Re: Workshare
From: Doug Huston (
Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2013 08:31:20 -0800 (PST)
To piggyback a little on what my neighbor Melanie has written............ Doing a workshop with Eris Weaver was particularly helpful to clarify priorities and effectively operationalize them. In short, it became clear that participation, more broadly defined, is more important than simply maintaining 'the physical plant.' Sometimes specific conversations would have led one to think otherwise. I believe it was important to articulate this sentiment. It was widely held, but it became clear publicly in the workshop. The details/mechanics of effectively holding organized and regular workdays has been important. Much more is getting done regarding 'the physical plant.'
And it is generally more fun.
Personally, the work days have allowed me to have set aside time to complete projects I had volunteered to do, but didn't seem to find the time to do. I also think the workdays have provided more time, focus and labor to our garden team. I think this was helpful to alleviate a disproportionate burden on those folks, which of course improves morale which impacts everyone's general sense of satisfaction with community living.

- Doug Huston

On Jan 17, 2013, at 8:41 AM, Melanie Mindlin wrote:

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 t he 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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