Re: Commitments to community
From: David Heimann (
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 2016 07:52:02 -0800 (PST)

Our experience at Jamaica Plain Cohousing has been similar to Springhill, except that our work requirements are 4 hours per month (48 hours per year). During the first several years we kept a strict accounting of who worked how many hours. However, after a while many people were complaining about the bureaucracy. After a long discussion we decided that informality and flexibility was preferable to fairness (yes, that was the choice we had to make), and have since have had people informally and semi-formally carrying out the various work tasks, some on workdays and some on a steady basis throughout the year. If something isn't getting done, we bring it up until someone steps forward. This system has been going on without serious complaints for around seven years now.

David Heimann

Date: Tue, 19 Jan 2016 16:31:08 +0000
From: Malcom Eva <malcolm [at]>
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Commitments to community
Message-ID: <158CCDAC-7F11-48F7-A026-572E2AB626AC [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252

At Springhill we started to record work done.  We set a rule that every adult 
should contribute 20 hours per year to the running of the community.  This was 
originally in the form of physical maintenance of the site and the common 
house, but was extended to necessary admin jobs as well, so that people not so 
physically resilient were able to make their contribution.

For the first two years we kept a record in an A4 book so that everyone could 
log the hours and say what they did.  We also run 5 or 6 workdays a year when 
as many people as are available and want can tackle various maintenance jobs 
and enhancement projects, all in a communal/social setting.  However, some 
people never bothered to enter their hours; some people contributed way over 20 
hours a year, and others way under; it became clear that the record didn?t 
actually tell the whole story so we scrapped that, but we still have the 
workdays, as well as smaller groups of people who look after general 
maintenance, keeping the common house clean and running the common garden areas.

There is no way of enforcing the 20 hours rule, and it would cause much bad 
feeling if we did. Most people join in and help keep Springhill working well, 
and those who don?t, well, we say that it is their loss!

Newcomers are told about the 20 hours and the workdays, and by and large our 
experience is that they bring much good energy and enthusiasm to caring for 
their new home/community.  They do have a welcoming buddy who help with the 
induction, as well as a comprehensive welcoming booklet which gives necessary 
information (when is the rubbish and recycling collected etc).

Although we have no way of enforcing participation and a few,  often for very 
good reasons, don?t join in much it works well here.


On 18 Jan 2016, at 22:17, Beverly Jones Redekop <beverly.jones.redekop [at]> wrote:

No record keeping at all? No public log to record one's activities and
time? No communication?

How do new people figure out how the place runs itself if we don't tell
them what we do and how long it takes? How do we gift our extra hours to
people whom we wish to support (a busy farmer or phd student, a family with
cancer or a newborn baby)? How do we talk to the disengaged who don't
realize how much maintenance work is done or who imagine that the people
working the most are happy to carry the slack of nonparticipants?

Why do dollars for strata fees/HOA dues require accountability while hours
for maintenance can run on inspiration, whims, and guilt?

Of the happy, well-functioning communities (the ones that are in good
repair and that have community dinners at least a couple of times per
week), what is the split between recording and not recording? Do recorders
and non-recorders both have reasonable contributions in lieu of
participation from those who didn't contribute much time?

We're very close to getting the occupancy certificate on our common house
here in Yarrow, BC, so it's nice to know how thriving communities are
achieving their health and happiness.

Beverly at Groundswell Cohousing

On Mon, Jan 18, 2016, 1:35 PM Sharon Villines <sharon [at]>

I?ve said this before but will say it again because this is such a problem
in cooperative ventures with no definition or enforcement of cooperation.

After 15+ years of reading the list, participating in food coops, school
coops, churches, college faculties, etc., and various schemes to increase
participation, I believe that hours and money are not the answer.

Almost every time we have asked for hours or money in special
circumstances ? emergency or desired extra ? we have gotten it.

It?s much more important for me that people take responsibility for
maintaining the community. Pay attention. Don?t make work for other people.
Leave it better than you found it. Do something nice for a community member
a few times a month.

Assume a task that needs to be done on an ongoing basis so others don?t
have to even think about it. Take charge of the sump pumps, the lawn
mowing, straightening up the kids room, posting minutes on the website,
etc., and do the job dependably and without reminders.

A person who takes responsibility for the parking gate, ensuring that
maintenance gets done and calling for service when necessary. Regular
maintenance is a annual contract but it has never worked that the service
people automatically show up. And when they don?t, the gate will break down
a few weeks later. No one can get in or out. She is on it the minute she is

How much time does this all take? Probably a few hours a year. But I don?t
even have a car and I bless her. The letter carrier blesses her because
then she doesn?t have to carry mail from the other street ? a one block
walk. Garbage pick up and recycling can back up very fast if the gate
doesn?t open.

When the community is on the whole functioning responsibly, I feel safe.

It took me a long time to get to this.

Rob Sandelin once said, how can I judge the value of 8 hours cleaning the
trails (they have woods) and holding a half hour ksession with our children
talking about ethics? (They have a philosophy professor.)

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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