Tucson Tortolita Eco Village

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Envision Tucson Sustainable Festival
October 7


Forming Community

TTEV is situated within a neighborhood called Rancho Tierra Blanca in Avra Valley. There are more than 40 families in the subdivision of which we know perhaps a dozen slightly. We realized that the eco-village was only 50% of the community we needed to form. We need to reach out to the wider community around us and make them a part of us.

Desert Ecology

What follows is the presentation addressing the issue with Sustainable Tucson on June 9th 2014. We will report whatever progress we make in our effort to form community with our neighbors here from time to time.

Building Community

Tucson Tortolita Eco Village (TTEV) is engaged in developing an on the ground set of communities that will serve as places from which sustainable, resilient and self reliant practices can be show-cased and serve as models to be replicated. The term we sometimes apply is self reliance incubator.

A past presentation to Sustainable Tucson focused on factors that contributed to success or failure of community preparedness. With some of these factors in mind we concluded that we need to involve the neighbors first in whatever way would actually make them neighbors as opposed to strangers.

TTEV is situated within a neighborhood called Rancho Tierra Blanca in Avra Valley. There are more than 40 families in the subdivision of which we know perhaps a dozen slightly. We realized that the eco-village was only 50% of the community we needed to form. We need to reach out to the wider community around us and make them a part of us.

In trying to answer the question "How to build community" I did two searches with various results. The first search was https://www.google.com/#q=building+successful+community+study (building successful community study) The goal of this search was to find well researched papers and website links bearing on the problem of building a community with folks sharing a geography (neighborhood for example) and little else. Most of the references are appropriate for large groups like districts, towns and cities. Finding material for neighborhood actions has been spotty, still some emerged.

Two promising website have quite a lot of information to review. It is however beyond the scope of this brief talk to go into detail so they are included here for reference.

Making Communities More Viable: Four Essential Factors for Successful Community Leadership http://www.joe.org/joe/2009april/iw2.php

28 Factors for Successful Community Building (very promising) http://www.fieldstonealliance.org/client/tools_you_can_use/04-06-06_cmty_bldg_wmiw.cfm Gives definitions for terms often misunderstood. I ordered the book on Amazon

A few of the many reports / studies found on-line to delve into for more depth:

  • CommunityCollaborativeToolbox.pdf "The Council has developed this Community Collaboratives Toolbox to guide communities in creating or improving their own needle-moving collaboratives." Good info, research focused on problems faced / addressed by existing communities such as cities or school districts not much about forming community.
  • Making-a-Difference-in-Your-Neighborhood.pdf "Across the country, communities are working towards a common vision: to ensure that neighborhoods become places where all families thrive and have access to the supports, services and opportunities they need to ensure their children succeed." Focused on social change (liberal agenda) they do have useful advice about how to get started and be more strategic. They suggest beginning by choosing a result or outcome to focus effort rather than jumping into problem solving.
  • Building-Successful-Neighborhoods.pdf "In our view, effectively addressing the problem of concentrated poverty and neighborhood distress requires moving beyond either inward-looking approaches or mass departure." Low income neighborhood relocation / infusion
  • Building Collaborative Capacity in Community Coalitions "This article presents the results of a qualitative analysis of 80 articles, chapters, and practitionersí guides focused on collaboration and coalition functioning. The purpose of this review was to develop an integrative framework that captures the core competencies and processes needed within collaborative bodies to facilitate their success." As you can see it is a very scholarly review of existing literature which may have application to some of your efforts
  • Motivation and barriers to participation in virtual knowledge-sharing communities of practice Mostly focused on roadblocks to sharing professionally gathered knowledge (IE Intellectual Property)

The above results offer some insight into the challenges of building community.

Idea 1: Previous discussions of ideas like establishing a neighborhood watch, property owner's association (POA), or similar all seemed unlikely. We already have a POA / well committee that gets very little traction. The last association meeting for elections was attended by less than 1/4 of the families on the well system.

While talking over our lack of progress in deciding on where to start the idea emerged to start a community garden everyone could use. We are developing three greenhouse dome systems that have at least some application as a garden. Why not open our greenhouses to the entire neighborhood to be shared by all those who participate. Brilliant idea and the subsequent search makes it clear how powerful this idea is. how a garden can unite a community yields many solid looking titles to explore. So now we have a good "excuse" to contact our neighbors.

Idea 2: A little known resource you may find in any neighborhood is a real estate broker. Brokers have access to tax and association information that can be used for mailing lists and newsletters. Your neighborhood can enlist the local broker to provide the listing and if approached properly pay for the printing / postage. Why should he or she spend time and money... it may result in listing and buyer commissions from the community.

Idea 3: There have been some fairly successful attempts to organize neighborhoods around various themes. We will look at a few of the most successful and see how they apply to what we are doing.

Use theme searches:

Many more topical / theme searches are possible and reveal many paths to follow.

The 3 Cs of community

The basis of community can be summed up with 3 simple concepts:

  • Commitment - making common cause
  • Contribution - investing time or money (buy-in)
  • Comity - mutual courtesy / civility

Keeping these concepts in mind when approaching your neighbors will help to keep focus. Especially the last point being civility. We need to get along with them however we find them. The lack of any of the above is sure to greatly detract from your mutual efforts. If you achieve nothing else, you are well ahead of the game!


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