Re: Developmental Stages of Cohousing
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2011 04:14:39 -0700 (PDT)
Philip Reitz <reitzphilip [at]>
is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
due to being html only.  Also I removed excessive quoting.

Please quote only passages needed to provide context.
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

This topic is incredibly interesting, so I've given it some systematic
thought.  I have reviewed my own 32-unit community -- or more
precisely, 31, since one unit has remained empty in the clutches of a
dysfunctional estate for two years -- and find as follows:

HIGH PARTICIPATION AND ENGAGEMENT: 15 units, 48%.  Defined as regular
appearance at the monthly General Meeting (GM); additional pro-active
committee work of one kind or another; and reliability for chores and
special projects.  Includes a pretty good mix of founders and

MEDIUM: 10 units, 32%.  Sporadic appearance at GM, or selective
engagement in committee work and projects; pretty reliable for chores.

LOW OR FAILED:  7 units, 22%.  Semi-reliable on chores, little
visibility or initiative elsewhere.  I decided to include the unsold,
unoccupied unit among the failed.

So actually, this was a somewhat more favorable report than I was
expecting:  I would say that our continuing participation rate, after
10 years with the usual turnover, is not so bad.  Statistically, we
seem OK, but going beyond the stats, there are still some problems, at
least as perceived by me ...

UNRESOLVED INTERPERSONALS:  Some households refuse to engage with
others because of unresolved interpersonal tension.  Yes, there's
pretty good participation, but on specific issues or for specific
Committees, there continues to be quite a divide in that
participation.  Backchannel manipulations often substitute for candor
in open meetings.  Well, so what else is new?  I guess I want to
believe cohousing is better than your father's condo ...

COMMITMENT TO THE STATUS QUO:  Despite credibly (?) high participation
rates, the outcome of participation is often the status quo:  Do
nothing, change nothing is the final conclusion of much of our
dialogue.  Clearly, the founders think things are pretty much fine the
way they are, and new ideas or critiques are regarded as disruptive.
The creative energy that necessarily characterizes the invention of a
cohousing community readily degrades into a defensive posture adopted
by successful creators.  This ties back to ...

CLIQUES:  Don't mean to be grouchy, but I must say that my cohousing
community has turned out to be the worst example of in-group /
out-group syndrome that I've encountered since high school.

In other words: Participation quantity is more or less OK;
participation quality needs some work.

R Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

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