Re: guidlines on consensus acceptance of new members
From: Tree Bressen (
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2006 21:42:26 -0800 (PST)

We have a site and are still in very early development stages, but have been meeting long enough to form a cohesive group of about 12 households.

We are anticipating a number of new poeple to join soon and are putting together our guildlines for intake of new members. These guidelines spell out what a household needs to do financially and operationally (attending meetings, committes etc) to become an equity member.

One question we have is whether to leave the final inclusion decision to "self-selection", or to include some sort of provision for the current group members to have some say in who can come in to the group. The concern is that with self-selection, someone with the time and $$ could insert themselves into the group, even if they have very different ideas about what cohousing should be.

Any insight as to how this has been handled appreciated.

Almost all groups created on the cohousing model use self-selection. Coming from the earlier intentional communities movement where a lot of emphasis is placed on screening incoming members, at first i was skeptical of this approach. But after years of observation i have come to think that it generally works just fine. (The community i live at continues to be quite picky about who we invite to live with us, but we share one big house together, very different than cohousing.)

With a self-selection approach, there are still plenty of steps you can take to ensure that the people who end up living with you are a good match. Such as:

1. Get everyone to visit a few other cohousing groups so they know what they are getting into.
2. Put participation requirements in place early, and act on them.
3. Make a policy ASAP that everyone will contribute to cooking common meals.
4. Have a membership committee that meets with every potential new member to convey the vision, review requirements, make sure the potential new member really did read the policies, and so on.
5. Set boundaries on bad behavior at meetings.

If you are doing self-selection and a worst case scenario arises, you can still ask someone to leave. *Very* few people would stay in a group in the face of multiple people coming to them with such a request.

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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