Re: Reinventing the Wheel
From: Michael Persons (
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 20:27:05 -0600 (MDT)
In my opinion, lots of people proclaim their independence from others'
methods, design, architecture, etc., but when it's all said and done not
many of
the coho groups seem to look or act that different.  That's because, again
in my
opinion, people really are very similar.  That's why I'm in favor of my group
borrowing as much as we can from other groups.  Perhaps reinventing our own
wheels can be a group bonding process, but it can be an expensive and
one in many cases.  For example, designing your own units.  I'd be perfectly
happy to get an architect who knows cohousing principles to design our units.
I'd probably want more input to the site design, but for me the most important
part of this is the community, not getting the dining room and living room set
up just right.  

I'd rather use group exercises, retreats, etc. to bond a group rather than
potentially expensive and time-consuming design tasks.  As the old saw goes,
the perfect is the enemy of the good enough.  I want cohousing, not a perfect
environment to live in.


P.S.  I'm wondering what a social technology committee is, and what a social
infrastructure is.  Just curious.

At 06:05 PM 4/30/97 -0500, you wrote:
>I've heard people on this list suggest that there's no reason to reinvent the
>wheel, when there are consultants and other cohousing groups to tap for
>knowledge and experience.  I've been thinking about this for several months
>in the context of Ozark CoHousing's experience and my personal experience as
>a consultant.
>If you work much with groups you often face the expediency of producing an
>idea or product for others to react to and, thus, save time; on the other
>hand, you can create together from scratch (in a product development like
>mode) with occassional stunning (albeit slow) results. 
>When our social technology committee sat down for the first time to talk
>about laying tracks for social infrastructure, we didn't have a clue about
>where to begin.  We knew one possibility was adapting another group's process
>manual, but we didn't do that.  We waded through some discomfort with
>ambiguity, found our vocabulary, drafted a table of contents for a process
>manual, then set about methodically filling in the blanks.  Later, we peeked
>at a couple of other "recommended" process manuals and found a point here or
>there that was useful.  More importantly, we found that we were very pleased
>with our own homegrown product. 
>We're approaching our architectural program the same way. Avoiding the
>temptation of examples isn't easy, but the longer you can wait, the less
>chance there is of constraining your group's creative process within the
>outline of another group's creative process.
>Much of the work I've done over the past 7 or so years has focused on
>designing and facilitating group processes.  I enjoy looking at models for
>visioning or strategic planning or cohousing or economic development, but the
>problem is that no two groups are ever the same. Organizational cultures are
>strikingly different.  And then there's developmental stage: groups go
>through the same process of maturation that individuals follow.  And
>personalities!  If all these factors and many more are not taken into account
>in custom-designing group processes, well, it's just like trying to fit every
>member in your cohousing group into the exact same, one-size-fits-all
>swimsuit. Picture that for a minute.
>I don't mean to suggest that we can't learn from each other; I've soaked
up pl
>enty of useful information on this mailing list. What I'm suggesting is to be
>careful about buying a recipee for cohousing.  Try your own hand at process
>manuals and architectural programs, give yourself some creative leg room
>before looking at examples.
>In the Spirit, 
>Rebecca Bryant, Ozark CoHousing where we are just completing year one in a
>four year process that will have us moving into a 15-22 unit,
>permaculture-based cohousing community at the turn of the millenium. 

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