Responsibilities vs. Hours
From: Beverly Jones Redekop (
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2016 11:41:31 -0800 (PST)
I don't want to hijack the veteran thread, so I am bringing Sharon's post

I am fascinated that you are a "long time advocate of requiring and
reporting a minimum amount of hours," as I am that type of advocate and
this makes me imagine having my need for fairness and organization met
without us finally organizing our work hours.

Is there a list of community members and their responsibilities, or do
people just know? We have 40 children and 63 adults. Where do you keep the


There is much in the archives on this frequently discussed topic. As one
who has spent much time on policies, schedules, task identification, etc.,
and been a long time advocate of requiring and reporting a minimum amount
of hours, I now think the following practices encourage self-organization.
Most are working well at Takoma Village.

1. Thinking in terms of assuming responsibility, not hours. Define discrete
tasks and ask people to take responsibility for them.

For example: if one person takes responsibility for checking light bulbs in
public areas, and ordering, changing, and recycling bulbs means no one else
has to be concerned about burned out or nonworking lights. Other tasks
include overseeing specific rooms cleaning, keeping order, getting things
repaired. — laundry room, office, kids room, etc.

Whether one task takes 2 hours a month and another 1 or 6, the real benefit
is that the job is done or listen to harangues about it not being done.

2. Workdays. We have about 6 workdays a year plus 2 half days for the
gardens and landscaping. When we started these it was wonderful. One person
collects a list of all kinds of tasks that need doing — jobs that need more
than one person, special tasks like washing the wall on the stairs,
cleaning out a storage closet, cleaning and organizing kitchen cabinets and
supplies. Fix door knob on the office door. It’s usually a long list of
small jobs. Sometimes a large task requires more than one person like
weeding along the block long fence or installing a path. These often
require a supervisor/instructor.

Include socializing activities. Early coffee and bagels, lunch. One
community has half days every month combined with a pot luck cook off —
chili, pesto, salads, etc. The half day allows people to hang out after the

3. Stress self-organization along with the expectation that everyone
participate in maintaining the facilities. Invite the invisible to
participate with a group or a friend. I’ve been amazed at how incapable
many people feel. They need to be personally invited.

4. Allow people to choose responsibilities and keep them unless there are
serious problems with performance. People need to feel ownership and
mastery in their responsibility. And no one wants to train new people all
the time or feel anxious about whether a new person will do it well. Our
“Goddess of Light” did the job with her son for 10 years. No one else even
had to think about lights.

5. Discuss the work required when purchasing new equipment or starting new
activities. This raises consciousness of work as an element in planning and
budgeting. If we add more garden space do people have time for maintenance?
Who will do the staining of the new wooden fort? What kind of maintenance
will be required to take care of a larger gas grill — ensure it is working
accurately, cover replaced, returned to its storage space.

It took a long time to get the place where we don’t have to worry so much
about things being done. Part of that is the maturity of the community and
better orientation for new members, and partly it is the experienced
members who have learned to organize and lead. in the beginning we could
define jobs very well because we didn’t have a clue what many of them were.
And over time we have established standards for care and use of the
facilities that are respected.

It’s not a good idea to try to be too rigid or controlling in people’s
homes, which includes common spaces. Define tasks and expect people to find
their way to them. Don’t try to get consensus for the task definitions.
That becomes a oath to on everyone’s part to do the work. Any member or
team can add to our list of tasks. If no one thinks it needs to be done, it

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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