Re: Sustainability of community service
From: Lindsay Morris (
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2008 13:14:23 -0700 (PDT)
I hear a good book calling me .... .

Great post, Eris!

Lindsay Morris
Tel. 1-859-539-9900
lindsay [at]
From: Eris Weaver [eris [at]]
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2008 3:01 PM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Sustainability of community service

I am enjoying this thread, and Rob's comments particularly resonate with my
community experience.

I feel like my community (FrogSong, Cotati, CA) has created a culture of
generosity, rather than culture of obligation. What do I mean by this?

We have explicitly stated and accepted the fact that participation will
never be equal. There will ALWAYS be people who do more than "their fair
share" and some who do less. Fair does not mean the same thing as equal.

If your work expectations are moderate, people can do more out of sense of
generosity, rather than having really high expectations and nagging people
to do more work out of a sense of obligation. Even if you're doing the same
actual work, the feeling is different.

If you resent others who do less, because you feel you are doing too much,

If work is not getting done, stop and look at how necessary the work is.
What will happen if you don't do it? Maybe it's OK that something doesn't
get done. OR, if it IS important to the community but nobody wants to do it,
hire somebody to do it.  Analyze what people actually do and want to do, and
work with that, instead of bemoaning that people don't do what they "should"

Sitting around nagging each other to do more work, never works.

We set up and consented to a system for cleaning our common house, because
some people thought it was absurd that we'd been paying to have it cleaned
once a week. Charts and checklists were made. Only a few people ever
actually signed up and did it.  So we talked about it -- while working
together on a landscaping day can be fun and community building, many people
just didn't feel like cleaning common house toilets was a priority for how
we spend our time. So we went back to paying for cleaning, but less

If something doesn’t meet somebody's standard of cleanliness, that person
may just step in and DO it to make themselves happy. And others may notice
and express appreciation.  Everybody should do the work that makes them feel
like happy contributors to the community.

Once at a meeting when people had been feeling resentful, doing too much,
staying on committees that they were burnt out about, I handed out the
following to everyone, one at a time, with direct eye contact (I love props
& costumes and use them whenever possible in my facilitation):

        *A gold star to acknowledge and appreciate all the work
        each person had done
        * A permission slip to STOP and get off of any committee
        that was frustrating them/ not feeding them
        * An invitation to join whatever committee or task force brought
        joy or contentment or a sense of accomplishment

It nudged several people to make changes, drop off committees, etc. So we
had less people on some committees...but guess what? The work still got
done, and people were happier.

Eris Weaver, Facilitator & Group Process Consultant
eris [at]

fa cil' i tāt: to make easier

Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.