Re: How does your community handle internal communications?
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2016 11:56:32 -0700 (PDT)
When Cornerstone first formed 15 years ago, it decided that critical internal 
communications should always be in the form of paper tacked to the main 
bulletin board, and/or inserted as 32 multiple copies into the “internal mail 
boxes” (document slots for each unit).  The thinking at the time was, Well, 
maybe not everyone has a computer or knows how to use it, so paper is more 
democratic.  (That time was 2001.)

Over time, the seductions of electronics — ease, reliability, speed, 
conservation of trees — led the community to drift into e-mail as the primary 
and often only form of critical communication.  We never revoked the earlier 
policy favoring paper, we just started ignoring it.  And moving further along, 
it became clear that the issues of storage, search and retrieval were not well 
addressed by e-mail alone, so we archive critical documents and records on the 
website, and currently, are in an unsanctioned experiment with Google Docs.  
Twenty years from now, my successors may be experimenting with embedded 
chip-supported telepathy, who knows?

Anyway, some advice about e-mail:
Set up one list for critical business e-mail, which will be mostly agendas of 
upcoming meetings, and minutes of those meetings.  Proposal texts (.pdfs, 
.docxs, etc) can be attached, or URLed to the website or Google Docs.  Every 
member should be paying attention to this distribution list.
Maintain at least one other e-mail list for “unofficial” communications:  
general conversation, offers of freebies, pleas for assistance, complaints, 
debates, insults and apologies, whatever.  Some members may choose to not 
subscribe to this list; others may subscribe, but read it only rarely.
Try to prevent dialog, debate and argument from taking place on the first, 
critical business list.  If members want to argue the pros and cons of going to 
all vegan meals as proposed, that back-and-forth debate should take place on 
the “unofficial” list (where random personal opinions are always welcome).
Finally, consider setting up lists for committees and subcommittees.  People 
who want to discuss weeding and pruning, for instance, can subscribe to the 
Landscape Committee list; other people may be interested in the Finance 
Committee, the Commons Committee … or no committee at all (except when the 
“official” agenda and minutes are posted).
Avoid redundant systems that oblige you to post paper as well as electronics.  
But … make sure that all your members understand how you’ve structured e-mail 
communications, and can readily access the posts that concern them.  If you 
really have a member who does not have a computer, or doesn’t know how to use 
one (it could happen), you may need to treat him/her as a special case.
Community calendars, and storage and retrieval of official documents, are 
topics for another time.  I am not a user of LinkFace, TwitBook or other social 
media services, so I cannot comment on them.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

(Been to Vancouver twice: a great city.)

> On Sep 18, 2016, at 2:05 PM, Lorne Mallin <lorne.mallin [at]> wrote:
> Greetings from Vancouver Cohousing, an urban Canadian community of 53
> adults and 22 children in 31 units that completed in February. We are
> examining how best to organize our internal communications so people feel
> they know what's happening in the community. We'd appreciate learning from
> other communities. Currently we have:
>   - A Google group email that goes to everyone and everyone can post to.
>   Residents often comment that there's too much email. We use SLO (Subject
>   Line Only) messages in the subject line when possible to ease the burden.
>   - A private Facebook group that most members belong to, but some members
>   just don't want to deal with Facebook.
>   - A sheet of announcements from our committees and teams prepared before
>   our monthly community meetings.
> I did a monthly digital newsletter while we were under development, and am
> thinking now of a weekly one. We've talked about installing a bulletin
> board in the common house that we intend to curate so it's effective. There
> are of course the everyday interactions in our homes, the courtyard and
> common meals.
> Your thoughts would be much appreciated.
> Thank you,
> Lorne Mallin
> _________________________________________________________________
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