Re: tipping point (aka screening)
From: Tree Bressen (
Date: Thu, 18 May 2006 22:26:37 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Robert & folks,

Robert wrote:
I'm just saying I don't want to buy a house in a cohousing community where my neighbors are not gung-ho supporters of the group values. What's special about cohousing is the "co" part. So what's the point of joining a group and commiting myself to doing my "co" part if my "co" neighbors won't? If I didn't value the "co" part so much, I could get "housing" tomorrow in any neighborhood that catches my fancy.

And Saoirse wrote (i think in reply to the same thread):
The only screening we had in place was that you had to read the
cohousing book and attend 2 comm'ty meetings. We've had little turnover.

And Rob Sandelin wrote:
 Having done a fair number of process workshops and interventions in various
cohousing groups it is my experience that labels such as jerk, asshole etc.
are counter productive, they don't define anything useful. I used to teach
that some people don't have very good skills yet, and that you can hold
compassion for them while helping them develop more effective group process
and communications skills. People who are "difficult" generally just need
some additional training work to understand their impacts on others. But to
do that you have to focus off of labels and focus on behaviors and impacts
of behaviors. This is the heart of successful intervention.

I'd like to echo what Rob wrote, on another aspect of the situation. Screening happens in a bunch of different ways. I think that "everything selects," that is, every characteristic of a group acts as a filter, inviting in some people and screening others out. So while the overt screening at Saoirse's community might have been merely to read a book and attend two meetings, there were other filters in place both overt (qualifying for a mortage is a major filter, as Rob S. has written about in the past on this list) and covert (all the tiny habits and actions that create culture in a group).

The reason i am bothering to say all this is because *You can choose as a group to put certain filters in place early on that will serve your group well in the future.* And you can choose to have these filters be actionable, behavior-based filters. For example, filters i personally recommend include:

(1) Decide within your first few meetings that EVERYONE will be expected to help cook common meals, and make sure every new person that joins your forming group is aware of this expectation.

(2) Expect and invite people to contribute to the work of the group as early as possible. Make it clear that once someone has attended three meetings or whatever, it's time to get involved on a committee, or helping organize social outings, or something else that clearly adds to the life of the group.

(3) Require a financial contribution early on (monthly dues or whatever) and make decision-making power contingent on that payment.

Of course these are only my suggestions, i'm sure others on this list and elsewhere would have more ideas, or might disagree with some of mine. I'm mostly writing this to explain how observable, action-based filters will help screen out some of the personality types that groups tend to find more cumbersome to live with. And unlike some other forms of screening, they are perfectly legal!




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

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