How many members in a community is ideal? How do you decide?

I’m starting down the path of forming an intentional community. I have a pretty clear idea of vision and values, but I’m having trouble deciding what size of community we should be aiming for. I know there are pros and cons to all sizes, and it comes down to preference and feasibility/logistics/funding. But I’d love to hear from others how they decided what their ideal size of community is and why, and how you came about to that decision.

Swirling around in the back of my head is an ideal range of members somewhere between 20 and 60. That seems like enough people to support the shared resources we’re looking to have, and have a solid system of sociocracy for decision making, while still being manageable, and enabling everyone to get to know everyone else.

I’m also concerned with exceeding Dunbar’s number of 150 (yes I know it’s not exactly a science, but as a concept seems reasonable). I acknowledge that people will have families, friends, coworkers, etc outside the community, so my thought is to try to keep the total number of members far enough below 150 to account for people’s outside relationships. I think it’s important for social cohesion that members are able to know one another, and not just be an anonymous face.

Have you lived in an IC and felt the number of members was right? Or would have benefited from being smaller or larger? Or are you on your own path to creating a community of your own and have thoughts on what makes an ideal size? I’m excited to hear what you have to share!

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Are you planning on needing investments (loans, mortgages, etc.) for assets to achieve your vision and values? If so, have you considered how the buy-in, recurring, etc. costs plus sustaining personal work tasks require a certain membership size to adequately resource? Seems this would be your sizing lower bound. For the other bounds, at what size-based resourcing breakpoints do you realize or incur additional costs or person hour requirements? These breakpoints can be the upper sizing bounds you select. This should be a strictly quantitative inquiry.

We will definitely need investments/financing/funding to make this happen. I have some funds to contribute myself, but far from enough to cover the cost of land and building materials.

There gets to be a chicken-and-egg scenario with size of community and funds needed - the bigger the community, the more it will cost because there will be more to build, and the more it will cost to build the more members that need to contribute to the cost to cover it. So instead I was planning to get an idea of number of members first, to see what we would assume for costs, and then factor what buy-in costs would be.

As for the upper size-based break points you mention, do you have some examples? Do you mean food production and water supply and such? We’re not planning for a fully self-sufficient community, so we’re not bound by people per acre or that sort of thing.

You’ve brought up some good things to consider! I’m just trying to wrap my head around how to make those quantifications :slightly_smiling_face:

What I’ve learnt about this over time is that its so exciting and easy to have lofty goals! But if your starting goals are too unwieldy for those who are dialed in then things can go sideways. Though its not the right approach for everyone, I’m coming to conclude that, at least for me, starting small at first may be the best route, and then when land next door comes up for sale or some such in the future you can always expand. The idea of things being smaller in phase 1 but in each phase things grow.

Yes exactly. Start small, that I think is the way to go.

These are all good questions. I heard the story of Ethan Hughes who started an intentional community in Missouri and was very successful. How they did it was to gather a few people who were interested and they all looked at who they knew that they could borrow from. This avoided going to the banks and it wasn’t left for just one or two people to come up with the money. Money after all is the reason we don’t live like humans on this earth so minimizing each person’s struggle to come up with it, makes it much easier. They found when they did that, they had ample. What is needed is a core group of interested founders who work on coming up with the money and creating a customized blueprint to get it started. I would be very happy to engage in this as I am seriously looking to get out of “normal” life.

We started with a core group of 4 that chose the site and set up the legal strcucture and initial agreements. I think its v important to keep the group v small in the inital stages. Later say 20-30 couples or families will be ideal but you will want the basics bedded down with a small number first to avoid too much chaos and inability to make decisions and get momentum