Re: Executive Board Minutes
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2021 08:33:58 -0700 (PDT)
Transparency is essential if you use consent/consensus decision-making. 

How can anyone participate effectively in decision-making if there is some 
information they not only don’t have but don’t know exists? Not everyone has 
full information when they make decisions, obviously, but the only hope of 
having full information is if information not is hidden or manipulated.

Cohousing by legal definition is a “common interest” entity. Everyone has a 
common interest. By legal definition, it isn’t a partnership but in terms of 
how we function, it is a partnership. What one partner does affects everyone. 
If we are expected to support each other how can we if we don’t know someone 
needs support? If one member is about to declare bankruptcy, how can the 
community protect themselves and the member in distress if they don’t know 
about it?

What information is “sensitive”? Definitely information related to a legal 
action should be confidential for negotiating purposes, but everyone should 
know that there is a legal action or a threatened legal action and the focus of 
that action. And they should know exactly which members are dealing the the 
action. “The Executive Board” is probably not the group to be doing it unless 
it was elected to specifically deal with one issue. A team of 3 people who have 
related expertise would be much more assured of success.

Why is information that will affect the lives of everyone in the community 
“personal” to the Executive Board? In a community that expects all its members 
to be supportive and aware of personal distress, to step in and help, why would 
information that support is or might be needed be withheld? 

Why are some people considered approved to have personal or sensitive 
information and others not. Is that a criterion for being on the Executive 
Board so everyone has consented to it? 

Doesn’t access to privileged information set up a hierarchy? Information is 
power. Power to help. Why should only some people have that power?

If an issue is “personal” or “sensitive” why is the Executive Board dealing 
with it instead of a Good and Welfare team? That team is likely to have more 
ability, experience, and interest in dealing with personal, sensitive issues 
than the Executive Board.

I know there is a long history of Executive Boards holding some information 
confidential. I think it probably comes from early condo days when people were 
hesitant to live in a condo because all their personal information would be 
public. But the premise of that concern is unrelated to the desire to form a 
community, a neighborhood of caring supportive neighbors.

Certainly, anyone who wishes to keep information to themselves about their own 
lives is certainly within their rights. But that doesn’t  extend to information 
that will or does affect the community and is officially shared only with 
select people. 

The first precondition to abuse is secrecy. Just the idea that something is 
being kept secret destroys trust.

Agreement to keep something official secret also opens you to manipulation and 
possible guilt.

We have had many situations that involved personal life-changing events and 
dealt with them, I think, well. When partners have separated and one is moving 
out, they have told one or two members about it and asked them to tell everyone 
else privately. They aren’t keeping secrets but also can’t cope with hearing 
about everyone else’s feelings. People with stage 4 cancer, have chosen a 
spokesperson to help organize support and share health updates. All the details 
of a bankruptcy, divorce, or child welfare case don’t need to be recorded but 
the fact that it is happening affects everyone. 

Sharon Villines
affordablecohousing [at]
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