Self-Management and Participation
From: Dan Suchman (
Date: Thu, 23 Feb 95 08:18 CST
I am a resident of the Winslow cohousing community on Bainbridge Island, WA.
Several of us have recently formed a task force to rigorously examine issues of
management and participation in our community.  In doing this work, I have found
it useful to distinguish between "management" and "participation".  Although
scholars may object, by "management" I mean "government" or the process of
making decisions that affect the community.  As I see it, management can take
many forms, from a direct democracy or consensus system requiring everyone to
make decisions on every issue that affects the community, to a complete
delegation of authority to a single person or entity that is neither a member
nor a resident of the community.  The ground in between the two extremes is vast
and full of potential
compromises.  By "participation", I am not referring to who makes decisions, but
rather to who
does the work, including the work of management, using some discretion, but
working within a
specific budget and other constraints, and toward a specific goal, established
by the managers and/or other members of the community. This does not necessarily
suggest a hierarchy.  Managers and workers can be one and the same.  A person
that manages in one area may be managed in another.  Participation can mean
anything from a strict division of labor among some or all of the residents of
the community, to a complete delegation of those tasks to hired contractors.
When examining management, I have focused on questions of delegation of
authority and defining tasks.  When examining participation, I have focused on
the questions of human resources needed to get those tasks done.

I would greatly appreciate from those reading this message any citations to
book, articles or other materials that might be helpful in discovering how other
communities have faced these issues.  I am currently reading Kat Kinkade's books
"A Walden Two Experiment" (about the first 5 years at Twin Oaks) and "Is it
Utopia Yet" (about the first 25 years at Twin Oaks), as well as Ingrid Komar's
"Living the Dream" (a documentary study of Twin Oaks in approximately its 13th

I would also love to generate some discussion on this topic, as well as to share
our collective experiences with these issues.  Please feel free to post replies
to Cohousing-L or to respond by private email.  I can also be reached by "snail
mail" at P.O. Box 11378, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-5378, or by phone at (206)


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