cohousing , life in community

26 women, aged 50-87, the Older Women’s Cohousing group, will this week take possession of a block of 25 newly built flats in Union Street, High Barnet. Together they will form a self-managing community, based on the shared values of neighbourliness and mutual support. A mix of home-owners and social renters, they want to act as a demonstration project to encourage other older people to plan their later lives and develop similar initiatives.

Having lived mostly alone all over London and beyond, these independent minded women have met regularly to develop their own mini-neighbourhood in High Barnet, design their building and plan their future together. Some OWCH members are still working and others have long retired – many from the public sector. Aware that advancing old age can mean increased frailty and possible isolation and loneliness, they have joined forces to plan ahead. Most of all, they want to stay in charge of their own lives. They also want a lively mix of sociability and shared activity plus clear boundaries for personal space and a private life. They intend to look out for each other and share resources as well as reach out to their locality. One of the earliest actions they plan is to invite the whole street in for coffee to see the building that has been under construction, causing inconvenience for a considerable time. They intend to enjoy becoming known as the pioneers of the country’s first ever senior cohousing community, establishing here what has been a feature of Dutch and Scandinavian life for decades. More here,

cohousing , in the media

College Students in the GO Kitchen

art , cohousing , life in community , news

Congratulations to Ted who had his photograph of the Great Oak West node featured as part of The View From Your Window — click on the picture below to see the feature.


cohousing , life in community

Parenting is a complex, difficult and harshly judged affair. Being a new parent is to be full of self-doubt and anxiety (at least it was for me). I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement for parenting in cohousing than this cheeky article:

My idea of childcare is a large field. At one side is a marquee
serving local ales. This is where the parents gather. On the other
side, somewhere in the distance, the children play. I don’t
bother them and they don’t bother me. I give them as much
freedom as possible.

Maybe cohousing isn’t all that in the specifics, but Great Oak (apart from the darkest and coldest winter stretches) is certainly about as close to that that I’ve seen in my, admittedly limited, parenting years.

art , cohousing , life in community , music , news , performances

Great Oak just celebrated its 5th anniversary with a fabulous talent show and party!

Great Oak 2007 Anniversary

We  had music, dancing, snakes, dragons, grape-hoarding, band-name unveiling, storytelling, stage-shyness, anti-art and much, much more!

cohousing , labor , life in community , meals , news

To do the work required to run the community, Great Oak depends on its members and their labor. Tasks range from maintaing the buildings and infrastructure of 37 units, to facilitating meetings to mowing grass and plowing snow. Unlike many cohousing communities, the tasks required to run the Great Oak meal program is a major part of the general work program. Meal jobs represent around 50% of the work hours.

Shovelling a pile wood chips mowing the lawn with some help

This being Michigan, the seasonal extremes mean that we have different jobs at different times of year. This winter (2006-7), we have a list of 88 different jobs representing 468 hours. Some jobs have multiple positions, and some people opt to perform multiple shifts of certain jobs. Since the list of tasks vary by season and workers like variety and change, we rotate jobs a few times a year. We also have community work days a few times a year to do those tasks that require many people at once and can be done en masse.
A general description of the Great Oak Work system that was posted to the Cohousing-L mailing list has details about our periodic work surveys and how we allocate work based on the preferences expressed on the survey.

work day Common House painting snow shovelling with the Great Oak truck

As listed in this other recent Cohousing-L message the most desired jobs for this upcoming work season were (the number represents the weighted “average” preference):

  • 42 – meal cleaner once a month
  • 27 – weekday meal assistant cook
  • 26 – light duty snow shoveller
  • 24 – sunday meal assistant cook
  • 23 – meal cleaner two times a month
  • 23 – Common House sitting and guest room cleaner
  • 18 – Common House laundry room cleaner
  • 17 – meals billing person
  • 16 – weekday meal head cook
  • 11 – sunday meal head cook

and the least desired jobs were:

  • -88 – community meeting childcare
  • -87 – Buildings committee steering rep
  • -87 – Buildings committee convener
  • -87 – Weekday head cook three times per month
  • -87 – Lilacc (Little Lake cohousing committee) committee rep

This system has been in place for almost 3 years, over 600 meals, 2 community meetings per month, many committee meetings and thousands of hours of constructive labor. So far, we haven’t found a better way, but the work committee is always fine tuning and balancing the needs of the community with those of the busy and varied individuals who comprise it. The number of workers has been pretty consistent at around 60 adults, though the load per adult varies, with the goal always to maximize the happiness of all!
Below is the complete list of jobs, sorted by committee. Listed is also the hours per month on average someone doing the job can expect to spend and the number of positions available.

