People, Land and Community

Business Incubator Programs

I have been waiting for the economy to jumpstart itself and nothing significant so far to report. How about you? Maybe you and I need to get out the jumper cables and do it ourselves! That is jumpstart at least our local economy. The German writer and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was quoted as saying:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Here is my idea – create a business incubator. OK, I don’t claim to have been the first to come up with this idea nor do I know who did but it is needed now more than ever.

Six areas to consider when developing business incubator programs in our communities:

  1. Partners – Partner with companies, organizations and governments in your community, region, state and nationally until you have the breadth and depth for success. It can grow organically – begin it now!
  2. Meeting space – Non-profits (Churches, Synagogues, schools, etc..) all have space they could lend for meetings, counseling or to hold classes. Maybe you or a client would be interested in lending a conference room or other space.
  3. Start-up capitalPrivate, State and Federal grants are available for green initiatives and others business ideas. Venture capital groups are interested in funding start-ups. I would also consider both traditional loans (SBA and local banks) and micro loans as businesses begin to emerge.
  4. Incubator space – Vacant space can be turned into temporary office, research, retail, manufacturing or warehouse space for small start-ups. Ideally they should be grouped together for taking advantage of synergies. There are companies who make a business out of providing space and services such as Office Suites Plus. The goal here would be to provide the space and resources necessary for economic growth and not for personal gain. Seek partners to put up monies or share in the expenses for configuring vacant space, basic services such as utilities and internet, insurances, etc… Convince local government to partner also. Let it be a community effort.
  5. Resources – Seek out local organizations who have people willing to donate their time and talent to help others start a business, have influence to make things happen and who can provide knowledge and information. Here is the short list: the local Economic Development Council, your town or city mayor, Jaycees, Rotary International Club, Chamber of Commerce, local colleges (Kutztown University’s Small Business Development Center, Rensselaer Incubation Program), US Small Business Administration, professional groups and local business groups.
  6. Free Tools – Yes and don’t forget all the free resources such as Social Media for networking and marketing (Blogging with WordPress…, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, …), Google (maps, analytics, reader, email and more), Yahoo (email, reader, etc.), Hubspot Software’s marketing resources (free SEO and Social Media training, website grader, etc.), Open Office software, Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer and so much more!

I hope this post was helpful and please add comments to it with your own ideas and resource links!



SEKEM Blending Value

SEKEM – An Agriculture Based Sustainable Community in the Egyptian Desert

            Jed Emerson in The Blended Value Proposition: Integrating Social and Financial Returns, volume 45 issue 4 of the California Management Review, says “In truth, the core nature of investment and return is not a trade-off between social and financial interest but rather the pursuit of an embedded value proposition composed of both.” He goes on to discuss how for-profit and not-for-profit companies are evolving beyond their legal forms and that these forms will need to somehow in the near future merge.  Companies are forming wholly owned subsidiaries, minority interests, partnerships and joint ventures across these forms of ownership in order to meet their social responsibility to all stakeholders. There are many companies that have not begun this transition and a few like The Gap and Procter & Gamble who are in transition. A few have succeeded in blending the triple bottom-line of economics, social and the environment into value creation. One such company is the Sekem Group. The Sekem Group started as an agriculture based industry thirty-three years ago and has  organically developed into a group of businesses, suppliers, and institutions with a global reach clustered around the base industry of agriculture.

             Emerson refers to companies, such as the Sekem Group, as “21st Century Managers.”

While many have referred to members of this managerial class as “social entrepreneurs,” the label “21st Century Manager” focuses less on “start-up” skills then those required for sustainable management of modern corporations. While some may have begun as social entrepreneurs, they must evolve into 21st Century Managers if they are to ultimately survive. They must engage in more than simply the social application of entrepreneurial skills and practice. At their best, they must create new knowledge and live within a higher level of economic, social, and environmental integration (Emerson 39).

Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish

Sekem’s founder, Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish a pharmaceutical engineer, had studied medicine and worked in Europe. After 25 years, he decided to return and help the people of Egypt, his home country, where he started the Sekem Initiative. The initiative was in the form of a new agricultural (Biodynamic farming practices) and social community located on a 70 hectare farm in the desert northeast of Cairo, Egypt. He sought to develop a sustainable community that was balanced economically, culturally and socially. His business model considered the needs of the consumer, distributor and producer. Sekem sought beneficial relationships with local, national and international small businesses, corporations, organizations and government entities including trade organizations and certifying bodies such as Demeter® and Fair Trade®. During times of need when a suitable organization did not exist, Sekem founded educational, health and trade organizations to fill that need. The organic development of Sekem as reported on their website (Sekem Group) is as follows:

1977  SEKEM was established by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, on an area of 70 hectares of desert sand. Biodynamic cultivation of the land started.

1981   SEKEM sent the first shipment of medicinal herbs and food ingredients to the U.S.A.

1981   SEKEM launched its first product line of herbal remedies on the local pharmaceutical market under the brand name SEKEM HERBS and foodstuff was introduced to the local market under the brand name ISIS. The ASSOCIATION FOR CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN EGYPT was founded as a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) in Germany.

1983   The EGYPTIAN SOCIETY FOR CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT (SCD) started its activities with employee training in the arts and science.

1984   ATOS PHARMA was established as a joint venture company between SEKEM,   Deutsche Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) and Dr. Schaette KG, to develop the Egyptian natural pharmaceutical market.

1986   The first SEKEM Kindergarten and the MAHAD Adult Training Institute were established.

1987   LIBRA EGYPT was founded as a company specialized in packing and exporting fresh fruit and vegetables to Europe.

1988   The SEKEM School started with primary and secondary stages.

1990   ATMOS PHARMA set up regional sales or distribution offices in Alexandria Assiut and Mansoura. LIBRA EGYPT started, in cooperation with EOSTA and Organic Farm Foods, the export of organic fresh fruits and vegetables to Europe. AGRICULTURE IN EGYPT (COAE) as an independent certification body, working in accordance with Demeter guidelines and later the European Regulation for Organic Agriculture.

1993   LIBRA for Organic Cultivation was established to coordinate the organic cultivation of cotton and all other crops organically grown in Egypt.

1994   CONYTEX, a new company for manufacturing Organic Cotton Textiles was established. The EGYPTIAN BIODYNAMIC ASSOCIATION (EBDA) was founded as an independent non-governmental organization to provide agricultural training and    consultancy services in Egypt.

1995   ATOS PHARMA launched a range of phyto-pharmaceuticals and started clinical trials in different medical departments at all university hospitals in Egypt.

1996   HATOR, a company for Fresh Organic Produce was established. Nature’s Best Shops were opened in Cairo to sell organically cultivated healthy   food product and organic textiles. EGYPTIAN SOCIETY FOR CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT opened the SEKEM Medical Centre. The INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PARTNERSHIP (IAP) was established between SEKEM and many of its business partners.

 1997   SEKEM, ATMOS PHARMA, CONYTEX and HATOR were ISO 9001 certified for the first time. ISIS was founded as a company to manufacture organic foodstuff. The SEKEM VOCATIONAL TRAINING CENTRE (VTC) and ART SCHOOL were established by the EGYPTIAN SOCIETY FOR CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT. A Literacy Program for disadvantaged children was introduced.

 1998   LIBRA opened its new mill and cleaning line for cereals, rice and dry legumes.

 1999   The CENTRE OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN EGYPT (COAE) attained accreditation according to the international quality management procedures for product certifying bodies (EN45011).

 2000   SEKEM ACADEMY FOR APPLIED ARTS AND SCIENCE was founded and started research in the fields of medicine, pharmacy, agriculture and arts. The COOPERATIVE OF SEKEM EMPLOYEES (CSE) was founded.

