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Cohousing, la nuova soluzione abitativa sostenibile - Alternativa Sostenibile

Cohousing News from Google -

Alternativa Sostenibile

Cohousing, la nuova soluzione abitativa sostenibile
Alternativa Sostenibile
Comprare casa è un'esigenza comune alla stragrande maggioranza degli italiani che frequentemente scelgono di affidarsi alle offerte di credito per far fronte alle spese. A seguito della riduzione dei tassi d'interesse questo rimane un momento positivo ...

Designer of Fair Oaks project will discuss cohousing movement - Sacramento Business Journal

Cohousing News from Google -

Sacramento Business Journal

Designer of Fair Oaks project will discuss cohousing movement
Sacramento Business Journal
In existing cohousing communities in Sacramento, Davis, Grass Valley and elsewhere, people have separate homes on one property. They share a common house in the center as a kitchen, dining room and children's play area. The Fair Oaks project would ...

Comunità a basso impatto: il co-housing britannico - Architettura ed Ecosostenibilità: Bioarchitettura per la riduzione dei consumi energetici (Comunicati Stampa)

Cohousing News from Google -

Architettura ed Ecosostenibilità: Bioarchitettura per la riduzione dei consumi energetici (Comunicati Stampa)

Comunità a basso impatto: il co-housing britannico
Architettura ed Ecosostenibilità: Bioarchitettura per la riduzione dei consumi energetici (Comunicati Stampa)
Dave Darby, il direttore della principale rivista di divulgazione di LILI (Diggers & Dreamers Review of Low Impact Living Communities in Britain), sostiene con ottimismo che vivere in urban housing co-ops e co-housing, nel prossimo futuro, giocherà un ...

Acceptable Risk

Laird's Blog -

In any typical group (let's say with a dozen or more members) it's nearly a lead pipe cinch that you'll have a spectrum of attitudes toward taking chances. That is, you will have some members who are risk tolerant and others who are risk averse. The challenge is recognizing this (without name calling) and figuring out a way that both sides can play nice together.

This is hard because the folks at each end of the spectrum tend to view those at the other end as their worst nightmare. If you're risk tolerant, the risk averse keep gumming up the works with hand wringing and doomsday predictions. If you're risk averse, then the risk tolerant are always inviting you into propositions that feel unsafe. It can be exhausting,

If you accept, in concept, that all risks are not appropriate to take, yet neither is it wise to take no risks, how do you navigate this dynamic? How does a group determine acceptable risk?

Here are key questions:

1. Do all parties feel heard?
This is foundational, and can often be trickier than it appears. In essence, it's making sure that each player—especially those on the other end of the risk spectrum—report being satisfied that their input has been accurately heard. Note that this is more than being able to parrot back the words—it's also understanding what the words means to the speaker.

It's common to stumble here when the listener thinks they've heard the speaker, but has neglected to affirm that with the speaker. Even when the listener is correct (about having fully heard the speaker), things don't proceed smoothly when the speaker has no confidence that they've heard.

Worse, if this is a familiar dynamic (say where a risk tolerant listener is hearing the same old song from a risk averse speaker), there's a marked tendency to close one's ears after the first few bars—because it sounds so familiar—prematurely closing off the possibility of taking in nuances that are different this time. Hint: eye rolling does not help here.

2. Does the proposal address the concerns that have been raised; does it recognize the opportunities?
There is a much greater chance of successfully bridging the two ends of the risk spectrum if the proposal does a fair job of specifically addressing reservations surfaced by the risk averse. Obviously that means those reservations need to have been solicited and accurately taken in.

Going the other way, if the risk averse insist on placing a governor on operations proposed by the risk tolerant, does that suck all the air out of the balloon? Are there too many restrictions or so much red tape that there's no flavor left in the broth? If addressing concerns is tantamount to shackling or emasculating the initiative, it can be the same as a death sentence.

People need some room to experiment and test new ideas, just as much as they need to feel that risks are within bounds. In short, there needs to be something for everyone.

3. Does everything have to go well in order to succeed, or is there room for some setbacks without sinking the ship?
If there are several components to the proposal, does it require that each one be successful for the entire proposal to succeed, or is there wiggle room such that a few may fall short and there's enough resilience that the main objective can still be met?

