Certifying Cohousing [was Apartment Sharing Developer attempts to co-opt cohousing Name
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2017 09:08:50 -0800 (PST)
> Association seals (in general--and I think this might be the easiest to 
> implement in our case): An entity qualifies for membership in an association 
> based on clear criteria, joins an association and pays dues, and by virtue of 
> that is allowed to display a seal or badge. You see this all over the place, 
> and some seals don't mean a lot (because all they care about is that your 
> check clears). But for organizations that are serious about their purpose, 
> this seems to work pretty well.

I’ll share the problems I encountered with this in relation to certifying or 
even describing a community as functioning sociocratically. I wanted to list 
cohousing communities and other intentional communities that were functioning 
sociocratically. The problem was that no one agreed on the criteria. At first I 
listed any community that a certified sociocratic trainer sent me. I thought if 
they said it, it was so, at least to some extent.

No so. Other trainers alerted me to listings of communities that had 1-2 day 
workshops and intended to use the Sociocratic Circle Method to govern 
themselves. That didn’t make them sociocratic. 

Other communities had had extensive training at one point and adhered to the 
principles but years later were no longer observing any of them. They had even 
reverted to a partial consensus definition of all consent except 2 or 3. 

The international association does do audits and has criteria but they are more 
like ISO certifications for business and management, not communities. The 
audits are expensive and detailed. I can’t imaging a community the size of 
cohousing communities wanting to meet those standards or go through that 
process — except perhaps as an exercise -- “let’s see if we can do.”

So then the question becomes are there degrees of being or in the process of 
implementing sociocracy? 
1. Having training and decision to use the method. 
2. Trained and implemented the feedback structure
3. Using the elections process to assign roles and responsibilities
4. Regular assessments of how policies are working
5. Regular assessments of roles are achieving the intended results

But defining each of those in a community context in order to do a 
certification or audit becomes sort of weird. The process of doing all of this 
involves many meetings and many technical measurements and many reports. What 
if communities learn from the principles and practices and implement them to 
the extent necessary to support a well-functioning harmonious community. That 
the effect is more important than the technicality of using this practice or 

> Now that I think about it, this can kill two birds with one stone (figure of 
> speech--no birds will be harmed). It can help with the Coho USA budget at the 
> same time it addresses the issue of poseurs.

And the fact is that most certification programs are financial schemes. The New 
Yorker published a history of the American Medical Association decades ago. The 
reason to certify doctors was to limit the number of doctors. Otherwise there 
would be too much competition. The AMA worked very hard to have any doctor who 
didn’t go along “disbarred”, or whatever happens to doctors.

It raises the question of whether the purpose of cohousing is to develop 
neighborhoods like the old-fashioned neighborhoods, or to develop neighborhoods 
that meet specific criteria.

Once the plan is “meet specific criteria”, what are they? Is a CH required or 
only a space that is used as a CH. One community used one of the resident’s 
basements. A meal program? What constitutes a meal program — once a year or 
once a week or 4 days a week? Child-friendly? Multi-generational? Diverse? 

Each of these is a mine field. And communities change — do they have to be 
re-certified every 3-5 years? Who are the certifiers? Or do communities 
self-evaluate and send a check? 

It’s not so easy and has lots of ramifications.

(By the way, a generation is generally 20 years. A senior community could have 
2-3 generations.)

Sharon Villines
Sociocracy: A Deeper Democracy

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