Swedish Eco-village veteran shares valuable advice for ICs

Interview with Mia Torpe

Back in the 70s Mia and a few others decided to create an eco-village in a suburb of Stockholm. She still lives there, and is today environmental manger for a large housing organization. Her experience is invaluable for all would-be Intentional Community residents.

Here are some highlights of the advice she gave in a recent interview I did with her.

1) Get a queue and raise the stakes as you go along. Just by asking for USD 10 as a membership fee meant they lost a few people. Then they raised the fee to a monthly one and lost a few more. They required that queue members worked in the association a minimum number of hours, and they lost a few more. From gathering around 4000 names they still had difficulty selling 45 apartments.

2) Start with subject working groups from the beginning. For eco-building so much knowledge is needed if you are to be able to give good input to the building contractor. They had 4-5 groups. These later on organized study circles in which attendance was mandatory.

3) Three levels of purchase. They offered apartments as turn-key, finished shell requiring kitchen, plastering, finishing and simple empty shell.

4) The apartments were slightly smaller than average, focus being on creating more common areas.

5) You all need a common vision that needs formulating clearly.

6) Every project is unique.

7) There was a lot of “like to have” talk from members. In the end, because everything costs, they made a list and voted on the five most important factors to include in the project. This system was very effective for coming to agreement.

8) Mandatory working days are still in effect.

9) Decisions were made by consensus as far as possible. They were able to use the church to host large gatherings.

10) Get books. Build a library of information.

11) If Mia were to do this again she would try to eliminate the need for heating all together and create a so-called passive heating system. She is worried energy prices will increase living costs dramatically.

12) Hold large information meetings. These attract members.

13) Create a communal area – even if it is rudimentary. They could just about afford an uninsulated “barn” to meet in, but they gathered there even when it was cold – drinking beer and socialising. It was well worth it.

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