meeting times and feelings
From: Jennifer Lynn Mccoy (poljlmpanther.Gsu.EDU)
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 1997 10:34:52 -0500
In response to the questions and discussion about how to handle how all of
the issues and process needs within a reasonable meeting time:

At Lake Claire in Atlanta, during pre-construction and construction, we
were meeting weekly on Thursdays, 7:00-9:00 pm, with a potluck for
newcomers from 6:00-7:00pm during the early stages when we were still
looking for people.  Once we filled up and got into heavy contract,
finance and then construction phases, we dropped the potluck.  We
realized, however, that we were spending all of our time on such details,
and no time at all on community.

Five months after groundbreaking, we held a weekend retreat at a state
park and invited a professional facilitator to work on consensus skills,
address latent personal concerns of individuals, build interrelationships,
and lay out an agenda for "community life and house rules" discussions.
At that retreat we found out individuals had different needs to
make decisions, and so we planned to incorporate all the styles --
brainstorming free for all, quiet time for thinking, written
proposals, and orderly, facilitated discussions (raising hands) at
appropriate points.  We decided to change the meeting schedule
to allow time for everything we needed, and moved to the following:

2 Sundays/month -- 2:00-4:00 pm (strict time schedule), Community Life
meetings, with two issues per week.  No other business allowed.  We would
start with a half-hour of brainstorming on a new issue to get everyone's
feelings on the table.  Then the Community Life committee would take those
feelings and parameters to their committee meeting during the week and
draw up proposed house rules/guidelines, also utilizing information we had
been culling from this list, to bring back to the group for discussion,
modification, and approval at the next Sunday meeting.  Each issue
discussion was structured with: 10 minutes to read the proposal and write
down personal comments, 10 minutes of free-for-all discussion, 5 minutes
quiet reflection, 15 minutes ordered discussion and resolution of the
policy guidelines.  This worked extremely well.  The facilitator used a
little bell to indicate the times were up.

2 Thursdays/ month, 7:00-9:00 pm (usually went overtime to 9:30 or 10:00
pm) -- Business meetings with babysitting provided.  All committees,
including Executive Committee, would bring reports and decision items to
this meeting and these were facilitated by a group member.

2 Thursdays/ month, 7:00-9:00 or 10:00 pm -- Committee Meetings.


        This schedule worked well, but meant that most people were meeting
an average of 1.5 meetings per week.  I don't see how we could have done
it with fewer meetings.  We also utilized email for the Executive
Committee alot, and a few times phone calls to the entire group for urgent
construction decisions (though this method was not desirable to most of
the group).

        One other very important thing -- to deal with the personal side
of the whole process, we from the beginning had used a method we called
"The Stick".  (I don't know if this is a common cohousing practice, but no
one has mentioned it, so I will.)  At the end of every meeting, we would
pass around an object (a native American symbolic stick, or any object we
could find).  Whoever had the stick had the floor to express whatever they
were feeling -- excitement, anxiety, hurt feelings, etc.  When we started
the community life Sunday meetings, we changed the practice to START with
the stick, allowing 15 minutes in which we put the object on the floor and
whoever wanted to say anything would pick it up and have the floor as long
as they were holding it.  This method worked very well for airing personal
concerns as well as sharing good news.

        Now that we have moved in, we are meeting every other Thursday,
and spending the rest of our time on work days  trying to finish the
exterior (landscaping, etc.).

Jennifer McCoy
Lake Claire Cohousing, Atlanta
jmmcoy [at] gsu.edu

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