RE: social engineering in cohousing
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Sun, 31 May 1998 00:35:03 -0500
There are several very nice, pedestrain oriented condos in the city called 
Bellevue, near where I work. They have many of the same physical 
characteristics of cohousing. Yet they have no greater sense of neighborliness 
or community than other typical condos.

Clearly there is more than site design involved in creating the social 
atmosphere of cohousing. There are hundreds of intentional communities that 
have very poor social design, yet have huge amounts of community and 
collarboration among the residents. Why?

>From my observations of 60 intentional communties in the NW, my belief is that 
intention is the key. If the expectation is for a social environment, if that 
is the intention for why people moved to that place, then it will happen, no 
matter what. And if the people who live together have no intention or 
expectation for closer relationship to their neighbors, then that relationship 
will not happen, no matter how many times they see each other at the mailbox, 
or walking to their unit. 

So my advice is to work on the intention. Build commuity among yourselves by 
celebrating every little thing that comes along, acknowlege each others 
contributions with glorious thank you's, be honest and straight forward when 
things rub the wrong way, pay attention to each others needs and be open to 
giving and accepting generously.  If your mail boxes don't quite turn out how 
you would have liked, who cares? And most of all, make fun. Party at every 

If I was in control of a forming cohousing group, I would spend 2 hours having 
fun for every hour of work meeting. And if that meant you didn't get all the 
work done, then I would hire other people, professionals to do that work, 
while my future neighbors and I bonded together over campfires and beers, or 
chips and dancing, name it, if its fun, we should be doing it 

I see so many cohousng groups get totally bogged down in absolute foolish 
detail of bylaws, and zoning headaches, and development details. Hire Chris 
Hanson or Zev Paiss, or somebody like them to do that stuff and go have fun. 
Otherwise, you may move in to a  high priced condo full of people that you 
really find have nothing in common but surviving a history of long, tedious, 
painful meetings. And you will have lost a lot of excellent people along the 
way, your might-have-been potential neighbors , because most normal people  
will not stomach all the details and trivia and will leave, most likely pretty 
quickly, if thats all there is.

 I heard somebody describe cohousing once as, "That's where you do 40 hours a 
month of meetings, for five years, before you can move in to your home. The 
people who live there are all really into meetings, and anybody who is not, is 
not welcome."  Now that's a bit of a stretch, but its not too far off the 
truth in some cases.

So go have some fun. 

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Cohousing (sold out, waiting list)
Who spent most the day working on our boardwalk through the beautiful wetland, 
then had two (or was it three?) dinners around the campfire.

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.