RE: what is your vision of community participation?
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 00:31:42 -0600
We have committees, call them teams instead. Not sure it fools anybody but
it makes us feel better about it. Some people do more than others, has
always been that way, and we have processed it- No guilt trips allowed. If
you are over achieving, it is up to YOU to stop it. Some people of course
are total over achievers but I think they have a healthy understanding of
their busy bee-ness and don't project that expectation on any body else, or
at least not for long. Some people are probably under achievers. It tends to
go in swings I think, with a long term balancing out. We are pretty clear
that nobody has to live up to the unrealistic expectations of anybody else.
At least we used to be. There are a whole bunch of new people these days and
we probably need to baptise them in the waters of reality acceptance. (New
people often have the highest levels of unrealistic expectations and are all
fired up about em. Kind of cute, really. Like a puppy. Us old folks try to
let them down easy by hitching them up to their notions directly, they
always expect that somebody else is going to do that job. They tend to
mellow when they realize that THEY don't have time either, so shut up

We do have a minimum expectation of 2 hours of community work (on the teams)
per month, and we also have a monthly sign up sheet for deep cleaning the
commonhouse which is not voluntary, when its your turn, you do the work or
finagle to have somebody take your place. This is monitored by the
commonhouse police, who have subtle but effective ways to remind you its
your turn to clean behind the toilets.

Nobody monitors anybody else's participation level, and once when it came up
for examination and accounting, all the people who one might have missed at
all the visible sorts of activities were actually doing all manner of
invisible but wonderful things that nobody noticed. In fact, we even created
a special thank you quilt so we can remember to write cuddly notes to those
whose work is under appreciated for being so unpublic. When did you last
thank your bookkeeper? hmmmm?

 When important things fall through the cracks and do not get accomplished,
we process it, (usually the board does first) although I can not recall the
last time that happened. Usually just an announcement at the general meeting
sparks peoples lack of volunteering guilt and fans the flames of action. For
the most part, people do stuff as they want to and it seems to be just
enough to work I guess. When something starts getting too raggedy, somebody
picks up the organizational hat, calls a decision circle, and creates a
process to deal with it.

 A good example of this is kid blitz. Last summer the kid debris was
becoming an eyesore and a hazard and so a bunch of parents organized up all
the kids into this giant pick em up game. The bell rings, the kids do a
blitz, run every which way to pick things up and return them to a spot, the
entropy of kids toys is momentarily reversed, then they all sit in a circle
and share about their day or talk about stuff that is important, along with
a small sign language lesson thrown in occasionally, or a guest appearance
by Ranger Rob or some other adult. It works partially because it is simple,
the kids enjoy it, and the adults are happy too. Success! We will revive it
when the weather is warm enough that the kids are outside.

People seem to see what needs to be done and take care of it. Mostly. There
are of course occasional bouts of whining and grumbling, but these don't
seem to get in the way of anything getting not done. Our motto about work
is: Reality lies somewhere between the potential and the glitches. Live with
it. Our secondary motto might be: I am not here to live up to your
expectations, so chill already.

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Community
Hosting the 6th annual Spring NW cohousing Gathering
April 10th

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