Re: Participation Agreement / Tracking work hours
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 08:37:12 -0700 (PDT)

On Jun 19, 2007, at 2:08 AM, Kay Wilson wrote:

(My own feeling is that time tracking would just create issues of
equity: If it takes one person 1 hour to weed a planting bed, but
takes someone else 2-3 hours to weed the same bed, does the fast
person get credit for 1 hour and the slow person get credit for 3
hours? And does 2 hours writing minutes equal 2 hours of weeding?
And so on...)

I hope this message comes through in reasonable shape in terms of formatting. I pasted in a draft of a Play or Pay model I'm working on for a book on sociocracy and cohousing (and other common interest communities). It addresses all the questions I've seen on the list about workshare in the last 10+ years.

Also, there is now a time banking online database that could be used by communities to post jobs and track their completion. I'm going to be doing some work with it in the next few months and will let you know how it goes.

Sharon Villines
Coauthor with John Buck of We the People
Consenting to a Deeper Democracy
A Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods


One of the advantages of adopting a sociocratic governance structure is that sociocracy is designed to create both more harmonious organizations and more productive businesses. A cohousing project is a major financial investment. Forty households, each with an average value of $400,000, is $16 million worth of common interest real estate assets. Without contributed labor, it would require the equivalent of 2.5 full time staff members and an annual budget of over $200,000 just to maintain the facilities. This does not include many other expenses. One of the unresolved issues in cohousing is the equitable sharing of work, the contributed labor. This is where the sociocratic attitude toward equitable sharing of risks and rewards can be helpful.

This Play or Pay Model is very similar to the ones used by two communities in Virginia, Catoctin Creek Cohousing (not sociocratic) and the EcoVillage of Loudoun County (sociocratic). It is one method of establishing a labor contribution as fairly as we establish financial contributions like homeowner association fees.

The Policy Proposal
VISION: A community in which all residents feel happy, safe, useful, and needed.

MISSION: Community programs and facilities that are responsibly supported by everyone who benefits from them.

AIM: A method to ensure that work responsibilities are shared as equally as possible.


Every adult member of the community, age 16 or older, shall be responsible for a given number of hours of work each month. This responsibility shall be fulfilled either by personally performing the work, paying a fee to the community, or having another member of the community perform the work. All of these options are equally acceptable to the community.

The work to be performed, the number of hours for which each member is responsible, and the Circle responsible for supervision of the work shall be determined by the General Circle and approved by the Board of Directors as part of the annual budget approval process. This process will define as “jobs” any functions and tasks determined to be necessary or desirable. Additional jobs that arise on an emergency or other unpredictable basis may be temporarily approved by a Team Leader subject to approval by the General Circle at its next meeting.


For Members who assume jobs on a yearly basis: When a member assumes responsibility for a job on an annual basis, the Team Leader will report the job completed as part of a monthly review of ongoing work. No other reporting will be necessary.

        For Members who do not assume jobs on an annual basis:

In communities that require less than 8 hours a month:

Each member who has not assumed responsibility for a job on an annual basis shall be sent a bill quarterly for the number of hours for which they are responsible and for which they have not submitted job reports. They may then submit job reports for jobs they have completed, pay the bill, or report that another person has completed the jobs in their name.

For communities that require more than 8 hours a month:

Each member who has not submitted a job report shall be sent a bill monthly [or bi-monthly] for the number of hours for which they are responsible. They may then submit job reports for jobs they have completed, pay the bill, or report that another person has completed the jobs in their name.

[The rational for this difference is the amount of money involved. If the number of hours per month is 15 and the financial equivalent is $25 an hour, the monthly bill would be $375. If bills are sent on a quarterly basis a member could have a rather large bill without realizing it.]


Bills paid late or unpaid will be subject to the same late fee and collection policies as other financial obligations of members as determined by the Board of Directors.


The General Circle shall review this policy on an annual basis and delegate the tasks required for execution to the appropriate Team Circles.



Any function or task that the community values and includes in its labor budget. This should be determined by the Board of Directors, or the group that approves the budget, by consent. Some groups choose to include all functions and tasks including meeting attendance and cooking and preparing meals; others do not. It depends on the community’s aims.


As always in sociocracy, the process is to make a plan, put into operation, measure, and then reevaluate. It may take several years to “get it right.” Some jobs like mowing the lawn can be assigned an average number of hours based on experience. Others like Team Leader or Secretary/Logbook Keeper may need to be given an “allowance.”

For new communities, in particular, the jobs will change as you form, build, move-in, and finally just live. With experience many jobs will take less time. You may switch to having more facilities jobs hired out and choose to expand the meals program. With each season the jobs will change. Practice will help you anticipate and adjust. Change is inevitable. The labor budget is a plan, not a stricture.


Job reports, or workslips, need not be complex or even proscribed in format. As a courtesy to the Treasurer or Job Recorder, it is best that they be written on a piece of paper so they can be tracked and stored for a short period of time. And audited, if necessary. All that may be needed is the name of the person completing the task, the task name, the date, and the initials of the Team Leader or other job supervisor. It may be helpful, however, to use the same forms to report condition information or requests for supplies.


Many people prefer not to track their time. As well, some people like to work slower and others faster. For this reason, it is best to assign tasks as a set number of hours when possible. Then when members assume responsibility for jobs, they also accept the hours assigned to them and can work at their own pace—not watch a clock.


The effect of automatic billing is to put responsibility on members themselves to “play or pay,” to self-organize. This is important in building a self-optimizing system.


Hours can be accumulated then saved or donated to other members. This allows members to have periods of time free for travel or other responsibilities, or to help their neighbors.

The aim is for community work to be done as necessary and for it to be done in ways that meet the community’s and the doer’s needs. That aim may be met in many ways.


Some communities require work of all children above a certain age, perhaps half the adult responsibility from ages 10-16, and the full amount after age 16. Others set the ages at 12 and 18. Expectations of children involve parental permission and supervision since parents are most likely to know what jobs an individual child can assume responsibly.

Communities that include children in work requirements do so because they feel it is a form of community recognition and inclusion.


At what point a new community begins to define labor contributions will vary with the development model, but waiting until move-in is too late. It will take many months to define jobs and they will have to be redefined on a regular basis during the first years of the community. The sooner this begins the sooner it will be sorted out.

Secondly, adopting a clear labor contribution policy and beginning to define jobs as soon as possible will send a clear signal to potential members that the community is serious about both equitable and required labor contributions.

Starting the process of defining jobs begins with keeping notes on tasks as they are done and having members record the amount of time it takes to complete them. This is excellent training for understanding what the community does and will require in terms of commitment from members.

Sharon Villines
Coauthor with John Buck of We the People
Consenting to a Deeper Democracy
A Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.