Re: Can We Live Without Hierarchy?
From: Kathryn McCamant (kmccamantCOHOUSING-SOLUTIONS.COM)
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:56:09 -0700 (PDT)
As the person that originally added that characteristicŠ. I think you have
a good point, Tom. The point I was trying to make was that cohousing
communities do not have a leader per see, like so many spiritual
communities do. Yes, to delegation! But we all hold the power to
participate in decisions as we are interested and able to make the time.
There are leadership roles, but not specific leaders that lay down what we
are going to do nowŠ.

Kathryn McCamant, President
CoHousing Solutions
241B Commercial Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
T.530.478.1970  C.916.798.4755

On 7/30/15, 6:00 AM, "Cohousing-L on behalf of Tom Smyth"
< [at] on
behalf of tom [at]> wrote:

>You can delegate and have leadership and still not have hierarchy.
>Hierarchy to me implies rigidity: the boss is the boss and has the final
>say and that's all there is to it. Instead of that you can have a
>democratically elected and recallable leader that plays an executive role.
>This may technically be "hierarchy", but not of the rigid sort that
>5 refers to.
>On Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 6:11 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]>
>> Folks ‹
>> I¹ve been (re)reading the Coho US ³6 Defining Characteristics of
>> Cohousing², and keep getting hung up on Number 5:
>> 5. Non-hierarchical structure and decision-making. Leadership roles
>> naturally exist in cohousing communities, however no one person (or
>> persons) has authority over others. Most groups start with one or two
>> ³burning souls.² As people join the group, each person takes on one or
>> roles consistent with his or her skills, abilities or interests. Most
>> cohousing groups make all of their decisions by consensus, and, although
>> many groups have a policy for voting if the group cannot reach consensus
>> after a number of attempts, it is rarely or never necessary to resort to
>> voting.
>> "Non-hierarchical structure" is something of an oxymoron:  Structure
>> implies hierarchy, where distinct components have differentiated
>> and relationships.  Without hierarchy, you don¹t have structure, you
>> just a blob.
>> Well, let¹s not get hung up on parsing the language.  Here¹s the real
>> problem:  What about delegation?  In an ideal world, perhaps, all
>> are made by all the members in the room at the same, in ³plenary² or
>> circle² or whatever.  But in the real world, hardly any of us work that
>> way.  Instead, we (meaning, in cohousing, plenary) subdivide aim and
>> decisions into logical groupings, and delegate the authority to make
>> kinds of decisions to ³committees² or ³circles² or whatever.  So, we
>>have a
>> hierarchy:  Plenary, plus the committees to which plenary has delegated
>> defined amount of discretionary authority.  Some cohos even have
>> sub-committees that also have powers as well as duties.
>> All of which sounds like hierarchy to me.  Lacking any delegation, all
>> have is centralized command and control.  I am not persuaded that
>> command and control is an OK organizational model, even when the center
>> plenary (or, especially when the center is plenary).  So I am wondering
>> Characteristic 5 needs a clarification or re-write Š
>> Thanks,
>> Philip Dowds
>> Cornerstone Cohousing
>> Cambridge, MA
>> mobile: 617.460.4549
>> email:   rpdowds [at]
>> _________________________________________________________________
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>Tom Smyth
>Worker-Owner, Sassafras Tech Collective
>Specializing in innovative, usable tech for social change
> *·* @sassafrastech
>Resident, Touchstone Cohousing
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