Re: business
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 20:39:02 -0600 (MDT)
A previous post-er wrote:
>One might ask whether the name "business meeting" doesn't give people the
>wrong expectations.
>In "business" (capitalism)... All parties attempt to get as much as they can 
while giving as
>little as possible..[and lots of other negatives]
>All that baggage comes with the word "business," and it isn't exactly a
>model for cohousing.
>The goal of a cohousing organization is providing a community for residents.
>Getting things accomplished is incidental.

On the one hand, I agree that capitalism has all the inhumane qualities 
listed. And in our group, we changed our terminology for our monthly 
large-group gathering from "business meeting" to "monthly meeting", to 
allow legitimacy to the inclusion of agenda items which were about 
visioning, process training, and community building, as well as items 
which needed decisions. 

On the other hand, it is a mistake to forget that your cohousing project 
IS a legal entity, not only a social entity. I say this while upholding 
the great importance of our social learning and growing and mutual 
assistance and all that good stuff. 

Whatever your legal form -- we are a nonprofit corporation with a 
homeowners' association-- you still have that existence as a "business". 
You need to develop and follow appropriate processes regarding your 
accounting, your documents, taxes, insurance, and any involvement as an 
employer. It's a bunch of work, but if neglected can come back and bite 

We were reminded of our legal existence in a hurry when a friendly local 
contractor did a job for us in our common house and lost his balance on 
the ladder. A broken hip, threats of litigation and attempts at 
re-writing history so as to make it look like he wasn't a contractor and 
we were employers who should have paid Labor and Industries premiums on 
him. Broken trust was a bummer, but it was way worse than that when we 
realized that the legal/financial consequences could run to hundred of 
thousands of dollars we didn't have. After a year of hard work by a 
volunteer task force, consulting with government bureaucracies and 
expensive lawyers, we were absolved of blame, but it still came to tens 
of thousands, which we had to shave from every reserve fund we had, and a 
bunch of other places. Oh yes, we were a legal entity. And we weren't 
even sued. But could have been. 

On a more routine level, I see no harm in using the term "business" to 
refer to making decisions, especially those which affect all members, 
such as allocating money, adding units, planning common facilities, 
adopting policies. In the dictionary, business is often economic. Does 
someone have a substitute term for business in the sense of "getting down 
to business" ie the matters of particular import? 
>The goal of a cohousing organization is providing a community for residents.
>Getting things accomplished is incidental.
I suspect that on Rob's model of the bird with two wings -- TASK and 
PROCESS-- the writer is on the process side. But "getting things 
accomplished" often is another way of supporting the development and 
maintenance of community. As Rob points out, too much flapping from 
either wing and the bird goes in circles! Seems true to me. 

Lynn at RoseWind
where locally flapping birds include bald eagles, hawks, too many 
starlings for my taste, western blue jays, fat robins, red shafted 
flickers, the occasional peregrine falcon, and our resident flock of 
snow-white homing doves, who manage to reproduce enough to keep their 
numbers steady -- and the hawks fed-- from their open cage in a member's 

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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