committee Job hours per month positions
buildings Buildings Committee convener 2.00 1
buildings Buildings Maintenance Worker 2.00 3
buildings Buldings maintenance coordinator 2.00 1
buildings Counted member (buildings) 2.00 2
buildings Steering Rep (buildings) 1.00 1
common house Bike Shed Maintenance 1.00 1
common house CH Committee convener 3.00 1
common house CH Decorator 1.00 1
common house CH Hottub and Hobart (dish-sanitizer) maintainer 1.00 1
common house CH Night Lockup 2.00 2
common house CH bathrooms cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH bathrooms spot cleaner 1.00 1
common house CH clean-up coordinator 1.00 1
common house CH dining room cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH game and media rooms cleaner 1.00 1
common house CH halls and common areas cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH inventory/shopper 4.00 1
common house CH kids room cleaner 2.00 1
common house CH kitchen cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH laundry room cleaner 2.00 1
common house CH maintenance coordinator 3.00 1
common house CH sitting and guest room cleaner 1.00 1
common house Counted member (common house) 2.00 2
common house Kids room coordinator 2.00 1
common house Steering Rep (common house) 1.00 1
finance and legal Bookkeeper assistant – Check Writer 3.00 1
finance and legal Counted member (finance and legal) 2.00 2
finance and legal Finance and legal committee convener 2.00 1
finance and legal Insurance point person 1.00 1
finance and legal Steering Rep (finance and legal) 1.00 1
finance and legal bookeeper assistant – Member Bookkeeper 4.00 1
finance and legal bookkeeper assistant – Check Depositor 2.00 1
finance and legal bookkeeper assistant – Check Logger 2.00 1
finance and legal general bookkeeper 6.00 1
grounds Counted member (grounds) 2.00 2
grounds Heavy-duty shoveller 3.00 3
grounds Light-duty shoveller 2.00 6
grounds Snow and Ice Removal Coordinator 3.00 1
grounds Snow plowers 4.00 4
grounds Steering Rep (grounds) 1.00 1
grounds Tractor (Snow plower) 3.00 1
grounds grounds committee convener 3.00 1
grounds point person for garbage and recycling 2.00 1
meals Counted member (meals) 2.00 2
meals Meal cleaner 1.50 52
meals Meal cleaner 2 times per month 1.50  
meals Meal cleaner 3 times per month 1.50  
meals Meal committee convener 2.00 1
meals Meals Scheduling Person 4.00 1
meals Meals billing person 2.50 2
meals Meals billing tech 1.00 1
meals Meeting Night cleaner 2.00 2
meals Meeting Night takeout orderer 1.00 2
meals Steering Rep (meals) 1.00 1
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 2.00 8
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 2 times per month 2.00  
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 3 times per month 2.00  
meals Sunday Meal head cook 4.00 4
meals Sunday Meal head cook 2 times per month 4.00  
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 2.00 27
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 2 times per month 2.00  
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 3 times per month 2.00  
meals Weekday Meal head cook 4.00 14
meals Weekday Meal head cook 2 times per month 4.00  
meals Weekday Meal head cook 3 times per month 4.00  
membership Counted member (membership) 2.00 2
membership Fun coordinator 1.00 1
membership New member handbook 2.00 1
membership Steering Rep (membership) 1.00 1
membership child care coordinator for community meetings 2.00 1
membership community meeting childcare 1.00 6
membership member database maintenance 1.00 1
membership membership commitee convener 3.00 1
membership outreach/contact 2.00 1
membership outreach/marketing 2.00 1
membership website hosting and backend maintenance 2.00 1
membership website maintenance 2.00 1
process Book of agreements content entry 1.00 1
process Community Reporter 2.00 1
process Conflict Resolution committee Co-Convener 1.00 3
process Counted member (process) 2.00 2
process Info committee convener 2.00 1
process LiLaCC Convener 1.00 1
process Steering Rep (process) 1.00 1
process agenda planning for community mtgs 2.00 1
process archivist and bulletin boards 1.00 1
process facilitate community meeting 2 times per season 2.00 8
process minute taker for community meeting 2 times per season 1.00 4
process process committee convener 2.00 1
steering Steering convener 2.00 1
tech GO-Net Administrator 2.00 2
tech GO-Net biller 1.00 1
work Counted member (work) 2.00 2
work Steering Rep (work) 1.00 1
work community work coordinator 3.00 1
work work allocation tech 1.00 1
work work survey tech 1.00 1
cohousing , news

Although considering and choosing a community and then living the reality of Cohousing in one is likely an enriching, complex and difficult process, it might help you to know some of the resources that can help. Living in Cohousing is a learning process and so constant re-evaluation is the norm! To get an overview of the range of intentional communities around the world, is invaluable, and in particular, if Cohousing interests you, make sure you know about and the Cohousing-L email list.

Of particular interest might be the article, Is cohousing right for you? on the website and the similar list of questions in a Cohousing-L posting entitled People who are considering cohousing may want to ask themselves some questions. A diverse range of people live in cohousing, some are just starting out, some are old-hands, but everyone is learning how to live in community — even some brave introverts!

No, we’re not all gregarious and extroverted, and there is a huge variety of personalities that live in Cohousing, and that is the richness and challenge.