Re: How does your community handle internal communications?
From: Bob Leigh (
Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2016 12:29:38 -0700 (PDT)
Ah, the perils of oral history and handed-down folklore!

On Sun, Sep 18, 2016 at 2:56 PM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> 

> 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.)

Actually, when Cornerstone's group was first forming in the years
1993-1995, email was not easily available to all, and certainly was not a
free or easy-to-use service.  For a while, there was a monthly paper
newsletter, a "phone tree" to propagate urgent information quickly, and a
very informal collection of email addresses. That was the situation when I
joined in the summer of 1995.

Sometime in 1996, I proposed creating a Cornerstone email list.  It quickly
evolved into a general list plus a full-members-only list.  This paralleled
how our general meetings were often preceded by a short full-members-only
meeting.  For a while, the general list was even subdivided into
announcements-only and discussion lists. A handful of committee email lists
were also created.

For proposals, budgets, and the like, we maintained a portable file box
called "the mailboxes" that travelled to all general meetings and contained
a hanging folder per household.  So if someone missed one or more meetings,
they could catch up by reading the material in their folder after they

Sometime in 1997, after an incident regarding a potential member who seemed
to not be a good fit to some full members, we adopted a policy on email

One member who lived several hours away from most of our membership
volunteered to compile and publish a bi-weekly email containing committee
and general meeting summaries.   As the volume of email -- and the number
of our members who used it frequently -- increased, this became a
much-valued service to the community.

During some stages of development, some topics (zoning problems, legal
strategy, hiring/firing consultants) were isolated to the full-members-only
lists, but most community email conversations took place on the general
email list.

We moved in in 2001-2002, reorganized our email lists into these three:
 "residents", "key" (community business), and "friends" (residents plus
former and/or potential residents).  Since then, there's been a steady
increase in the number of residents who complain that "there's too much

By 2008 (when Phil Dowds moved in), much of our formal communication was by
email, but there were still a very few households who did not use or did
not like to use email.  Therefore, as Phil mentioned, we did not completely
eliminate paper postings of urgent or important announcements.  However,
during the last year, we've started using a projector and large flat screen
much more frequently at general meetings, as an alternative to making 20-30
paper copies of the same documents.

My advice would be, try to recognize that different people will prefer
different styles of communication.  Also recognize that what's needed will
change over time  there isn't a single perfect answer.  Even after 21
years, some people at Cornerstone still are allergic to long, detailed,
back-and-forth arguments in email, while others absolutely love them.

Bob Leigh
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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