Adaptive Communities

Strengthening local communities will be crucial in the years ahead, to help us all to live with increasing levels of disruption, e.g. to food supplies, utilities, weather patterns, and probably social cohesion. SoF can offer a range of insights and processes, drawn from our pilot projects and research, to help communities. These include:

  • CLAAR Project: Community Led Adaptation and Resilience: The climate crisis and related impacts are worsening fast. National responses are inadequate, and this looks unlikely to change soon. Responses at community level may be the best option currently, and even though many communities don’t yet have the critical mass for significant action, there are some infrastructure actions which would enable this when conditions worsen.
    At present, CLAAR is an emerging project, with a number of organisations informally involved. Through collaboration with members of Network for Social Change, funding has been provided for a study to understand the current situation and future needs in the community resilience sector. See brief here. Currently the two main areas of exploration are:

    1. Connecting and enabling network: There is a growing number of local organisations engaging with aspects of community resilience and adaptation. However, it seems that many of these do not draw on expertise from other projects or supportive networks, and risk reinventing the wheel. One aim of Project CLAAR is to clarify the kinds of network support most helpful for local community groups, and to help create this.
    2. Resource Toolkit:
     Initial research suggests that there is no obvious, easily accessed source of know-how that community groups in this sector could draw on. Relevant resources could include processes (e.g. deliberative democracy), case studies of best practice, guides to funding sources and legal structures.
    A Resource Toolkit could be a website, searchable on multiple dimensions, and progressively expanded and updated. We are not aware that anything suitable exists for the UK, and the North American counterparts generally focus on disaster response (e.g. wildfires) rather than systemic failures (e.g. food supplies, IT systems).
    Alan Heeks first saw the need for this in 2012, when he commissioned an action research project by Reos Partners on how to raise community resilience. This research showed that for most issues, a few good role models were up and running, and the problem was reproducibility. One way to help this would be to document successful projects to show others how to emulate them. For a summary of the Facing the 2020s report, click here.

  • Future Risks Review 2030: In 2023, Seeding our Future commissioned desk research from Schumacher Institute exploring the major challenges likely to hit communities in the UK over the next 10 years. This gives a useful indication of some of the key issues, and resource gaps in responding to them: see report here.
  • Future Conversations: This is a set of workshops which SoF has successfully piloted, to help communities build resilience skills. See more here.
  • Deep Adaptation: This approach, originated by Professor Jem Bendell, offers a range of processes for practical and emotional adaptation to climate change and other major disruptions. SoF has led a variety of workshops helping community groups and others to explore and apply Deep Adaptation approaches. See more here.
  • Intentional communities: Cohousing neighbourhoods and similar projects have evolved good processes for group-forming, decisions, resource-sharing, etc., which can be useful for communities of all kinds. Alan Heeks co-founded and lived in a cohousing community for 5 years, and has also taught on the Eco-village Training at Findhorn Foundation. See more in Resources below.


I’ve been exploring different aspects of community for 30 years, since I first stayed in an intentional community, the Findhorn Foundation, in 1990. Here are some resources which may help you in your exploration:

  • Adaptive Networks and Hamlets: this recent blog gives an overview of my ideas on two of the main ways to evolve Adaptive Communities: click here.
  • Natural Happiness: this is my model of learning about human resilience and wellbeing from natural ecosystems. For the overall Seven Seeds model, see here. To see how community qualities in ecosystems can help you, see here.
  • Community resilience: In 2015-17, I ran a project, Facing The 2020’s, exploring how local communities can grow their resilience and their capacity for positive collective action. For an overview of my conclusions, see here.
  • Communities and climate change: working through communities is a good way to encourage individual action, and some climate responses require collective action. For info on my Bridport Climate Response initiative, click here. For some reflections on what we’ve learned, see this blog.
  • Cohousing: this is a community which combines some shared resources (e.g. market garden, dining/group room, guest bedrooms, pool cars) with private dwellings, each with their own front door. I have started two cohousing projects, and lived in one for five years. Creating a new bricks-and-mortar cohousing project can take many years, but there may be quicker ways to do this using Tiny Homes or converting existing buildings. For a case study and resources, see here.
  • Seven kinds of community: you may get confused because the term community is used in different ways. For a simple guide, see here.
  • Ecovillages: these are larger, low-impact communities where people live, work, and play, in harmony with the Earth. Learn more via the Global Ecovillage Network: For a briefing on the Dorset Ecovillage project which I explored in 2003-2007, see here. Such a project could be a brilliant catalyst for positive change: I stopped my work on it because the planning authorities at the time were unsympathetic, and we did not have access to the scale of funds we needed.