Suppose there are six components to the proposal, and that you can reasonably project a low, average, and high outcome for each one. If the only pathway to overall success requires that you achieve high outcomes for all six components, then success is wildly improbable. One the other, if you can succeed by achieving only average outcomes for all six components, then you might reasonably argue that low outcomes in some areas may be compensated for by high outcomes elsewhere.

4. Do you have the personnel to execute and manage the initiative?
Even if the group buys the general concept, there may be questions about whether your group possesses the skill necessary to execute and manage the project. Or, even if you have the internal capacity, the key people may not have sufficient interest or availability to devote to the project. If so, do you have financial wherewithal to hire this work out?

Caution: If there are a number of key roles being assigned to people inexperienced with what the project requires, have you budgeted for fool's tax—taking into account the likelihood that first-timers will make more mistakes and take longer to complete tasks than veterans?

5. Is there an adequate commitment to transparency? 
Sometimes groups make the mistake of limiting (or not making explicit the expectations for) access to information about the project—especially bad news, like cost overruns—for fear that it may mire the group into grueling conversations about whether to scuttle the project, or that the time it will take the project team to explain how best to interpret the news is better spent on doing the project, rather than defending it. There is considerable danger though in delaying the release of this information. It's rolling the dice. 

If some corresponding good news does not surface before this bad news comes to light, you will then have two problems instead of one: a) examining whether or not to continue the project given the impact of the bad news; and b) dealing with the erosion of trust that will surely follow from the discovery of the cover-up.

In almost all cases, it's a better policy to see that the whole group is regularly informed of developments, especially if the news is bad. In fact, standards for frequency and what detail will be covered in reports should automatically be addressed at the point that the project is approved. This is in everyone's best interest.

6. How much does success depend on successfully navigating virgin territory?
There is inherently more risk in a project that has no parallel in the group's history, or occurs on a  scale that dwarfs what has gone before. It's harder to know that you've done enough research; it's hard to know how sound your estimates are; it's hard to assess whether you possess adequate internal skill to carry it off.

I'm not saying this adds up to never attempting things you haven't done before; rather, I'm saying that the unknown increases risks and that this needs to be taken into account.

7. How do potential gains stack up against potential losses?
If you've done something approximating the above it should be possible to place all the risks in one column and all the potential benefits in another. How does it look?

Unfortunately, I can't promise that this will be a magic moment. That is, the risk tolerant may look at this chart and see a green light, while the risk averse may be seeing red. Even when everyone agrees on what the data is, that doesn't guarantee that the data will be interpreted similarly. Some, for example, simply require a greater contingency fund in order breathe normally.

At the least though, you'll be discussing this as the sum of measurable parts, instead of on the basis of prove-that-you-love-me-and-just-say-yes gut checks. Hopefully, a (well-researched) chart will provide you with opportunities to test claims for favorable outcomes of discrete components (such as fundraising) before you're irrevocably committed to the whole megillah. • • •To be sure, navigating risk is tricky, but it can be done. In fact, it has to be done, and done in such a way that everyone feels their input has been incorporated in a balanced response. It helps me to remember that when people disagree with me in a cooperative setting that we get the opportunity to produce hybrid vigor (rather than vigorous rancor). It also helps me remember that we all want success for the group, and that were all on the same team—even if some people wear glasses that have more rose-tinted lenses than others.

Riding the Energy Rollercoaster

Laird's Blog -

This past Wednesday I was able to buy six gallons of regular gasoline for less than $10. I was gobsmacked.

For years now I've mostly been hoping to see prices at the pump begin with the number two instead of three, but for some reason there must be a glut right now. On top of that, Missouri and Oklahoma lead the nation in low gas prices. While I get it that Oklahoma is an oil producing state, why Missouri—especially northeast MO, which is the corner of the state that's most removed from OK oil wells? It's a mystery.

To be sure, I don't drive much these days (the last time I bought gas was Thanksgiving) so this precipitous decline caught me completely off guard. While the pumps in Kirksville MO (my destination Wed evening) were offering regular at $1.92/gallon, I was able to further press my advantage by doing some food shopping at the local HyVee, which offers gas discounts based on what you buy. My grocery purchases that evening resulted in a further discount of 32 cents per gallon, bringing my actual price per gallon down to $1.60. It was like winning the lottery.

While happy about my good fortune, I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I love benefiting from a bargain, and I'm pleased that drops in the price of crude oil are being passed along to consumers (rather than resulting in windfall profits for gas refineries).

