Re: Common spaces and decision making (Katie Henry)
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2012 06:14:41 -0700 (PDT)
From: Katie Henry <katie-henry [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Common spaces and decision making

> but I deeply resented that, in addition to doing weeks of 
> legwork on the project, I also had to jump through the proposal hoops -- 
> paperwork, three presentations at membership meetings, etc. It seemed 
> (and still seems) to me that communities should have a person or team 
> specifically to assist with the proposal process.

What often happens here is that there are switch offs as one person gets 
tired/bored/distracted, etc., and another person picks up. The problem with 
this is that information gets lost and work is duplicated or changes in the 
proposal to resolve objections are somehow forgotten when the final order is 
placed. This happens most often with something that is being purchased and the 
problem not discovered until it arrives. The objectors are really angry and 
it's VEERRYYYY problematic to remind people that this is in direct 
contradiction to the proposed purchase.

So involving serial proposers doesn't work as well as it might, though in some 
cases the later people can add more energy and get something finalized.

Involving several people from the start has not necessarily worked well either. 
They divide up the work but the whole proposal is held up because one person 
doesn't do their part. Or in the middle two people lose interest and one is 
stuck with the whole job anyway.

The best solution, i think is to involve the decision-makers early and often in 
the process, and for the decision-makers to be willing to make decisions 
earlier, even if they are partial. Decision-makers are often just avoiding 
making decisions by requesting hugely detailed proposals. 

We need to be willing to say, early in the process, "Yes we are going to invest 
up to $20,000 in a play structure that meets the safety requirements for a 
public playground and passes the approval of the current kids aged 8-12. The 
location needs to come back for discussion and depends on the design and the 
factors affecting space usage when the proposal comes back." That needs to 
stand, regardless of how much shipping costs and who is going to put it 
together or what color the ropes are. 

We have to be more willing to make wrong decisions or we won't make any at all. 
Self-management requires moving forward, not stasis.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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