Re: Cultural Consistency
From: Jim_Snyder-Grant . LOTUS (
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 94 17:34 CDT
During one of our membership expansion periods, we acknowledged that households 
that added significant new diversity to the group would have the best chance of 
wanting to come in & stay in if there were 2 or more families that shared that 
same type of diversity. We called this the 'critical mass' factor. At one time, 
we codified this in our membership policies by reserving a significant number 
of new-member slots for households that would significantly increase the 
diversity of the group, realizing that we might need to reserve a few slots in 
order to bring in a 'critical mass' . We stated in that policy that we were 
particularly interested in diversities of age, race, ethnicity, & sexual 
orientation (I forget the exact list, but that's about correct). 

We made the policy contingent on a legal review, because we weren't sure if 
what we were doing would constitute some sort of discrimination on legal 
grounds because of the fair housing laws. When our lawyer took a look at it & 
reviewed it with his firm's fair-housing expert, he recommended we drop it. Our 
policy was apparently on the line of what would be legal or not. We dropped 
back to a policy of considering as a 'positive factor' a potential household's 
contribution to increasing the diversity of the group. The lawyer was 
comfortable with that.

How did we do? Our group, now 24 households, has some diversity (and comfort 
with) a variety of sexual orientations & family configurations; a decent 
variety in ages (the one we worked the most on? achieving having [and holding 
on to] 5 households over 55); little or no racial diversity, but some adopted 
non-white kids; and a variety of religious affiliations, including, curiously 
enough, a large number of mixed Jewish / non-Jewish households (including mine).

Finally, a comment on how those involved in cohousing appear to be mutants with 
respect to the larger culture: I think what we are seeing has two partial 
causes, both of which I've seen operate in New View: First, a certain amount of 
self-selection, where people that don't get the potential value in giving up 
some autonomy to a larger, cooperative group just don't join co-housing; and 
then some reinforcement of those values as each group works out how they are 
going to be with each other & each person accumulates successful experiences & 
new skill in being cooperative.

We have, from time to time, been able to catch 'group-think' at work, the 
pressure on minority points of view to conform to the rest of the group, as if 
disagreement was some threat. It is becoming part of our habit as a group to 
notice those sorts of moments & take the time to appreciate people's diverse 
points of view as a gift to the larger group. If we all thought alike, we could 
all be wrong at once without any chance of correction - diverse points of vew 
gives us a chance to talk things through & consider options. I'm sure this will 
be an ongoing learning for the group - I think us humans get some built-in 
inclination or early training on saying we agree with the group even when we 
disagree; and we even know how to change our perceptions to match those that 
the group around is reporting. I think this is one of the central pitfalls that 
groups need to work through.

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