Re: Programming the commonhouse
From: Paul Conahan (
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 1996 21:40:46 -0600
Mac Thomson wrote:
> I was curious about the message that you posted on coho-l recently.  You
> strongly recommended using a trained design facilitator to help with the
> programming of the commonhouse and you also mentioned that you used
> Chuck and Katy, but I didn't really hear you strongly recommend Chuck
> and Katy specifically.  We're planning to use them and I was wondering
> if you were pleased with their work.  Would you strongly recommend them?
> What are their strengths?  Their weaknesses?

Yes, I STRONGLY recommend Chuck and Katy.  I tried to stay neutral as to
a specific recommendation in my posting because I didn't want to steal
the fire from any other facillitators out there.  On reflection, I guess
it wouldn't have mattered much to be more opinionated.

Chuck and Katy make an excellent team, and the way they split up the
programming into Site and Commonhouse really plays to each of their
strengths.  Katy is a strong facillitator, which is especially essential
for the site programming which typically happens first.  Issues on
parking got very heated (among many other issues), and Katy's firm but
understanding facillitation helped enormously.

Chuck is very laid back, which actually works well since people are
pretty comfortable with the programming process by the time they get to
Chuck.  Also, it is easier to program the commonhouse since it is a true
community building effort, whereas many aspects of site planning have
large and direct effects on individual units (e.g., certain views and
locations that people had their heart set on).

The biggest strength of both Chuck and Katy is the breadth of experience
they have from working and visiting with groups all over the country.  I
mentioned this in my original post, but it is truly assuring to know
that you have direct access to such a wealth of information.  And both
Chuck and Katy are opinionated at the right time and will tell you when
they think the group is about to make a design mistake, and can fully
explain pros and cons based on other projects and feedback.

Last piece of advice:  Our group had a very loose implementation of
consensus decision in place by the time we did our programming with
Chuck and Katy.  For example, most of us were not aware of the "Silence
= Assent" rule.  Make sure the ground rules of your decision making are
all in place by the time the programming happens otherwise you may end
up having to re-open numerous issues in which true consensus was not

Good luck.  I envy your group, I wish I could do the programming again. 
It was hard work, but incredibly satisfying, and ultimately added a rich
layer of cohesion to our group.

Paul Conahan
Ann Arbor Cohousing


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