RE: work and expectations
From: Jim Snyder-Grant (
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 1998 11:33:05 -0600
I can hardly say that New View (Acton MA) has a well-worked out plan for 
all the ongoing work, but I''m happy to share my perspective on our 
experiences so far in case that is helpful.

We certainly saw a big change in people's interest in being involved as 
we moved from the development stage into the move-in. To a large extent, 
people needed to focus on getting their houses moved-in to, and/or 
working extra hard to pay what for most people was higher monthly house 
costs. Also, as more kids were born, more time was absorbed in child 
care. Unfortunately, the work changed, but did not get less. In some 
ways it grew. Gone were the intense meetings wrestling with 
make-or-break decisions in the development process: instead we had a LOT 
of maintenance to do, including the start-up landscaping, most onerously 
taking care of all the new grass we put in. 

Sidebar on grass: Sure, many of us wanted, and still want, more 
sustainable alternatives to grass. But, it's cheap to put in and we had 
to cover the bare dirt with something, and we were cutting our 
landscaping budget to the bone. Second, our fine grass consultant wisely 
(I think) urged us to put extra time and money in now, so that  the 
grass COULD be way lower maintenance in the future (deep strong 
roots...). That meant lots of watering, and then fertilizing & liming, 
and then of course mowing.

The group had agreed to take on some of the landscaping work in exchange 
for lower development costs, but few if any knew all that that would 
entail. Suddenly, as the summer of '96 heated up, EVERYONE was asked to 
water. This is not a simple task, as we had elaborate brittle systems of 
hoses to cover our many oddly-shaped acres. This caused resentment or 
rebellion in those who did not have the time or energy to water, and 
burn out and resentment among those who picked up the slack. We tried a 
variety of ways to cope, such as:

-Hired some high school students for some of the watering.
-Had each of the 4 'neighborhoods' meet to figure out how to get the 
work done for their areas. 
-Listened to each other's complaints and concerns about all the work at 
-Hired a professional for some of the liming.
-Paid someone in the group a bit (probably less than minimum wage, 
overall, given all the extra hours) to coordinate.

As the need for watering slowed down, the maintenance and landscaping 
committees started being able to work through all the other work that 
was needed. They tried a variety of strategies:

-Continue to have each of our 4 'neighborhood' groupings have a 
'captain' or two who kept up with what was needed to be done & called 
together volunteers to get the work done.
-Have occaisonal work days. These sometimes had fairly good turnout, and 
were fun especially at the beginning or middle of the day. Sometimes, 
though, there was so much work to do that there was some frustration 
over working a long time and only getting through a bit of the list. 
Also, the turnout dwindled through the day, which also made the endings 
not feel so community-building: just a few diehards flailing away at a 
task too big for them..
-Continued to talk at meetings, in more and less structured ways, about 
what was working and what wasn't, and what people were thinking and 
feeling about it. 

This year, inspired mostly by conversations with folks from Pioneer 
Valley (Amherst MA), we tried out a 'team' approach. The group was 
divided into 3 teams, each of which worked one week per month. Tasks 
were prioritized by the landscaping and maintenence committees. In the 
smaller teams, it seemed easier to talk about and work through the 
various levels of energy and commitement and time people had. Each team 
figured out what sort of combination of work-days and individual tasks 
it would try on to get stuff done. We haven't evaluated how the first 
summer & fall of work teams was for people: I know it worked well for a 
few people, but I think we will need to make some refinements based on 
what we learn when we evaluate. An earlier version of the work team 
proposal had people paying an extra fee if they chose not to work their 
share of hours for a particular month, but that discussion didn't reach 
a conclusion, and was dropped from the final work-team proposal that 
passed. Views varied: Some didn't want people to have an easy way to 
'buy their way out', some thought that that it was wrong to force people 
to pay extra just because they had too much to do between kids and work 
etc., or who couldn't work because of physical. limitations; others 
thought it was a reasonable way to give choices to people while still 
getting the work done one way or another.

The budget cycle this year gave us a structured way to talk more about 
paid labor vs. volunteers. We decided to budget as if we would need some 
paid labor for our maintenance tasks, and then charge each committee 
with the task of seeing if there were effective ways to use volunteer 
labor to save money and simultaneously create fine oppurtnities for 
community-building.  So far, for example, we have volunteer labor to 
clear all the sidewalks of snow, with a rotating set of volunteers who 
ride our mini-tractor along with lots of volunteer shovellers. The big 
roads get plowed by a professional. We have also budgeted (a bit) for an 
in-house maintenance coordinator, who will supplement the efforts of the 
maintenance and landscaping committees to (we hope) better identify and 
prioritize the work that needs to be done.

We will see what 1998 brings...

-Jim Snyder-Grant
New View
Acton MA

(Where we are in the middle of recruiting for a new household, raising 
individual donations for extra items in the common house, and raising 
money for a loan fund for households that can't meet the final CH bills 
now,  having successful potlucks about twice a week in lieu of a common 
house, having emergency meetings to agree on when and how we ought to 
use our right of first refusal for the upcoming unit sale, and worrying 
about the weather (will it be a $5,000 plowing winter like last year, or 
a $16,000 plowing winter like two years ago? Our budget is in 

>From: Julie Ellen Boleyn <ellen [at]>
>Subject: RE: work and expectations
> Judy Baxter wrote:
> > We pay for snowplowing ( we have two long driveways + 
> > parking areas) and someone to clean the common living 
> > room and a few other things, once a month 2 hours.  
> > Other than that, we do what is done. 
>I am very curious how you, and other communities, have decided what to
>pay for, and what to do your selves. Obviously, if something is not
>getting done, that needs to be done, you pay for it. But there are a 
>questions that my community has gotten stuck on: 
>       1. How do you decide it needs to be done (what are your
>       criterion)?
>       2. Who decides it needs to be done (who makes the
>       recommendations to the larger group, in general) ?
>The group I'm with has toyed with the idea of a 'Don't Fall Through The
>Cracks' committee that would field these questions of what's not 
>done, why, and make a recommendation for dealing with it. 
>IMHO, many members felt this group would have too much 'power'.  So I'm
>very curious how you have dealt with this. 
>Personally, I like the idea of the DFTTC Committee-- and I feel the 
>of support for the idea may stem from distrust, rather than real
>objection. But I'm not sure. The idea seems logical to me... but 
>that is precisely the problem? 
> - Julie
> Trillium Hollow
> ---------------
> Where we've begun framing after completing our big concrete pours. The
> site is a mess, with mud, rocks and more mud covering much of the 
> We're looking at moving in April or May, with only 5 more of the 30 or 
> units to sell! 

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