Re: Work participation success stories
From: Kathryn McCamant (
Date: Mon, 4 Jan 2021 20:40:14 -0800 (PST)
I love this assessment Sharon!  I too wanted clearer rules and expectations, 
and had a hard time trusting that we could manage our multi-million dollar 
property without better tracking. Over the years, I had to let go or go 
crazy....and guess what? We haven't fallen apart.  

I think it is very important to set clear expectations about hours for getting 
the work done, or be willing to pay for someone else to do it. I have found 
clarity about expectations is much more important than tracking, and in fact, I 
wouldn't even bother to try to track hours now.  Next most important is 
actively plugging in new people....its harder to figure out what to do than you 
might think.  And yes to workdays. We get good turnout at workdays, and a lot 
gets done, and everyone has a good time working together.  If you want someone 
to do more, you'll be much more effective inviting them to join you in some 
tasks than berating them for hours you don't think they contributed properly. 

Somewhat ironically, the reason we never agreed on a tracking system was that 
one of our members who did tons of work himself, was strongly oppose to 
tracking.  And there is so much people do that is not visible. Be very careful 
about judging what other are or aren't doing. And then there are the times when 
we each just need a break....and I am so grateful when no one makes an issue of 
me not showing up from time to time. 

Kathryn McCamant, President
CoHousing Solutions
Nevada City Cohousing


On 1/4/21, 8:24 PM, "Cohousing-L on behalf of Sharon Villines via Cohousing-L" 
< [at] on 
behalf of cohousing-l [at]> wrote:

    There are many, many posts in the archives on workshare, but as someone 
noted most of them are complaints. With Covid we are in strange times but this 
how workshare at Takoma Village has developed over 20 years:

    1. We figured out what needed to be done and how to do it and how to 
cluster jobs and form working groups around task areas. That took years. And 
acceptance on the part of some that freeform doesn’t work on a long-term basis.

    2. After several years, we scheduled workdays so tasks could be organized 
around them and people would show up to work with others. And have lunch. The 
focus is on specific tasks — rake, sweep, wash, sort, etc.

    3. We ask people to be the point person for a room (Living, Kids, Kitchen, 
etc.) or a specific service (elevator, HVAC, parking gate, light bulbs, sump 
pumps, etc.) 

    4. New residents. The Resale and Rental group has organized tours and 
information sessions so we have a list of informed people well before a unit 
becomes available. When they move in they are well aware of that 
self-management means “you do the work." They get full information about tasks, 
workdays, teams, etc. And people listen. I would say that without exception, 
new residents are more involved than those they replaced. Even when the 
previous residents were significantly involved. 

    Initially I was very committed to developing a system of recording 
workshare hours. I wrote policies and designed a database to track people and 
tasks. Studied the process of other communities. This went on for years. A few 
of us agreed to post the jobs we were doing and the hours we worked. We felt 
that some people just didn’t understand how much works was being done by 
others, or what the tasks were—this would educate them.

    I hated it. It was tedious and added work. And raised unresolvable issues 
about whether a task really took 5 hours, or if this task was really community 
work or work that needed to be done.

    I finally realized that I didn’t care how many hours people worked or how 
many more hours I worked. What was most important is that people were engaged 
and responsible. And the things I needed done to feel secure were getting done, 
even if I had to do them.

    Engaged means residents are “visible” on email, at meetings, etc. You know 
who they are and where they are.

    Responsible means reliable. We could depend on them to take responsibility 
for a task. Not just doing it in the moment but ensuring that outside help was 
contacted when necessary and the community was kept informed about any needed 
maintenance or upgrades. Being proactive.

    For example, one person realized early on that we needed a lighting 
monitor. She figured out all the kinds of bulbs we needed, organized the 
ordering so replacements were always on site, set up recycling for burned out 
bulbs, and found people on an ad hoc basis to climb the tallest ladders to 
change the bulbs while she held the ladders. She monitored and others informed 
her when bulbs needed replacing. This whole process was functioning well before 
many of us realized it was even being done. Years later she arranged her own 

    This kind of proactive taking responsibility meant that for 20 years, 
neither I nor anyone else has had to even think about a burned out light. How 
many hours did she spend on this task? I have no idea—our bulbs are energy 
efficient and long lasting. But no matter if it took an hour a month, it was 
worth far more. We have others who have taken responsibility for other areas in 
the same way. 

    I have taken on tasks that I thought needed to be done and just did them. 
Early on, asking for permission and finding who to ask for it, would have taken 
longer than doing the task. For some tasks, I was the only one who knew how to 
do them or knew they needed to be done. It has taken time for everything to get 
sorted out but we are now more formal about who is taking responsibility for 
what and have it posted on the website.

    There are still a few repeated requests for someone to take over this or 
that task but far, far fewer than we used to have. And there is less anxiety 
about whether they will get done or not. The largest problem is that we now 
have some huge 20-year replacement tasks that take a lot of time but are harder 
to divide and share. Having too many people organizing/supervising means 
communications get disjointed. Not good when dealing with consultants and 
contractors with $200,000+ budgets.

    Sharon Villines
    Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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