RE: Governance: Decision board idea from Sharingwood
From: Rob Sandelin (Exchange) (
Date: Thu, 16 May 1996 14:42:26 -0500
Meeting process and goverance are continually being experimented with at
Sharingwood. We often try out different ideas, evaluate them, then adopt
them or try something else. We are finding that many things do not
require large group meetings to decide, and also many things fall
outside of the committee structure. People have ideas or projects they
want input on, or decisions need to be made.

One thing we are doing to deal with the above is called the decision
board. There are bunches of niddly little things that need to get
decided, everything from how to rearrange the furniture of the
commonhouse to the layout and design of the drink station, to how much
money to credit for meal reimbursement.  The decision board works like
this: I have an idea which does not need large group decision, but I
want to consult and get input from people interested. There is a folder
on one bulletin board with bright pink papers on it which have a heading
in big letters that say: To Be Decided.  I write my idea under the
heading, add a date, time and place for a meeting and post it on the
decision board. (Have to give at least 5 days notice)=20

People check the decision board, those interested in my idea come to the
meeting or write their comments on the form. Me and those who come to
the meeting, make the decision, record what we decided on the back of
the form (for record keeping purposes) and implement the decision.  Full
automony.  Note: this method currently is only used for decisions which
meet certain criteria so they do NOT need full membership approval. The
criteria are posted next to the folder with the forms.

This system requires all Woodies to check the decision board regularly
(cruise the commonhouse at least once a week or have a buddy alert you)
which puts the responsibility on everyone to stay in the loop.  It also
provides a way for individiuals to do things, take action, make stuff
happen, and also do it in a way that no one can say, I didn't know about

As to some of Macs questions, Sharingwood is both in the living together
and constuction stage so we have committees for continual stuff, and the
decision board and task forces forms the rest. If an issue arises which
we need a group to formulate policy, we form a disappearing task force
which holds meetings, drafts a proposal and presents it at the large
group meeting.  Our commonhouse committee for example is currently
transitioning from construction, which is almost over, to maintenance
and policy. There is some turn over, the folks who were interested in
the electrical plan, don't care much about the cleaning schedule, and
vice versa.

Average hours in meetings a week widely varies by the individual. If you
want to be involved in everything, and there are few *special* folks who
do, you could spend 6 hours a week. Most of average 5-6 hours of
meetings a month, excluding dinner, which sometimes functions as an
adhoc meeting.

Committee membership turns over regularly and sometimes committees
disappear from lack of participation. Our social committee has
dissapeared for example. No one is interested in planning parties, so we
have unplanned parties instead.=20

Rob Sandelin's tip of the day
Inside every old person is a young person saying, How the hell did this
>Original Message-----
Sent:   Thursday, May 16, 1996 8:12 AM
Subject:        Governance

One of my interests is in cohousing management, governance, organization
structure whatever you want to call it.  There hasn=B9t been too much=20
talk here about what groups have learned in these areas and how they go=20
about taking care of the business of the community in the most efficient
and satisfying manner possible.  Since every group must deal with this,=20
I would think that we could learn quite a bit from each other.

As our organization evolves, I=B9ve been checking some past coho-l=20
postings to see how other cohousing organizations have evolved in terms=20
of governance.  There seems to be general agreement that the use of=20
consensus in no way precludes the use of delegation.  I=B9ve also =
that a few groups (Southside, Nyland, and Sharingwood) have consolidated
their committee structures.  My understanding is that there was a=20
problem with too many committees all responsible for different=20
miscellaneous activities and some activities perhaps falling between the
cracks and being the responsibility of no committee.  In consolidating,=20
the group created an oversight body of some sort and created just a=20
small number of committees to whom ALL activities were distributed.

Here=B9s some questions to stimulate some discussion:
Is my explanation of what happened with these groups somewhat accurate?
Have other groups gone through similar consolidation?
Who has a system that they think works particularly well?  Particularly=20
Does the construction period require the same type of governance=20
structure as when you=B9re actually living in cohousing?
How many hours per month does the average member spend in meetings?
           Mac Thomson                   San Juan Cohousing
           ganesh [at]                Durango, Colorado

"Between whom there is hearty truth, there is love."
                         - Henry David Thoreau
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