RE: Members Leaving Cohousing Groups
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 1998 09:15:04 -0600
Although I agree with everything Joani said in her brilliant as usual post, I 
differ in opinion about screening.

 I think groups should set up clearly their goals and expectations and values. 
Doing this will screen people out. Or in as the case may be.

For instance, if you make decisions by consensus, a value you have to hold is 
a willingness to give up what's completely best for you, in order to do what's 
best for everyone.  This is a major flaw in many forming groups use of 
consensus. And it is a large cause of group decision problems in forming 
groups. I get called once a month or more to rescue groups with exactly this 
problem. Somebody blocks a crucial decision based on their own self interests, 
not the groups interests, and the group is stuck. It goes from bad to worse 
from there.

If groups screened members on their willingness to work for the best interests 
of the whole group, even when it conflicts with personal interests, there 
would be much fewer calls for rescuer Rob.

I think it is in your interest to define your core group values early, and 
then screen people on those. If your group holds eco-values, state them 
clearly, so people can decide to join your group. That way, when you get to 
land clearing, you won't have big conflicts over how it is done, or at least 
you will have less severe conflicts.

There are those who will claim that Cohousing has no values. I debunk that 
regularily because cooperation is a value,  cooperation is the Co, in 
Cohousing. Freedom of religion, privacy, sexuality can all be seen as a value. 
You need to be clear about these things, in writing, up front, so people 
clearly know what they are getting involved in.

 Its also a good idea to take new comers and pass them through some sort of 
welcoming ritual which includes an open session where they can share their 
fears, hopes, and life histories. If you do these things, people will either 
bail up front, or be committed as they can. It's way better to lose somebody 
early before too much investment, than to lose them a week before the mortgage 
has to be signed, and they are your best friends.

Rob Sandelin
Cedar Village Retreat Center (forming)
Sharingwood Cohousing

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