Monday, February 29, 2016

Getting the Work Done

People often ask how we are going to get our community tasks done, once we are all living at Prairie Hill. It's a good question. And of course even now, in the development stage of our cohousing community, there is plenty of work to be done. We have divided some of this work among various committees: the finance and legal committee, the membership committee, the marketing committee, the building committee, the land committee. Much of the day-to-day business at this stage gets done by the five members on the board of managers. And sometimes we have all-member workdays.

Roxane heading uphill to a workday project

 Membership Committee members in action

Once we actually move into our new homes at Prairie Hill, we'll need to get organized about taking care of the daily, weekly and monthly needs of the community. Some of us learned how other cohousing communities do this when we attended the national cohousing conference in Durham, NC last year. We definitely benefit from all the experiences of others in this area! One of the systems that appealed to me most was what Pioneer Valley Cohousing has adopted. A list was made of all the tasks and how many hours each would take per month. Then they divided the total of these hours by the number of adults in the community, and came up with 6.5 hours per month per adult. Then, instead of assigning tasks to members, they developed "affinity teams" for each area of work, with members choosing what appealed most to their own interests and abilities. Sometimes a person was on more than one team. People could choose where to spend their 6.5 hours of work this way. And the teams became knowledgeable and skilled at their own focus. 

Here are some random points about community work that I picked up from the conference:
  • Appreciating people for the jobs they do is of prime importance. This helps us be more observant, validates each member, and builds community
  • Children can have specific jobs, like clearing the tables at the end of the meals.
  • Being a member of a Community Support Committee that kicks in when someone is in crisis could be part of a person's job.
  • Each area of work can have a "replacement reserve" of funds to be used when things break or need to be replaced.
  • Gardens are a big part of many cohousing communities. Some have individual gardens as well as a community garden. Some even grow produce for sale. Coordinating gardening could be a job.
  • Commonhouse committees can handle anything from cleaning the kitchen, organizing meals, scheduling events, or keeping track of guest room use. Clearly there need to be some sub-committees under commonhouse committee.
  • Pioneer Valley Cohousing has 6 general workdays each year. One workday is for deep cleaning the commonhouse. One job during workdays is to prepare food for everyone else.
If you're like me, these little tidbits are enough to make you wonder about many other things in the life of a community. We're very grateful that in the cohousing paradigm, the future residents are also the creators of the development. Not only does that mean that we are choosing what we think is best, but we are building community among the membership before we even move in! This is another reason why, if you are considering the possibility of joining a cohousing community, it is good to join during the development stage. You can have a voice in decisions, can engage in the excitement of creation, and can gradually get to know your future neighbors.

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