What is Camphill?

Camphill communities are a network of life-sharing intentional communities which provide a range of support services for people of all ages with intellectual disabilities and other additional support needs.

The Camphill Movement was founded in 1940 in Scotland by a group of refugees from Nazi-occupied central Europe, under the leadership of Austrian paediatrician Karl König.  König sought to offer mentally and physically disabled children and adults a quality of life that at that time was still largely denied them by mainstream society. As well as therapy and medical treatment, this included opportunities for learning skills and crafts and taking part in a variety of agricultural, domestic, cultural and artistic activities. A holistic approach was considered the key to healing, one which took into account not only physical and mental but emotional, environmental, social and spiritual factors.  Camphill’s ethos and practices were and continue to be strongly influenced by the founders’ study of the teachings of Austrian philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner.

Today there are approximately 120 Camphill communities in 25 countries, predominantly in the UK, Europe and North America. For further information, please see our Useful Links.

Why research Camphill? 

The number of people identified as ‘intellectually disabled’ is growing and governments across the world are struggling to ensure that they enjoy the rights, opportunities and quality of life that have come to be accepted as essentials of democratic society.  With a decline in public resources, however, it is increasingly volunteer and community groups which are leading the way in developing responses to the multiple and diverse needs of this vulnerable population.  As an example of such a group with over 70 years of experience in supporting people with disabilities in specialist community settings, research into Camphill communities has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the field of social care in both policy and practical terms.

As well as its relevance for the social care and education sectors, Camphill is part of a wider network of spiritual communities, income-sharing communities, cohousing communities, cooperatives, ecovillages and other intentional community projects which are gaining recognition as pioneers in the fields of environmental sustainability, economic innovation, cultural renewal and peaceful social transformation.  In spite of its longevity and international expansion, the Camphill Movement remains relatively unknown in community studies literature.

For an overview of existing research on Camphill and more detailed arguments in favour of further research, please see our Research Reports page.

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