Re: developmental stages of cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2011 16:04:46 -0700 (PDT)
On 11 Aug 2011, at 5:31 PM, Rebecca Reid wrote:

>> From the side of the "workers" the "livers" look apathetic.  From the side
> of  the "livers", the "workers" look like nags and workaholics.
> I wonder if this isn't a developmental stage for cohousing communities

I think it might be more accurate to characterize the beginning as a 
developmental stage — perhaps the first five years is a phase of idealism and 
Yankee-Do that wears off or gets diluted as members turn over.

People also move on to new things — like having children. We had a mushroom 
cloud of adoptions and births in one year.

And aging. The stages of adulthood are very interesting and I would like to see 
a study in cohousing. I felt a distinct shift when the cluster of people who 
were 35-40 became 45-50. Less idealism and less involvement in governance but 
more effort toward projects they personally wanted. Sometimes these were 
community and sometimes family.

At almost 70 I'm feeling very bored with another generation of teenagers acting 
out and parents being self-righteous because they are defending their 
children's rights, which of course supersede _everything_. And another 
generation having new babies who think that nothing else is possible in their 
lives and they want to take two years off from workshare.

I think there are developmental things going on that may be slightly unique in 
that they are in a cohousing situation but are happening to others at the same 
ages. (I wrote a textbook that included readings on adult development so I'm 
familiar with some of this stuff.)

When we all moved into cohousing we had different ideas of what it would be. I 
think the majority wins out on this one because the minority can't do all the 
work required to carry the less actively involved. And it isn't any fun. I'm 
beginning to have much more respect for the intentional communities that 
require a year of living in before they can invest. And for the communities 
that made rules from the get go about everyone attending community meetings and 
meals. Those were tangible expectations that gave clearer clues than "we will 
work this out together."

> Maybe meetings aren't necessary; maybe
> consensus process is too time consuming; maybe houses can go onto the open
> market and whoever comes will be great.  The community will still be fine-it
> will just be different.

It would be different but not live up the expectations that many of us had when 
we moved in. I have lived in condos, however, where a very cohousing like 
community develops. No commonhouse but people share their sofas when guests 
arrive and have potlucks in the yard or each other's homes.

One thing I'm finding is that it is impossible to know the new people as well 
as I knew the old when we moved in. The intensive every week meetings were 
important. Perhaps we need to repeat that for 6 weeks or so every year. But we 
do have a period where we have meetings every two weeks in the spring so we 
have continuity to pass policies. It's a grind.

But consensus isn't the problem. It's the requirement for people to pay 
attention to things they don't want to pay attention to. One reason I like 
sociocracy/dynamic governance is that the structure makes consensus more 
meaningful in that not everyone has to participate in every policy decision. 
And decisions are clearly delineated between policy and operational. 
Operational decisions are made by the leaders of teams in consultation with the 
team, not the whole world. Some policy decisions are made by teams as well.

The structure allows those who are more interested in the abstract issues of 
governance to focus on those without dragging everyone else along. 
Representatives of each team make these by participating in the General Circle. 
Some decisions can be reserved for the full group. The people who are ma  king 
the decisions are clearly delegated to do it, and there is a mechanism for 
testing and reevaluating decisions, there is a better mechanism for governance.

The maintenance, however, still has to be done.

But it is hard to get people to even focus on governance. Takoma Village is not 
sociocratic. I just talk about it a lot, and we inch closer. People now want 
delegation but their idea is that you let anyone who wants a job to do whatever 
they please as long as they don't spend any money, or only spend what has been 
budgeted. That isn't good enough for me to feel that we will be well managed.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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