Re: Contentious issues?
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 2020 06:53:48 -0700 (PDT)
Cornerstone Cohousing (Cambridge, MA) has been up and running 20 years, and my 
wife and I have been living here for 13.  In my experience, our two most 
contentious issues have been …
     (1) Decision-making in plenary.  When I moved here, few decisions were 
delegated out of plenary to circles, and the only positive outcome option was 
full unanimity (= no objections).  Some members felt like making decisions in 
plenary was so onerous, unpleasant and disappointing that they were reluctant 
to make proposals, or stay involved.  Others felt like like strict adherence to 
the gold standard of no (unresolved) objections about anything from anyone was 
the only way to honor the consensus tradition.  But in 2013, we revised our 
plenary decision-making process to include, under well-described circumstances, 
super-majority voting as an outcome option, to be used only in cases where 
strenuous effort fails to obtain full unanimity.
     (2) The capital replacement reserve savings plan.  Some members felt that 
it is wise to adopt systematic savings over multiple years as the best way to 
pay for big tickets like roof replacement.  Other members felt that the best 
way to fund extraordinary expenses is special assessments at the time of need.  
Over the years, we  often did have a variable and unpredictable surplus of 
collections over spending, so we were rarely operating with dangerously 
depleted bank accounts.  But in 2019, we adopted (by unanimity, not by vote) an 
actual capital replacement savings plan (“reserve”) based on projections for 
what should be replaced when, at what cost, and on an agreed scheme for regular 
annual collections.

My main take-away from this is:  Resolving contentious issues may take 
persistent and consistent effort over a long time frame.  Think: Many months; 
maybe even several years.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

mobile: 617.460.4549
email:   rpdowds [at]

> On Sep 14, 2020, at 11:47 AM, Al <al [at]> wrote:
> Our cohousing group is at the land search phase of development. We have 
> developed a tight-knit group with a strong culture of intentionality, 
> discussion and decision making. As we approach building and moving in 
> together, we are working on formalizing community guidelines for both social 
> and business interactions. We use sociocracy as our system of decision making 
> and self-governance. It works really well but my partner and I lived in 
> cohousing where we dealt with issues (e. g. pet policy, naked swimming in the 
> pond, etc...) so we are aware how strong opinions can be and how surprisingly 
> contentious various issues can be.
> WRCP is interested in knowing what issues other groups have found complex or 
> contentious, and what creative solutions you have found. 
> Thanks in advance,
> Alan Parrish 
> Process Steering Circle
> Waterloo Region Cohousing Project 
> Kitchener, Ontario 
> Sent from my iPhone
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