The term ‘intentional communities’ is widely used when describing ecovillages as a consciously shared intention is one of the basic pillars of most community projects. The importance and priority of setting intentions and the process to make such intentions shared, known and owned by the whole group is often an initial effort, but needs continuous attention. To have a common understanding of where the group wants to go is essential for having a good journey and for reaching the goals the group wants to reach. Some projects and communities are strongly intentional, often in spiritual directions, where intentions in other projects can be of a practical nature. Concepts used to describe intentions are many; including words like aims, values, goals, objectives, vision and mission.
Often intentions of a community and/or project serve to include certain people and exclude others, based on personal intentions and motivations for belonging to projects with certain characteristics (for example having animals, eating/not eating meat). Often clear intentions can inform who will be attracted by an intention and make it his/her own.
Indeed, the topic of “Intention” has several aspects and processes involved. There is the personal question: “What is my personal intention to start/join this project?”
This is important to be or to become aware of, as it influences the contributions from the individual to the community. Such personal intentions often meet personal needs like the need for friendships, living a meaningful life, maybe even to heal a love-relationship through a common project etc. Usually these personal motivations are not admitted sufficiently to us and even less to our peers in a project, but it is important and can be a chance for community-building to share these personal intentions as well, when creating an intentional project.
The next question is the question of the shared, community oriented intentions.
As said, these are usually defined like ”vision, mission and strategic goals”, which describe different levels of the state that seeks to be reached within the project.
Part of “Intention” is as well the very important aspect to “Position the Project in Society”. How is the project seen in relationship to society? Where and how does the project want to position itself? For creating successful projects, it is usually very helpful to search for alliances, both with like-minded projects and initiatives for mutual exchange and support, but also to the seemingly different stakeholders in the direct environment - often these alliances can be very fruitful and mutually inspiring.
The importance of clear intentions goes beyond the community value and touches on the clarity it can give to the surroundings; new members, cooperation partners, donors etc., to know what the project is actually about.
A short and precise vision, mission or strategic goals formulation on a website, a flyer or at a presentation can say a lot and assist to avoid confusion and misunderstandings. It is as well helpful for decision making processes as all decisions can be measured with the question “Can that support us in fulfilling our mission, reaching our strategic goals?”
The vision that every project develops, expresses the shared hope to implement in the human culture some values that are often neglected in mainstream society: Equity, mutual support, sustainability, gft economy, etc. To attempt to make these values reality through the mission that each project has chosen is in itself a creative process. It means to commit in the process to create a new culture.
It is important to include our knowledge of the group processes in the design of the strategies. To deepen the focus that usually centers around the results that we are aiming for (the “what”) to integrate the “how” and to leave space for the question of what happens if the things don’t develop as planned.