I was reading some more of Chapter 14 in the Permaculture Design Manual and found some useful insight on village size. I’ve been asked many times and have thought about ideal sizes for intentional communities for some time. Some prefer small and others’, myself included think a larger group is more compelling. The Dunbar Number is often pulled into this conversation as Robin Dunbar theorized that there is an upper limit to the number of people we can maintain stable social relationships with. It is not an exact number but an approximate one – roughly 150.
Bill Mollison reasons it this way:
- At about 100 income-producing people, a significant financial institution can be village-based
- At about 500 all people can know each other if social affairs are organized from time to time
- At 2000 people theft and competitiveness is more common and sects are set up in opposition
He goes on to add:
Perhaps we should start small at about 30 or so adults, build to 200-300 people, and proceed slowly and by choice to 500, then “calve” into new neighbourhoods or new villages
He supports this reasoning with the Mondragon Cooperative example from Spain which:
at first grew large (3,000 – 5,000), but later reduced to 300-500 to preserve the identity of every individual
This reasoning seems sound to me. Obviously, village-scale needs to be matched to the local environment’s ability to supply food, energy, water and other resources as well work for the citizens of the community.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you know of any communities that have followed this development path?