From: Melanie Mindlin (
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2013 08:41:58 -0800 (PST)
Hi Grace,
While I would never be so bold as to claim that we are fully satisfied with our 
shared work, I think that we have given it quite a bit of attention and gotten 
pretty good results here at Ashland Cohousing.  We have several different types 
of work responsibilities that we've worked out over the years.

1) Committees.  This is a hold-over from when we were building our community, 
and still works pretty well for delegating most of the care of our community 
and keeping most decision-making out of our monthly meeting.  We are a pretty 
small community with only 13 households and about 20 adults (lots of kids).  
Everyone needs to be on one of our committees.  We require people to convene 
one or be on two committees.  People pretty much stick with the same committee 
for a long time.  There are some that need to beg for members occasionally.  
Our committees are Finagel (Financial & legal), Landscaping (responsible for 
maintaining the landscaping), Commons (responsible for maintaining all the 
common property other than the landscape), Facilitation (responsible for 
agendas, running meetings, and trainings), Garden (responsible for food growing 
in our large community garden) and Heart Team (concerns itself with people 
joining & leaving, conflict and emotional ripples in the community and 
parties/holidays).  People on committees do not need to do all the actual work, 
but need to organize getting the big chunks done on workdays or hiring it out 
where appropriate.  They set itemized annual budgets to work with (approved by 
the whole community) and are pretty autonomous with decision-making.  Meetings 
are announced in case others want to attend and notes sent out to everyone.

2) Work days.  We have a work day once a month for about 3 hours.  If you don't 
show up, you are assigned a task to complete later.  We provide childcare.  We 
worked out a new method of organizing this with the help of Eris Weaver at a 
workshop last year and it seems to be working out pretty well.  Two people 
convene each workday so you have to do it about once a year in our community.  
Committees tell the convenors what needs to be done and they assign jobs, make 
sure materials are on hand, and check on completion.

3) Chore Wheel.  We also have a requirement for everyone to do about 2 hours of 
work each month from our chore wheel.  Most of the jobs are common house 
maintenance, but we also have bookkeeping, some landscape and garden work, and 
people can put a self-assigned chore in the other category if needed.

4) Meals.  We keep meals separate from the rest of the work share because meal 
participation is not mandatory in our community.  Most people participate in 
meals and sign up for 3 shifts per 6-week rotation either cooking or cleaning 
up.  Those who rarely come to meals choose their own level of meal sign-up.

5) We also expect people to come to our monthly 3 hour meeting most of the 
time.  We try not to do too much business at these meetings, although there are 
whole group decisions that need to be made sometimes.  Instead we try to keep a 
lot of time for discussions about issues in the community.  Generally this done 
through "open forum" in which anyone can bring any issue forward for discussion.

We've talked about various types of accountability over the 5 years we have 
been here, but have not instituted anything formal.  We talk with people who 
seem out of integrity.  Our biggest challenge has been the small minority who 
have given themselves permission to not do their fair share.  We continue to 
revisit this with them in conversation, inviting them to define an exception 
for themselves that holds some degree of fairness.  This has had varying 
degrees of success.  Fortunately, the number of people who are not on board is 
fairly small and we maintain pretty good esprit de corps.  

I want to give credit for our success to several things.  One is the individual 
courage and commitment of the community members who are willing to involve 
themselves in difficult conversations.  This is usually done in our community 
one on one rather than in a more confrontational setting in our meetings.  
There are also many people in our community who are willing to take the time to 
discuss and try to resolve feelings of dissatisfaction or disfunction that 
appear in our community.  We try to do this in a positive, transparent and 
non-gossipy way.  Since we created the Heart Team a couple of years ago, this 
is the place where many of these discussions are held.  In addition, from the 
start we have set aside money in our annual budget for an annual training of 
some kind.  These are usually attended by almost everyone in our community, and 
we have invited a variety of outside facilitators to come work with us on 
whatever they do best and whatever we seem to need help with at the time. It's 
not just that the trainings are useful, but what is more important IMO is the 
acknowledgement of our commitment to ongoing learning about how to make this 
social experiment work.

Good luck with your project.
Melanie Mindlin
Ashland Cohousing Community

On Jan 17, 2013, at 3:16 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] wrote:

> From: Grace Horowitz <grace [at]>
> Subject: [C-L]_ Searching for a cohousing community that is satisfied
>       with how its workshare is working. We want to learn from you.
> To: <cohousing-l [at]>
> Message-ID: <CD1CCA79.2DC92%grace [at]>
> Content-Type: text/plain;     charset="US-ASCII"
> Message to all cohousing communities:
> I am currently a resident of Takoma Village Cohousing Community in DC, where
> we have long been working on improving our system of workshare.  I am
> planning to move to the third neighborhood of Ecovillage at Ithaca, TREE,
> when it is built. I have joined the "Community Work Committee" which is
> creating our TREE shared work system.
> Our committee is looking for cohousing communities that are satisfied with
> how their systems of workshare are working, or at least relatively
> satisfied. We want to learn from you.  Do you have a description of your
> workshare system on your website or could you summarize or explain how your
> system works?

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