|What Cohousing is Not/What it can become||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Michael Mariner (maikanoidcomm.com)|
|Date: Sun, 14 Sep 1997 18:52:03 -0500|
I'm concerned with us putting too many limits on what cohousing can become by how we talk about it and how we define it. I'm posting to the list to get feedback to see if I'm the only one who thinks this way: Some quotes to start: Frank Lloyd Wright said something like "we create our buildings and then they create us." In his modern translation of the "I Ching," called "The I Ching Workbook," R.L. Wing says (re Community): "Society functions at its very best when each member finds security in his place within the social structure. When all members can be gainfully employed, yet have individual initiative, when they can excel in their own craft, and in doing so contribute to the overall goals of society, then there exists harmony and a sense of community. When the members have an interest in the continuity of their Community, great deeds can be accomplished. This is because the many work for the one." In her recent refinement of the definition of cohousing, Katie M. said: >6. The community is not a primary income source for residents: there is no >shared community economy (ala Twin Oaks): If the community also provides >residents with their primary income, this is a significant change to the >dynamic between neighbors and defines another level of community beyond the >scope of cohousing. First, I'd like to note that Katie's well-articulated points #1-5 were affirmative -- defining what cohousing *is* rather than what it is not. (#5 was somewhat exclusive - ruling out heavy leadership trips) But, what's the purpose for including #6 about what cohousing is *not* that draw a line between communities like Twin Oaks and cohousing? With all the successful coho sites around, is there still a need to distance cohousing from other communities to ensure bank financing, etc.? I thought financing problems were largely overcome by the success of many projects throughout the U.S. The "I Ching" quote above clearly links economic endeavors to the rest of community life. Of course, the author could mean "community" to be a city or town, but I think one of the goals of intentional community, including cohousing, should be to reunite working life with home life. And cohousing people do: off icing in the home, MLM's, bartering services, helping each other build, garden, repair cars, etc. But I don't see why we should rule out having a shared economic endeavor as the primary income of the group. If we encourage mixed-use zoning/neighborhoods, self-governing neighborhoods could decide what businesses were appropriate. The Lloyd Wright quote indicates we should be careful as we build -- build more with an eye to the future. If we design only for residential, then we have to redesign if later we want to add some business space. Katie goes on to say: >I, for one, don't want to touch the question of exclusiveness as part of >the basic definition. When does a group become exclusive? When you are not >allowed to cook a steak in the common house? When I'm not allowed to smoke >on my own patio? When we encourage some and discourage others? When many >people can not afford the base costs to get in? Or when we state that one >of the community's core values is sustainability or Christianity or Judaism >or . . . .? So, why exclude the possibility of forming a cohousing group partially around a joint economic endeavor, or, evolving in that direction later? My first concern is to keep cohousing open to evolution. I recommend defining cohousing with Katie's points #1-5 and not worry about what features or specializations or qualities might be added on by an individual community forming in the future or that might happen as an existing community evolves. Although today cohousing sites are not founded with an eye toward community economic endeavor, perhaps they could or should be: For instance: - Remember that group of (Chicago) artists who posted to coho-L awhile back? Their intention was to find a large warehouse somewhere that they could convert to a living and working space. I don't recall if they intended to form a marketing co-op or other such joint economic endeavor, but I would say if they did, more power to them if all the other cohousing criteria are met *and* they form a co-op, they're still cohousing with the flavor of an artist's co-op. - Nyland has about 20 acres currently lying fallow. Suppose they decide to use that land for something lucrative such as, say, an herb farm with greenhouses that could (arguably) become a primary community income producer. If they do, they shouldn't lose their cohousing status, they'd just become a variation -- the Nyland Cohousing Herb Farm. - San Juan Cohousing near Durango, CO, has a large chunk of land (140+ acres). From the outset they aren't planning any community economic endeavor, but after they get moved in, perhaps they will decide that they could have a nature retreat center that serves to educate visitors about the local environment *and* happens to become a major (if not primary) income producer for the community. What's wrong with becoming the "San Juan Cohousing Community and Retreat Center?" It's another add-on. - How about an inner city group where having a community economic endeavor as part of the cohousing group would be a huge benefit? Are we continuing to define cohousing such that it is only for the affluent -- for those who have the great jobs and don't need to worry about finding work. My second concern is that cohousing continue to evolve to being more sustainable in all ways -- ecological, economic, social, cultural, etc. Perhaps something could be added to the definition that encourages ecological building, living, and stewardship of the land. I'd agree we don't want it to be a "hard requirement" but the state of the planet is not such that we can continue to go out and build unconsciously -- or build conscious of only *human* community. Any suggestions how this could be encouraged? Or does it happen that those practicing cohousing usually have environmentalists among them who get those values and practices included as the group evolves? Katie also said: >On the other hand, if you create a great community based on supporting >yourselves by giving workshops on sustainable living, or running a retreat >center as the primary source of income for residents, I fully support you >but it--by definition--is not a cohousing community. If the term cohousing >begins to be used for all types of communities it will lose its meaning and >the ability of groups to more clearly define what type of community they >are creating. One problem is there are not enough popular definitions for other types of intentional communities. The only defined types I can think of are ecovillage, commune, co-op household, religious community, kibbutz. A lot of communities will not fit any of those definitions. For instance several of the rural communities that started as hippy communes are now more like cohousing than communes -- lacking a specific term they're just a generic intentional community which doesn't help describe what they are. So, given this state of definitions, the natural inclination of a populace trying to peg cohousing with a "one-liner" will tend to associate any species of community with the word that is most out there in the media -- currently "cohousing." (I personally have seen a lot of this when I ask somebody if they've heard of cohousing.) To a degree we have to live with that. The trick is to make the movement so positive and (I guess) so inoffensive that it doesn't matter if many flavors of community get associated with "us." Thanks for listening, Michael Mariner * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The future *is* community -- get connected. KEY COMMUNITY RESOURCES: Cohousing: http://www.cohousing.org/ Ecovillages: http://www.gaia.org/ Intentional Communities: http://www.ic.org/ * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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