Re: The politics of cohousing
From: Matt Lawrence (
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2004 16:34:32 -0800 (PST)
On Wed, 8 Dec 2004, Tree Bressen wrote:

While you are right that due to the constraints of conventional financing cohousing groups consistently have a voting back-up written into their bylaws, since those back-ups are rarely if ever used, the reality is that they are in fact deciding everything by consensus, at least everything deemed worthy of whole group attention rather than being delegated to a committee or individual to take care of. If your suggestion had been framed as putting a back-up system into the bylaws to satisfy bankers, rather than objecting to "their desire to do everything via consensus," it might have been received more amicably. (I will say that in my opinion many groups don't delegate enough, which bogs down the consensus process. But it still sounds like you may have been interpreted as suggesting voting as a replacement in practice for consensus, which may not have been what you intended.)

It was phrased in terms of dealing with financial institutions. Since they seem like they are still years away from getting financing, I don't think the were ready to deal with some of the realities of real estate development.

It sounds like you have some great strengths to offer potential cohousing groups as they walk down the long road of developing a community. It also sounds to me like you probably have some communication behaviors that tend to get in the way of those strengths being seen, appreciated, and accessed by some groups you may want to be part of. Groups will willingly and gratefully put up with challenging questions from members, as long as the tone is usually positive and as long as the ratio of challenge to other kinds of engagement stays in a proportion they can handle.

It depends on the groups. Many of the folks I hang around have no problems with questions and being asked to work through the proof of the position they are taking. But, I'm a geek. It's a geek thing.

Email is terrible for dealing with tone, i generally recommend that groups building community avoid using it for anything complex or anything with emotions attached. Of course, they don't always do what i say! And it depends on what other options they have. But it's a set-up for problems, i'm not surprised that your former colleague apparently interpreted you as being sarcastic when your intent was sincere.

Doing everything verbally is also a great way to have deniability and to sabotage communications. I see it a LOT in business. I've also seen it in cohousing groups. I think it may also be an EST thing, there's some interesting verbal manouvering that I've seen. In the case of multi-million dollar real estate projects, I rather expect that the folks involved be able to read and write clearly, there's thousands of details that must be decided, there's lots of contracts to deal with and then there's the folks you hire who really do need to be communicated with in writing.

In any case, a few of these folks were contantly trying to pick a fight, constantly trying to put words in my mouth and to come up with too many imagined slights.

-- Matt
Nothing great was ever accomplished without _passion_

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