Re: committee effectiveness
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2004 10:57:21 -0700 (PDT)
RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA. 
In our 15 years, we have evolved from just enough members that we all did 
everything, to now where we have committees for Grounds, Common House 
Operations, Finance, Facilitation, Steering, plus smaller committees for 
Outreach, Kidstuff, Architectural Review, plus various Task Forces for 
specific projects. 

We have struggled with "empowering the committees". It has at times been 
portrayed as an issue of trust - can't we just trust the committee to 
make decisions we'll all support? A reality check kicks in: sometimes 
committees and task forces lose members and end up with 1-3 people on the 
team. Can such low numbers really represent 24 families accurately? Maybe 
more significantly, different sorts of people volunteer for different 
committees. The Grounds team, that runs the mowers and digs the 
irrigation ditches, represents a different segment of the membership than 
does the Facilitation team, or the Finance team. Just because there are 4 
people on a volunteer committee does not in any way assure that a full 
spectrum of points of view will be represented in that subgroup. So we'd 
"trust a committee", they'd put in lots of time and energy, and bring to 
the group for approval something that a number of people had big concerns 
about. Hurt feelings and stuck process sometimes ensued.

We learned (are still learning) that it's important to balance committee 
autonomy with clarity about what the team's mandate is. Are they being 
asked to just-do-it? Or research the options and bring a recommendation 
or two to the group? Or just-do-it as long as it doesn't cost more than 
$42 and satisfies the concerns of George and Susan? Or have the right to 
decide, but first have a discussion circle to get input from people and 
do their best to incorporate that input? 

Early checking, via a discussion circle for example, and/or email, can 
prevent a team from investing so much energy in something that their 
feelings are hurt if it doesn't fly. If they need to make adjustments, 
they can do so early, rather than later.  

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature) (very active peace movement here- see our 

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