RE: Shared values cohousing: An example and a process
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 17:35:06 -0700 (MST)
There is a Mennonite based Cohousing group in Seattle. They are organized
out of the local church, which is a couple blocks away. I assume any
openings are simply announced in the church meeting, or church newsletter
and thus only those in the Church fill openings. As I understand it, many
people in the church are interested and so filling any openings is not a
problem for them. This religious based group got some pretty negative
feedback from some folks in the cohousing movement and so these folks pretty
much just keep to themselves.

In some places that I have been, certain values have been the cause of
considerable community conflict because people who formed the group started
with what they thought was a clear values statement  and later joining
members either had a different  notion of what the value meant, or ignored
it when joining, figuring it really did not matter. Sometimes, late in the
process, in order to "sell" the final units, values get soft pedaled, or
jettisoned. Later, the divergence on key values can cause considerable
unhappiness and process time. One of my teachers once expressed the opinion
that groups with the fewest common values had to spend the most amount of
time in meetings.

Values Clarification is a good process to work on at any time. One way to do
this is to take one of the groups values, for example, live lightly on the
land, and brainstorm up all the ACTIONS which define that value. Actions can
be seen or measured. They are things you actually do, not what you believe.
Then post all of the ideas up on sheets of paper and have people  make a
mark on any which they are NOT willing to do. A mark is anonymous, or you
can have people put their name on it.  Whatever is left which is unmarked
are pretty clear definitions of what the value means, and it is reasonable
to expect people to actually do. Those with lots of marks are a pretty clear
*NOT* expectations, and those with a couple of marks are worth exploring
further, getting into the why and whatsit. Some groups define accepted
expectations are any which are not rejected by at least 1/3rd (or other
fraction) of the members. This way, one anarchist member, who demands there
be no expectations, and who marks everything does not kill the process for
the rest of the group.

This process can be run in less than an hour, and gives you a pretty good
understanding of what is reasonable to expect from people you live with. You
can also do the marking part outside the meeting by creating sheets and
giving them to everyone to mark. Then of course somebody has to do the tally
work, but with this method, that is not too hard, since what will be left
will be the non-excluded expectations.

Rob Sandelin
Community Works!

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