Ecovillages and other intentional communities sometimes have a member application or selection process where (for example) prospective members answer set questions on a form, are interviewed by a selection panel and perhaps even asked to undergo a criminal history check.

In practice, how effectively does this help attract valuable members and weed out undesirable members?

  • 2
    That's really going to be opinion based I think. The mostly US-base cohousing email list discusses this from time to time, but IIRC the consensus seems to be that the factual stuff (ie, can you afford it) plus a "come and hang out with us" period works better than questionnaires.
    – Móż
    Apr 13, 2014 at 8:48
  • This search, for example: lists.cohousing.org/mailman/… Note that a lot more effort is put into finding good people than in weeding them out. Best done by having a pool of people hanging round who'd like to move in.
    – Móż
    Apr 13, 2014 at 8:57
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    It might be better to ask "how do IC's find new members", because the current question assumes that all ICs use the techniques listed and asks how effective those few options are. Not everyone does it that way.
    – Ⴖuі
    Apr 13, 2014 at 22:46
  • This juxtaposition of several questions must be split apart to really shine. Member attraction stems from advertising and is little related to detection/identification techniques which are still quite different from the actual exercise of force to expel the undesirable elements.
    – MKaama
    Apr 23, 2014 at 7:32

1 Answer 1


Any check is better than no check. But people are very good at selling themselves. They can say one thing and have intentions you do not suspect. For instance, they may agree to rules about dogs, loud music, working bees, but in the back of their mind know that once they're in, they will do whatever they like—build a meth lab, perhaps. This happened to a friend by the way.

I have heard enough stories to fill five books about people who were "ideal candidates" but ended up being nightmare neighbors, refusing to leave, turning into squatters. I know people who are dealing with such issues at the very moment. It is not easy. You want to be optimistic and believe in people, but reality says otherwise, again and again.

The best check you can have is a probation period, preferably a long one. Over the course of a year, you can start to get a sense of what someone is made of.

But even so, there is no way to ensure yourself against bad surprises. People change partners. They have children. Children become teenagers who do not embrace their parents' values. And on and on.

In my experience, the communities that work the best are those with an ideological or spiritual component: for instance, people with the same Guru or Christian or Buddhist faith. This spiritual or ideological component acts as a glue, a "greater purpose" that brings people together, gives them a certain discipline and reasons to respect the group.

Of course this is only an observation—I'm not saying it's a solution for everyone. But it raises question: What will be our "glue"? What is it that will prevent us from getting at one another's throats in hard times?

A friend who has been trying to convert his large organic farm to a community told me that a couple who were on his place for a test period and were asked to leave have put locks on one of his dwellings and have gone to the police claiming that they were tenants, even though they had never paid him a dime. It's not simple.

Some people are really good at reading others. Maybe someone on your committee has this gift. If not, it's not a bad idea, if it can be organized, to take your candidate to a market or a neighboring community and to gather impressions from people you trust.

Other than that, maybe you can convince the dad in Meet the Parents to lend you his lie detector.

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