Not all topics are created equal. In the context of cooperative culture, some topics are much tougher to get at than others.
Here are half a dozen that I encounter regularly. These are by no means all, but they're representative. If your group consistently handles any two of these well, you're way ahead of the curve. (If not, I'm available for hire.)
I. How Power is Used in Cooperative Groups
Groups need to understand—and be able to talk authentically about—how power (influence) is distributed in the group.
As the incoming Executive Director, I’ll be spending time with Alice Alexander to make this transition as smooth as possible and since I’ll be back east to see her, I decided to see some more people! Today I’ll be flying from Colorado to DC, driving through five different states then flying home from North Carolina. I will have the opportunity to meet with Bill Hartzell and Ann Zabaldo who have been a big part of CoHoUS and cohousing in general. I also get to spend time with the current CoHoUS president Peter Lazar and of course with the outgoing executive director Alice Alexander.
When I cleared customs in Chicago, the Homeland Security guy was more interested in how my visit to South Africa went than the packaged beef Biltong – potential contraband – I had in my bag.
Biltong is sliced spiced meat, similar to jerky. Click on the image and check out my pilot episode about my South Africa impressions.
Dominic Castro-Wehr of Nevada City Cohousing and McCamant & Durrett Architects
On the bright side, the concept of Cohousing is becoming increasingly entrenched in the American imagination— with every new project, what was once a culturally radical and shot in the dark neighborhood experiment is now an empirically supported investment into well-being and sustainability.
Cohousing can be a lab for trying out the latest innovations to help us live lighter on the planet.
The goal of this year’s National Cohousing Conference was ambitious – building resilient, sustainable communities – yet I felt a universal reaching; so many of us wanting desperately to learn how to be even more climate conscious than we already are. Let’s not forget, living in community has inherent savings that decrease our carbon footprints. Owning just one lawnmower, sharing meals together in the common house (studies have shown a 25% or more reduction in whole-community energy use during common meals – the one big room being lit for the occasion), and not shuttling our kids way across town for playdates.
Philip Dowds, Cornerstone Village Cohousing (Cambridge, MA)
“Cost of living” refers to all the expenses sustained by a household in the ordinary course of life. It includes, not just the cost of housing, but also the cost of food and clothing, furniture, transportation, medical and child care, and so on. Traditionally, “cost of housing” has referred to the specific shelter expenses of mortgage or rent, property taxes and insurance, and utilities. More recently, condo fees and Homeowner Association (HOA) dues have been added to the mix of shelter costs.
After 10 years involved in self-developing Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, marked for me with some serious and in retrospect unnecessary growing pains that cost us dearly, I'd like to recommend an invaluable resource I wish we'd had earlier. It’s an online course excellent for forming communities who want to avoid some of the painful process pitfalls we experienced, but at least as valuable for anyone disturbed by the state of our world and interested in human and planetary sustainability.
It’s been almost a decade (seven years) since we traveled to the National Cohousing Conference in Boulder Colorado to learn about how to build our own community in Nashville, Tennessee. We’ve come full circle now with the Conference to be held in Nashville this week.
Back then two of us traveled to Boulder and met two other individuals from Nashville, also attending. They were taking a driving tour through the southwest looking for cohousing. We were surprised to run into other Nashvillians in Boulder that weekend!