Re: TRG membership and community
From: John Ladwig (
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 93 08:24 CST
Fred H Olson -- WB0YQM <FRED%JWH [at]> writes on 11 January 93 
at 20:38 CST

 > Finally I get around to asking Andre, John or Mark (TRG members):
 > Does TRG in fact make welcome *only* those who are science fiction
 > fans?

Hardly.  It's just that when you've been putting a 2000+ person annual
convention plus several smaller events on an annual basis, all on
volunteer labor, in a real live 501c(3) organization, you find out
who's interested in working together on interesting large projects
like cohousing.  SF fandom also has traditionally had a respect for
alternative family structures that I have not seen in the broader
Minnesotan and American culture.  That has led some of us who had
dreams of a shared living arrangement to fix on cohousing as a useful
model.  We are not looking to recreate the starship Enterprise, or the
world of Ursula K. LeGuin's _The_Dispossessed_; we are a group of
people who like to work together, and like to work on living together.
We'd like others to work with us, but we haven't been real pushy or
obvious about it.

Putting on large volunteer-run events requires non-traditional
decision-making structures and techniques as well.  Minn-STF, our
local SF organization, has a handbook of several different ways to
"vote", along with a detailed description of each one's biases and
strengths.  We have simple majority, Australian ballot, iterated
approval (we may have invented this one), and several forms of
modified iterated approval.  In the SF organization (and, carried like
sourdough starter into TRG) there is a cultural tradition of making
major decisions (our main annual convention has a budget well into
five figures) in a spirit of laughter, affection, and punning.  Oh,
the punning...  

We already knew how to trust members of a social group to "get
together and come up with something" in a volunteer organization
before we formed TRG.  We know that mistakes will get made (we've made
them), and we know how to recover from mistakes and still have a
healthy group (we've done that too).  TRG isn't a "first date" for the
current membership.  I imagine it could look insular from outside, but
we hope to attract new members who are secure in who they are, and can
come to TRG with both strength and flexibility.  We figure that those
who get our jokes and amuse us with theirs will stay.

The consensus model of decision making was a new idea, and we've
developed some pretty useful group process techniques to support it.
All TRG decisions of any consequence are made in consensus, although
the group as a whole need not (and usually is not) involved in each
and every level of decision making.  There are delegations of
responsibility or charges for specific missions, like negotiating the
option on a property which is on the market for $1.1 million, at a
meeting which will only have three TRG members negotiating.  We trust
one another.  We have reason to; we've seen each other run conventions
and the like.  And after talking informally to several members of the
Winslow (Bainbridge Island/Seattle) group, group process and trust
means a helluva lot in cohousing.

As a bit of history (which may be skewed; Victor is probably the best
one to tell the story, but he's not on the list), several of the
members of what is now TRG have been discussing ways to do something
like cohousing since about 1988 or so.  Two centers formed early, one
discussing the formation of an urban living center, one a rural.  The
groups overlapped in the team of Victor Raymond, a neighborhood
organizer with extensive experience in tenant and community relations,
and his partner Lynn Litterer, a biochemist working in the local vet
school.  When the McCammett book came out (I first saw a copy in
August of 1990, when Victor came over to me and said "It has a
name...").  Victor and the rest of the informal discussion group
members started talking about our ideas to others at, of all places,
science fiction conventions, and with the people we work on them with.
Thus the SF-community basis of TRG.

 > [An aside: the dreaded bane of Eforums, 'flame wars' did come to mind while
 > reading the recent messages here but I was pleased to see the articles did
 > not descend to this level.  I wish to clarify that the above question
 > should not be construed as an attack on TRG but a sincere question that I
 > have heard raised.]

And I'm happy to treat it as a sincere question.  In fact, it's a
question we've raised internally, and more than once.

[ Disclaimer - I am speaking as an individual member of TRG.  I am not
  charged by the membership as a whole with any type of spokesman

At this time, we at TRG have not made a significant general recruiting
effort.  We did have visitors during the period of our option on the
Lexington School, but they lost interest after we had to let the
option go (sorry to hear about the well tests; our option was released
in part due to estimated costs of asbestos and underground oil tank

As a member of the TRG "ethiquette" (a blend of ethics and etiquette)
working subgroup, we are talking actively about the issue of
broadening our base.  It will be a necessity, as we are currently
about twelve "doors", or individual living units, and it looks like
the project would need to be about 25-30 doors in order to do some of
the things we'd like to see in cohousing.  We are exploring strategies
for "marketing" ourselves, and will actively pursue them once we have
identified a new site.

TRG welcomes any visitor interested in cohousing, whether or not they
are interested in applying for membership.

             UMN Department of Soil Science; St. Paul, MN
Internet: john.ladwig [at]             Fidonet: John Ladwig 
          jladwig [at]       

  • Who's welcome to live here Fred H Olson -- WB0YQM, January 11 1993
    • Re: TRG membership and community John Ladwig, January 12 1993

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