RE: welcoming new members
From: Eris Weaver (
Date: Thu, 14 Apr 2005 10:59:47 -0700 (PDT)
> 1. At what point do you invite new members into the group 
> (i.e.;  before or after planning approvals?)

We had people coming into the group throughout the process. We tended to
grow in lumps (like a snake swallowing a squirrel) - we got a big jump
in membership when we first bought our land, and another big lump after
we started construction.
> 2. What materials do you provide to represent what the group 
> is all about? 
> 3. How do you make sure that people are aligned with the 
> group's values?

This is how we accepted new members. Once a month or so we held a
special orientation for prospective new members. We showed a video, gave
out handouts with information about our process, prices, etc., shared
the history of the group, answered questions, etc. In order to join the
community one had to have attended this orientation and I think two
general business meetings first, and then put down a deposit. We had two
types of membership, full and associate. Associate members could
participate fully EXCEPT they were not allowed to block a proposal.

We did not do any kind of screening, people sorted themselves out.
Sometimes it was obvious during an orientation that this person and the
group were not a good fit, other times people would attend many meetings
and/or become an associate member before either joining fully or

> 4. How do you handle people who are problematic (i.e., 
> uncooperative, "crazy", substance abusers...) 

Never happened. No, that's not entirely true; early one we had one
individual who showed up who was, er, sort of too-unconventional-for-us.
He ended up weeding himself out.

> 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?

I don't know that we were always so successful in brining new people up
to speed on consensus process, etc. One thing we did do was once a year
we had a training with someone like Rob Sandelin or Tree Bressen, that
helped get everyone on the same page.

During the design phase we intentionally made it difficult to re-visit
past decisions; we didn't want to re-hash major decisions every time
someone joined the group! Now that we have lived here  1 1/2 years we
are needing to shift some of those processes as we are in a different
phase of community life.

> 6. How do you handle waiting lists? 

The day you wrote your check for full membership, you got added to the
seniority list. Choice of unit was allocated based on seniority. We were
full, with a waiting list, at least two years before move in. If a full
member dropped out, the unit was first offered to other full members
(e.g. if somebody wanted a bigger or smaller unit) down the seniority
list; then it got offered to the wait list people, again in seniority.
Sometimes one unit becoming available started a veritable cascade of

Another thing we did is calculate in some price discounts for
earlier-joining members. This acknowledged that those of us who put our
money in five years earlier, before buying land, deisng work, etc. had
taken a greater financial risk than those who bought in at move in.

Everyone seemed to find this structure fair. 

Eris Weaver                 erisw [at]
Cohousing in Cotati, CA

"Let the beauty we love be what we do."
        -- Mevlana Jelaladin Rumi

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