Re: welcoming new members
From: Odysseus Levy (
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2005 09:09:33 -0700 (PDT)
Jackson Place cohousing in Seattle got a very nice newspaper article written about it while they were still under development, and they got an enormous number of people that wanted to join. They got so many people that they decided to freeze new admissions for a while. But many of those people over time decided to drop out, so much so that it became a struggle to sell the remaining units, and even after move in they had one unsold unit that the community had to carry for many months.

I think you are better off opening up the group early on -- not everyone is going to be able to go through the whole long journey with you.


- Start getting used to the dynamics of having so many people -- after all this is what you are going to be moving into.
- More people to get things done
- More money

The biggest challenge is to learn how to make consensus work. I think most groups underestimate how much work this requires. Where in our normal lives have we ever learned effective consensus? Most have never learned this in our families, schools, or work places. And yet so many cohousing groups seem to just take for granted that it will all just work. I would recommend that your group make it a specific, actionable goal to get trained in consensus and non violent conversation and that any new member should be expected to go through the training as well. That alone should weed out a fair number of people. And then have the group go through lots of continous training. One of the reasons why consensus moves so slow for new groups is that they are always struggling with so many trust issues. You might be talking about one thing, but at its root people are not sure they trust you and therefore want to move very slowly. But it does get better, be sure to visit to a well established cohousing groups meetings to see how things go much smoother after people have been practicing it for years.

At a cohousing dinner one night we were talking about who is a good fit for cohousing. One of my neighbors said that the main factor is if the person is willing to learn. I agree with her. There is a surprisingly large amount of personal growth and learning that cohousing demands from us, especially new cohousing. If you find people that are able and willing to do that personal growth work I suspect that you will be happy to have them as neighbors.

Lynette Bassman wrote:


I am a founding member of the Fresno (California) Cohousing group (soon
to be an official LLC).  We have thirteen families, we are under
contract to purchase a parcel of land, and we have begun the design
process with The Cohousing Company.  Our final design workshop is in
early June.  We plan to submit our documents to the planning department
by their August 30th deadline.

I would like to get some information about how groups at our stage of
development go about taking in new members.  We have decided not to open
the group until the design process is complete, but we are getting calls
already from people who are interested.  Here are the questions we have:

1. At what point do you invite new members into the group (i.e.;  before
or after planning approvals?)

2. What materials do you provide to represent what the group is all
3. How do you make sure that people are aligned with the group's values?

4. How do you handle people who are problematic (i.e., uncooperative,
"crazy", substance abusers...)
5. How do you handle process issues when the original group has done a
lot of work on process, so that the new members will feel fully
integrated and welcome?

6. How do you handle waiting lists?  (We think that there is pretty
lively interest in our community, and we only have another 14 units to
sell, so we need to figure out how to properly document seniority (or
some other prioritizing process) in case there are more interested
families than there are available units.)
7. Anything else you think we should know that I didn't ask about.

Thanks so much.

Lynette Bassman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

California School of Professional Psychology at

Alliant International University

phone: (559) 253-2240

fax:  (559) 253-2267

lbassman [at]

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