On the other, it's crazy that gas is this cheap. I figure lower prices now presage higher costs tomorrow, resulting in amplified peaks and valleys—all of which make it harder to budget and give us false hope about oil reserves relative to energy consumption.

I believe we desperately need to be on a diet—especially in the energy profligate US—and it's hard to make headway when we experience these enticing troughs of cheap gas, encouraging us to put our collective heads back into the sand (and I don't mean tar sand). We need to learn to drive less, ride share more, and buy cars that get better mileage. Cheap gas undercuts the momentum to support these lifestyle changes.

Transportation costs have a profound impact on markets. When gas prices are low, it's easier for distant manufacturers to compete locally (giving an advantage to both bigness and wage differential). When gas costs are higher—which is surely our future—then there's an advantage to locally produced goods (which are shipped shorter distances) and you can pay better wages without losing market share. So higher gas prices tend to help locally owned businesses that produce goods, as well as companies whose services must be delivered live as opposed to digitally or virtually.

In addition, stronger local businesses are directly linked to greater resilience when buffeted by the vagaries of economic booms and busts, because neighbors are the bread and butter market for local businesses and that personal link is broken (or at least compromised) when corporate headquarters are several states distant and are managed by faceless executives for whom you are consumers, not people.

So bring on the higher gas prices! At the least we might go as high as Europe, where prices average 2.3 times what we pay in the US—not because crude oil is any more expensive there, but because they tax it that much more to encourage conservation of a dwindling resource. To be sure, I get it why it's politically expedient to suppress taxes and that politicians tend to be notoriously short-sighted (seeing no further than the next election), but how prudent can it be accelerating into a brick wall?

Feminism in Community

Laird's Blog -

I was recently in a discussion at home where about eight of us were shining our collective light on the topic of feminism. While there was ready agreement that Dancing Rabbit aspired to be a feminist community, it wasn't so easy defining what that meant, and even some resistance to making the attempt.

Actually some parts were easy. We want the community to be a place where:
a)  Objectifying, sexist humor is discouraged.
b)  Opportunities for members are not limited by gender or sexual orientation.
c)  It's encouraged to call out sexist statements or behaviors when you encountered them.

Less solidly—though probably strongly supported, at least as a near-term strategy—it's a place where:
d)  We're willing to selectively practice reverse discrimination in a thoughtful (as opposed to knee-jerk) attempt to level the playing field for the discrimination that women typically encounter relative to men in the mainstream (such as glass ceilings, or unequal pay for equal work).

Thinking more broadly, to me it means a place where:
e)  We purposefully create and nurture cooperative (relational) culture, in contrast with competitive (adversarial) culture. 
f)  The ultimate aim is gender blind engagement.

When it comes down to what we've actually created and support, it gets complicated. While I think there would be wide acceptance with the general notion that we do not intend a commitment to feminism to translate into pro-women attitudes (as in women being favored over men as policy), in reality we tolerate—even celebrate— a degree of assertiveness in women that would be labeled aggressive and intimidating if done by a man. This is an example of support for d) above, and is, in my observation, so pervasive in community culture (not just DR culture) that women tend to fill a majority of leadership positions (because they're given more latitude to do their jobs).

Mind you, I'm not saying good or bad; I'm just calling it the way I see it.

My sense is that in the mainstream culture girls tend to be conditioned to be more relational and boys conditioned to be more problem solvers. Yes, I'm shamelessly stereotyping and it's easy to think of counterexamples, but this difference is significant. In the mainstream culture, problem solving tends to be more revered (and paid better) than relationship building. In cooperative culture though, both qualities are deemed valuable, and what women bring to the table tends to be every bit as honored—so long as it's functional. That is, if a person can prove themselves to be reasonably competent then communitarians don't care what their gender is, and communities are more likely to be gender blind when making manager assignments.

(When I think back over my 27 years as a process consultant, and all the challenging folks I've wrestled with in group settings, I don't see a pattern of one gender being more difficult than another. That is, women, men and queers are equally likely to be jerks and no one gender monopolizes assholery.)

Where It Gets Hard
One of the (mostly) hidden aspects of this consideration is whether the people comprising feminist-identified groups are willing to do the personal work needed to understand their own conditioning, which tends to operate below the level of consciousness. That is, the fact that you don't think of yourself as gender discriminating has only a casual relationship to whether you are. This is going to be especially true of men—the segment of mainstream society that is the beneficiary of most gender discrimination. The haves are far more likely to be oblivious to their advantages than the have-nots. 