2001   The SEKEM Holding was established for the purpose of supporting, supervising and evaluating Sekem’s companies.       The SEKEM INFORMATION AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (SIS) was introduced by all companies. ATOS PHARMA installed a new pilot extraction unit for medicinal plants. LIBRA extended its capacity by building new greenhouses, stable for cows and chicken farms.

2002   The International Finance Corporation (IFC), one of the World Bank affiliates, and DEG participated in new investments of the SEKEM Group of Companies. SEKEM ACADEMY FOR APPLIED ARTS AND SCIENCE built pharmaceutical   and soil fertility laboratories.

2003   SEKEM received the Alternative Nobel Prize or Right Livelihood Award. The jury sees in SEKEM “a business model for the 21st century in which commercial success is integrated with and promotes the social and cultural development of          society through the “economics of love.” Dr. Abrahim Abouleish was selected as an “Outstanding Social Entrepreneur” by           the Schwab Foundation. Citrus fruit and potatoes were among the first products sold as fair-trade certified by FLO Germany. SEKEM ACADEMY started training courses for Eurhythmy at the workplace.

2004   SEKEM and Acumend Fund are financing a project to increase the growth of the organic cultivation of the land and the number of Egyptian farmers. The EGYPTIAN SOCIETY FOR CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT together with the   University Witten/Herdecke formed a consortium with Cairo University, Helwan University, Zagazig University, Antwerp University, Marburg University, King’s College London and the University London School of Pharmacy to carry out the EU project DOPSE-TEMPUS to develop a phyto-pharmacy curriculum.

2005   The EGYPTIAN SOCIETY FOR CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT was renamed  SEKEM DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION. The SEKEM Europe GmbH was founded in Germany to provide services to SEKEM HOLDING. LIBRA developed and implemented new greenhouse technology. Introduction of biotechnological conversions of agricultural residues to nutrient enriched animal food. ATOS PHARMA established a joint venture with the multinational pharmaceutical company in Jordan. SALIS, a new IT company for software engineering, was established. SALIS achieved the first place against 400 competitors at a competition for innovative business plans organized by the Egyptian Ministry for Communication and IT.

2008   Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish received the “Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

2009   “Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development” was approved by Mr. President, Hosni Mubarak, through the Presidential Decree No. 298 on the 31st of August, 2009.

 2011   Heliopolis University to open in 2011 with Bachelor degree programs in the first 4 faculties (Engineering, Business and Economics, Pharmacy, and Agriculture).

           Sekem Group is an agribusiness with five business units: Biodynamically grown fruits and vegetables from their farms and a network of farmers in the region; a processing facility; production and processing of Biodynamic cotton and related textiles; IT company for software engineering; and “a pharmaceuticals firm producing herbal extracts and medicinals (Emerson).” Their 2007 financial statement shows a net profit of $12 million or about 50% increase over the 2006 net profit of $8 million (Sekem). Sekem, with nearly 2,000 employees, continues to innovate and grow while meeting the needs of their community and other stakeholders. “Each employee develops a career, personal, and health development strategy that is supported by the firm (Emerson 48).” Sekem has developed an organization which can blend environment (through Biodynamic agricultural principles), economics (through the 5 business units), social (through the support of employee rights, etc…) and cultural (educational programs, etc…) while creating value.

            Egypt is a poor country with existing economic clusters around farming (cotton, etc..), furniture, textiles, and operational technologies. Yet during these trying economic times its clusters continue to grow. According to the Global Competitiveness Report (GCI), Egypt’s State of cluster development rank had improved through the past three years 2007-2009 from 61 out of 178, 46 out of 181 and 41 out of 183 respectively.

Such improvement is due to recent policymakers’ interest in supporting the existing clusters and establishing new ones, as they believe that innovation and creativity is an important mean to develop clusters where new models and high level of innovation would eventually lead to leapfrog into higher value added activities. (El Baradei).

