They Lost Everything on Collaborative Living

Their hearts were in the right place, but they ran into one obstacle after another. The cost overuns pushed them into bankruptcy. Some of these poor people - most of retirement age - lost everything on this dream community they wanted to share in Connecticut.

At Rocky Corner, members managed the project and their community affairs using a process called sociocracy, which organizes people into various circles to make decisions consensually. A small group of founding members, including Brenda Caldwell, of Bethany, as well as Mr. Berto, sat on the “project management” circle, and regularly consulted with the construction company and architect. Other members participated in one or more circles focused on various other aspects, such as marketing, design, and community relations.

Rocky Corner was organized around the themes of conservation and sustainability, the result of a conversation that began as far back as 2006. The modestly sized homes on the property, all less than 1,300 square feet, are built to high energy-efficiency standards. Laid out in duplexes and triplexes, they are clustered on five acres close to a 4,300-square-foot common house designed to have a kitchen, dining area, lounge, woodworking shop, and laundry facilities.

Organizers had hoped to grow vegetables on a part of the land, and preserve the rest with easements.