Thus, women (as well as those who identify as LGBTQ) tend to be significantly more sensitive to gender discrimination than men, and it can be delicate work sorting out what's happening when the group seems to respond much more enthusiastically to something said by a man than to a similar suggestion made earlier by a woman.

•  How much is this unconscious gender discrimination?
•  How much are women projecting gender discrimination when there's resistance to their ideas (perhaps because at the point that the woman spoke the group was not ready to come to agreement; perhaps because the two statements were similar, yet different in crucial ways)?•  How much of this is the group simply coming to agreement at its own pace and the fact that a man spoke last isn't significant (the last speaker is going to have a gender, but that doesn't mean that's significant)?

This is very murky territory, where the observations of any party can be discounted as biased. All can have a piece of the truth; some can be off base.

I think the most hopeful thing to strive for is an atmosphere where you can hit the pause button and frankly discuss the dynamics—where everyone gets a chance to weigh in. If it's dangerous to bring this out in the open, it'll be damn hard to get to the deeper levels of gender dynamics—making it that much harder to establish a solid foundation for feminist culture, however you define it.

Mildred Gordon Crosses the Bar at 92

Laird's Blog -

Sunset and evening star,
         And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
         When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
         Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
         Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
         And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
         When I embark;

For though from out our borne of Time and Place
         The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
         When I have crossed the bar.

                 —Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1889
Mildred Gordon died peacefully in her sleep this morning, surrounded by family and friends at Ganas, the community she helped found on Staten Island in 1979.

I knew Mildred for about 30 years. We first met in the mid-'80s when she and others from Ganas came down to Twin Oaks to participate in a Federation of Egalitarian Communities assembly, to explore what other income-sharing communities were doing and the extent to which it made sense to make common cause.

While it would have been enough that we were friends for 30 years and both founders of income-sharing communities, I'm taking this time to eulogize Mildred because she was also a teacher and mentor to me in the field of group dynamics, and she counseled me through some poignant, difficult times. I recall three in particular:

a) When Elke and I broke up in 1989, she wound up moving at Ganas with our two-year-old daughter, Jo. Mildred, and others at Ganas, worked hard to help Elke see that there was no good thing to be gained by vilifying me and wrapping herself in victim's raiment. Thus, in a period of months, Elke was able to move through her grieving the loss of our intimate partnership and start to rebuild her life based on the positive things in her life—the things she had control over. In addition to making it far easier to be friends (instead of estranged lovers), this helped enormously for me to continue being an active father for my daughter—which has been precious to me—and for Elke and I to co-parent without ever using our daughter as a football. That was huge.

b) It happened that I was visiting Ganas when my father died unexpectedly of a heart attack in November, 1989. While plans were settling for the family to gather in South Carolina for the funeral, Mildred spent a lot of time with me one-on-one getting me to explore my feelings and whatever came up. It was the first time I had ever lost someone that close to me and I had no idea about grieving. Luckily, Mildred did. 

She knew I needed to talk, and the initial sorting I did with her (along with the reflective time I had taking Amtrak's Silver Meteor from New York City to Yemassee SC) enabled me to be clear enough to request a special, two-hour conversation with my mother and siblings, where we started to unpack the volatile and conflicted feelings we had toward Dad, taking advantage of the vulnerability and spaciousness unique to loss. 

This was, to be sure, something we'd never done before as a family, and it was a watershed experience for me in terms of how I related to family members from then on. Looking back, it's doubtful that I would have had it together to have made the request without all the work Mildred did with me in the first 36 hours after learning of my father's death.

c) I was visiting Ganas at some point in the mid-90s, when I had an important facilitation gig lined up, working with a sister community where I knew I'd be called upon to labor with a friend about founder dynamics. My challenge was how to get the issue authentically out in the open without it coming across as an ambush.

One magical evening I was visiting Mildred up in her room and we decided to role play the dynamic, where Mildred was me and I was my friend. For about an hour we had this freewheeling conversation where I got into being my friend and voicing how I expected her to respond.

This experience turned out to be terrifically insightful. Based on that preparation, when it came time to actually do the work I was able to establish to my friend's satisfaction that I understood and could empathize with what they were going through. I was able to demonstrate viscerally that they were not alone, and this proved to be pivotal in maintaining a constructive and pliable tenor to the examination.

