use of common house, consensus, etc.
From: Marcia J. Bates (
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 2010 10:35:37 -0800 (PST)

As always, I find the discussion fascinating. I'd like to put forward another perspective that you can play with, or ignore. That is to look at cohousing as a social experiment, and to identify the problems, and try to work out what would be good solutions. I'm talking an analytical approach here, which some may like and some may hate (based on my experience at Oak Creek Commons).

We are looking at who has power, who shares what with whom, and how we carry out or should carry out our collective activities.

Most of us came to cohousing from the big city, not from small villages of 50 or 75 people. Our social experience is overwhelmingly with 1) the nuclear family, 2) personal friends, and 3) work and other relatively superficial social situations. We don't have experience with physically close, live-in arrangements with other people that we want to create a community with. Our experience does not provide us with a common understanding for how to deal in such situations.

The debate over private events in the common house is a perfect example of this lack of common experience and agreement. For the most part, with our friends and family, we have a pretty good understanding of what would constitute a social snub, say, if someone wasn't invited to a party. But when we deal with the role of the Common House in our community, one question that arises is, should everyone be invited to everything in the community?

In trying to resolve this question, conflicts arise from within our own experience. Is my cohousing group like my nuclear family, and so it would be inconceivable to leave anyone out from anything? Or, is my cohousing group more like my friends at work, where I would invite some sometimes and everyone at other times?

I think it might help us gain some perspective and be comfortable with experimenting, if we viewed this as a practice that we are in the process of playing with, to discover what, over time, feels best and most supportive of the developing community. In other words, we could view these debates not as right or wrong or who has the moral high ground, but rather as practices that we are experimenting with and developing anew.

Marcia Bates


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