Re: rules for participation
From: Tree Bressen (
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 12:18:21 -0800 (PST)
Dear Lynette,

I am a member of the Fresno Cohousing group. After having our initial presentation in September, we have now formed an LLC with 15 enthusiastic families, and are looking for land. We'll be bidding on a parcel this week. As we develop our operating procedures, and as we move out of the initial excitement phase, and into this next phase that entails lots and lots of meetings, we are finding that there are a few members that haven't signed up for committees, and some that are on committees, but they don't really participate. A few people rarely come to meetings. We are looking for ideas on how to handle this that are consistent with the cooperative nature of cohousing. What have your groups done about this, or was it an issue for your groups? We would appreciate hearing about your experiences of what worked and what didn't.

I don't know if you are still seeking responses to this message from over a month ago, but in addition to what Rob said about how realistically people do not all contribute at the same level, i would add the following:

Not everyone is into meetings, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be wonderful contributors in other ways. If they help organize potlucks or do childcare or act as a bridge person among different cliques in the community, if they bring a sense of fun or make casseroles for people who are sick or fix the plumbing at 3am, all of these are important parts of community functioning. Unfortunately there's not as much opportunity for these other gifts to come out when you are not on site together yet, but still even now you are hopefully holding social events and perhaps helping each other out on things, so you may start to get a sense of this.

Even though not everyone is into meetings, i think it's important to build a culture that says, "If you want to be a part of this decision, you show up at the meeting, and if you're not there, it's not fair for you to complain afterward about the outcome."

I think it is reasonable as a group to say that since community requires participation in order to function, that you expect every member to find ways to plug in . . . and if you see that someone is not fulfilling that, it's probably time to have a conversation with that person to find out where they're at.

If it helps, the principles that underlie the participation expectations at my 9-person home community are:
1. Is the basic necessary work to run the place getting done?
2. Is everyone at least contributing some? (In our case the minimum level is attending weekly house meetings, cooking once a week for the group, and doing some household chores.) 3. Is anyone so over-burdened that they are feeling resentful or in danger of burning out? In that case it's time for some of their work to shift to other people.

Good luck,

--Tree Bressen

Walnut St. Co-op


Tree Bressen
1680 Walnut St.
Eugene, OR 97403
(541) 484-1156
tree [at]

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