Listening to Myself

Monday, December 13, 2004

I just wrote someone off...

I just decided not to respond to someone and I'm not sure how I feel about it. There's someone who's been interested in the cohousing group for several years, but has stayed at the sidelines instead of becoming a member. I think she's gone to a few meetings, but she hasn't for at least a year. Despite her lack of contact with the group, she's made several decisions about the group's priorities and has decided that we aren't interested in making the project work for her needs.

And, really, from her perspective, she's probably right. What she requires in terms of affordability is really drastic - she's a single individual who is looking for something way below the median price of even a small condo. Unless the group finds a really good funding source that is willing to subsidize to that degree, there's virtually no way we could accomodate her needs. Perhaps if we created subsidized 300 sq. ft. studio apartments in the project we might be able to make it work - but if we do that, is there really a demand for it?

We've had a few people here and there who might not need more than that, but there's two big issues at play. First, are they willing to live in a space that small, even if it does mean they get to live in new construction and a cohousing community? Also, are they willing to join so they can have a voice in the process and speak for their needs? I am deeply concerned about a person who says "I will not join unless I know I will get what I want, without even specifically defining what it is I want or participating in the development process to figure out what I want". Joining isn't a signed oath in blood -- it is a commitment to a process that hopes to develop a project that will work for everyone involved in the development process. Should a group really be developing their project for people who are unwilling to join unless they know they will have their way? What does that do for future decisions, and the give and take required to live together peacefully using a consensus based model?

If you develop cohousing for people who are unwilling to be part of the development process, what happens if you get towards the end and those same people aren't interested in stepping up to the plate and joining? I'm sure that they'll be able to find something that they can be unhappy with in the project - afterall, we're only trying to build something that works for everyone, not absolute perfection for every individual (not that this is even possible!). I also feel like some of the people who are unwilling to join show a strong lack trust in the consensus process - they seem to assume that they will not be listened to, and that their voice doesn't matter. I don't know if it is an excuse, allowing them to never have to refine their own goals, or put themselves out there into the public sphere, or if it is just simply fear that they are unable to conquer.

So about this person who wrote to me... I had answered one of her emails, and when her second contained even more vague mischaracterizations of our group than the first, I decided not to answer. I decided she wasn't worth the time it would take to answer her email (yet somehow this post is worth the time?) as it didn't seem like I could ever say enough that she would believe me, and because she doesn't seem like someone who would ever put her money and self on the line and actually join a group. So that's the decision I made, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it... I think this is perhaps an example of when the values of cohousing conflict with the economic reality of cohousing.


  • I have no comments, poor me.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:11 PM  

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