Re: Developmental Stages of Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 13 Aug 2011 10:01:13 -0700 (PDT)
On 12 Aug 2011, at 11:06 PM, Thomas Lofft wrote:

> Select a knowledgeable, energetic "Cohousing Couch, excuse me, Coach" to 
> provide stimulating discussion and targeted activities to re-engage the 
> residents, including the teens and children. [Coaches: Submit a response to 
> an implied Cohousing Coaching RFQ on line to this blog for consideration.] 

This sounds like a wonderful idea for cohousing consultants. Offer a package of 
activities or a pick and choose list of activities and a plan for the weekend 
or one day.

1. A meal plan with specifics outlined — cooks, cleaning, dishes, etc. A new 
way of doing meals. Different people. Show us what works.

2. Activities scheduled based on space available, perhaps using space 

3. Age appropriate activities for all ages — inclusive. A sustainable model.

4. A clear outline of internal support required for the workshop — advance 
training for willing souls.


Be specific. Figure it out yourself based on your experience of other 
residential and cohousing groups. Consult a party planner on how to make this 
work. Use a model other than therapy or problem solving — particularly 
personality solving. Or understanding consensus. People already understand what 
they want to understand and they live in cohousing in order to be themselves, 
not someone else's ideal person.

I worked with two people, Ann Zabaldo and Anna Amato, to find a facilitator in 
DC for one day of consensus training and to plan the workshop. It took us 
several years — three, four, five depending on how you count — to get approval 
of the funds, the facilitator, and an outline of the workshop. Then the 
facilitator didn't follow the approved outline or produce what we had expected. 
We were still left with writing our definitions of consensus, stand asides, 
etc. I am not likely to ever do that again. 

Three previous hires of facilitators had not received reviews favorable enough 
from enough people for us to be able to rehire them. Obviously, we need 
something besides the "I facilitate a session around your issues." That has not 
been productive in terms of strengthening us as a community.

"Research has shown" that the best teams result from success. If a team is 
successful, the ideological and personality differences disappear or fade to 
the point of not mattering. If someone could offer us a package of interesting 
(not just "fun") activities that enriched our understanding of each other and 
produced successful shared activities, I think we could sell it.

One option, always my fallback, is for the members to pay for the workshop 
themselves if the community won't include it in the operating budget. Do 
individual attendance fees or those who are interested donate the required 
funds. Whenever we have had a workshop, usually resisted by a significant 
number of people, they almost all show up. Those who miss it seem to honestly 
have other obligations.

People don't like to miss an event where community issues will be discussed 
with an outside person. And an outside influence is like a breath of fresh air.

The children's activities are essential. And roles for people who will do care 
taking like sitting at an information desk or helping with meals and those who 
will not participate in bouncing balls, rolling on the ground, or passing 
batons in order to speak.

Someone out there has to be able to put a package together and sell it based on 
their expertise and experience.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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