What builds a coliving is a intentional communities; this is in fact the basis of the very idea of coliving. It is treated as something taken for granted, as it is actually the most extraordinary, as well as the most difficult aspect to realise in any context.
A community is not simply a group of people; to be such there must be connection and identification between the members of the group. A intentional communities is so if there are real ties what is produced is a friendship, a being with and for each other, a feeling, and an understanding. In this perspective, the community satisfies the primary need of the human being: sociality. As Aristotle says, we are social animals.
Building purpos,intentional communities
Creating a intentional communities from scratch is an arduous challenge, which requires not one, but several people, to give themselves totally, be involved and open to the new and the different. In sum, collective engagement must be catalysed, a communal will must be produced, and a shared goal must be built.
The writer and contributor of the Harvard Business Review, Washington Post, New York Times and Financial Time, John Coleman, argues that a purpose is not something that you can find, it is something that you need to build. What is held as true about purpose in its abstract conception is false. First, there is no absolute and singular purpose, it is not a sole nor rigid thing. Goals in general are multiple, have to do with every sphere of living, and have different sources, such as family, work, and the way one wants to live (Coleman, 2017). Above all, they can change and transform at least as much as the person who creates them.
According to Tomas Nores, psychologist, and community facilitator for AGAIA, the first step in the experience, journey or way of life that is coliving, consists of sharing one’s values and desires, and understanding what is meaningful to each individual in the group. “We share what is important for us in order to create a safe space for everybody, honouring the truth of ourselves.” Values are not simply shared, but put together, creating a sense of belonging and scope. The questions that, according to Nores, need to be asked are as follows.
“What kind of community do we want to create?
What are the core values that we want to promote?
What are our shared interests and beliefs?”
An intentional communities can be if and only if there is “commitment from a group of people who share common vision and values“. What begins to be built is a community culture, the product of like-minded people or people that are eager to explore diversity and exchange.
Engage in collaboration
Nores also argues that, creating a place where everyone can feel safe and free to express what they are and feel, requires that each person, both individually and with the group, questions how he or she interacts with others, whether one really pays attention or just waits her or his turn to speak. A constant commitment to listening, respecting, and giving feedback is necessary.
Francesca Gino, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, discusses sustained engagement in the article Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration.
Gino states that collaboration, not only in a work environment, but also in any setting where a group of people come together, is not a value that must be cultivated, but a skill that must be taught. Gino, through her research on the field, has concluded that, in order to build intentional communities and collective commitment, one must use a psychological method that she has formalised into six training techniques. Through these, people are enabled to “work well together, learn from one another, and overcome the psychological barriers that get in the way of doing both. They all help people connect more fully and consistently” (Gino, 2019).
The first technique aims at teaching people to listen, really listen. Gino indicates ways to do that: ask expansive questions; focus on the listener, and not on yourself; engage in self-check; and become comfortable with silence (ibid).
The second consists of training people to practise empathy, expanding others’ thinking, and looking for the unspoken (ibid).
The other techniques are intended to make people comfortable with receiving feedback and criticism, taking these moments as opportunities to learn and grow.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of a team is measured by the cooperation of its members.
The safer, the more effectual IN intentional communities
Another Professor of Harvard Business School, Amy Edmonson, addresses this topic in terms ranging from effectiveness to the need for the psychological safety of a team. Edmonson is a Professor of Leadership, an organizational behavioural scientist, and the researcher that first introduced the construct of team psychological safety: “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking” (Edmondson, 1999).
According to Google researchers, psychological safety is what makes a team effective more than anything else (re:Work). “Individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave” workplaces, projects etc., and “more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives” (ibid). When there’s psychological safety, the members of a group believe that they won’t be embarrassed, rejected, denigrated, mocked, or humiliated by the fellow teammates. For this reason, the members don’t fear repercussion, they speak up for their ideas, take risks, and solicit feedbacks (Leading Effectively Staff, 2023).
Team psychological safety, through learning and performance behaviours, is connected to team efficacy (Edmondson, 1999). People demonstrate more engagement, show understanding, and are inclusive both in international settings and decision making, lowering the average level of interpersonal conflicts (ibid). “Each member brings unique skills, perspectives, and experience to their collective work that shape their interpretation of the workplace” or, in our case, of the community that we are creating together (Loignon et all, 2022).
Edmonson’s research shows that team structures and shared beliefs shape group trust, bonds, outcomes, and happines
Our intentional communities
In the process of building community, every resident of the coliving has to be involved in the process of decision making. Building identity is possible only if everybody takes part of the project and feel it has their own product.
During an edition of The Break Fellowship program for female entrepreneurs, one of the participant, talking about the community building process, said that “what is most valuable is the safe space we created for us to be our whole”. Being in an environment that fosters free speech and cooperation makes people engage in operational processes, discussing intentional communities needs, communicating expectations and doubts, and creating bonds that can result in friendships and in a family of choice. Nores suggests that proposing activities, sharing hobbies, worries, and desires, having activity, trips, and adventures together, facilitate connections, and of course, fun and discoveries.
Nevertheless, alone moments are needed. The coliving experience aims at combining privacy and togethers in a lifestyle that suits the individual and the group needs, fulfil them day after day, in a harmonious way with the surroundings.
Such a journey is made of daily learning, challenges, opportunities, and engagement, that are embrace because we are realizing something that is as intimate as shared, because we choose to live in another way.
Coleman, J. 2017. You Don’t Find Your Purpose – You Build It. Harvard Business Review.
Leading Effectively Staff. 2023. What Is Psychological Safety at Work? How Leaders Can Build Psychologically Safe Workplaces. Center for Creative Leadership.
Edmondson, A. 1999. Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly.
Gino, F. 2019. Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration. Six new tools for training people to work together better. Harvard Business Review.
Loignon A. Wormington S. 2022. Psychologically Safe for Some, but Not All? The Downsides of Assuming Shared Psychological Safety among Senior Leadership Teams. Center for Creative Leadership.
re:Work. Guide: Understand Team Effectiveness. Tool: Foster Psychological Safety. re:Work Blog.
Conscious Coliving. The Conscious Coliving Manifesto. Toolkit.
Lesniak M. Perdrix G. Ritter N. The Community Facilitation Handbook. V1.0. Art of Co, Conscious Coliving.
re:Work. Manager Actions For Psychological Safety. How To Foster Psychological Safety On Your Teams. re:Work Blog.