I am a scientist and I believe that scientific evidence is necessary for majority of important decisions. When we talk about building a community, there is another, much less concrete and easy to understand domain. It is people’s feelings and everything which is going in this bundle: values, relationships, openness, subjective perception, fairness, transparency, honest communication, unresolved conflicts, motivation, trust and so on. By no means I am an expert on this, just a very keen amateur and an observer.
I don’t think any organisation dealing with living people (all of course being vulnerable in one way or another), especially an intentional community, set as something intended to be beneficial and to recruit keen supporters, can go without addressing people’s feelings and their interrelationships, also the fairness of group’s practice from various points of view. No committees, protocols, agendas, rules, regulations and all the hellfire of bureaucracy can really deal with this delicate domain. I think we simply can’t build a better place without honest ethical/psychological considerations. It is not a precise science (yet?), feelings should not be used as the only justification for group decisions, yet it is something impossible to ignore or put under the carpet. Try – and see everything just sadly falling apart either in cold disinterest or in flames of a conflict…
The best way to deal with feelings and relationships, as far as I can see at the moment, is a constant honest conversation, both one to one between all the members of the group and within the whole group (on a condition that people are feeling safe to talk about their inner stuff). This should be done right from the beginning and on regular basis. Somehow this should be set as a group rule, carved in the founding stone. It’s not some new age woo woo, it is a necessity. There’s no way around it.
If some members of the group see “feeling talk” as just rocking the boat unnecessarily, imagine a bunch of people, all very nice, but all of them have they own vision of where their enterprise is going, not aware that some people find their conduct strange, not very considerate or even unethical… Everybody are afraid to admit their vulnerability (without which there won’t be any trust and true friendship)… Lots of people loosing their faith in the cause just because they have no chance to talk about it honestly and affirm their feelings or because their feedback always seems to fall on deaf ears… Nobody is asked for honest feedback very often anyway… Members don’t know where other’s strength and experience lies and don’t know who to ask for help and advice in different situations as all the doors in everybody’s inner worlds are always shut… And I haven’t even been in an intentional community yet – but seen it all. This is deadly poisonous stuff for any group, really. Even more so for an intentional community.