RE: Minimum Work Requirements
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2000 08:37:41 -0600 (MDT)
"Rob Sandelin" <floriferous [at]>
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In travelling around various communites this issue comes up in basically
every community I have ever visited (well over 100 at this point).  And I
keep seeing the same reality about work. On one side of the curve are people
who put in lots of energy into community stuff. Their numbers are  small,
say 20%. On the other  side are people  who put in little energy into
community stuff. Hopefully  their numbers are about balanced  with the hyper
folks, also about 20%. The remaining 60% are all somewhere in the middle,
sometimes on the the more energy side, sometimes on the less side. I keep
seeing this distribution so frequently it has  become to define normal
community functioning in my estimation. There are some good tools where you
can get a good idea of the distribution of work time in your community.

>From my experience:

The wrong question to ask is: Is this distribution fair?
The right question to ask is: Are people happy?

Good communication, attitude and process work will go a long ways to
increasing the happiness with the reality that exists, and make where you
live a wonderful place. It's not a good sign in a community when all the
work gets done but nobody is happy. Guilt and resentment are community
cancers, they eat away at your relationships and cause great, and
unnecessary unhappiness.

I saw a banner over the door of a community center once that read something
like this: I am not here to live  up to your expectations, and you don't
have to live up to mine. Together we can work to create the harmony we want
to live in, without guilt or shame.

People  are different. To some folks the old fence is just fine as it is. To
others, they want to tear it down and make a project out of it, (its old and
ugly) build a new one, and paint it so its neat and trim. This difference
drives wedges between people about community work. Each see the "fence
project" differently. One says it's not important, the other says it's a
priority because its not neat and tidy. Each sees themselves as the "right"
way to be, and the others are: "odd, wrong, weird, overacheivers, lazy,
hyper, uncommitted, anal retentive"...the labels go on and on. But they just
point out that while some folks see things one way, others see it different.
I once did an excercise where I had a group make a list of all the projects
they thought needed doing in the community. Some peoples lists had more than
40 things on it. Other peoples list had 1 or 2 items on it, a couple had
zero. The point was not the content of the lists, but the difference in the
numbers of things on the list and what that  meant.

This kind of learning about yourself, and each other, to understand how you
think and see the world is very worth doing if you want to live happily ever
after in a community.

Rob Sandelin
Community Works! Group process consulting for  social change nonprofits

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