Using CohoUS Videos

I joined Driftwood about two years ago at a time when the group had been formed, land bought, and consultants and architects hired.  I found myself frustrated with our monthly General Meetings because I always wanted more exploration of the ways other communities had done things and the meanings of different choices. There simply wasn’t time to have those kinds of discussions while we were trying to get through all of the practical details and decisions involved in beginning construction.

But I’m an anthropologist (specifically, an anthropologist of education) and I am trained to ask “how do other groups do these things?” and “what is the effect on our culture of doing things this way or that way?”

Covid provided me with an unexpected opportunity once my community started paying for a zoom account.  I proposed a meeting of those interested in getting together to discuss ideas about what we were doing and was delighted when a number of people (I think maybe seven) showed up.  That was back in May 2020.

I thought we’d meet every month or so.  But enthusiasm has been steady enough that we have met over zoom every other Sunday afternoon since then – eight months.  I got a bit of pushback when I scheduled an extra week off between meetings over the holidays!

We started with the rich materials offered on the cohousing.org website. The archive of webchats there took us into discussion of cooperative culture, participation, high structure/low structure, personal growth, conflict  – you get the idea.  Seriously, these webchats are a treasure trove, and the opportunity to listen to a number of different people, from consultants to cohousing members, was transformative for us.

While we were able to mine this resource, my job consisted mostly of vetting webchats to choose those best suited to our circumstances.  We also signed up for one of the cohousing.org conferences, “The Heart of Community,” as a community, and have used some of the presentations from that collection as well.

I also drew on the *Communities Magazine* archive to supplement the webchats.  These short articles were very useful in terms of providing alternate perspectives.  Once we gained familiarity with the people who commonly contributed to the webchats, I began to venture even further.  We now regularly turn to the presentations of Intentional Communities as well.

As a university professor, I’m well aware of the dangers of selecting materials for a group to read and discuss without actually knowing what’s in those materials!  Not to pat myself on the back (excessively), I think that one of the things that has made the group work has been the time I’ve put into finding the right materials to discuss for the topics my group is interested in discussing.  Some webchats and ic.org presentations are simply better than others.  And since we are in Canada, some of the nuts and bolts presentations about taxation and other issues aren’t relevant to us.

My job has gotten harder as time has gone by.  It’s a challenge to sort through the archive of cohousing-l to put together a variety of well-stated points of view on different topics.  It’s likewise a challenge to sort through the archive of *Communities* articles since they are searchable by title and author but not by content.  

I’ve been surprised to see that interest in these discussions has continued to be strong for eight months.  We had one meeting with only four members in attendance, but we usually run seven to ten.  I’d say about a quarter of the membership regularly participates.  We are sad that our many families with young children aren’t able to join us, but we haven’t found a way to make it more accessible to them.

I do see the effect of these groups in our larger community even though not everyone attends.  We regularly use terms from the talks in our all-membership meetings and I think the knowledge of the smaller group is transferring to the larger group.  We also have members who now tape shorter or longer presentations as educational tools within the community.

Allison

Driftwood Village Cohousing

North Vancouver

(In construction, move-in summer 2021)

Category: Creating Relationships

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