There is a lot of interest in developing countries of the Middle East with support coming from both wealthy Muslim (Turkey, etc.) and western countries (Germany, UK, etc.). Sekem Group has established distribution points in a number of global markets through cooperative ventures and strategic alliances. They sought partners who could complement their strengths and advance their corporate culture. Sekem has also managed to draw much global support through grants, low-interest loans and traditional investment in their companies which is reflected in the continued growth of their business units, social and cultural organizations (Abouleish). The Sekem Group, although not the size of a P&G or Microsoft, is a core group of related companies that has exhibited the characteristics of a dynamic cluster which continues to grow new initiatives such as SALIS (IT Company – 2005) and “Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development” approved in 2009 and set to open in 2011.

Firms inside a cluster must also have sufficient access to world markets to be able to sustain their efficiency and competitiveness. Thus, a dynamic cluster is characterized by three distinct dynamics: local dynamism, global attractiveness, and global market reach (Solvell, Lindqvist and Ketels 24).

         The drive and passion of Sekem’s founder, Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, has provided the foundation for what has developed into an ideal business model for companies in the 21st Century. A business model that meets the needs of all of its stakeholders by continuing to grow and adapt with a blended yet balanced approach that moves beyond the triple bottom line. Sekem’s business model as a dynamic cluster steps beyond Michael Porter’s diamond theory because it puts people before money. It is the belief and support of what is higher in people which creates an atmosphere of innovation and dynamism at Sekem. Dr. Abouleish says it beautifully in the epilogue of Sekem’s 2007 Social Responsibility Report:

 The enthusiasm for my work, for all those around me, a community in which people of all nations and cultures work and learn in peace as a symphony. A community in which vocations from all walks of life, all age groups and all levels of consciousness, acknowledge, nurture and love the divine world and strive towards noble ideals. A living, regenerating community maintaining its dynamism by reaching towards the science of the spirit, the Ightihad (diligence). A community pursuing truth and tolerance, generously offering its understanding in service of earth and man. A community where modesty and diligence prevails over vanity and comfort, and all endeavors are blessed (Sekem 72).


Works Cited

Abouleish, Ibrahim. Sekem – A Sustainable Community in the Egyptian Desert. Edinburgh: Floris Books, 2005.

“Engaging in Cross-Border Collaboration: Managing across Corporate Boundaries.” Beamish, Paul W and Christopher A Barlett. Transnational Management – Text, Cases, and Readings in Cross-Border Management. 6th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2011. 510-524.

Blanke, Jennifer, et al. The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010. Economic Report. Geneva: World Economic Forum, 2009.

El Baradei, Mona. “News – Africa – PACF: Cluster Development in Egypt .” 20 May 2010. TCI Network. 27 June 2010 <;.

Emerson, Jed. “The Blended Value Proposition:Integrating Social and Financial Returns.” California Management Review Vol. 45, NO. 4. Vol. 45. 4. Berkeley: The Regents of the University of California, Summer 2003.

Porter, Michael. “Clusters and the New Economics of Competition.” Bartlett, Christopher A. and Paul W. Beamish. Transnational Management – Text, Cases, and Readings in Cross-Border Management. 6th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2011. 195-209.

Sekem Group. Sekem. 2006. 26 June 2010 <;.

Sekem. Sekem Sustainability Report 2007. Sustainability Report. Cairo: Sekem, 2008.

Solvell, Orjan, Goran Lindqvist and Christian Ketels. “The Cluster Initiative Green Book.” 2003.


Copyright © 2007, 2010 by Arthur Hildreth, Jr.

 This was originally written as a project for the Master Planner Program offered by the Lancaster County Planning Commission in the Fall of 2007.  Lancaster County Pennsylvania has an outstanding master plan worthy of imitation. Information and opinion given in this paper is not intended to take the place of professional or expert advice.

