RE: Circumstantial Community -Relationship expectations.
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999 21:25:04 -0600 (MDT)
In my travels around the communities of the NW I notice a wide variation in
the relationships between people of different communities. In some places,
those relationships are very close, family-like, with a great deal of time
spent supporting and interacting with each other. In other communities the
relationships are considerably more distant, in fact, in one case, almost
strangers who have little contact with each other.

In my workshops I sometimes use a connection scale excercise. I draw a line
with a 1 on one end and a 10 on the other. Then I describe this as the
relationship line, with 1 meaning I really don't want any relationship with
my neighbors-I prefer to be very private, 5 means I want more relationship
with my neighbors than a typical neighborhood,  and 10 meaning I want a
group Family with my neighbors, with strong emotional ties and support. I
then have them mark on a card a number representing where they would be on
that scale. Then I collect them and tally them.

What is fascinating to me, is that in cohousing groups the scale is
sometimes very broad, meaning there are 2-3's, and  9-10's. I then use this
spread as a teaching tool to explore participation and expectations issues.

In other types of communities I have not done this excercise nearly as much
but in the few cases I have done so the scale has not been so broad.

One of things this suggests to me is that people enter cohousing for very
different reasons, and this lack of unity of reason for joining may lead to
unexpected results. For instance, I have had several interviews with people
where one person in a couple relationship really wants a close community and
the other does not, but is going along with their partner. I have heard this
several times from other sources,and also seen it in my own community as
well so I beleive this is not uncommon.

My own conclusions are that community is the expectation of relationships
with your neighbors. In a circumstantial community I have no expectation of
interacting with my neighbors other than at the most general level. I do not
expect them to loan me a car, bring me food if I am ill, or care about me
and my life. Conversely, I expect all of those things of my neighbors in an
intentional community.

If you expect to interact and spend time and rely on your neighbors for
support,and to give support in return, then your community level can be
measured against the realization of that intention.

One of the things I am interested in is specific activities,actions, events
that groups use to enhance their relationships.

Rob Sandelin
Northwest Intentional Communties Association
Building a better society, one neighborhood at a time

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