Re: participating in community
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2009 12:27:34 -0800 (PST)

On Jan 18, 2009, at 11:41 PM, Jennifer Savin wrote:

We're a 15-year old co-housing and have run into a problem with
getting everything done around here that needs to get done- from admin
chores to physical labor.

Join the crowd. This problem seems to vary from community to community because the work varies. In lot development models, the work may be limited to cleaning the commonhouse. In condominiums with attached units like ours, all under one roof, the work is mighty because we are maintaining the whole complex infrastructure, interiors and exteriors.

For example, the water heater in the CH went out with 6 people staying in the guest rooms and meals planned for people coming in from everywhere for the inauguration. Someone had to go figure out what was wrong and call a plumber. Things like this happen often. The elevator pit filling with water. A leak in the third floor ceiling. Sump pumps not working in a heavy rain.

Increasingly, in my view, the initial enthusiasm has waned and people are not willing to continue responding to needs. There was an initial belief that those who were not as involved in the beginning would "grow in confidence" and pitch in more. They haven't.

The current work expectation is 6 hours a month but that is less than we need to do all the work. That doesn't include team meetings or meals. Meals are essentially self serving -- cooks eat and those who eat cook -- so not including them is reasonable.

Not including team meetings is self defeating, in my opinion, because it is hard work and takes 4 hours a month for the three major teams and the board. And the people who attend meetings become more involved in tasks because they know what needs to be done. Our initial idea was that everyone would belong to a team, but less than half at one time have been active on a team. There are some people, however, who work very hard at specific tasks without attending meetings -- the meeting averse.

No one wants to police all the infractions of agreements. Discussion about workshare drags on, usually with the wrong people in the room, looking for the keys where the light is brightest.

Almost everyone is involved in community life in one way or another -- we are very strong in that area -- but getting people to take responsibility for an ongoing task is becoming harder, not easier.

We recently began recording hours and that has helped a bit. People hang onto small tasks rather than let someone else take over.

Personally, I think we need more tasks hired out. We tried hiring a facilities management company but we do a much better job supervising workers and getting meaningful bids.

Another strategy we are tying to work toward is finding a good company that can do the repair and construction work and refer us to other people. In essence we would be using ONE company for most of the work we need. Now we get bids and use this one and that one. Very hard work to get used to their weaknesses and strengths and communication styles -- or lack thereof. But some people think bids are sacrosanct and guarantee the best price -- all work is the same to them.

Eastern Village works on a hired out model so I hope someone from there responds.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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