Corvallis Cohousing using Sociocracy & NVC
From: Diana Leafe Christian (
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 05:40:15 -0800 (PST)

I just wanted to say how impressed I am that CoHo Ecovillage cohousing uses both Sociocracy and NVC. I believe using this governance and communication system respectively -- especially using both -- greatly increases the likelihood of generating harmony and good will in community. I wish every community used Sociocracy and NVC!

I'm also sympathetic to the dilemma Juva describes with people feeling reluctant to say, during the Sociocratic election process, the reasons why they wouldn't want X person elected to a particular community role. She wrote:

"The concern is having to say why we would have an objection about a person's skill in front of the whole community. The concern I have heard around this is that the individual may feel shamed or defensive. Some are concerned it would make living with them difficult."

I think Sharon Villine's advice to frame concerns in positive terms is really good. I could imagine someone saying, for example, "My concern is that Jack may need more time learning our governance system before he takes on this role, so I recommend Betty instead." Or, "I'm concerned that Jack's still in the learning curve on speaking diplomatically to people, and I'd like him to have more time and experience with this first. I think he might be fine in this role in the future, but for now I recommend Betty, given that she's well-known for her good communication skills."

We just had a similar situation in my community. One of our members was suggested for the treasurer role, which includes being a part of a team of four officers, the "Weavers," which meet monthly to discuss issues and make decisions about the well-being of the whole community. It was very difficult for this member, whom I'll call "Reginald," to endure various people saying critical things about him in our meeting. People said things like, "While I like Reginald and believe he could do the financial duties, I think the way he talks to people sometimes -- being confrontational and combatative -- is a problem and wouldn't work in the Weavers." Or, "I like Reginald as a person, but in this role I'd rather see someone who didn't get into fights with people like he does." "Reginald" felt pretty bad hearing these things.

He might not have felt _so_ bad, though, if people had used more positively worded phrases. For example, "I'd rather see someone who has more diplomatic skill in talking with others," or "I'd rather see someone who has a history of congenial collaboration with others in committee work." It still would have implied that Reginald wasn't diplomatic, congenial, or collaborative yet, but it might not have stung so much.

At the same time, people's concerns about Reginald were legitimate. It was he himself who established a reputation for being contentious in our community, and so he experienced what one could call the "natural consequences" of his own behavior. And it's not that the people speaking up didn't have compassion for Reginald; they did. But they had _more_ concern and interest in the well-being of the community as a whole, and so were willing to say these things, gulp, in public. Anyway, like Sharon, I'm advocating that people absolutely do speak up, but that, unlike what happened in my community, they phrase their concerns in positive terms, perhaps saying what they'd like to see _more of_ in person X before s/he would take on that role sometime in the future. It is possible to be both truth-telling and kind, as NVC trainers tell us.

Juva, I have a huge question. I understand that cohousing communities, because they offer housing units for sale on the open market, cannot choose their members, or ask anyone to leave either. So how does CoHo Ecovillage induce or invite people to take a 13-week NVC course? Is the course offered in-house every year by a CoHo Ecovillage member? What happens if someone refuses to take it? Thanks in advance for any information you can share.

Diana Leafe Christian

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