What is Community?
People speak of community within many contexts. “We are building community. We want to live in community. This is our community. A tight-knit community. A bedroom community or religious community.” So, just what is meant by community? The American Heritage Dictionary defines “community” with six related meanings some of which are: 1. a. A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government. 2. A group or class having common interests. 6. Common possession or participation.

Over the last thirty years my experience of community has come to mean when people share their lives, work, and dreams. This can happen in different ways, but mostly it is community in the romantic sense of a village. A village where people see each other daily and relationships are built up over time. I lived in the Town of Great Barrington, MA for two years. This was a semi-rural town with farms and other open space on its perimeter. It had an active main street with retail, art galleries, offices, restaurants, single family homes, and apartments. We lived in town and could walk to food or clothing stores, theatre or hospital. People lived, worked, and made their purchases in town. One day due to a faulty chimney, the fishing supply store caught fire and burned. The owner lived in town and was active in the community. The town’s people raised money to cover what the insurance would not. The electrician and carpenter donated their time and skill to help rebuild the store. This is what I think of as community. A place where people live and work together. Together meaning to have an interest in one another with a mutual appreciation and support.

The developed world of our western civilization has evolved over the centuries from the tribe or group consciousness to the individual. In America, we had the cultural revolution of the sixties that covered many taboos bringing freedoms to light previously given in words but not practiced in our towns and cities or even families. Culturally with technology as an aid the individual can live and work alone totally free from the constraints of a group be it family ethnic or religious. Children grow up and then start their adult lives often far from home. This comes with an unexpected cost. With both adults in a family working, children are growing up alone with technology as their pacifier. The American people feel it and are crying out in defense of what they know as the family unit and its values. It seems more and more that societies all over the world are reaching a point of chaos. People are searching for that sense of place and family; a connection to a commonality amongst all Peoples. They are searching for a new form of community. One in which they retain most of their freedoms and those they give up for community they do so consciously and in freedom. Richard Critchfield in his ground breaking book “Villages” quotes his own writing from the journal, Foreign Affairs, during the Fall of 1982,

“The villagers are not moving from their (A) to our (B). Rather we are all moving toward (C), a wholly new kind of society based upon biotechnology, electronic, new energy drawn from water and sun, and all the other new scientific advances.”

Advances in technology and the sciences are due to an ever-increasing intellect and specialization. These advances have benefited humanity. However, the advances and benefits have begun to overshadow humanity itself. As individuals we need to cultivate an interest in one another and use technologies to our benefit; we need to have more face to face contact with our fellow human beings. We need to experience beauty in each other and the natural world. We need to incorporate beauty into our surroundings. Our homes, streets, businesses, even the technological devices we use should be designed to be both practical and artistic.

What to Do?
In Denmark during the early 1970’s came a new form of housing and community. In their book “Cohousing – A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves” authors Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett describe these communities as:

“An Old Idea – A Contemporary Approach.”

A co-housing community is conceived, designed, and built by the community members. The members develop the co-housing community through many meetings usually spanning more than a year and sometimes several years. The members may hire planners, architects, contractors and/or a developer to help bring the physical aspects of the co-housing community into being. In an effort to make it more affordable, members will contribute sweat-equity (labor and expertise) to the project.

The ideal community may include six to thirty residences. The individual residences are clustered with a common house being central. A green is often in the center with a pedestrian street. It is not unusual for a community site to have two or three separate pods each as its own community.

The housing is as diverse in style and type as any neighborhood or town (ranch, contemporary, two-story, semi-attached, attached, over and under…). The residences are designed so that the work areas such as the kitchen are in the front of the house facing the pedestrian street and green. This semi-private space creates a gesture of openness to the common area of the community. The rear of the residences are private.

Some co-housing developments locate their parking areas near the public road with the common house between the parking area and the residences. This increases the opportunity for community members to interact. Members may pass through the common house, collect their mail, check the activities board, and speak with others on their way home.

