See also value void, values vacuum chat in this series.
As I look back from 2021 on the past 50 years of intentional community, some patterns are come clear to me. For example, the most sustainable and long-lived communities were always those with clear; and, written statements of their truly human values. This is also the short answer to the question, “Why are most successful, long-lived communities organized around spirituality in some form?”
The Devil is in the group process detail. We can be more specific.
What works is healthy governance. Healthy governance for ICs is not one group, it’s two-fold, two groups. One group must govern and problem-solve operations and personnel coming and going. Separate from the governing body, a smaller group, often a sub-set of the governing body, usually 3–5 persons — is needed. This group acts as the values container. They function to keep the community’s truly human values at the top of their values hierarchy, keep them stable, keep them front-of-mind; and, refresh them with updated language accessible to younger generations.
Examples? In the USA, the Supreme Court functioned this way, as a values container for progressives and universals, for a while, approximately 1965–1985. In 2021, multiple problems in the US track back to the Supreme Court no longer functioning as a values container for liberals-progressives. Since 2001 at least, the Supremes have functioned primarily as a values container for the Republican Regressives and Monied Elites.
The other familiar example for many will be governance in the most successful and most long-lived Waldorf independent schools.
When these schools work well, the main governance body is the weekly faculty meeting. Within this group, is a steering Committee; it goes by varied names. They act to hold the vision of the school stable; and, aligned with the truly human values at the top of the orgs values hierarchy. Within the Steering Committee, 100% of members are card-carrying Anthroposophists, students of Rudolf Steiner. While these Waldorf schools are not Christian schools in any overt way, at the top, in the Steering Committee, teachers who are students of Steiner, adhere to a vision of Christ as the goal-post, the finish line for what humanity as a whole is evolving towards.
This vision of the Christ, devolves form this “inner circle,” to the governing body.
From the governing body, an alignment with the Christ is conveyed to the whole faculty (many of whom are not Anthroposophists).
From the faculty body, an alignment with the Christ is conveyed to all school staff.
From all school staff, an alignment with the Christ is conveyed to the children.
From the children, an alignment with the Christ is conveyed to the parents.
From the parents, an alignment with the truly human values of the Christ are conveyed to the local neighborhood and local wider community.
The above step-wise transmission of truly human values, from the top of an org’s values hierarchy all the way down to the wider outside community, can and does happen in some ICs. Look for them. Learn from them.
To Learn More
1) Mark Robert Waldman” famous TEDx Conejo talk — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvhCLXEeSDQ
2) “How To Clarify Your Values (2): Prioritize Your Values Hierarchy” (2020) — https://nlppod.com/prioritise-values-hierarchy/
3) How the Left split between 1960s activists and Cultural Creatives and Spiritual Creatives. Unpublished paper. Available on request from author of this article.