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A Lifetime in Pursuit of Community 

By Charles E. Betterton, MS CED

Reprinted From Enlightenment Magazine

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in community. In my early teens, I used to envision living in a community of friends as I played in the woods in the remote hill country where my father lived as a young boy. Even at that early age, I sensed a desire to live with other people of like mind in a setting designed to further personal and community advancement.

When I was in my early twenties, my wife and I spent many pleasant hours drafting a never finished screen play which we hoped to use to raise money to build a spiritually oriented survival community in the Ozark Mountains. As we grew older, we began to learn about intentional communities and developed an attraction to those with a spiritual orientation.

In 1975, I learned about the intentional community of Stelle, Illinois which had been established upon the philosophy and world view presented in a book, The Ultimate Frontier. My family and I moved to Stelle in 1978 and I remained there for almost fifteen years. In early 1994, I moved to the Oakwood Farm Community near Muncie, Indiana which is one of over 150 communities around the world associated with the Emissaries of Divine Light.

After living in intentional communities for many years and working in community and economic development, I discovered the field of community economic development (CED. Within months of learning about the CED Masters program at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH, I entered the only graduate degree program in the field in 1990 at the age of 42.

Through the CED program, I learned that the primary goal of community development is to help people improve their economic and social conditions. Community economic development, a subset of community development, is a people-initiated strategy which seeks to develop the economy of a community, region or country for the benefit of its residents. Community economic development strategies seek to develop efficient, productive and profitable ventures and programs within the context of a community's social, cultural and political values. Thus, these strategies focus on issues such as:

* local ownership of economic resources;
* citizen participation; and
* building the capacity of local people to participate in and manage the development process.

This introduction to the significant differences in CED helped me understand why so many traditional approaches to community and economic development fail. It is primarily because they lack the comprehensive focus and the commitment to self-help, empowerment and capacity building inherent in community economic development.

During an introductory class in the CED Master's program, my classmates and I developed the following list of the root causes of the problems that threaten our society:

* The me generation
* Getting away from God
* Lack of spirituality
* Lack of common vision
* Absence of wisdom
* Focus on accumulation versus circulation
* Spiritual and cultural disintegration and the
* Lack of an appropriate values system and ways to express it.

The following month we considered potential solutions to these problems by reflecting on the values of community economic development which we described as including:

* Active citizen participation in government and community
* Focus on human development and community development
* Building collaborative partnerships
* Local resource utilization
* Application of cooperative principles
* Retention of wealth in the neighborhoods
* Seeing personal and organizational goals within the context of community and society
* Consideration and appreciation of multicultural differences in religion, race, values, perspectives and communication
* Enabling people and communities to empower themselves
* Recognizing a spiritual underpinning, a sense of oneness

After twenty-five years of serving in various management capacities in community and economic development programs at the local, state and national level, I can attest to the significance and relevance of these CED Principles. Many communities are discovering that the principles and practices of community economic development provide a framework and formula for addressing the root causes of major concerns such as crime, drugs, gangs, quality of schools, increasing multi-cultural diversity and the need for jobs.

After twenty years of studying, applying and teaching various success principles and techniques, I have observed that there are three primary factors that determine the level of success we realize in life as individuals and organizations. I believe these are the clarity of our vision, the definiteness of our purpose and the appropriateness of our attitudes and actions.

I also believe these three success factors are applicable at the community level and I am therefore committed to helping provide expanded access to resources for personal and community empowerment. Over the past few years, I have discovered and collected a wealth of resources on the many different approaches to community and I am always happy to share this information with anyone who is interested.


"When a community and its people are empowered, they have the capacity to articulate their needs; to identify actions to solve those needs; and to mobilize and organize resources in pursuit of commonly defined goals. When the people of a community come together to visualize and work together to achieve a common future, they recognize that everyone--regardless of education, job, race, age, or background--has something important to contribute to personal and community empowerment. Indeed, the greater the diversity of the participants, the richer the vision and the more effective its accomplishment" Lorraine Garkovich, University of Kentucky


"Where there is no vision, the people perish. So it is with communities." Arthur Morgan

"The Great Community will achieve a living unity. It will not be just an aggregation of individuals, families, congregations, firms, cliques, and interests. Holding that "that which unites us is greater than that which separates us", it will develop unity of outlook, purpose, and program without thwarting individual or group autonomy. Its various organizations will not tear the community apart to advance themselves, but will be agencies for enlarging and unifying community life." Arthur Morgan

Arthur Morgan wrote The Small Community and The Great Community in the 1940's. He also founded Community Service, Inc. in 1940 to help people improve the quality of small community life. CSI is a national, non-profit organization concerned with all aspects of community life and development. Central to its work is the realization that the small community, in its many forms, is basic to social evolution and survival.

