Re: how can a new group use existing knowledge?
From: Tree Bressen (
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2007 23:57:15 -0800 (PST)
Hi Andrew & folks,

Yes, we will still have the standard
growing pains of a group coming together, but shouldn't the rest of
the process be pretty much ironed out now?

So, how can we, a new group just now considering a membership
structure and decision process, reap the benefit of all the
accumulated knowledge out there?  Is it as simple as hiring a
cohousing consultant?  Is it as complex as visiting communities we
want to emulate, and learning from their history?  Something in
between, or altogether different?  A checklist?

Square one has been well-visited - so now I'd like to
figure out who's visited it, and how they can help us.  Where are the
cohousing sherpas?

I noticed that there haven't been many replies to this thread (we kinda got off on the developer-driven thread), and i thought you might appreciate a bit of attention. Here are some initial thoughts in response to your query:

1. Very few people are sherpas of the whole shebang. Most of us have departments, we are specialists in one of the requisite areas, with job descriptions of group facilitator, architect, developer, etc. So one of the skills of a successful forming group is to figure out what the departments are, and then find good people to fill them. Any skill areas that aren't available from within your group (could be lack of knowledge, or could be that the people you have within your group don't want to work for free, or could be a desire to avoid the complications of hiring from within your membership), you will likely need to hire out.

2. There are books that can help you a lot. Read McCamant & Durrett, Chris & Kelly Scott-Hanson, Shari Leach, and Diana Christian's books. While there are other books on the subject of cohousing, i have the impression that these are the ones that are really designed as how-to manuals. These are the fairly general manuals, and each has its strengths; for specific topics (e.g. facilitation) i'd recommend other, more specific materials.

3. Yes to visiting other communities. For all sorts of reasons (inspirations, emulations, mistakes to avoid, getting a feel for what it's really like, etc.).

4. No matter if you hire the best consultant(s) in the world, there will still be lots of work for your group to do and lots of decisions to make.

5. Rather than adopt one other's community's structures wholesale (as someone else posted about), i would recommend that when considering a policy or approach to a new topic, a forming group look at the range of what's been adopted by other groups, and then decide what is the right fit for them. To me that seems like a nice middle path between totally reinventing the wheel, and adopting something that you have no investment in or deep thought about. This leads into my next and final item on this list. . . .

6. Over the years there has been talk, and even some initial attempts made, at compiling a library of sample documents. Policies on specific subjects, and so on. I have the impression that this project has never been completed into a usable form, and that's very unfortunate. It means that each group coming along needs to post its own query to this email list, saying "Hey can a bunch of groups out there please send us your policy on [pets or conflict resolution or flip taxes or whatever]." I would so love to see such a library take shape! And i admit, i'm not stepping forward to organize it at this time. So i'm just putting the idea out there, that this is a resource that would be soooo worth the labor to make it happen. . . . Perhaps some new group would find a volunteer or even pay someone to collect the documents, because it would be worth it to them, and then once they are collected they could be posted via the main Cohousing website.

I hope some of this is helpful.  Cheers,



Tree Bressen
1680 Walnut St.
Eugene, OR 97403
(541) 484-1156
tree [at]

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