For many people, the idea of an intentional community doesn’t ring a bell even though it has been in practice for thousands of years. In essence, an intentional community is a group of people coming together in a place they create to live in some particular way. The variety of intentional communities is nearly infinite: some are religious, some are not; politics run the gamut; they are large and small, rural and urban, ecologically minded and materialistic. They include monasteries, communes, anarchic squatter houses, cooperative housing, co-housing, kibbutzim, Christian activist communities, Shaker communities, and many other kinds of groups. Making generalizations about intentional communities is about as accurate as making generalizations about people.
One of the few things that can be said about most intentional communities across the board is that they are built on a stronger sense of community than is common in a conventional setting. People know each other better, work and/or play together, and in most cases share some values, goals, or beliefs. There are real advantages to living in a place of this kind for people who are open to being an integral part of their communities.
For most purposes, groups that don’t live together aren’t intentional communities in the sense meant here; the term also cannot apply to ‘planned developments’ and similar places for two reasons: first, the groups of people who come to them do not necessarily come together in any meaningful sense. Second, the environment is created by some external planning group that then sells homes or lots or living units, rather than being created by the residents.