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Lessons from High Spirit

Creating a new life sharing community would be much easier if there was just one turnkey model to follow. But just as no two people are exactly alike, communities will differ depending upon the needs of the residents and the subsequent vision and mission of the founders. Over time, if their development is allowed to be organic, responsive, and appropriately flexible, each will continue to grow and change in various ways over time.


That being said, there are always lessons that can be drawn from the experience of those that came before. Bob and Ginny Swain were Massachusetts trailblazers when they set about to create High Spirit and a better future for their newly adult son, Bar. Collected below are some details of their process, organized in the same format as the sections of this website including their insights, and advice, their “aha’s” - and their “uh oh’s.” While far from comprehensive, we hope that this will be of use to you as the sharing process has always been a central part of their mission.


We encourage you to refer to these materials throughout your journey, bearing in mind as you do, that the Swain’s circumstances may not wholly reflect your own. If you are willing, please share your feedback with us; it can only benefit the others who follow.

getting started - where are you now?

Early thoughts

This narrative was written by Bob Swain and describes the founders' initial philosophy that would help define the community they wanted to create.  It is intentionally conceptual, more of a collective ethos than a road map. The full text can be found here, in the Documents tab of the web site.

Preliminary values/culture

Having described the philosophy that would ground and drive the development of High Spirit, the founders went on to try and capture the values and culture that would characterize everything that took place on the farm.  The list, found here, in the Documents tab, 

taking the first steps 

Mission and Vision

Many organizations and foundations provide "how-to" guides for creating a non-profit organization.  Link here to one such guide developed by 

The Bridgespan Group, a leading consultant to social entrepreneurs and supporters.  Bridgespan also offers a visual summary of the process as well and a worksheet for a mission statement. It can also be accessed directly under the Documents tab (under Creating Mission and Vision statements).

In these videos, listen as Bob and Ginny talk about their experience framing the vision for High Spirit as well as writing its mission. Candid Learning also offers a very useful guide on how to start a non-profit. 


Government Funding

More detailed information about government funding for young adults with

intellectual disabilities can be found on any number of web sites. The first place to turn is the Social Security Administration which is the central agency for the administration of Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Insurance Benefits (SSIB). 

In addition to federal funding, selective information on state-specific funds and how they can (or cannot) be applied is available in the State-by-State section of the Resources tab.  


Information on the role of agencies is also available in the same section. Here, for instance, is a summary of what community leaders can expect in Massachusetts.

How Do You Actually Plan All This?

Bob and Ginny's own blueprint for High Spirit evolved from their earliest days.  A copy of the last formal version is here and also available in the Documents tab.

A number of topics outlined in the High Spirit blueprint are also covered in videos on the main web site, including Build  Your Team.

The founders of High Spirit also drafted a more extended piece on Householders, a reflection on the vital role that these individuals play in sustaining the community, on a daily and long-term basis. In that same vein, they also set forth some guiding principles around Communication, another critical element to ensuring consistency, continuity and trust among various community members.  Both documents can be accessed in the Documents section as well as the links provided here.

Other Models

When considering the whats and hows of High Spirit, Bob & Ginny and their team also took a close look at other like-minded communities.  There were many conversations with leaders of these communities and often, there were site visits.  Among those were:

Camphill School  (PA - a Camphill community - primary model)

Beaver Farm  (PA - a transitional program at Camphill School)

Heartbeat Lifesharing (VT - a Camphill community)

New England Village (MA)

Plowshare Farm  (NH)

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