4 Building Blocks of Community

Posted on February 25, 2019 by

Start a Village

“If you don’t like the way things are, Start a Village!”

This was the essential message that Stephen Brooks delivered at his enthusiastic TEDx talk at Black Rock City.

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What does a guy at Burning Man know about community?

Stephen shares inspiration through his travels, studies of permaculture, and teaching, how he realized something was deeply missing from his life, and from those around him. It was Community.

Through this exploration, and building an intentional community from the ground up, he boiled down the essence of a successful community as he saw it into four main components or building blocks: Physical, Invisible, Spiritual, and Creative.


4 Building Blocks to Community

Physical – What are the physical structures and infrastructure required for a community to thrive? This is the design and implementation of a community, including considerations for agriculture, water management, housing, utilities, roads, etc.

Invisible – These elements are not too sexy or fun for most people, but they are required for stability and shared understanding. This element includes legal structures, shared documents, agreements, policies, and the agreed upon procedures of a community.

Spiritual – How can we bring everyone together in a shared purpose? This element encompasses the cultural threads of celebration, ceremony, ritual, and tradition, which help people to remember their values, to appreciate, and to cooperate.

Creative – We need creative outlets in order to feel fulfilled. This takes the form of hobbies, responsibilities, arts, crafts, jobs, and so on. A thriving community depends on people accessing and sharing their creativity, ingenuity, and problem-solving.


Designing Permanent Cultures

Stephen shares some anecdotes about living in Costa Rica, Bali, and Spain, as well as teaching students to explore growing food and permaculture concepts, and how these experiences triggered thoughts on designing societies instead of around profit for a few to being focused on happiness, sustainability, rest, creativity, celebration, and community.

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Hear the inspiring story of their successful efforts to design and build a jungle ecovillage farm of their dreams, that fulfilled their ecological and ethical design ambitions, while serving as an education center and beacon for others to start communities nearby.

Great, but how can you participate? He shares some additional inspiring examples of people designing communities of all types together, in various locations: rural, urban, suburban. 

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Now is the time to create a new world around us — more inclusive, resilient, healthy, and fun than ever before!


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