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The Obvious Truth
One example of how to plant a flag
A common question we get at Supernuclear from people trying to start coliving communities is “what’s the first step?”
In our view step #1 is planting a flag.
By “planting a flag” we mean this: Write down WHY you are creating a community and see if you can get people to rally toward that vision.
Below we are sharing one example of a flag-planting vision doc. This was what Kristen and I wrote to get Radish started 3 years ago.
Sharing this hoping it can provide some inspiration for people starting new communities. Because, as we like to remind people, the time is now.
We called the overall Radish vision “The Obvious Truth.”
This document is about a simple idea. It's an idea we think is worth designing your life around.
We are happiest surrounded by people we love and admire.
These people make us the best possible versions of ourselves.
Well no shit Socrates, you might say. We agree, no shit. This is an Obvious Truth.
Ask yourself this: Is your life actually built around this truth?
Most people's lives are not. And there's a reason. Our built environment — the way we design our homes, neighborhoods and cities — works against this The Obvious Truth.
Our built environment doesn't serve connection and therefore doesn’t serve our happiness.
It wasn't designed to. It was designed to help us raise families in isolated homes to create psychological safety. It was designed to extract maximum rent per square foot by jamming faceless apartment units down anonymous hallways. It was designed to ensure ample parking and egress for vehicles. It was designed to make sure you never have to confront your neighbor, except in mercifully short elevator rides.
It doesn't have to be this way. It's just a question of design.
SO WE ARE BUYING A PROPERTY IN OAKLAND
In a tiny sliver in Oakland, we want to try something different. We want to intentionally design for the Obvious Truth.
We’ve found a property with enough room to house a dozen adults, a handful of children, and a deep imagination. The property contains individual private units spread across two buildings on a large plot of land. The plan would be to construct a third building with an industrial kitchen, outdoor hosting space, and living room to be the beating heart of communal life.
We know people are in different life stages and have different needs. So we want a property that can accommodate that diversity. The property has a mix of private apartment units (perfect for a couple or family) and individual bedrooms for people that want to pay less and don’t need the extra space.
Surrounding the buildings are over 10k sq ft of outdoor space which we want to fill with gardens, barbecues, fire pits, (when the time comes) swing sets, and art.
DESIGNING FOR THE OBVIOUS TRUTH INSTEAD OF ISOLATION
We will design for the Obvious Truth: That people are happiest surrounded by people they love and admire and that these people make us better versions of ourselves.
We will design for serendipitous encounters in the courtyard, for cooking together in the industrial kitchen, for delicious leftovers always in the fridge, for late night hot tub soaks, for seeing who is hanging out by the firepit from your window.
We will design for wine-soaked dinner parties, for munching popcorn at film screenings, for block party BBQs, for poetry readings, for imagining the future around the firepit, for an unforgettable place to host visitors.
We will design for raising kids together rather than exasperated and alone, for being Aunties and Uncles to our friend's kids, for on-site childcare.
We will design for a sense of ownership, for a garden you can invest in, for a community that will grow in value with people's efforts, for teaming up to do work on renovations, for a space that beams with the pride of “I built this.”
We will design for longevity, for a communal life that is sustainable over the long term, with the right balance of privacy and public-facing life. We will design for having your private space and eating your communal cake too.
MULTIGENERATIONAL LIVING (kids welcome, but not required..)
You may be familiar with the notion of coliving or intentional communities. When you think of coliving you probably think about single 20-somethings. You probably don't think of couples. It's even less likely you think of children.
We want to challenge the notion that coliving needs to be confined to a certain age bracket or life stage. Again, it's a question of design.
In our design, people can have individual units with their own bathrooms and kitchenettes. This means if you want privacy, you can have privacy. If you want to have a dog, you can have a dog. If your child is screaming, your child can do so in privacy. If you want to opt out of whatever fun thing is happening in the communal space so that you can do work or watch Netflix or chill ... well, you can.
No one in our core group has kids yet, but they likely will in the next few years. And we’d like to be able to accommodate them. Things we want to explore: Daycare on site, babysitting rotations, and so many hand-me-downs those little tykes will be spoiled rotten.
We love our friends. We don’t want them to defect to the suburbs only to reappear for the occasional wedding. We want to be part of their life and the life of their offspring.
At the same time, this place will be about the adults first and foremost, not the kids. We want a place where adults can live their best life with kids.
OWNING A PIECE OF THE PIE WITHOUT HAVING TO BAKE IT
We propose the following modification to the American Dream: Instead of owning your own home, own a piece of the neighborhood.
We will invite residents to invest in the project and property as a whole. This can be an amount that’s comfortable to them. You get to be both landlords and tenants: A consumer of the experience and an owner of it. Like a tenant, when the toilet breaks somebody will come fix it. Like an owner, when the property appreciates, you share in the upside. Everyone has aligned incentives to increase the value of the community as a whole, and not just the unit they live in. It won't make anyone stinking rich, but it will mean that when you make the place better you see the upside instead of the landlord.
SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO HELP MAKE YOU BETTER
Mutually-assured non-complacency (MANC) is our motto. It means surrounding ourselves with people who push us to be the best version of ourselves and counteract our worst impulses. We want to create an environment where complacency in life is actually uncomfortable, an environment that sets roadblocks on taking the path of least resistance. We want an environment and community that breaks up the mindless routines that see the days unconsciously fly by.
We don’t want a solid and respectable life. We want a remarkable life surrounded by other people striving for the same. We want to feel compelled by the company we keep.
We want people who demand more from their life, who demand more from their home, who demand more from the people around them. And we want people who draw energy from others around them and have plenty to give themselves. We want people who are open to building friendships that are even stronger than the ones they already have.
We have a core of folks who want to make this vision a reality. But we are looking for a few folks to round out the crew.
The first set of people will move in Spring 2019. The remainder soon thereafter.
Are you someone who might want to be part of this adventure? Or, do you know someone who would be perfect for this vision? Or maybe you just want to lurk in the background and follow the journey?
Fill out this quickie form to let us know [note to readers: we had a simple interest form for people to fill out to track interest]
Your Faithful Apostles of the Obvious Truth,
Phil and Kristen