Re: Are meals an optional or required work expectation in your community?
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2006 15:52:55 -0800 (PST)
At Songaia Cohousing, we don't have formal work expectations except for
cooking/cleaning around meals and cleaning the common house. Most of our
heavy food program workers (known as the Fabulous Food Folk), who buy all
our food for common meals, stock our extensive common pantry, maintain the
kitchen/pantry, and generally run the program (5 meals/week), etc. do less
work in the myriad other ways that we contribute/work around our 15 units on
11 acres.

We have talked about establishing formal work expectations, but have, so
far, continue to live using the "passion principle" - people who have a
passion for something getting done will cause it to get done - by doing it
themself, by organizing the work, or by complaining until somebody else
makes it happen. Its unclear how well this works for everybody...
personally, I love it. Its also not clear to me how well this approach would
work in larger, less socially cohesive groups... many of us at Songaia
choose to a LOT together, e.g. we're doing an Enneagram circle tonight,
there's a kids meeting after Sat breakfast tomorrow, and a Food Values
circle Saturday night.

As for meal work expectations, all adults participating in the program (all
families currently share in the pantry and all but one share in common meals
as well) are expected to either cook (2+ people/meal) or clean (2/meal) on a
weekly basis. We leave it up to famlies to decide the level of participation
for kids and youth. We recently had our first meal where one of our
14-year-olds was lead cook.

We do not formally differentiate between the amount of work that people do
in preparing a meal. But I can tell you that Doug (who reads this ListServ),
goes to a lot more effort when he prepares a meal than I do. He also knows
how much I appreciate the love and care he puts into making such delicious
food for our community. Doug loves to cook and cooking for Songaia gives him
a creative outlet that results in a LOT of positive strokes.

For me, getting formal about measuring and driving toward accountability in
the pursuit of some theory of equitability is somewhat contrary to what
feels comfortable and natural in my home life... when questions of
"fairness" arise, we often try to recast the question to whether or not you
are getting enough. Does it really matter if somebody else is getting more
or less than you as long as you are getting enough?

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