The word is out that some 90% of IC startups fail. Lack of preparedness can account for some of it. But faced with such colossal rates of failure, we should dig further. It is my contention that they fail because they toil within a paradigm where the odds are heavily against them.

They start with business meetings and legal documents, buying land and developing it, and trying to make it all green around the edges. The bulk of the group’s energies go into the vast numbers of challenging tasks that have to do with building physical structures. The web of relationships gets a short shrift amidst all the busyness and deadlines and decisions that need to be made. The challenging and relentless contingencies of development take precedence over nearly everything else.

The momentum that carries them forward is the hope that somewhere there is an end of the tunnel and they can finally relax and enjoy their neighbors. (If they can still stand them after all the stress and compromises.) But why pursue a paradigm that is so laborious, so unfun, and so prone to burnout and failure?
Most would-be communitarians enter it clueless, often among a bunch of untested strangers, with few resources and fewer practical skills. They learn and invent it all as they go. Even an experienced developer would take many years with such a huge project (e.g. cohousing or eco-neighborhood). When a group of people needs to agree on near every detail, the difficulties are multiplied.

And what is so radical about dealing with real estate, banks, accountants, legal documents and incorporation, by-laws, zoning boards and health departments, and bulldozing roads? Typically, the only radical part is learning an inclusive decision making process. Once the project is well under way, alternative building methods and gadgets come to the fore in some communities. Other than that, it’s same old same old.

Why not start with being good neighbors and friends first? If we pour all our love and energy and enthusiasm into caring for one another, we have true community wherever we are. Why spend our primary energies on more stuff, more development? Is this what the planet needs? Isn’t the truly radical choice to spend them on people and other living beings who are in community with us?

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