Re: The Future of Cohousing-L mailing list
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 16:36:09 -0800 (PST)
> On Feb 20, 2015, at 6:56 PM, Kathryn McCamant <kmccamant [at] 
> \But I did want to question your assumption that CoHousing-L needs to be a
> separate entity from the CoHousing Association. Personally, I see the
> Association as the key link that ties us all together...[snip].. I think 
> formally
> combining your efforts with the Association would be one way to secure
> Coho-L's long term existence...whatever happens to any one of us along
> life's road.

I've been a heavy user of email discussion lists for over 20 years. What I have 
found is that list connected to organizations are the least active and the 
least useful. Lists taken over by associations die.

There are two basic problems. People talking on the list are less free to speak 
because the list becomes identical with the association. They feel less free to 
talk about anything the association isn't formally supporting or advocating. 
And like running for congress, they tend to be protective of their public 
record. They feel they can be judged by it if they want to later serve on the 
board etc. Consciously or unconsciously the list becomes the association's 
forum instead of a peer to peer forum.

The other thing that happens is the association begins to view the list as part 
of its ego. They begin to subtly and overtly censor the list. Please be 
careful--we are in the running for grant from HUD. Don't say anything about 
requiring meals. Don't discuss foreclosures because California's banks are on a 
toot about foreclosures in intentional communes. The association needs support 
on other issues right now. You will turn off new members.

I manage a neighborhood list of 2500+ members. Every time I say something to 
correct the course of conversation back to neighborhood issues or remind them 
not to characterize other people negatively, the list goes silent for a few 
days. We have 900 messages a month so a silence is noticeable. I have to deal 
with everything off list. 

Fred is very good about remaining in the background but still guiding things. 
He uses his own sense of things and feed back from other members to steer a 
course. When an association is mixed into that, everyone starts second guessing 
everyone. People begin to act in the name of the association which is a third 
party without a mind. It doesn't have a compass. Only a person has that. Who 
knows who will be in charge of the list now or in the future? It's the 
association's list.

> I think the Association needs all of our support and
> encouragement, and the more of our volunteer efforts are done under the
> umbrella of the Association, the strong both the Association is as well as
> the cohousing movement.

Free speech and competition are also very important. I don't think handing the 
list over to the association will help either.

I've seen too many good websites put up by the association go down in flames 
because someone else stepped in and changed course. Everything gone. The 
association isn't a dependable or predictable body. And it has only a few 
people at the helm. There are far more on this list. The association is much 
stronger than it has ever been but taking over this list will not help it or 
the list. If anything the list has supported cohousing when the association was 
floundering. It's only purpose is cohousers helping cohousers, not image, 
influence, or financial concerns. That is a great strength.

I know this is long but I have a lost a lot of lists to associations.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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