Building Intentional Communities

What is an Intentional Community?

We believe that given the right environmental and social conditions and held to high expectations every young person has the opportunity to flourish. We have yet to hear of a healthy baby being born who refuses to crawl or who resists trying to walk. Regardless of income, class, race or geographic region every human being is born with a natural will to develop, grow and thrive. And yet as we move childhood into adolescence the pathway to a healthy productive adulthood can be mired with obstacles and challenges. The after-school movement is uniquely poised to support young people in their natural development by creating a community of caring adults using aligned practices to provide both emotional and practical support. Young people need to be held to high standards, and encouraged to work hard and navigate the challenges of growing up, while being supported to take safe risks and "practice" being and becoming adults. An intentional community is one in which organizational decisions and programmatic choices are made according to a set of values, principles and beliefs that the entire community is bought into. We believe that the strongest organizations are those that can articulate their vision and have practices that align to that vision. In an intentional community organizational leaders, staff and youth all believe in and practice the same set of core values, and spend time wrestling with challenging issues together, to ultimately make firm decisions grounded in a uniform belief system.


How does the Building Intentional Communities Model Work?

Building such a climate is a complicated and nuanced art – one that requires cultural awareness, knowledge of social justice principles, and the practice of deep democracy. We believe there are no formulas or one-dose pills to address the complicated challenges communities today are facing. From the economic climate to multi-generational poverty to a society deeply invested in the capitalistic principles of competition and individualism, there are a lot of issues young people are navigating as they make their daily choices. Our model begins with a simple and concrete process of identifying core values that resonate with a community – for some it's environmentalism and responsibility, while for others it's environmental justice and social activism. We emphasize the importance of a community choosing for themselves- words that resonate, inspire and challenge. We then move into a visioning process, to translate these lofty words and concepts into concrete actions – what does it look like, sound like and feel like to have these principles embedded into an organizational community? What challenges may arise in the process of implementing them? How will leaders, staff and youth alike be encouraged to consistently apply and integrate these practices into daily choice-making? These are some of the questions our facilitators will challenge groups to wrestle with. Our model assumes that while we all can set high intentions, real life will get in the way periodically tempting us to take an easier, political, or cooler pathway. We provide a series of tools, check-points and processes for groups to engage in on-going reflection and evaluation to ensure they are truly walking the talk of the intentional community they envision.



What Happens in a 2-day Training?

Through creative, hands on, experiential activities the two-day training will engage after-school practitioners in a dynamic conversation about establishing community and crafting an intentional organizational climate.

Participants will learn:

* A process to articulate community values and agreements with youth/staff
* Behavior guidance tools to align staff practices and establish uniform expectations with youth
* Facilitation techniques to navigate difficult conversations about ethical decision-making with youth
* Strategies to reinforce a caring culture within your organization, through role modeled behavior, coaching techniques, and classroom management tools
* Ways to implement 25 social-justice based activities and lessons to conduct with youth to reinforce the creation of intentional community
* Activities to engage and inspire staff in on-going professional development
* A technique to practice coaching techniques that empower youth and reinforce youth development principles within your program using a 52-card deck of Youth Development Coaching Cards
* An 8-stage Building Intentional Communities Implementation Guide for motivated staff to lead an organizational change process within their programs

You should apply if…

* You work directly with youth
* You coordinate an afterschool program
* You are an administrator interested in aligning your organizational practices