Common houses serve the needs of the community. They will have a large kitchen and dining area capable of holding the entire community for meals and meetings. In many communities families will cook meals side by side in the kitchen or even a couple of people will cook for a large group several times a week. The common house may contain office space, areas for the teenagers, a music room, childcare room, and workshops. Some will even have root cellars, pantries, and walk-in refrigerators & freezers that are used to store food bought in bulk for the community. One community allows its members to access the community stores such as bulk flour on the honor system. The common house provides space to be used by many which makes its design more resource efficient. The design of private residences can now be smaller in square footage spreading the cost of entertainment and work space over the entire community.

Building design and site development incorporate many aspects of sustainability from energy and water conservation to green construction. Buildings are placed on the land with consideration for maximizing the benefits of solar, wind, and light.

In the last fifty years developers have been able to build subdivisions without consideration for the sustainable use of the land. The only limit being the planning codes and zoning ordinances for the township or city. In many parts of the country these codes and ordinances were limited to the placement of wells and septic tanks on the property being developed. There was no consideration of the location or direction of the housing on the land as there once had been prior to electric lights and central cooling. This was possible because of inexpensive energy and technological fixes such as cooling. For the average person, the rising cost of energy and the shortage of certain other resources will soon make this type of housing unaffordable. In the past wetlands have been filled and then built-on instead of being used as a natural resource. Today in a co-housing community this land would be used to manage storm water with the added benefit of providing wildlife habitat. Some communities donate or sell the wetland’s development rights to a Conservation Trust. In fact, many communities have a farmland preservation or conservation easement on their land.

An easement creates a right for another party to use the land for a specific purpose. The easement is held by a trustee who administers the land for a beneficiary. In the case of a Farmland or Conservation Trust the development rights are conveyed to the trust for the benefit of the conveyor and future generations.

In Lancaster County, PA some developers are using these ideas to create more desirable subdivisions. They partner with the township to gain transferable development rights and then can have a higher density or clustered development with more open space than previously permitted under the zoning ordinance.

More to Do
The people who are seeking co-housing communities are concerned with both social and environmental issues. These communities of people are embracing a further development in sustainable communities, the Eco-village. This concept also had its start in Denmark some twenty years later in the 1990’s.

In 1991 Robert Gilman, President of Context Institute, wrote an article “The Eco-village Challenge” which gave the definition for an Eco-village that is now the standard:

• Human-scale

• Full-featured settlement

• In which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world

• In a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.

Gilman writes that Eco-villages must be, walkable, a place where “people are able to know and be known by others in the community.” A size in which the individual can have an influence on the future of the community. He goes on to say that the village should be a place of commerce and a place to live. There should be enough employment for the population of the village although not everyone will be employed there. The products and services one would need daily should be available. A balance should be reached.

The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code Article VII-A Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) provides an opportunity for the development of eco-villages. TNDs are similar in scope to that of an eco-village. TNDs provide for a walkable village or neighborhood that has mixed uses and a town center. The obvious differences being eco-villages are intentional developments with strong ecological/sustainable components, and TNDs may not be either. The code once adopted by the municipality allows planning that encourages a traditional neighborhood design. It is then up to the broader community to invest and develop this neighborhood.

Examples of What to Do and More to Do

An award-winning example of a TND type community privately built is the Kentlands in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This community began almost thirty years ago and is continuing to evolve its design. Although this community of 352 acres is nearly twice the size permitted in the PA Planning Code it is still a fine example of the TND’s design principles. This community’s vision was developer and profit driven.

The Kentlands have become very successful and it draws many visitors from outside the community. An allowance for parking is provided in the development’s design; garages and on-street parking for the residences, on-street parking for the shops and other businesses but more parking is still needed. In the evening and on weekends people from the surrounding communities come to enjoy the atmosphere, shops, and restaurants. Parking is scarce. A lesson learned but not solved is that communities need to offer more mass transit opportunities for both its residents and visitors. Some communities including co-housing and eco-villages will have car pooling and car sharing programs.

