Re: what is your vision of community participation?
From: Jim Snyder-Grant (
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 17:21:54 -0600
Responses from Jim at New View (Acton MA) to questions from Stephanie Weigel:

At 12:31 PM 2/25/99 -0600, you wrote:
>Greetings!  The River Rock Commons cohousing ad-hoc 
>committee on participation is gearing up and would
>like to hear from other cohousing groups and members
>on participation issues.
>Such topics as: Do you have committees?  

Committees are our lifeblood. It is slow and awkward, at least at our level
of skill, for the whole group (24 households) to have complex conversations
& negotiations. We rely on committees to either make decisions, or bring
well-digested proposals that already have the consent of the committee to
the whole group. Generally, if the large group does not entirely agree with
a proposal, we will gather feedback & have some discussion, but not try to
redraft the proposal at the large meeting unless the change is simple. The
committee gets to take the feedback & re-draft. Also, as much as possible,
we try to define a committee's scope so that they have a class of decisions
they can make without coming back to the group.

> Is membership [in committees, I assume] mandatory?  
No. When we were in the development phase there was a stated expectation
that was generally adhered to that households would attend the large group
meetings & serve on one committee, but now that we are living here, people
are participating in a wider variety of ways & many choose not to do
committees. We have also just passed a proposal that allows pre-advertised
proposals to consented to at a group meeting even if only 1/4 of the
households are present at that meeting. 

>How does participation work in your community? Do a small group end up
doing most of the work?  

Depends on what you mean by the work of the community. Certainly there is a
bell curve of participation. And there has been some guilt and/or
resentment felt and sometimes expressed by people at the ends of the
spectrum. But for the most part, we have found that now that we are living
here, the work that gets done is work that someone wants to do, or else we
let it slide, or hire someone.  Some people are very busy with work and
family and don't have the time to participate much.

> What are ways to include everyone to their abilities?

People mostly have found their own ways. For example, some who find that
physical labor doesn't fit, take on tasks involving telephones or
wordprocessors. Some who don't want to be on committees take on
single-person special projects. Some committees work very differently
depending on people's resources & schedules. For example, the legal
committee got most of its work done by email. Other committees meet during
the day to accomodate parents of school-age kids who are at home during the
day. Other committees meet late at night.

>Thanks for any sharing of experiences, ideas and visions!
>What is your vision for community participation in cohousing?

So far, our only workable systems for participation have been entirely
voluntary.  Where sponteneity of participation might have bad consequences,
we have sign-ups in advance (example: weekly coverage for clearing the
sidewalks during snow months), but it is never expected that everybody does
something. Now that our common house is open, some talk has been revived of
various mandatory involvements..we'll see.

The 'vision', sometimes reality, is that community work is satisfying, and
that anyone who has the time & inclination does participate & gets a lot
out of it; and that anyone who doesn't is just missing out on a good time. 


-Jim Snyder-Grant, using my wife's email to belong to cohousing-l. It is
more reliable to reach me at
jimsg [at] (home)
Jim_Snyder-Grant [at] (work)

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