It turned out that this experience was foundational for me as a professional facilitator and group consultant, and I've carried it with me the last 20 years whenever I'm in a situation where someone feels backed into a corner.
• • •My relationship with Mildred was not that of peers. She was always the teacher and I was the student (who was sometimes enthralled by the lessons and sometimes repulsed); she was the facilitator and I was the respondent. While she enjoyed probing what was going on with me, she did not encourage that kind of examination in the other direction. While I chafed at this imbalance for quite a while, I finally came to accept that learning from Mildred was a gift and it was unwise of me (not to mention churlish) to push away the invitation just because the exchange did not flow both ways.

For many years Ganas went by the name Foundation for Feedback Learning, which was their educational nonprofit and very much the center of their social experiment. Mildred was keen on investigating the ways that people shoot themselves in the foot by limiting or distorting the intake of critical information about how they are perceived. (The idea here is not necessarily that others are seeing you accurately, but that it's never in your interest to not know how your statements and behavior are landing with others. In fact, it's highly beneficial to discover at the earliest opportunity any discrepancies between what you intended and how you are received.)

It turns out that most of us engage in all manner of shenanigans to avoid or insulate ourselves from receiving feedback, even when it's directly against our best interests to resist it. 

In the process of doing this work, Mildred was among the most adept practitioners I ever encountered at working a dynamic both emotionally and rationally, which approach had a profound influence on how I developed as a professional facilitator. After witnessing Mildred at the top of her game, I wouldn't settle for group work that didn't simultaneously engage content and energy, and I'm not confident I would have come to that understanding without Mildred's guidance.

Another reason I appreciated Mildred and my time at Ganas was the intensity of the engagement (it certainly wasn't for the coffee, which was every bit as weak as the conversations were strong). I've never encountered another group that devoted so much attention to group dynamics (and I thought I was a junkie). 

Ganas in the '90s—which was the decade when Jo was splitting time between there and Sandhill, and I was visiting regularly—held planning sessions every morning six days a week, and then had freewheeling after dinner conversations most days as well. On your birthday you could decide what personal growth topic you wanted to work on all day. In fact, they were into the process tank so spectacularly that I use Ganas as the poster child for one end of the spectrum on how-much-do you-want-to-be-in-each-others'-lives-by-virtue-of-being-a-member-of-this-community. (On the other end are communities that hold potlucks once a month.)

While most people who visited Ganas or heard about their strong commitment to group process found the attention they gave interpersonal dynamics appalling, I loved it.

The last time I saw Mildred was in October, 2012. I visited Ganas for three days and spent an hour sitting with her each afternoon letting the conversation go wherever it wanted. Though I'd been cautioned ahead of time that Mildred was starting to lose her cognitive abilities, I couldn't discern any loss of focus or relevance to her comments. They say that long-term memory is the last to go and I suppose I benefited from the vast majority of our common history falling comfortably into the long-term column. Or maybe she was just having a good week. 

In any event it was a touching and connecting final visit.

One of Mildred's foibles was the feeling that she was going to die young, which she was mildly obsessed about. I believe many of her immediate family had died young and she expected a similar fate. Well Mildred, having lived to be 92 it's hard to say you got cheated—and all those who knew you are the richer for your longer stay.

Culture Change Versus Lifestyle Change

Laird's Blog -

In the last month I received this inquiry from a follower of this blog:

What is the minimal critical mass of emotional/interpersonal intelligence necessary for a group to actually manifest the spirit and process [needed for community to succeed]? My ten-year experience in cohousing resulted in a diagnosis of PTSD and a real cynicism (not yet misanthropy) regarding our species current capacity to pull this off. 

That's a good question. In essence, what is our maturity and our capacity to grow in the ways needed for community to succeed?

I think the key lever in this equation is not so much maturity (degree of sophistication in communication skills, and depth of familiarity and facility with group dynamics and different systems of governance) as openness to self-examination and change (ability to be curious when faced with divergent viewpoints, commitment to looking for blind spots when challenged, and willingness to try something different when people or circumstances shift). If you are accomplished at the latter, you can derive the former.

So let's focus on change, which can be both exhilarating and unsettling.

It is common for those of us active in the field of intentional community to be discussing change. As in change from the mainstream; change in the way we communicate, change in what we eat, change in how we raise children; change in how we build homes; change in how we respond to distress; change in how we run meetings; change in how we make decisions; change in how we define leadership; change in how we relate to material wealth; change in how we view mental health; change, even, in how we relate to change.

