Building Community. Learning from others while not attempting to duplicate

As one of the co-founders of Daybreak Cohousing, I spent a lot of time in the early stages researching what communities who had come before us had done to build their communities, both physically and as people. The Get It Built Workshop by Katie McCamant and Rick Mockler of Cohousing Partners gave me a solid overview and foundation in the overall process and I highly recommend it. I found a wealth of generosity and information on Cohousing_L and in talking with folks in our local communities here in Portland, Cascadia Commons, Trillium Hollow and Penninsula Park Commons.

While not wanting to re-create the wheel, I was impressed and overwhelmed by the variety of solutions available to any given situation. There was a lively interchange about keys and children’s access to the Common House on Cohousing_L that opened my eyes to the possibilities. Each community had a unique, often very different approach to this situation. And they all worked well for their particular community. This taught me a valuable lesson early on. Trying to duplicate what works for other communities, may not work for our community. What has proved most helpful for us is to consider the range of solutions other communities have found helpful and use that as a starting point for further brainstorming and then settling on a solution that seems to be a fit for our particular community. We’ve found we often end up with a hybrid from the examples of other communities (maybe with a few of our own twists added in).

For example, most communities have some form of regular orientation sessions throughout their forming phase. We have found that formal orientations in which we are giving a presentation doesn’t fit our style. We found that regular twice-monthly gatherings, at Daybreak we call them Socials, specifically ‘structured’ so existing members and those interested in learning more about us can mingle informally and chat one-on-one or in small groups gives folks a better feel for us as people, helps them get their specific questions addressed and is more fun for us.