In Home and Family

When to Review Policies

Q: How can a developing cohousing community protect itself from a member who joins and immediately wants to review all the policies?

A:This is can be very difficult for forming groups, but it doesn’t’ stop once you are moved in. Almost every new member will immediately want to start redesigning the community as soon as they have their boxes unpacked. Often they have good ideas and bring new energy, but more often they are re-walking the same paths that the group has already spent months or years walking.

A good practice is to assign a buddy to new members so they can ask questions and make suggestions to their buddy before or without presenting them to the whole group. The buddy needs to be someone who can spend the time required to explain why a particular policy is a policy

 Since forming communities are adding new members very quickly (one hopes) this is a much bigger problem than in mature communities, because it occurs more frequently and there are fewer “old” members who can serve as buddies. In forming groups, it is essential to keep moving forward, not running in place or going backwards.

One protection from constant review is to have an agreement, a policy, that states that members who join the community do so accepting all the policies that are in place when they join. This should be in the bylaws because it will continue to be an issue as long as the community exists.

If the community is so new that you don’t have bylaws, write a membership agreement. The membership agreement should include the aim of the group and the acceptance of the policies in place. The person should receive a copy of all the policies and sign the Membership Agreement. (Keep the agreement in a safe place and review it from .)

Policies are reviewed for specific reasons. Reviews are triggered by new information related to the aim of the policy, or in a regular review of policies, like once a year. If the policy is that the group is forming a rural community with land for small farming by individual households, then “new information” might be that land is available but close to a city or the failure to find appropriate land after looking for 3 years.

Policies should state clear aims and a rationale, and be based on specific data if appropriate. If this is done, then it is easy to go back and say well, nothing has changed that requires a review.

The presence of another person in the room rarely changes the aims of the policy or constitutes new information.

Being inclusive and welcoming is important but if you welcome all opinions and all requests, your ability to accomplish your aim can be affected.

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