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1978

Relations between an Intentional Community and an Urban Focal Point

Reflections on the case of Findhorn and Brussels

- / -


These notes arise Immediately after returning to Brussels from Findhorn and may therefore require considerable revision after further reflection -- even to the point of abandoning any such idea. However the formula suggested may be useful under other circumstances.


A few facts about Brussels (as an example)

1. The impact of new age thinking in Europe is not great and there are few centres of any significance. It is desirable that such centres should he encouraged,

2. Brussels is now the focal city for the 9 Common Market countries, and effectively for Europe as a whole, partly because of its convenient geographical location. It is a favoured location for intergovernmental organizations (approx. 50), multinational corporations (approx. 200). and international associations (approx. 500). Consequently there are many people (approx. 30.000) from other countries who are resident or passing through. A high proportion of these use English as a working language.

3. Despite the large number of well-educated foreginers, there are relatively few focal points for alternative thinking and activity, Much could be done.

4. A group of relatively small international associations have their offices clustered in one building. These include:

5. An offer has been received from the Belgian Ministry of Public Works of a lease on a large building located approximately 100 yards from the Common Market Secretariat (in the area known as the Quartier del'Europe). The rent would be nominal because of the status of the UIA in Belgium and with the authorities. The building consists of 3 floors plus extensive cellars (each floor has about 500-600 so feet split into 3 larger and several smaller rooms), a greenhouse corridor linking to a small house in the garden with 2 floors (3 rooms per floor area of 200 sq feet). The garden isquite large. The building requires redecorating Inside (one reason for the nominal rent), but some of this may be done by the Ministry.

6. The building would be leased to the Union of International Associations which sub-lets office space at a nominal rate or mattes letter-box arrangements to provide facilities for many smaller organizations.

7. The above-mentioned building is too large for the existing group of organizations and attempts are being made to locate a smaller one, whilst Keeping the above offer in reserve. A decision will have to be made by the end of June at the latest.

A possible collaboration formula

1. The question is whether it is possible to envisage a suitable combination of energies and forms to create a viable new age focal point in Brussels.

2. Let us suppose that the possibility of staying in an urban location was attractive to members of a community for periods varying up to 12 months or more (maybe as an alternative to leaving their community for an equivalent period....see the accompanying note entitled Transnational Network of Research and Service Communities ****

3. Such a group of community members (e.g. from Findhorn) would aim to function asan urban community and provide a series of workshops on themes and experiences they consider significant. These workshops would be one source of income.

4. The community would be housed in one (or more) buildings, possibly in the one currently under consideration for offices of the organizations mentioned above (if regulations permit). In any case suitable accommodation can be relatively inexpensive if a large town house is used (e.g. £100-150 per month for a 4 floor house).

5. Somemembers of the community may use the organizations and their projects as vehicles forthe development of theirown interests, thus providing a further source of income.

6. The clue to identifying an appropriate combination of energies and forms seems to

lie in therecognition that some organizational structures are rather like old buildings which can be converted, redecorated and extended to serve new purposes.

This is particularly the case with the Union of International Associations and Mankind2000 (which collaborated in the production of the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential). Both are linked into a wide variety of organizational networks and concerns -- many of which have new age forms or intentions.

7. Diagram 1 indicates how the energies and forms might be combined.

Diagram 1
V = Values
F - Focal concerns
L - Legal/organizational structures
C - Community members
P - Projects -
S - Space/time allocation
B- Building(s)
OM - Organizational members
ON - Organizational networks
EC - External individual contacts
OC - Other communities
M - Money/funding
R - Roles (for projects)

8. The key relationshipsare those expressed by the triangle (in Diagram 1):

Focal concerns (F) -- Legal structures (L) -- Community members (C)

Clearly the list of concernsis constantly evolving as individuals or organisations bringtheminto focus. Whether or not any resulting projoct (P)istied to one or a combination of such structuresis a matter of opportunity. Community members would therefore be free to associate themselves with whichever intersect or combination of intersects (in Diagram 2) that they found to be meaningful, if any. New legal structures (like buildings) can of course be created whenever necessary (e.g. to handle particular series of workshops).

9. Once operational, other international associations (with which contact has already been established) requiring minimal servicing to remain operational themselves would find such a base useful and would thus provide a source of Income and build up the power of the focal point.

10. The result would be that one or more of the non-profit legal structures would receive any revenue resulting from the sale of any products arising from different projects (e.g. books, periodicals, meetings, workshops, etc). And one or more of these structures would provide food/accommodation/services/salary, etc. to community members in such a way as to minimize personal income tax, if payable.

11. Clearly it would Da possible to obtain a community base in the country (e.g. in the Ardennes, an hour or more away) for use at weekends or as a base for some of the projects (or legal structures) which need not be handled in the city. Indeed it is worthwhile considering whether the major focal point for activities should not be in some such location, with the Brussels centre as an interface point. Any such changein the centre of gravity of operations could be made in response to changing needs.

The opportunity

1. The necessity to change buildings and a specific

2. The ease of influencing the decision provided a coherent plan for using and adapting the proposed building can be elaborated

3. The desirability of furthering new age thinking in Europe

4. The opportunity of using a number of existing legal structures, each with extensive transnational networks of contacts, as a means of activating new age projects

Some concerns

1. Is this the right time ?

2. Is Brussels/Belgium the right place ?

3. Can such a centre be made sufficiently magnetic in order to perform its function ?

4. Is the mix of organization/community structure right ?

5. Is this kind of initiative on a wave length attractive to members of an intentional community, or at least to some of them ?

Diagram 2: Intersections of focal concerns and legal structures
. Union of Int. Associations

Mankind 2000

Other body A

Other body B

1. networking

X

. . .

2. world problems

X

. . .

3. integrative thinking

X

X

. .

4. human potential

X

.

X

.

5. human values

X

X

. .

6. social innovation

X

. .

X

7. social change directories

X

. .

X

8. network audio-visuals

. .

X

.

9. re-creation centres

. . .

X

10. futures studies

X

. . .

11. Yearbook of International Orgs.

. . . .

12. Yearbook of World Problems/Human Pot.

X

X

. .

13. International Associations (monthly)

. .

X

.

14. readers/books

X

. .

X

15. etc. etc.......

. . . .

Probably a common thread linking these concerns and others which might emerge would be a focus on the "trans" dimension, whether:

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