We were excited to have Laird back for our first returning WebChat presenter. He took on the topic of participation, which is, as he says, the single most common challenge facing intentional communities he works with. Participation refers to the non-monetary contributions people make to communities and it tends to get messy.
That second question matters and may be worthy of review. In the broader culture of the US, there is a lot of focus on tasks, work and material accomplishments. This is good. We like beautiful flower beds, roofs that don’t leak and clean common house kitchens. The work does need to be done. But why do it together? Why not hire it out? Why not let each person contribute on their own schedule?
There’s a funny thing about cohousing.
When you look at typical cohousing marketing, you see messages about what it is like to live in community: private homes, shared common space, know your neighbors. But when you ask people why they live in cohousing, the conversation goes someplace else: Cohousing supports democracy, it makes me a better person, it improves communication and leadership skills in our children, I’m able to give support to my neighbors.
Cohousing community members begin with some basic assumptions. We expect to do some downsizing. We know we will be sharing space and will need to make some comprises about how we use that space. We plan to reduce our impact on the planet and increase our social connections. These tend to be shared assumptions and overall, all these things happen in every cohousing community.
There are a lot of good reasons to hire professional help in cohousing. From areas of focused study like architecture and relationship skills, to the wisdom gained through experience working with many cohousing communities, there is much knowledge a consultant can share that would come at a much higher cost through trial and error. It is this knowledge most communities consider when they are thinking of hiring, but there is a whole other set of reasons to hire an outside professional that communities are wise to take into account.
This morning a friend brought my son home from a birthday party. Her sons had also attended the party and our house was on their way home, so bringing them all home together significantly reduced the carbon emissions. In other words, it was a good move for sustainability which we all value. But that isn’t why it happened. It happened because I didn’t have a car today. Sustainability born of necessity.
Most of us join a cohousing community with little experience of consensus. We find the ideas of shared decision-making quite appealing, but we don’t really know how to do it. So we read books and blogs and attend conferences and workshops and we try to find our way. Somewhere along the line most groups write down some cohousing rules. They may call them bylaws or community agreements or some other name. At their core consensus rules tend to be best practices, things we agree to do together because we believe they will make our consensus process work for us.
Yes! Well, probably. We welcome blog text from cohousers, those forming communities and cohousing professionals. We are a clearinghouse for all things cohousing and we want to offer as many perspectives and as broad a viewpoint as possible.
You may have noticed that the majority of our blogs are written by CohoUS staff. This is not by choice. We’d much prefer to have all of you submitting success stories, challenges overcome, and lessons learned to share with each other. Even better if you send photos to go with them!