Eating together may be the oldest tradition for humans getting connected. Never underestimate the value of a shared meal, conversation and the unplanned exchange of recipes.
Potlucks are yummy and easy to organize, but they don’t pack the same relational power as a common meal made by one or two members for everyone. The giving and receiving experience of a common meal is a key piece of cohousing culture and it builds a special kind of connection.
Organize a hike, bike ride, or city walk in the community where you will be located. Let the “locals” share their favorite spots with those who will relocate.
Purchase group tickets to community theater, music or sports events in your new community. Be sure to include a way to socialize before or after such as a meal in a restaurant or a discussion group.
Make a habit of including some connection time in your business meetings. Often this is done in small groups or pairs where more intimate conversations can happen and members are encouraged to connect with those they know least.
Our familiar and comfortable party chat won’t give us the depth of connection we seek in community. Using a series of prompts or a structure can invite us to go deeper which ends up making us safer with one another. You can find structures online or in community process books. Also see the WebChat#2 below.
Bring a group together around a skill that one (or more) member has and others would like to learn. Like the quilting bees and barn raisings of old, working and learning together is powerful space for connection.
Gather in pairs or smaller groups. Encourage members to invite others, one or two households at a time, for a cup of tea or a simple meal. As you build your project, set a goal to host one such gathering each month. By the time you move in, you will have had powerful one-on-one time with each of your new neighbors.
When members of your group have a special need, perhaps a health concern or a stressful time at work, be intentional about reaching out to them, providing meals or other needs, and sending cards or emails of support. Include a visit if appropriate. Some of the strongest bonds of cohousing happen when one person gives to another in a time of need.
This may seem obvious, but in order for members to give care and nurture, others have to receive it. For many cohousers, it is hard to accept care, particularly if it is premised on need. Challenge yourself to always accept offers of help, particularly if they are actually helpful and even if they aren’t needed. By allowing someone else to do for you, you are gifting them greater connection. In community you don’t have to be needy to be deserving of care, you just have be a neighbor.