We speak both about lifestyle change and about culture change—sometimes interchangeably—but they aren't the same thing. In this essay I want to focus on the difference between them, and why the heavy lifting is done under the banner of culture change.

People make lifestyle changes all the time. Some are relatively minor (such as giving up wearing blue jeans, neckties, or pantyhose; or when my father switched from smoking cigarettes to cigars in 1964 when the Surgeon General announced that cigarettes were detrimental to one's health). Some are a bit more serious (switching from a sports car to a Volvo, opting for safety and mileage over acceleration and flash). Some are downright major league (moving from the city to the country; or changing one's diet from fast food to vegan).

Culture change, however, occurs on a deeper level. It requires thinking about what you would ordinarily do without thinking at all—challenging baseline assumptions. We have all been steeped in cultural conditioning that creates a context for how we experience the world and how we tend to respond to it. It is the water we swim in. Culture change requires stepping back from that conditioning and consciously choosing to shift something: like leaving the water and starting to breathe air. It's not just breaking habits; it's breaking molds.

Thus, culture change is much more difficult to achieve than lifestyle change, which is important when considering what it takes to be successful at creating vibrant intentional communities. Here's why:

1. Many intentional communities are attempts to purposefully create a quality of connection among members that is ordinarily not available in mainstream neighborhoods. (I'm not saying it couldn't be; I'm saying it isn't.)

2. Intentional communities are founded on the idea that we can all have a good quality life at a lower cost per person if we share assets.

3. In order to achieve 1 & 2 above, you need to live more closely with fellow members (both physically and psychically) and that requires either: a) surrendering to a leader (or leaders) who will tell you how to behave; or b) creating a more cooperative atmosphere in which to manage jointly owned assets and to successfully navigate the tensions that will naturally result from people with different styles and personalities needing to work things out together.

4. When you digest that the vast majority of us have been raised in competitive culture that is both hierarchic and adversarial, you understand that it takes a sea change to shift to cooperative culture. For one thing you have to start valuing relationships more than truth (or who's right). This is a big change.

One of the things that makes living in intentional community hard is that some people come to it ready to effect culture change, while others are only open to lifestyle adjustments. As a result, there's considerable variance in the degree of elasticity among the membership. Some are prepared for far more stretching than others, and there's more than a little poignancy to the tensions that can result from culture changers who are pleading to get everyone on board with a commitment to that degree of shift, being resisted (and resented) by lifestyle changers who feel they're being bullied into conversations and considerations they never signed up for.

Caution: In laying this out, I do not want to be understood to be favoring culture changers over lifestyle changers. Both have their place. While culture changers may be better equipped to make seminal shifts in what it means to be a human being in this world, both culture changers and lifestyle changers can create successful communities—by which I mean communities where everyone is happy with what they've created and they've developed functional ways to make collective decisions.

That said, I am trying to make the case that people trying to establish successful intentional communities are going to be far more likely to succeed if their membership is strongly slanted one way or the other: all culture changers or all lifestyle changers—because strong advocates for one side don't tend to play well with their counterparts championing the other.

Bedlam 2014

Laird's Blog -

Continuing a holiday tradition I started in 2011, I'm devoting my final post of the year to a summary of where I laid my weary head each night.

I refer to this as "bedlam" because: a) I'm on the road a lot and have a chaotic and confusing distribution of sleeping arrangements; b) some think that my travel schedule is prima facie evidence of mental illness; and c) I have a congenital weakness for word play.

So here's the summary of where I was when the lights went out each night:

o  I spent 226 nights in my own bed, a whopping 62% of the time, up sharply from 185 last year. Even taking into account that I missed a week of travel in December due to my strained lower back, it appears I'm trending toward being more of a home body in my dotage.

o  I slept with my wife 235 nights, or 64% of the time—which was nearly double the total from the prior year, and was one of the main motivations for our moving into the same house a year ago. It nice to know that strategy was successful. (Of course, I wasn't in exile pending divorce for any of 2014, so that helped, too.)

o  I was guested by clients 13 times for a total of 48 nights, which was down slightly from the year before.

