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Co-ops & Communities


We are living in the most critical era in human history.

The world as we know it, and as humans have known it for the past 150 years, represents a radical departure in the 200,000 year history of homo sapiens. Never before have we as a species had the power to cause ourselves and the planet the intense suffering and destruction that we currently unleash every day.

One of the core principles underlying Common Fire’s work is that the overwhelming suffering and destruction in today’s world are not the result of isolated political or economic problems. They’re manifestations of the underlying culture from which they surge.

It does little good to struggle to create change in the world if in our own lives we are recreating the very norms that give rise to that violence and destruction. We must create within ourselves, our families and communities, and our organizations and broader movements, the cultural norms we wish to see in the world.

Common Fire helps to create communities that give as full an expression as possible to healthy, joyful living in solidarity with other people and the planet. Common Fire doesn’t pretend there’s one way to do this. Rather each Common Fire community offers a rich diversity of perspectives and strategies regarding what it means to lead such a “good life”.

The first Common Fire community opened in 2006. It’s a housing co-op located in the Village of Tivoli in New York’s Hudson Valley. It’s intended to allow people to develop strong relationships with others who share their passion for making a difference in the world. The resulting cross pollination creates more holistic responses to the challenges of our day. It also creates a collective of people who can support each other to bring greater integrity into their personal lives -- in terms of what they eat, what they do with their time, how they interact with other people, etc.

Learn more about the Tivoli Housing Co-op.

As just one manifestation of our commitment to integrity, the Tivoli Co-op is the highest scoring green building in the Eastern US and the third highest scoring nationwide, as documented by the US Green Building Council.

As a companion to that project, we offer for free
the best overview of green building on the web.

Coinciding with the 5th anniversary of the Tivoli Co-op, we launched a Certificate Program in Sustainable Community Living that is based at the co-op. The program builds on so much of what we've learned in our different community experiences to allow others to benefit from the successes and not repeat our greatest challenges.

Check out the Certificate Program.

In 2007 we created a vision document that lays out our vision for the creation of neighborhood/village-scale communities with affordable green housing, retreat centers, multi-use office spaces, gardens, and more. These communities will take the work of our housing co-op to another level, operating on a larger scale and allowing residents to meet far more of their needs on-site. And it will have an important focus on working with and training people from outside the communities.

Read the vision document
or check out our vision video.

There are a number of communities in formation based on that vision document. The one in New York's Beacon/Newburgh area has been meeting since early 2008 and has created the Beacon CoHousing Collective. The one in California's Bay Area has been meeting since late 2008. They have accomplished much and are in a period of transition now. A group began meeting in Minnesota in early 2011, and there are groups starting to coalesce in Detroit, MI and Madrid, Spain.

Learn more:
Beacon/Newburgh
The Bay Area
Minnesota

While all of these communities each have their own unique culture and process, they are all committed to four essential characteristics that help to define Common Fire communities.

  • Ongoing Personal Growth and Dialogue – We have largely been inspired by the organization, Be Present, in our thinking on this topic. We believe that the health of an intentional community, and our progress as a larger society, depends on the ongoing personal growth of each of us as indivduals. Through a commitment to ongoing dialogue, we can continue to deepen our understanding of ourselves and each other, and ways we can individually and collectively transcend historical and current issues.
  • Engagement of a Diversity of People -- Diversity allows us to create visions of the world and strategies for change that better reflect the needs of all of us, and that better reflect our collective wisdom for how to address those needs. We are creating communities that are accessible and meaningful to a broad range of people.
  • Aligning Our Lives with Our Beliefs -- Much of the violence and destruction in the world today arises not from malice, but from people being invested in the current systems and contributing to them in small ways that add up and give the systems power. We’re committed to helping people within these communities weave integrity into the many facets of everyday life – continuing our commitment to green building; eating local, fair trade, organic and cruelty-free foods; being in partnership with indigenous people; exploring alternative financial models; and more.
  • Bridging Transformation in the Community to Transformation in the World – These communities will not be places where people retreat from the world, but ones that allow them to more powerfully step into the world. And in the traditions of the “tipping point”, the “butterfly effect”, “emergence”, and “field theory”, we never know at what point the number of people affected or the quality of deeply-rooted transformation will cause massive shifts on a larger scale.