Re: Visioning Workshop
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 1 Sep 2015 05:37:29 -0700 (PDT)
When I look at all the topics for visioning exercises and goals, I remember 
back to when we were starting. One of the first things that happened was 
discovering our very different ideas of what cohousing was. In particular, what 
is the commonhouse? And why are we here?

Some people viewed the commonhouse as a money making space that would help 
reduce condo fees and pay for itself. Some viewed it as an impersonal hotel 
lobby. Some viewed it as a living room — formal. Others as a rumpus room. It 
took determination to sort that out.

Some thought they were doing a good thing by insisting that the institutional 
codes were met — signs stating the occupancy limits. Fire exit diagrams on 
every door and bulletin board like the ones on the inside of hotel room doors. 
Others wanted no such signs and the city could sue us if it wanted to. 

Some thought we were a therapeutic community in which members would make 
pledges for personal improvements and growth. (They were even posted in the 
commonhouse.) Others that we were a board-run condo with a difference.

Our vision statement was apple pie with nothing actionable in it. No tangible 
aims. The major criticism of it was that it didn’t say anything beyond 
environmental awareness.

I don’t know what we would have done with all these questions though we did 
have workshops. It all seems like a haze of construction dust and moving in. 
Trying to cook meals for 60 people because we all felt obligated to attend and 
many brought guests. Lots of relatives to look us over. Like a zoo.

It was a happy zoo but I’m not sure a vision would have been possible.

Not meaning to sound negative, but if you can’t come up with one, don’t panic. 
We got along without one. 

It’s much easier to start with aims and work backward. Aims are tangible. You 
know what you want to experience and do, and usually what it will require. And 
remember that planning works backwards. Set the aim, and work backwards to 
determine how you can get there.

In studying sociocracy, I’ve learned a lot about defining the vision, mission, 
aim. It’s called "the work process.” Think of your aims as widgets you want to 
produce and it becomes easier. The vision and mission will arise from what you 
want to do everyday. What will you actually do? And how will you know you have 
done it?

Sharon Villines
Sociocracy: A Deeper Democracy

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