o  I stayed with family a meager 17 nights—less than half of 2013. The main difference was seeing my kids markedly less. There was only a single visit to each in '14 (Ceilee and my grandkids are in Los Angeles; Jo is in Las Vegas) where there had been three each the year before. I'll be trying to manifest more work out West in the coming year.

o  I had 47 overnights with friends, which is about normal.

o  I traveled to attend FIC meetings and events enough to claim 20 nights.

o  I managed to stay in a motel overnight a mere four times, which pleases me (at this point in my career as a consultant and community networker I know folks almost everywhere, obviating the need to pay for a bed).

o  I slept on a train 17 times.

o  While mostly I was in a bed with a real mattress, 17 times I slept on couches, and 13 times on air mattresses (kinda like camping in someone's living room).

o  All together I spent the night in 38 different locations away from Rutledge, encompassing 18 states and one province, plus all four time zones—all of which is about average.

No sooner have Ma'ikwe and I gotten used to living together—all of 2014, no less—but we'll be branching out into new territory as road warriors in 2015. Ma'ikwe will not be doing as much facilitation teaching with me as she experiments with giving sustainability talks on university campuses. Last year I only spent 21 nights at home while Ma'ikwe was elsewhere; next year that may double. 

We like to tell people that there's nothing like simple country living—and believe me, the way Ma'ikwe and I do it is nothing like simple country living. 


Laird's Blog -

--> -->A couple weeks ago I was discussing family traditions with Ma'ikwe one evening. While I was thinking mostly about spiked egg nog and plum pudding, she recalled family rituals at Fourth of July waterskiing parties, where the featured libation was a thirst quenching concoction of rum, limeade, and beer called a Boomerang. From what I could tell it went down easy, yet had a nasty habit of coming back on you.

Sitting in bed recuperating from back strain these long winter nights, I started reflecting on how "boomerang" could be a serviceable theme for reflecting on trends in community living…

In the last 25 years something different has been happening in the demographics of intentional community. For the first time in history there are significant numbers of people over 50 years old trying community living for the first time. What has historically been predominantly the domain and twentysomethings and thirtysomethings—sticking your toes in community waters—has widened considerably. Now everyone’s doing it.

It used be that the way to get older folks in community was to recruit younger folks and age them for a few decades. Today though, some people are raising families in traditional settings, retiring from regular jobs, and thentrying community.

What’s going on? I think there are a number of things.

Boomerang Hippies
Interest in intentional communities has ebbed and flowed over the entire history of the US. While we are currently riding a long wave that started around 1990 (and featured a secondary uptick in 2005-07), the prior boom to the current one was 1965-75: the Hippies Era. In fact, many of the inspirational and best-known US communities today started in that decade—notably Alpha Farm, Ananda, Camphill Kimberton, East Wind, The Farm, Heathcote, Lama Foundation, Love Family, Madison Community Cooperative, Magic, Miccosukee Land Co-op, Occidental Arts & Ecology, Prag House, Rowe Camp, Sandhill Farm, Shannon Farm, Twin Oaks, and We’Moon Land. Born in that decade of hope and chaos, they survived the lull of 1975-1990 to become mother trees for many of the seedlings that sprouted in the next warm spell and are flourishing today.

The reason I’m highlighting this era is that the people experimenting with cooperative living then were mainly Baby Boomers when they were four or five decades younger. I think one explanation for the greater interest in community among gray hairs today is that there are a number of latent Hippies who didn’t scratch that itch back when Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead were performing live at Fillmore West.

This is a large age cohort, many of whom believe they were young adults at a special time in history. Have you ever listened to commercials for Oldies radio stations? (Go ahead and embarrass your kids, turn up the volume!)

Young men moved to Canada to avoid conscription into an unpopular war; people were questioning whether father really did know best; feminism and anti-racism were on the front burner (the crock pot cooking from which eventually led to Democrats choosing between a black man and a white woman for their Presidential candidate in 2008—something that was very hard to imagine in 1972, when a thoughtful George McGovern was getting crushed by Tricky Dick’s reelection juggernaut).

There was widespread experimentation with sexual mores and recreational drugs, and suburbia was assailed as a cultural wasteland. Those were exciting times and some of us didn’t get it out of our systems merely by following Timothy Leary’s advice to turn on, tune in, and drop out. Many who came of age in 1965-75 went on to lead relatively normal lives, but we didn’t necessarily forget those days of foment and what if…

Golden Girls & Silver (Haired) Boys
It’s pretty clear today that the nuclear family is simply not able to provide a decent quality of life for seniors unless they’re very well off. Kids are expected to leave home and not necessarily return to care for aging parents. In this bleak environment, seniors are increasingly thinking about options for aging in place, where there’s familiarity, dignity, neighbors who know you, and meaningful ways to contribute.

