Reading & Discussion Group at Driftwood Village
From: Allison Tom (
Date: Fri, 1 Jan 2021 07:57:16 -0800 (PST)
Good morning and Happy New Year,

Earlier this week I posted a request to the list for workplace
participation success stories for our reading & discussion group.  (I'd
still like to collect more!)

Ann Zabaldo was curious about the reading and discussion group, so here's a
quick summary - I'm happy to correspond with anyone who is interested in
more details.

I joined Driftwood about two years ago at a time when the group had been
formed, land bought, and consultants and architects hired.  I found myself
frustrated with our monthly General Meetings because I always wanted more
exploration of the ways other communities had done things and the meanings
of different choices. There simply wasn't time to have those kinds of
discussions while we were trying to get through all of the practical
details and decisions involved in beginning construction.

But I'm an anthropologist (specifically, an anthropologist of education)
and I am trained to ask "how do other groups do these things?" and "what is
the effect on our culture of doing things this way or that way?"

Covid provided me with an unexpected opportunity once my community started
paying for a zoom account.  I proposed a meeting of those interested in
getting together to discuss ideas about what we were doing and was
delighted when a number of people (I think maybe seven) showed up.  That
was back in May 2020.

I thought we'd meet every month or so.  But enthusiasm has been steady
enough that we have met over zoom every other Sunday afternoon since then -
eight months.  I got a bit of pushback when I scheduled an extra week
between meetings over the holidays!

We started with the rich materials offered on the website.
The archive of webchats there took us into discussion of cooperative
culture, participation, high structure/low structure, personal growth,
conflict  - you get the idea.  Seriously, these webchats are a treasure
trove, and the opportunity to listen to a number of different people, from
consultants to cohousing members, was transformative for us.

While we were able to mine this resource, my job consisted mostly of
vetting webchats to choose those best suited to our circumstances.  We also
signed up for one of the conferences, "The Heart of
Community," as a community, and have used some of the presentations from
that collection as well.

I also drew on the *Communities Magazine* archive to supplement the
webchats.  These short articles were very useful in terms of providing
alternate perspectives.  Once we gained familiarity with the people who
commonly contributed to the webchats, I began to venture even further.  We
now regularly turn to the presentations of Intentional Communities as

As a university professor, I'm well aware of the dangers of selecting
materials for a group to read and discuss without actually knowing what's
in those materials!  Not to pat myself on the back (excessively), I think
that one of the things that has made the group work has been the time I've
put into finding the right materials to discuss for the topics my group is
interested in discussing.  Some webchats and presentations are
simply better than others.  And since we are in Canada, some of the nuts
and bolts presentations about taxation and other issues aren't relevant to

My job has gotten harder as time has gone by.  It's a challenge to sort
through the archive of cohousing-l to put together a variety of well-stated
points of view on different topics.  It's likewise a challenge to sort
through the archive of *Communities* articles since they are searchable by
title and author but not by content.  My email asking for successful
participation stories was my second request to this list to gather
perspectives on a topic we want to discuss.  (My first effort was about
fees for common space usage.  That got me some interesting responses!)

Since we are 5-7 months from move in and facing a steep US/Canada exchange
rate, my community isn't in a place to afford the conferences
that have replaced's webchats.  We are very sad about that,
since we would love to have access to those talks and to be able to support
the organization.  But since we are currently wondering how we are going to
pay for the appliances in our common house, I haven't asked for money for
the conferences.

I've been surprised to see that interest in these discussions has continued
to be strong for eight months.  We had only four members in attendance for
one meeting, but we usually run to seven to ten.  I'd say about a quarter
of the membership regularly participates.  We are sad that our many
families with young children aren't able to join us, but we haven't found a
way to make it more accessible to them.

I do see the effect of these groups in our larger community even though not
everyone attends.  We regularly use terms from the talks in our
all-membership meetings and I think the knowledge of the smaller group is
transferring to the larger group.  We also have members who now tape
shorter or longer presentations as educational tools within the community.

Feel free to get back to me if you have other questions.  And *please,
please please* send me ideas for more materials!

Allison Tom
Driftwood Village Cohousing
North Vancouver
(In construction, move-in summer 2021)
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