Re: Social participation (was How do we hold each otheraccountable?)
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2010 08:32:34 -0700 (PDT)
I particularly appreciate Michael's insights here...

New members present a lot of opportunities for communities - something that
is not always so clear to us old-timers. Its easy to understand how us-them
thinking can get in the way...

I've instigated efforts at Songaia to help grow our active membership -
basically, we've not acquired two adjoining properties that have different
development opportunities than does Songaia. This has led to new members and
associates. The members now live at Songaia, while some of the "associates"
are awaiting construction that should start on one of our new properties
later this year. Other associates are building close relationships with the
whole community as they become part of our fabric, despite no intentions of
living here. I expect that as we better define the future of the other
adjoining property that a new batch of folks will connect in. We've done
very little to tell people about the availability of an associate
relationship except with those who come for a visit... its been organic,
rather than marketed.

All of those who are not here are associates (not members). So, anybody in a
deep relationship with the community that does not live on Songaia's
original 10.6 acres are associates. We have a pretty complicated associate
system now - and its still evolving as we get clarity around the impact of
property rights, in addition to the general use rights of "renters" on
adjoining properties - or people that live further away.

Another Songaian and I shared about this in some depth at the 2010
Conference - in one of the pre-conference Cohousing University intensives
and in a main conference breakout session. Several asked us to "write it up"
- stating that our associate program, property acquisition strategy, and
development concepts have value that they want to better understand. I
expect that we'll get around to this some day, as it does seem that we're
creating a fairly powerful way to help a community grow (both in numbers and
in quality).

Craig Ragland
Songaia Member, 1992 - 2010
Songaia Proximal Associate, 2010 - 20XX

On Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 4:39 PM, Michael Barrett <mbarrett [at]> 

> Muriel said in:
> From: "Muriel Kranowski" <murielk [at]>
> To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
> Sent: Monday, July 26, 2010 10:41 PM
> Subject: [C-L]_ Social participation (was How do we hold each other
> accountable?)
>  1) More than half of our residents were not among the founding group, and
> their motivations might not be as intensely communal.
>  2) Some of our founders have moved away, further diluting the original
> intensity.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> These are doubtless factors which account for some of the loss of
> "intensity" as a community matures.  However my observation from living in
> two communities, as both a founder member and as a Johnny-come-lately, is
> that the gradual but inevitable replacement of original members with
> newcomers represents an opportunity frequently missed and, if not missed,
> then often poorly handled.
> My observations:
> Ask any original member and I bet they'll say:  "New members are treated
> just like the original members".   Ask any new member do they feel they
> "belong" with exactly equal status and I bet they'll say: "No" .
> New members often come with a (perhaps naive) abundance of enthusiasm and
> energy for cohousing.  However new members have told me (many times) that
> they feel anxious and concerned about how to fit in, and how to learn the
> unwritten "rules", and they hang back for fear of intruding where they are
> feel uncertain of their welcome.  After move in new members will often tend
> to follow the example of their neighbors and if they observe what appears
> to
> be laid back (i.e. low) attendance at meetings, workdays, meals and other
> functions, they may behave similarly.
> Original members accept, but don't go out of their way to welcome, new
> members the way they did when every new member was purchasing a lot and
> moving the community another step towards completion (and financial
> solvency).
> Potential new members are not frequently not "oriented" prior to (or even
> post) purchase, explicitly and clearly, about obligations, expectations,
> hopes and opportunities.   The interests of the community and the seller do
> not align very well here, and it is up to the community, as may be
> necessary, to waylay (and befriend) the prospective buyer to make sure they
> attend some functions, and also talk with members about the minuses as well
> as the plusses of cohousing,  i.e. so they get thoroughly "oriented" prior
> to a sale.
> New members, rather than being actively recruited to join committees and
> work teams (and camping trips and beach weekends), may be either "given
> time
> to settle in" (i.e. ignored) and/or regarded with some concern if they
> volunteer, for fear they may question long established practices (which
> they
> may well do).
> My bottom line is that a community can help maintain and even reenergize
> itself if it will make a positive effort to capture the enthusiasm and
> energy of new members.  Without that effort then, as Muriel suggests, an
> ongoing decline in overall community activity and participation seems to be
> an almost inevitable consequence.
> Muriel drew a parallel to marriage or an equivalent commitment, with the
> early high intensity "in love" phase followed by however many years of
> being
> in a long-term relationship.    The advent of new members in a community
> can
> perhaps be seen as an opportunity equivalent to a couples weekend or
> marriage retreat.   They don't always guarantee success, but, approached
> thoughtfully, they sure can shake the dust from the rug and perhaps trigger
> needed changes.
> I'm curious to hear how your community "treats" newcomers.
> Michael Barrett
> Shadowlake Village, nestling again the Appalachians in Blacksburg, VA,
> - where we have three houses for sale which I would love to see occupied by
> cohousing knowledgeable families willing to share their energy and
> enthusiasm for the greatest way to live that I know of.
> _________________________________________________________________
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