The International Camphill Movement is another type of intentional community that follows many of the principles of eco-villages. The first Camphill Community was started by Dr. Karl Konig in 1940. They are intentional therapeutic communities that come together to support people with special needs by living, learning, and working together. Some are schools such as Beaver Run and Soltane in Chester County, PA. Others are for the support of adults with special needs.

The Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, also in Chester County, serves adults with special needs. The village engages these adults in the work of the households, organic dairy & CSA, café, bakery, weavery, fiber & wood workshops, and land & building maintenance work. There are plays and musical performances to watch and take part in. The villagers reach out to the surrounding community and the community joins in the work of the village. The buildings are designed in an artistic and practical manner.

Fields Neighborhood in southeastern Wisconsin is a sustainable housing development that complements other sustainable organizations and businesses in and around the village of East Troy. Fields consists of 74 units of clustered condominiums on 17 acres. Winning awards in 2004, its design and construction is considered one of the country’s best examples of green construction. The units are Wisconsin Energy Star Certified. Water conservation plays a key role in the site development with Honey Creek bordering the property. The site design includes water gardens and wetlands management that allow the site to not have storm sewers and is considered a “zero-runoff” community. People who buy homes in Fields are ecologically minded and have similar interests but did not set out to intentionally build this community. This community’s vision was developer and profit driven.

Hundredfold Farm in Gettysburg, PA is a small rural planned co-housing community of 14 households with six home sites still available. The community is on 80 acres with a large garden and Christmas tree farm. Hundredfold Farm is a multi-generational co-housing community that values sustainability and conservation.

Hundredfold Farm, Gettysburg PA

Altair Cohousing is a group in Chester County, PA that has worked together for six years to form their community and find a suitable site. They have worked hard to educate themselves through visiting other communities and having guest speakers. Chester County’s land costs are high. Land costs are always an obstacle in more built up areas such as suburban Philadelphia. Raw land is at a premium.

Develop or Redevelop?

Can a co-housing or eco-village be developed in an urban area? In Denmark some of the first co-housing communities were existing houses in a neighborhood that were purchased and adapted. This may be more difficult in the US with ordinances for property setbacks and will need much planning. I know of one group in Spring Valley, NY that attempted to buy houses on the same block in a neighborhood to form their community. Houses did not come up for sale quickly enough and the group eventually broke up.

I know of another co-housing group here in Pennsylvania that is working on a redevelopment project in a suburb of Philadelphia. They have found an old factory with land and are in the early stages of a purchase. They wish to redevelop the site to include co-housing, green building, and mixed uses. They have goals of being LEED-Platinum Certified, have net-zero annual energy, zero VOC, minimal water use, and reuse of existing/salvaged materials.

A group, Lancaster Downtowners, here in Lancaster have their eye on downtown and are searching for a redevelopment project. They have also considered purchasing single homes if the block was affordable and could otherwise meet their needs.

Redevelopment requires the local officials and members of the surrounding community to be open-minded. If the town burdens the development and not partners with them they may go elsewhere. Raw land can be expensive to buy and has its restrictions, but it is usually less expensive to build on and faster than going through a difficult and long redevelopment process.

How to Be Affordable

There are many ways a community can make itself affordable. The more members with skills that can be applied to the design and development process the less professional fees the community will need to pay out. Private and public funds are often available for people in specific economic ranges to buy a house. Land can be gifted to a Land Trust with the community as a beneficiary. Members who have the means could also donate monies to the Land Trust to buy land for the community’s benefit.

Community Land Trusts as defined by the Institute for Community Economics:

“A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a democratically controlled non-profit organization that owns the real estate in order to provide benefits to its local community – and in particular to make land and housing available to residents who cannot otherwise afford them.”

A CLT can own raw or vacant land and develop it or own land with existing structures. The land is held indefinitely and the buildings sold. The purchaser of a building receives a long-term renewable lease for the land. The CLT will have the right of first refusal on the resale of the building or it may be sold to another lower-income household. The resale value is based on a formula which allows an increase in value based on a reason such as the consumer price index. This provides a modest return for the seller while allowing the house to remain affordable.

