Re: how many people for common meal...just starting
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2006 08:49:53 -0700 (PDT)
In any endeavor that you try out it is helpful to think in terms of adaptive
management, that you will try out ideas, test them, then tweak it later.
Almost everything you do once you live together is like this, all policies
and processes can be creatively improved over time with learning.  So start
out with 6, give it a month, evaluate it and then change it to meet what
works best. And keep in mind, because something works today with this group
of people does not mean it will always work with every group of people over
time that will live there, so even if by some good luck you find 6 is
exactly right, don't make this the dinner code carved in stone by the gods
of founding, but simply understand that 6 works right now and if it does not
do so later, then we can change it anytime. 

This does not mean that everything is transitory. There are things you will
do and decide which over time will become foundations that define your
communities culture and being, and these will be core things which will
deeply root those lifelong members into your tribe. As these traditions
develop, nurture and honor them.

Sometimes other peoples (and groups) experiences can be a crutch which can
keep you from having your own experiences and thus doing your own learning.
This is of course not always the case, there is a reason why you don't get
to fly the plane until you have spent lots of time learning to fly.(Crashing
is fatal)   But there are few fatal decisions once you live together. And
there is no cohousing group like yours. Not one.  Every single one of our
communities is unique, and so what works well for another group may very
well not work at all for you.  So be open to what advice you can get, but
take it with the appropriate grain of salt because you will get much more
from paying attention to your own success and failures.

Last bit of advice, sometimes people over process stuff trying to get it
perfect before starting. It can sometimes be better just to get started, do
something, even badly, learn from it, then with some experience and learning
in place, do it better.  Think of these things as a three try approach, the
first try we know and expect we will miss the mark, maybe wildly, the second
try we will have learned something from the first try and be better, and by
the third try we ought to have some real idea of what the heck we are doing
and enough experience maybe to do it with some competence. People who expect
the experiment to come out exactly as predicted on the first trial are
almost always disappointed. Trial and learning is how you learned to walk,
talk and all that other stuff. Community is no different. 

And yes I know, there are people who absolutely hate this approach, because
they want instant gratification and always to get things right, and they
don't want to "waste time".  My experience is that real learning comes from
trying, making mistakes and learning from em. If that were not the case, I
would certainly not still be living here.

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Resident for 15 years, World resident for 50. 
Naturalist, Writer
The Environmental Science School
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