The work of Community Service is carried out through correspondence, consultation, a quarterly newsletter, books on community related subjects and annual Fall conferences in Yellow Springs, Ohio. A one year membership is $25 which includes a quarterly newsletter. For more information, write: Community Service, 114 East Whiteman Street, Yellow Springs, OH 45387. Telephone: 513 767-2161 and 513-767-1461.


The Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE) is a non-profit educational foundation which teaches the principles and values of community to individuals, groups and organizations. FCE was founded ten years ago by M. Scott Peck, MD, author of The Road Less Traveled, The Different Drum and A World Waiting to Be Born.  Scotty created the FCE as a means of sharing his discovery of a powerful community building process. FCE offers two to four day Community Building Workshops across the country on a regular basis. With the help of trained facilitators, any group participating in this process can work to achieve a sense of community and:

* learn the skills necessary for effective communication
* appreciate and respect differences
* revitalize to create new solutions
* locate resources and knowledge within the group
* overcome obstacles to working together effectively
* make remarkably effective consensual decisions
* accomplish specific tasks or goals
* experience personal and group empowerment.

PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNITY  Developed by the Foundation for Community Encouragement

* Communicate with authenticity
* Deal with difficult issues
* Welcome and affirm diversity
* Bridge differences with integrity
* Relate with compassion and respect
* Tolerate ambiguity
* Become aware of the tension between holding on and letting go
* Become inclusive
* Be open to Spirit
* Listen attentively

The FCE will hold its annual networking event on July 20-23, 1995 on the campus of Xavier University in Cincinnati. This event is designed to bring together participants from previous community building workshops with those new to the process. For more information on FCE, write or call: Foundation for Community Encouragement, 109 Danbury Road, Suite #8, Ridgefield, CT 06877. Telephone 203-431-9484.


There are hundreds of successful "intentional communities" in the United Sates today, and hundreds more around the world. The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) is working to increase public awareness of the many alternative communities now in existence, and to make referrals for individuals who are seeking such a community for themselves. The mission statement for the FIC states that the organization nurtures a sense of connectedness and cooperation among communitarians and their friends by providing a forum for sharing among a wide range of intentional communities, networks, support organizations and people who are seeking a home in one of the hundreds of intentional communities.

 The FIC accomplishes its objectives through a number of activities including: publication of the Directory of Intentional Communities and Communities, Journal of Cooperative Living and through regional and national conferences and educational programs. The 1995 edition of the Communities Directory features listings of over 500 communities in North America and 70 communities on other continents. It also includes thirty-one feature articles covering various aspects and issues of cooperative living and over 250 listings of alternative resources and services. A subscription to four issues of Communities magazine is $18 for individuals and $25 for institutions. A sample issue is available for $5.

" The most comprehensive and accurate reference book ever published on community living!" Kirkpatrick Sale, Author and Bioregionalist on the Directory of Communities. For more information on the FIC, write: FIC, Box 814, Langley, WA 98260. For more information on Communities Magazine and a book list on community, write: Sandhill Farm, Route 1, Box 155, Rutledge, MO 63563.


CENTER SPACE, the Center for Spiritual, Personal And Community Enlightenment, is a non-profit membership organization that produces and disseminates uplifting publications, audio/video cassette programs, seminars, workshops, television programs and consulting services that foster spiritual, personal and community empowerment. The organization's ultimate objective is to help create a better world by helping people, organizations and communities empower themselves in order to realize and actualize their potential.

