Re: Social participation (was How do we hold each otheraccountable?)
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 2010 13:23:40 -0700 (PDT)

On Jul 27, 2010, at 4:39 PM, Michael Barrett wrote:

I'm curious to hear how your community "treats" newcomers.

We do have an active program for orienting new members. One person and her husband have them to dinner and do an orientation. They are assigned a buddy -- someone they can ask questions of and who checks in to be sure they are doing well and don't need anything. And teams actively solicit them as members. And people are happy to see new members so they are welcomed from a lot of sides (unless they are grumpy and complain a lot).

We have both an orientation packet and a FAQs list. The packet includes information on who does what and some basic policies. Fire evacuation procedures. Compost and recycling. Where to park. A contact list for residents. Workshare expectations. Email lists.

The FAQs list is more about facilities. What they should do before moving in -- utilities, toilet paper, insurance, shower curtain, etc. Moving day, where to park. Codes and keys. Security systems. Size limitations of doorways and the elevator. Colors and brand of paint on the walls if they haven't been repainted or reminders to ask the seller if they have. How the ground source HVAC works. Where the water shut off is. Where to find the electrical panel and communications box (ours are hidden). Number for the Gas company and where the gas shut off is. How the sprinklers work. Outdoor lighting. Garbage and large item pick ups. Outdoor spigots and hoses. Use of the commonhouse laundry room.

The big problem is information overload. All this is new. Plus they are often dealing with moving to town or selling a house and downsizing. It's just overload.

I remember when we all moved in -- it was 43 households all moving at once and it was hard. Like college dorms on the first day only bigger. And no parents to help. And children to take care of.

Then there is incorrect information. Someone who doesn't read our email list (but their spouse does) told one household that no one reads the members email list. So they didn't.

On Thanksgiving they prepared a whole turkey and came to the CH to put it in the oven only to find a big turkey already there and cooking. They didn't know because they were new and because they didn't read the list that the turkey is always assigned a few weeks early so we can be sure to have one. They had put turkey on the sign up sheet but no one noticed because they weren't in charge of the turkey and the person who was cooking it, didn't have to sign up.

A scene followed about discrimination of new members.

Now I make a point of saying, ask someone about everything. Even two or three so you know you have full and correct information.

The only area in which I do think old members groan is reinventing the wheel. New people insist on re-doing things we have already tried. Usually about workshare. They just have to go through it to find out that it was done perfectly well by someone else and it didn't work then and mostly likely won't work now. They move in believing they can fix things. And sometimes they can.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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