Re: Developing Participation Policy (full-version, not guidelines) Timing?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2007 04:49:53 -0700 (PDT)

On Sep 11, 2007, at 2:27 AM, Scott Bentley wrote:

As I'm putting the agenda together for the meeting, the question came up--is it too soon to work on the participation policy, as construction has not quite begun, so we're a year or so away from move in.

As soon as you have a group, you have participation expectations-- spoken or unspoken. Being open about them from the beginning will be of great value down the road. Cohousing is not cheaper than other housing, and it is far more expensive in time requirements. People want to produce better home designs and a fuller community life, but that means more participation. Someone has to do the work.

In all those wonderful neighborhoods we remember as children, there were stay at home moms and dads who got home at 5:30. Kids walked to school and came home for lunch. There were a lot more bodies around who created that community. And they were at home -- not traveling around the world several weeks of the year.

A major problem will be that _many_ members will have not a clue about how much work this is going to be. You don't want to have 2-3 people burned out and embittered before you even move in.

One way to approach thinking about participation is when planning facilities to also plan the work it will take to keep them running. Don't include any room or service that a member is not willing to step up and say I'll be responsible for that for at least 5 years, or people are not willing to pay to maintain. The exercise room has to be cleaned and put back in order. The office will become a dumping ground for flip charts and chairs unless someone keeps it tidy. The computer will have to be maintained.

I don't believe that community members have to do all the work themselves in order to have a community but few people will be willing to both pay more and work more.

If you have a community in which 50% of the residents work 9-7 jobs, for example, don't even get home until 9:00, and want to travel on weekends, you need to plan for that. They are not going to be doing workdays or staying home to let repair people into the commonhouse. How do they participate?

We have one member whose idea of community is that she travels most months of the year, often a year at a time, and comes home to a wonderful community. When she comes home she sometimes shows a slide show of her travels. That's all. Is that your idea of community? Or participation? The grass is still growing even when she is in Africa. Someone still has to deal with the roof over her head and the siding on her unit.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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