Re: Supporting forming communities & national policies/structures
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 16:57:13 -0700 (MST)
This is a reply to the thread Tom Hammer started with a great post to
cohousing-L.  I don't repeat it here but you can read it at:


I think your message is one of the most important in topic and content
on cohousing-L - maybe ever. Thank you, thank you.  (I say this
as a cohousing enthusiast and as cohousing-L manager.)

And your timing is great.  I hope everyone read the reply from the new
Coho/US president Carol Braford (who's in St Louis - not exactly a hotbed
of cohousing tho they are doing amazingly well from my limited
perspective).  See

As I understand the changes going on with Coho/US, tho I suspect motivated
by finances - going back to a more volunteer organization - it is also (I
think / hope) becoming more of an "open" organization.  That is more
devoted to promoting the idea of cohousing to all who are interested and
less of an organization serving the already committed.  Obviously it needs
to do the latter also but I think an outward focused organization does
serve the already comitted.  (Carol, sorry if this discussion steals a bit
of your thunder for future announcements but I think we'll just build
toward a greater whole. If I've got it wrong, let me know. ) 

A couple of specific responses to Tom.
As one who lives in "fly over" land (Minnesota) I caution you on
language. I suspect "wasteland" is a bit of rhetorical overkill, tho we
have only one cohousing community in Minnesota, it is hardly a wasteland.
You are right (IMHO) that there are many more people who would like to 
live in cohousing than have managed to do so.  Many of us are building
community where we live.  I urge discretion in the use of devisive

Your suggestion of itinerant cohousing organizers (my interpretation) is
interesting.  There have been a number of people who have traveled between
cohousing communities tho most have been observing but they have shared
their knowledge some. 

There is also a tradition of using the energy of typically younger, less
rooted people to organize for good causes (the Welstone campaigns come to
mind for example in return for low wages / stipends.  I suspect that like
Maggie, there lots of people who would like to do something like this. And
some of them might be in a position and willing to do so for not a lot
more than room, board and expenses.  Anyone who does this should get
permanent lavish recognition on  And after a year or
so at this they can become well paid consultants or write a book (or
both).  An expanding movement will need them.

If we share our skills and resources, we can make this happen.  I'd be
willing to find a bed and cook extra servings for an energetic, idealistic
community builder.  How about calling it the Cohousing peace corp? 

While having the established communities (and the larger cohousing
movement) support cohousing organizing - particularly initial organizing -
is reasonable, I dont think large amounts of money are likely to be
available for this but certainly some.  But maybe the low budget cohousing
peace corp approach is feasible.  The larger movement could organize
finding volunteers, hosts, materials - particularly those that have are
economics of scale (such as the signs you suggest **) and which local
folks are less well positioned to do. 

Maybe some sort of revolving fund could be established - communites draw
on it til they are established and pay back to it when they are more

Another thing that would help is if we could figure out how to make
cohousing cheaper (See comments in Timeday discussion recently).  If
cohousing were less expensive it would free up time and resources to
organize.  If we could figure out how to do "retrofit cohousing" 
better it could be cheaper.

 Retrofit  Cohousing is developed in existing housing by changing
 the way the occupants of that housing relate - usually with new occupants
 moving in to participate in the community.  Retrofiting the social
 relations and not necessarily the structures.
 See "retrofit cohousing" at

** comments on signs. 
I think every cohousing sign, bumper sticker, ad etc should have
"" on them.  In turn should have links
to every other cohousing resource out there (it already has the database
and all it's links which is invaluable.)  

In Minnesota "yard signs" for electoral, anti war, etc etc causes
are widely used.  Typically they are 2' by 4' corrugated plastic (like
carboard only plastic).  Cohousing yard signs would be great.  Tho mass
production of them would be good, maybe words printed on something that
could be glued to recycled signs would be workable an a lot cheaper.

Fred H. Olson  Minneapolis,MN 55411   (near north Mpls)
fholson [at] 612-588-9532 (7am-10pm Cent time)
List manager of Cohousing-L & Nbhd-tc  Ham radio:WB0YQM

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