Monday, March 27, 2017

Last Installment about Great Oak Cohousing: Community Meetings and Common House


Frequency: Great Oak used to have a community business meeting twice a month. Then they decided to have only one of these two meetings focused on community business, and to devote the other one (called "alternative meeting") to other things: teaching a craft, show and tell, fun activities, or if needed, planning for something that has come up quickly.

Facilitation:  Good facilitation is the most important factor for good meetings. The whole Great Oak community has been trained in facilitation techniques. Each meeting is led by two co-facilitators. Not only does this help during the meetings, but there is also a half hour of de-briefing for the facilitators after each meeting. With so many people being trained to facilitate, there is a large pool to draw from. Having co-facilitators means there is a wider range of skills represented, there is someone to take over if one facilitator has to leave early or arrive late, or when one facilitator is presenting an item.


  1. Introductions of new people or guests 
  2. Welcome and Ice-Breaker
  3. Agenda Review
  4. 2-3 agenda items
  5. Announcements
  6. Evaluation (by group) of meeting
Committee Reports: Great Oak does not include committee reports in their all-member meetings. Committees meet once or twice a month. Meeting minutes are taken at each meeting and are sent by email to all members.

Decisions: Decisions are made by consensus. 


After the relatively large Common House in their original design, Great Oak Cohousing built a smaller common house because of the economic pressure of financing the larger building. Even so, it meets their needs. They  have one guest room, 3 offices (for members' professional use), a children's room, multi-use room, laundry, media room, workout room, kitchen and dining room. 

Great Oak has been in existence for 14 years, and the changeover has been slight. Currently 2/3 of their population are original members.

1 comment:

  1. Nan,

    It's so fun to see these posts and read about Great Oak!

    We definitely have some top notch facilitators at GO. Some folks bring in their professional skills and we have also invested in training both as a community and as individuals. That said, not everyone at GO is trained in facilitation. Everyone has different skills and not everyone has the temperament to facilitate. I think people do get exposed to well run meetings and that can influence how committees work, (though not always)!

    We struggle with building capacity in our facilitation pool. It can feel intimidating for some to be in front of the group, even a group of neighbors and friends. You definitely can't overestimate the value of good facilitation, though, about 80% of which happens in the meeting planning phase.

    My neighbor, Mary King, and I have a small business called We Can Work It Out, LLC, where we work with communities to train facilitators to support effective consensus-based decision making. We were trained by Laird Schaub of Canbridge Facilitation, and with 14 years of cohousing experience, we're pretty good at what we do! Folks can find out more about us here:

    It's exciting to see all the work that's gone into Prairie Hill actually manifest on site!

    Take care,