide variety of groups, including (but not limited to) communes, student cooperatives, land co-ops, cohousing groups, monasteries and ashrams, and farming collectives. Although they are quite diverse in philosophy and lifestyle, these groups all place a high priority on fostering a sense of community — a feeling of belonging and mutual support that is increasingly hard to find in mainstream Western society.
Intentional communities are like people — you can categorize them based on certain distinguishing characteristics, but no two are ever identical. Differences among them, whether obvious or subtle, can be attributed to variations in philosophy, in mission or project emphasis, in behavioral norms, or in the personality and style of the leaders (if the group has identified leaders) and the individual members.
The Fellowship for Intentional Community (www.fic.ic.org) lists over 1,000 intentional communities in the United States and 250 in other places around the world.
If you are interested in living in an intentional community, or researching the possibilities, here are some resources that will give you a variety of perspectives.
The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus by David Janzen
David Janzen helped found New Creation Fellowship, a Christian intentional community in Newton, Kansas. In 1984, he and his wife moved to Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston, Illinois, where Janzen now runs an affordable housing ministry. He has visited many Christian Intentional Communities and is familiar with the blessings, benefits, and challenges faced by these idealists who often share possessions and live in close proximity to each other. . . . read more of our review.
In an interview for the "Take & Read" blog, Janzen discusses how the Christian community movement is driven by believers who take seriously the radical teachings of Jesus and the challenge of living in a close, seven-day-a-week community where practice, sharing, and mutual caring are pre-eminent. He also talks about what he has learned about nurturing and growing intentional communities.