This same concept could be used for businesses and housing. Other types of ownership may be able to use a resale formula in the form of a deed restriction. This would be worth investigating and then contacting a professional for legal, tax, and accounting advice.

What Now?

Intentional communities have a mixed history here in America. Will a co-housing or eco-village community be any different? Should the next generation of communities be developer driven and for profit? People have documented their experiences in both the older form of intentional community and in the new intentional co-housing/eco-villages. We have many resources to aid our journey. One thing is sure and that is society is moving towards something new. Are you ready?

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Paper Sources:
Bang, Jan Martin. “Ecovillages.” Edinburgh, UK: Floris Books, 2005.

Bang, Jan Martin. “Growing Eco-Communities.” Edinburgh, UK: Floris Books, 2007.

Christian, Diana Leafe. “Creating a Life Together.” Gabriola, BC: New Society Publishers, 2003.

Critchfield, Richard. “Villages.” Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1983.

Gilman, Robert. “The Eco-village Challenge.” Article for “In Context Magazine,” Context Institute, Summer 1991.

Hanson, Chris. “The Cohousing Handbook.” Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks, 1996.

Harmon, Tasha. “Integrating Social Equity and Smart Growth.” Springfield, MA: A paper available thru The Institute for Community Economics, 2004.

McCamant, Kathryn M. and Durrett, Charles R. “Cohousing – A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves.” Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1988.

Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. “Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.” Harrisburg, PA: Eighteenth Edition, February 2005.

Porterfield, Gerald A. and Hall,Jr., Kenneth B. “A Concise Guide to Community Planning.” US: McGraw-Hill, Inc, 1995.

Walbert, David J. “Garden Spot – Lancaster County, the Old Order Amish, and the Selling of Rural America.” New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Walker, Liz. “Ecovillage at Ithaca.” Gabriola, BC: New Society Publishers, 2005.

Web Sources:

Altair Cohousing.
Fields Neighborhood. .
Hundredfold Farm.
Institute for Community Economics.

Resources: Cohousing Handbook resources site. Conscious and Sustainable Green design. Resources for resource efficient homes. State College Community Land Trust site (PA). E.F. Schumacher Society –Linking people, land, and community by building local economies. Communities Network. Land Institute. Community Land Trust Network

State College Community Land Trust – “This small community land trust of 23 homes provides affordable housing for residents of the Borough of State College, while at the same time rehabilitating deteriorating residential neighborhoods.”

Bright Side Development and Land Trust
Rev. Louis Butcher
P.O. Box 2083
Lancaster, PA 17603
Saxifrage Community Land Trust
Richard Taylor
4821 Baltimore Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Building Relationships

In today’s fast and stressful hi-tech world, we find ourselves ever more isolated from one another and the time to build meaningful relationships is non-existent. Yet aren’t meaningful relationships the basis of all human existence from your significant other to your best customer, it’s what makes the world go round. So, what does it take to build a successful relationship?

Doc Childre and Bruce Cryer in their book, From Chaos to Coherence, tell us that it is not enough to apply care in your relationships but it is the sincerity behind the care that does it.

“Underlying the application of care in your workplace is sincerity. Without sincerity caring acts ring hollow. Sincere care is required to achieve a true service attitude with people. When care is mechanical or insincere, it causes resistance and reaction in others, undermining adaptability. Coworkers, family, clients, and superiors can tell the difference between required courtesy and sincere care (Childre and Cryer).”

Now let’s take this a step further and ask, are relationships only between people? What about the relationship between a service animal and its owner or even our relationship to the earth? If sincerity formed the foundation for care in “all” of our relationships, what would the world be like ?

What are your thoughts? (Please comment)

Works Cited
Childre, Doc and Bruce Cryer. HeartQuotes™: Quotes of the Heart. 2007. 10 11 2010 .

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