Community Information [ was Types of conflict in cohousing -- did I miss any?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 2016 10:40:21 -0800 (PST)
> On Jan 21, 2016, at 6:30 PM, Mary Baker, Solid Communications <mary [at] 
>> wrote:
> \I had to learn a lot of things the hard way when I moved here. Since then, 
> I’ve offered to expand our welcome kit to include some basics and an FAQ (the 
> welcome team uses an out-of-date one-page handout that doesn’t really say 
> anything). But I’m not even getting enough buy-in to make it worth my time. 
> The buddy system helps. But when you’re unpacking and you don’t have a friend 
> network yet, it can be really burdensome and tiring to have to keep asking 
> about basic things.

We have always had an orientation person who met with new people and gave them 
various sorts of information. But it was 1-2 months or more after they moved 
in, because they were busy moving in!!!! 

We had a FAQ list on the members website but no one could l access it until 
they had closed on their units and gotten connected to the email lists and 
passwords. So along with gathering contact information, I started sending a 
copy to new residents before they moved in. I didn’t ask permission or go 
through any multi-layer approval process. I did it.

When we moved in people didn’t want a contact list because residents were 
supposed to go to YahooGroups and fill in their own contact information. But 
this was in 2000 when only 50% of our people were online every day. And not all 
of those even wanted to go to YahooGroups website. A member is not 
inconvenienced by their out of date contact info — everyone else is.

I was also concerned that we were trying to be a caring community and had no 
idea who to call if a member had an emergency. In the context of friends and 
family, or medicinal allergies, we were strangers. If someone fell over with a 
heart attack on the green, we would have had to just call an ambulance, the 
same way we would if they were a stranger on the street.

I started a database and printed contact sheets. I kept track of birthdates, 
emergency medical info, who to contact in emergencies, etc. Those contact 
sheets were the only thing I have ever done for the community, except maybe 
cook turkey, that people were most grateful for and used every day. For years I 
didn’t give it up because it was the one thing people would always send 
positive vibes for.

We now have resale and orientation teams that handle this process very 

> I value F2F as much as the next person, but I think the Old Guard (and I’m 
> referring to cohousings in general) may have forgotten how exhausting it can 
> be to pack, move, and settle in to a new community. And—this may be an 
> unpopular opinion here—I also think that withholding basic information about 
> parking, bike lockers, guest room, workshop keys, CH policy, etc., and 
> forcing people to knock on your door until they get an answer is a form of 
> control. 

As you see above, I agree on this so far as it can be done easily. To hand 
someone a list of all of this will also overwhelm them. They have all the 
formalized policies from the resale packet that is required by law here. What I 
was referring to as better F2F is stuff that depends on the year you ask or 
that may be particular to you. Writing down the process of signing up for meals 
depends on what meal when and is subject to change by the meal.

What our list people want to do now is put EVERYTHING in writing. How to use 
the kitchen, where to put the dishes, how to sign up for meals, etc. Aside from 
the fact that not everyone will agree on what should be in writing, it will 
take tons of time and be outdated by the time it is written. New people will be 
overwhelmed by this. And many oldies will laugh because they don’t do things 
that way at all.

Things in writing take on the rule of law. Some people would be carrying around 
the book to check on everything they did to be sure it wasn’t wrong. Or be 
afraid to do anything at all.

In your case, I would just put the  basic uncontroversial info together and 
circulate it “This might be helpful… “

I’m afraid my standard response to people questioning me is, "Do you have a 
better solution? When you do, let me know. In the meantime, I’m doing this.” I 
can’t stand it when something is not done because a team didn’t decide it could 
be. Cohousers are just as capable of pointless bureaucracy as anyone 
else—perhaps even more capable since they tend to be smart and educated.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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