Mandatory Participation in Common Meals Survey Results
From: Fred-List manager (fholsoncohousing.org)
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2016 04:56:15 -0800 (PST)
Mac Thomson <macthomson [at] me.com>
is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at] cohousing.org>
after putting survey results (in two formats) at:
http://l.cohousing.org/common-meals-survey-2016.pdf
http://l.cohousing.org/common-meals-survey-2016.xls

--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

Last week I sent a survey to coho-l to see if other communities had
mandatory participation in their common meals system. Here’s the
survey I sent:

SURVEY

Does your community require members to participate in common meal
preparation and/or clean up (yes or no)?

How many common meals per week do you have?

On a scale of 1 - 10, how successful are your common meals?
(1 = very disappointing, pretty much sucks; 10 = super fantastic, amazing)

On a scale of 1 - 10, how cohesive is your community?
(1 = very disappointing, pretty much sucks; 10 = super fantastic, amazing)

What are the best things about your common meal program?

What are the worst things about your common meal program?

Other comments?

I received 17 responses. Thank you to all the respondents!

I’ve attached my compilation of the results as both pdf and Excel
files. I wasn’t sure if everyone would be able to open an Excel
file.

There were some additional comments that don’t show up on the pdf
compilation that I’m happy to share. A typical example would be when
someone gives a numerical rating for their meal program and then goes
on to explain the rating. The pdf compilation just shows the rating.
The Excel file has the additional comments included as cell comments.

I’ll review my conclusions for each survey question.

Does your community require members to participate in common meal
preparation and/or clean up (yes or no)?
2 - Yes
15 - No

The thing that really struck me about this question was what a gray
area it is. What does mandatory mean?

One “Yes” response indicated a meal system like ours. If you
choose to participate in meals, you must participate in meal prep.

One “No” response indicated that overall work was required, but
cooking was just one form of work.

One “No” response said that it was “strongly encouraged”, but
their community was afraid of making it difficult to get mortgages so
they don’t “require” it.

How many common meals per week do you have?
Answers range from 1 - 5 with the average at about 2. There are a
combination of potlucks and common meals. Communities that seem to be
struggling with common meals seem to resort to potlucks.


On a scale of 1 - 10, how successful are your common meals?
(1 = very disappointing, pretty much sucks; 10 = super fantastic, amazing)
Answers range from 5 - 10 with the average at about 8. I was hoping to
see if mandatory meals were in any way correlated with common meal
success, but because of the various ways people answered about whether
their system was mandatory and also the extremely low sample size of
“Yes” responses (2), I don’t think it makes any sense to draw
any correlation conclusions.


On a scale of 1 - 10, how cohesive is your community?
(1 = very disappointing, pretty much sucks; 10 = super fantastic, amazing)
Answers range from 5 - 9 with the average at about 7. Again, I don’t
think it makes any sense to draw any correlation conclusions.

One thing I would conclude from reading the comments that came along
with the scores, community cohesiveness is not something you can take
for granted. Many communities struggle with a variety of issues.

What are the best things about your common meal program?
I think the main responses were about being able to enjoy really good
food in a great social setting. Also mentioned frequently were the
community building nature of the meals and the good systems
communities use for getting the meals work done and tracking costs.

What are the worst things about your common meal program?
I think the main responses were about low participation at meals
and/or difficulty of getting enough cooks and cleaners resulting in
meals getting canceled. Also mentioned several times was the challenge
of cooking for lots of different food needs.

Other comments?
Many interesting comments about different meal systems, but no single
common thread that I could pull out.

Cheers,
Mac
--
Mac Thomson
Heartwood Cohousing
Southwest Colorado
http://www.heartwoodcohousing.com

"Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together."
        - Marilyn Monroe
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