For the most part, this translates to some form of group living. Remember Golden Girls, the critically acclaimed comedy series that aired 1985-92? The premise was four older women figuring out how to make their latter years more vital, more fun, more affordable, and less isolating by living together—instead of alone or in a senior ghetto. They were a little ahead of their time, but not by much. While there are plenty of examples of people today (not just older folks) living together in informal enclaves of unrelated adults, the logical next step is intentional community, with full-spectrum demographics.

In many ways, intergenerational communities harken back to traditional extended families— the very thing we left behind when going nuclear. If you think of intentional communities as families of friends, there you are. To be sure, in recreating neighborhoods with benefits, participants are emphatically not yearning for the stultifying hierarchy and limited opportunities of yesteryear (think education, career, and partners picked out by Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Otto). They’re looking for connection, support, and context.

Information Age
It’s probably not a coincidence that the current wave of interest in community living grew simultaneously with easy access to the Internet and the explosion of inexpensive options in electronic communications. It’s now much easier to find out what’s out there and to learn from the experiences of others, greatly enhancing the chances of avoiding others' mistakes, or locating high-quality help when you don’t.

While community living is still the road less traveled, there’s at least a beaten path these days, as well as GPS and Google maps to help you navigate the road to Shangri-La.

Cohousing as the Missing Link
It happens that 1990 is also the time when cohousing established a foothold in the US. This is significant both because cohousing is the form of intentional community that looks most like traditional housing options (with somewhat denser, smaller houses), which makes it more accessible to people who are ready for something different but aren’t ready to jump off a cliff (which is what moving into community can look like to the immediate family left behind). 

Though cohousing is a growing segment of the Communities Movement, it’s less than 10% of the total. Nonetheless, that concept is drawing a majority of the community virgins who are north of 50. Without the concomitant rise of cohousing it would be hard to project the growth we’re seeing today in Boomers joining communities.

If a Boomer Rang, Would You Answer?
While mostly I see the expansion of seniors seeking community as a solid plus, it is not without its challenges. If a Baby Boomer applies for membership at your community how would you reply?

Overwhelmingly, communities are looking for members who offer the prospect of giving in proportion to what they receive. If a senior waits until this give and take is clearly out of balance, this will not be attractive. To be sure, there are plenty of valued contributions that a senior can make that don’t require a strong back, a strong checkbook, or outstanding lung capacity. Think accounting, legal, planning, organizing, research, correspondence, management, childcare, cooking, marketing, etc.

While community members do an outstanding job of being there for each other in time of need, it’s not very appealing if the prospective member presents as someone needy right off the bat. 

If it’s early in the group’s life (say less than 20 years old) and it was started mostly by younger adults, then there won’t be many older folks in residence yet and seniors will be welcome as a way to help normalize the age distribution. (It was true for me joining 17-year-old Dancing Rabbit last year. In a group of 50+ adults, I was one of a small handful of people over 60 and the welcome mat was out.) However, that’s not usually how it works. Mostly people want to join groups in which peers are already present. If you’re an older person attracted to a group in which seniors are already well represented, there may be nervousness in your would-be home about becoming too top heavy (it won’t work to have 70% of the population in wheelchairs).
There’s delicacy about how much communities can stretch to support those in need, and the first priority is to be there for established members, not for the ones yet to come. For that matter there’s a limit to what groups can do for each other even if no seniors join, since very few communities promise nursing home services, and aging is inevitable. Taken altogether, communities need to exercise considerable discernment about the limits of support, or else risk swamping the boat for everyone—which is an unpleasant kind of boomerang where good intentions come back to knock you in the drink. 

And nobody wants that.

Meeting set Jan. 13 for new arts cohousing site in Nevada County - The Union of Grass Valley

Cohousing News from Google -

Meeting set Jan. 13 for new arts cohousing site in Nevada County
The Union of Grass Valley
An 18-unit cohousing complex geared for Nevada County artists is planned for a 2.2-acre site just above downtown Nevada City. Architect Charles Durrett said he has purchased the property, located at Cement Hill Road and Highway 49. The site, at the ...


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