CENTER SPACE was established:

(1) To provide educational programs and materials which foster spiritual, personal, organizational and community empowerment;

(2) To address discrimination, prejudice and neighborhood tension through various educational programs and initiatives that foster greater communication, cooperation and understanding among people of different races, religions and socio-economic levels;

(3) To facilitate cooperative and creative problem solving efforts between individuals, businesses, religious organizations, non-profit organizations and government; and (4) To promulgate the principles and practices of community economic development which include: Recognizing a spiritual underpinning, a sense of oneness; Application of cooperative principles; A focus on human as well as physical development; Retention of wealth in the neighborhoods; Viewing personal goals within the context of the community; Respect and appreciation for multicultural differences in religion, values, perspectives and communication; and Enabling people and communities to empower themselves.

For the CENTER SPACE book list, catalog of audio video cassette learning programs and calendar of seminars and workshops, please write: CENTER SPACE, 127 Sun Street, Stelle, IL 60919.


" Without a community you cannot be yourself. The community is where we draw the strength needed to effect changes inside of us. Community is formed each time more than one person meets for a purpose." Malidoma Some in Ritual: Power, Healing and Community.

Human beings concerned about planet learning how to be human together in small enough groupings to mean anything to each other, large enough to survive. Women and men respecting personhood, sharing insights urban, rural touching of the universe. Prepared to build political, social, economic, ethical models toward spiritual growth. Please make contact.     From back cover of Communities, Journal of Cooperative Living

" A good community will not be invented, discovered or "just grow." It must be forged from the purpose and quality of the lives of the people living in it." Arthur Morgan

A living environment where doors don't need to be locked, where significant relationships with neighbors are the norm rather than the exception, where generations mix and everyone has a role, where people experiment with commitment to something more than their individual interests...in short, intentional community.

Excerpted from the Directory of Intentional Communities

"It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living." - Thich Nhat Hahn

"The modern quest for community is a quest for one's personhood...The essence of community is wholeness: the opportunity...to co-create a livingness that meets my needs and those of the greater whole of which I am a part. Community is the deeper reality within which I move and have my being. It is one of the names of God. Community is the gift of myself that I give in endless participation with my world." David Spangler


"There is a yearning in the heart for peace. Because of the wounds-the rejections-we have received in past relationships we are frightened by the risks. In our fear we discount the dream of authentic community as merely visionary. But there are rules by which people can come back together, by which the old wounds are healed. It is the mission of The Foundation for Community Encouragement to teach these rules - to make the vision actually manifest in a world which has almost forgotten the glory of what it means to be human." M. Scott Peck

In a world that often appears cold, callous and indifferent, which seems to have lost its connectedness to matters of the heart and spirit, and where too many of us feel isolated in our own private worlds, there is a growing hunger for something more. Whether our sense of isolation and misunderstanding occurs in a business, organizational, social, or personal context, Community Building is a powerful process which facilitates our coming together in new ways.

Excerpt from Foundation for Community Encouragement Brochure

"Community for me has proved to be one of the fiercest fires of purification and, at the same time, one of the most satisfying and productive paths for growth." Ram Dass

"In and through community lies the salvation of the world. Nothing is more important. Yet it is virtually impossible to describe community meaningfully to someone who has never experienced it-and most of us have never had an experience of true community....We must come into community with each other. We need each other" M. Scott Peck

" Let us imagine the community where we would all want to live. It is a community where families, regardless of income or structure, have access to a wide variety of services and programs designed to nurture and strengthen them. It is a community where residents have opportunities to find jobs that match their skills and provide a living wage. It is a community with different economic classes, but where a person begins life is not the primary determinant of what they can achieve. It is a community that encourages its members to be active participants in all phases of life by acknowledging that everyone has skills or ideas that can contribute to bettering their world. It is a community that recognizes that some tasks cannot be completed and some goals cannot be achieved alone. Indeed, cooperation and interdependence, not competition, would be the key characteristics of successful communities and a successful society." Lorraine Garkovich, University of Kentucky


In addition to living in intentional communities for over 25 years, Charles has served in many capacities with organizations involved in community. For example, he co-founded the Fellowship for Intentional Community, the Foundation for Personal and Community Development, the Illinois Community Economic Development Association and the Center for Spiritual, Personal And Community Empowerment. Charles was Managing Editor of Communities Magazine for five years, and served on the board of directors for Community Service, Inc., Community Educational Services Council, Inc. and the Illinois Community Development Society. He has a Master's degree in Community Economic Development and over 25 years of administrative experience in community, organizational and economic development. Charles is the author of the Introduction to Personal and Professional Success Techniques Seminar, Motivision: 21 Steps to Successful Living, and  The Ultimate Life Inpowerment Planning System, a comprehensive spiritually oriented program for achieving personal and professional goals.

