Re: Experiences in handling difficult issues
From: Patricia Lautner (
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2014 18:08:52 -0800 (PST)

The 80% - 20% example above is a pretty large split.  In other words, if a
full 20% (6 households in a community of 30) are against a decision, you
are far from being in agreement.

The most important thing that a community needs to remember is that members
need to prioritize the needs of the community OVER the individual with
EVERY community decision.  Even mature groups forget this.  And as we grow
to know and love our neighbors, we may allow the priority to flip out of
concern for others.  The role of the facilitator here is KEY.  A well
trained facilitator at the front of the room will help your group to get
through hard decisions.  A weak facilitator (one that merely calls on
people but isn't skilled in group process) could have the opposite effect.
I can't stress enough how important it is to train your facilitators.
Every cohousing budget should have money in there for facilitator training.

A note about your community's *Commonly Held Values*.  Many communities
have a vision statement and/or a list of common values that all members
agree to.  Common Values might include: aging in place, safe environment
for children, live sustainably on the earth, etc.  If there is a vocal
minority blocking the will of the obvious majority (an obvious majority in
a typical cohousing meeting would probably be closer to 90% of the
participants) then the group should ask the dissenters, "What commonly held
value are you trying to protect by going against the majority?"  If the
dissenter isn't able to point to a clearly defined common value then maybe
they are asserting their individual will on the community inappropriately.
I've seen trained facilitators help a group get through tough decisions by
opening the meeting with a review of the common values.

Patti Lautner
JP Cohousing - Boston MA

On Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 1:24 PM, Sharon Villines
<sharon [at]>wrote:

> On Feb 20, 2014, at 2:40 PM, Willow Murphy <willowm7 [at]> wrote:
> >  We are especially concerned about times when some members have strong
> feelings and concerns against a proposal and others have "facts" to support
> it, which we have recently experienced.   This has brought up the tough
> issue of whether we value facts over what are believed to be legitimate
> concerns, or vice versa. Concerns may be devalued, because there aren't as
> many facts to back them up.  The question of caring about our neighbors
> feelings came up, the
> > question of either group "forcing their will" on the other, the
> importance of saving money over health concerns or the reverse, and how to
> find what really IS best for the community as a whole?
> Some decisions are hard and no process will make them easier. In the end,
> you have to make the decision and do a review of its success. By measuring
> the actual against the aim, then you know what changes to make to move
> toward success.
> Shorten the time period of the proposal and add evaluation criteria. These
> criteria should address the concerns and the facts. Most facts have a
> context so they may not be facts in your context. There is a huge movement
> now to reexamine the many research studies that purport to prove things
> that turn out to be bad studies or misinterpreted or reported results. The
> recent shocker is that the evidence for the great cholesterol scare
> evidence was made up and there is no correlation between red meat and heart
> disease.
> So treat facts with care, but I'm always amazed at how many people are
> perfectly comfortable ignoring facts. That'w where measurement comes in.
> Measure in your own community.
> The "forcing your will" on others goes both ways. The people who don't
> want to move forward are forcing their will on those who do. Don't fall for
> the guilt trip. Stick with the facts as you know them and can measure them.
> My personal feeling is that the "community as a whole" is only in the eyes
> of the individual, and groups of individual. No matter what the issue is
> some will feel more or less strongly about it. I am fairly sure that no
> matter what the issue is, I could find someone in the community who would
> argue with me about it, even issues on which no one objected.
> The best solution, I think, is to respect the concerns of all sides, pro
> and con, and work out a way forward. Moving forward is important. Moving
> forward is the only way to measure whether the proposal is a good one or
> bad one. Even if you don't go forward, you can measure the results of not
> moving forward and try again.
> Does my community do this? Of course not. It takes too much attention. But
> we are getting much better at it.  After 14 years, the most difficult
> decisions never come up for a decision because we can't figure out how to
> propose a solution. Like bike storage, workshare -- the big things. We
> haven't had a proposal come forward in a long time that wasn't accepted.
> But some are stuck in the pre-meeting stage. And some dissatisfactions just
> bubble about.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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