Re: Mission statements
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 2011 18:20:55 -0800 (PST)
On 20 Nov 2011, at 8:29 PM, Moz wrote:

> Someone said to me over the weekend that missions and values are usually
> quite general and thus open to interpretation, what counts is the detailed
> description of how they will be applied.

And that is why they are often useless. The dynamic governance has very clear 
definitions for vision, mission, and aim.

VISION: A good Vision is like a dream. It's inspiring. It's uplifting. It's 
what keeps people moving when things are rough. The lofty thoughts. This 
statement may never change for the life of the organization.

MISSION: A Mission statement speaks to what the group wants to create. What it 
hopes to do. What it wants to feel. The mission must distinguish the 
organization from other organizations. Since cohousing builds neighborhoods, 
what are the characteristics of a neighborhood that you object to and how would 
your neighborhood be different? The mission is reviewed every 2-5 years. 

AIM: Aims are objects or services that are provided and obtained. The statement 
describing an aim needs to be specific in order to be realized. It makes the 
non-tangible goals of the Vision and  Mission tangible. A cohousing community 
needs to describe it the same way a  shoe manufacturer would describe the kind 
of shoe they were going to produce. You need to be able to see it and feel it. 
Aims are reviewed at least once a year.

I think communities, including mine, would be more successful if they did focus 
on one aim for a year. If that aim is to develop a more active meal program, 
for example, other tasks would be examined and reexamined in view of their 
ability to support the meal program.

If everyone is focusing on different (unclearly defined) aims, focus is 
diffused. With a clear aim, a member who is cleaning the floor can understand 
that it is necessary to support the over all aim of having a good meal program. 
It's a question of harnessing the energy of each person by strengthening their 

The Aim usually precedes the Vision and Mission, which are more abstract. The 
Vision and Mission are easier to define once the Aim is defined. The Aim is 
easier because it is more tangible and it is right in front of you. I want 
this! Once the Aim statement begins to become clear, working back and forth 
between the Vision, Mission, and Aim statements will help make all of them 

Aim statements do not have to be complex. They develop over time. They should 
not make your life miserable because you can't get the words right. In a 
rapidly developing group the aim should be reviewed and revised much more often.

Each decision-making group, a circle or team, is defined by a unique aim. No 
unique aim, no reason to exist. 

Make these statements brief enough to comprehend all at once. If you have 
forgotten the beginning line by the time you get to the last line, it's too 
long. It will be more effective if you can hold clearly in your consciousness 
as you move toward it. How many of us had to dig in a drawer or a computer file 
to find our aim when someone asked for it? Ineffective aim.

As James Carville said "A campaign is about 4 words. If you can't get it down 
to 4 words, you lose the election."  (I'm totally paraphrasing but it was 
something like that.) I would add, if you can't get it down to a manageable 
number of words you probably don't know what you are really about. It's still 
fuzzy and attempting to be accommodating so everyone can go take a nap.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"Behavior is determined by the prevailing form of decision making." Gerard 

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