Charles presently lives in Vista, California where he and two companies he founded, Universal Empowerment, Inc. and Wisdom, Wealth, Wellness, Inc. are help launch Ultimate Destiny. He also maintains a home in the intentional community of Stelle, Illinois where he is further evolving CENTER SPACE and assisting with the development of the CENTER SPACE Retreat Center. His addresses are: CENTER SPACE, 127 Sun Street, Stelle, IL 60919. Phone 815-256-2273 and Wisdom, Wealth, Wellness, PO Box 1655, Vista, CA 92085.


(An overview of intentional communities published in the December 1983 Tarrytown Newsletter)

1. A dual commitment to transformation, both personal and planetary. Dedication to individual growth and to serving the needs of humanity.

2. Cooperation: A community based on sharing, pooling of finances and human resources, rather than competition and being "Out for Number-One."

3. A deep respect for the environment, to restoring ecological balance and "living lightly" on the earth. To develop solar and wind energy, organic agriculture.

4. A spirit of experimentalism- in both work and relationships. A commitment to "working through" the shadow side of the personality, to confronting conflict between individuals and within the self. To bringing out the dark side for transformation into affirmative alliances.

5. A new economics: Finding businesses and ways to manage them that put human values on the bottom line and still return a healthy profit.

6. Common sense. The determination to find practical solutions that work toward conquering society's problems of pollution, inflation, violence and alienation.

7. A holistic approach to health: Exploring alternative healing from herbs to acupuncture, nutrition and massage, to preventive methods aimed at helping people to take responsibility for their own health.

8. Building a positive vision: The determination, far from grim, to build an example for a better society and to live tomorrow's world today. And to make their insights available, through outreach programs, to local communities and the world at large.

9. Self government by consensus. Working with group process and evoking the intuition of community members in the decision-making process.

10. A world network. Cooperating with similar communities throughout the world, sharing skills and services, taking political action - and forming the vital nucleus of a new civilization. Reprinted with permission from the Tarrytown Group, P.O. Box 222, Tarrytown, NY 10591

"In and through community lies the salvation of the world." -- M. Scott Peck, Introduction, The Different Drum

"...'community' is a group of two or more people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences, enabling them to communicate openly and effectively, and to work together towards common goals, while having a sense of unusual safety with one another. Community Building workshops endeavor to create this safe place." -- M. Scott Peck, "Community Building in Brief"

Community Building, in the context of this site, refers to a group process where participants experience and practice communication skills that create the possibility for deep human connection. This process was described by author Dr. M. Scott Peck in his book, The Different Drum. Further information was presented in a later book, A World Waiting to Be Born.

Community, according to Peck, may be described as "a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to 'rejoice together, mourn together,' and to 'delight in each other, make each others' conditions [their] own.'" [Drum, Simon and Schuster, 1988, p. 59.]

The stages of Community Building generally include:


An initial state of "being nice". Pseudocommunity is characterized by politeness, conflict avoidance, and denial of individual differences. Let's be honest -- most of us can't keep this up for long. Eventually someone is going to speak up, speak out, and the dam breaks.


In the stage of chaos, individual differences are aired, and the group tries to overcome them through misguided attempts to heal or to convert. Listening suffers, and emotions and frustration tend to run high. There are only two ways out of chaos: retreat into pseudocommunity (often through organization), or forward, through emptiness.


Emptiness refers to the process of recognizing and releasing the barriers (expectations, prejudices, the need to control) that hold us back from authentic communication with others, from being emotionally available to hear the voices of those around us. This is a period of going within, of searching ourselves and sharing our truths with the group. This process of "dying to the self" can make way for something remarkable to emerge.

"In my defenselessness, my safety lies." In this stage, individuals accept others as they are, and are themselves accepted. Differences are no longer feared or ignored, but rather are celebrated. A deep sense of peace and joy characterizes the group.



Copyright 1995 by Charles Betterton. All rights reserved.














The CAN DO! Empowerment Resource Center is a joint venture of three affiliated non-profit organizations: Ultimate Destiny University; CENTER SPACE (The Center for Personal, 
Spiritual And Community Empowerment); and the
Center for Conscious Sustainable Living.


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