Re: Structurelessness
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2012 05:35:59 -0700 (PDT)
On Sep 17, 2012, at 7:37 AM, Nessa Dertnig <nessa [at]> 

> useful to be made consciously aware of some of those creeping informal habits 
> that work to co-opt power in ways that are difficult to see.

They are not only difficult to see, they are seductive. It's much easier to "do 
it yourself" sometimes, and it's easy for others to become slackers. When a 
small group takes covert (and not so covert) leadership, others may take power 
by taking no responsibility. 

In cohousing some people always think they are busier or work harder than 
anyone else in the community. Their jobs are more demanding, their weekends 
away are more necessary, their children require their full attention at all 
times, etc. This is is also a covert taking of power. Others then take on all 
the work and feel powerless to stop the cycle.

Endenburg had this difficulty at Endenburg Electric. After setting up a 
structure that allowed the workers to take responsibility for their 
departments, he found that they weren't. The managers were still being expected 
to make all the policies and the responsibility for enforcing them. He had to 
do a whole company re-education, which he called a "re-installation" of the 
circle organization.

On the other side, when women began expecting others in the household to take 
on household chores, the family began pushing back on standards. They were 
perfectly happy -- well not "perfectly" -- they were willing to take on the 
chores but not the standards. They weren't willing to fold every shirt with 
precision or sweep the floor twice a day or clean the refrigerator twice a 
week. The standards that women had set when they were competing to be the 
"best" housewife, even when they were also working, were higher than their 
families thought they needed to be.

I wonder if we don't do this in cohousing too. Maybe the whole community needs 
to look at what work is being done, how much it would require from everyone to 
share it, and if no one wants to commit, to either reducing the standards 
hiring more of it out. The Ecovillage of Loudon County does this annually. They 
do a labor budget as well as a financial budget. Some people can always work 
more if they choose but projects are not done if there aren't enough people 
making a commitment at the beginning of the budget cycle.

It sounds like a daunting amount of planning to do a labor budget but I 
remember the first few years of our financial budgeting. It took four months 
and lots of team consulting. Now it takes one back-and-forth with teams, a 
presentation at one meeting, minor adjustments, and approval at the next 
meeting. A labor budget would take the same effort, probably less in 
communities that now have more experience with each other.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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