RE: amount of rules
From: Rob Sandelin (Exchange) (
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 1996 11:41:06 -0500
As you come together to form community you will find yourself in  the
midst of large amounts of agreements. A collaborative, cooperative
process such as cohousing is absolutely chock full of agreements about
all manners of things, from the color of the tile in the kitchens, to
the kind of light bulbs in the commonhouse, to whether to hold community
dinner at 5:30, or 6pm, How late loud noise is OK, and on and on and on.
 You will also find that your collective memory of things is poor.
Whatever you agree on today half the group will misremember 4 months
from know.  So, hopefully you write these many things down somewheres,
like in the records you keep at meetings.  

If you are really organized, some person will extract the ongoing
operational agreements you make and put them on a separate list, so when
you want to review them 6 months later, you can find them again easily.
Thus a list of agreements is born.  If you are really well organized you
might have the date the agreement was made, the reason for the agreement
or what you want the agreement to accomplish, and then the details.

If you can manage to get 24-30 households invested in a cooperative
community without quite a few operational agreements I think you would
be quite exceptional as a group, perhaps even worthy of a major research
project.  Life in a community requires agreements, because every single
day you are intimately connected with a large number of people, all
using the same common space.  What works for 3 people in a conversation,
needs at least to be documented somehow so everybody else who was not
part of the conversation knows what went on.  One difficult aspect of
trying to get people living together in some reasonable state of
harmony, is broadcasting communications that everyone needs to know
about.  You can do this by holding lots of large group meetings, or you
can find other ways, like bulletin boards, newsletters, etc.

"The rules"  are a record of the conversations and agreements that the
whole group has had to date. Written agreements are also conflict
mediators.  Here is what we agreed to about THAT so far. Its usually
very clear and new folks coming in get a clear message.  Agreements can
usually be changed with the same process that created them and so moving
in doesn't mean you have to live with an agreement forever, just until
you can get it modified.  

 Very simple agreements can be remembered, like the bike helmet, other
agreements with several details, such as a pet policy, or architectural
standards, need to be written down.  However, conveying unwritten
agreements can very sort of, inexact. Its good to write things down. You
will also find, as your group ages, that there becomes a large,
undocumented culture of how things are, that is not really possible to
explain all at once, but is knowlege new members must accumulate over
time.  Why do all the kids bikes get parked there? Why do we have a
party every year at the winter solstice? Your community culture will
grow as well, and the longer you are together as a group, the longer
your shared history and culture becomes a part of who you are.  Like the
time 3 kids all started riding two wheeler bikes on the same afternoon.
Or the remember the time Nicks shirt caught fire at the Christmas party?
 These shared experiences are like an invisable glue which bind you
together as partipants of the grand and noble venture we call community.

There is an essay coming about the role of agreements and its
relationship to the age and stability of the community. But not today.

Rob Sandelin

  • Re: amount of rules Buzz Burrell, July 29 1996
    • RE: amount of rules Rob Sandelin (Exchange), July 29 1996

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