M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentAm-Shalem Shay
SubjectUrban Intentional Communities and Correlation with Sense of
Community in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods
The Case of Hadar Hacarmel, Haifa
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors ASSOCIATE PROF. Efrat Eizenberg
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


This research investigates a unique phenomenon evolving in recent years in a number of Israeli urban areas that are characterized by underprivileged population - Intentional communities which motivated by idealistic goals and choose to live in and contribute to the geographic and social periphery.

Hadar Hacarmel neighborhood in the city of Haifa serves as the field of research due to the large number and varied intentional communities that chose to settle there. Both grassroots and institutional forces facilitated the process in which Hadar became attractive for those communities. The research methodology combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. An interviews and observations based ethnography was conducted to describe the nature and structure of organizing of the three major established intentional communities that are active in Hadar neighborhood. Questionnaires based survey was conducted among residents who are not members of intentional communities (N = 103). The survey used a common index- SCI-2 (Chavis, Le & Acosta, 2008), to examine the residents' sense of community as well as the quantity and nature their participation in activities offered by intentional communities.

The main research question deals with finding the relations between residents’ involvement with the intentional communities activities and sense of community among residents. The results suggest a positive and significant relations between participation or awareness to intentional communities' activities and sense of community among residents (α = 0.00 and α = 0.007).

These conclusions may strengthen the possibility of deploying intentional communities as a tool in the urban planner toolbox for bettering underprivileged neighborhoods. This work offers practical tools for characterizing and examining the integration and contribution of intentional communities.

The study reveals a number of observations about using SCI-2 in the Israeli context. In agreement with the literature, the findings confirm the connection between gender and sense of community. However, relations between sense of community and other demographic parameters that are common in the literature - residency seniority, ownership of residence, income level and Children living in household - were found insignificant.

The research points out an added value brought about mere by social activism and residency within the same area. The sense of partnership creates caring and ability to detect genuine needs and redress them on-the-spot. Formal and informal education is the most significant infrastructure for intentional communities intervention. The communities develop knowledge which is then disseminated to other intentional communities. In addition, the communities are helpful in voicing demands and claiming rights for residents who are limited in their capacity to do it for themselves.

Intentional communities intervention can be highly contributing to residents, but at the same time it may be accompanied by tensions. Conflicts prominently evolve when intentional communities have a dominant ideology that is not in line with the worldview of the local residents. Members of intentional communities occasionally perceived as separatists and as promoting their own interests over those of the entire neighborhood. In addition, criticism on intentional communities as fueling gentrification process in the neighborhood is often voiced by residents as well as members of the communities themselves.