A visit to the Northeast Cohousing Summit

Six of our members attended the Northeast Cohousing Summit in Amherst Massachusetts from September 21-23, 2018 and they returned with lots of new ideas gathered from the conference sessions and cohousing community tours, and especially from the full and half day intensive workshops. Below you can find some of their detailed reports on the sessions they attended, as well as video introduction with an overview of what they learned, which was presented at an open house at Activity Haven in Peterborough on October 14th.

Aukje, Kris, Scott, Miriam, Pete and Tracy

What follows is a summary of each of the presentations, in which each one of the attendees had two minutes to sum up the main points they took away from the summit, with a link to a longer version of what they heard and/or learned from the event:

KRIS: “For cohousing to succeed, the relationships between members has to work. Whether during business meetings or in everyday interactions, it is important for the group to commit the time and effort, have the willingness to engage, and employ facilitation tools to help build and maintain those relationships.” (More)

PETE: “Community needs to be baked into the very nuts and bolts of the cohousing, from the design choices made in common at the beginning that encourage meetings on paths, hanging out on porches together, to working together to rake up the fall leaves, to a common house that meets the needs of the diverse members.” (More)

TRACY: “The human experience makes cohousing different from the cul-de-sac. Your “elevator speech” [1-2 sentences] summarizes your story so it is quickly understandable. Having a compelling online media presence is increasingly important. It’s crucial to outline who you hope to attract to your community, so your message reflects that using tools and best practices for finding your future neighbours via your website, newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and Meetup pages. This involves telling not just the “how” of cohousing but also the “why”. Why is this lifestyle for me? What benefits will cohousing bring to my life – whether I’m a pro-active senior, young family or single person seeking more community in my life?” (More)

AUKJE: “Cohousing needs a governance system that is effective, efficient and egalitarian. Relationships are important for cohousing to work and to be satisfying. Sociocracy provides a way to have everyone’s needs matter while at the same time being efficient and getting things done. Sociocracy uses power with, rather than power over.” (More)

MIRIAM: “It has been my experience through 40+ years of community living, that the act of caring for each-other through food is what bonds / keeps us together in community.”
— Lindsay McLaughlin, long time cohousing resident (More)

SCOTT: “Two design workshops presented by Amherst-based cohousing architects Mary Kraus & Laura Fitch. Site Design established common parameters on positioning the common house, typical grouping relationships based on density and location, parking, and identifying opportunities for social exchange. Similarly, Common house design reviewed best practices in design with respect to necessary spaces and amenities and relationships to site and the community. Both workshops used hands-on design charrettes such that participants feel part of the process. Kraus and Fitch both offer design services and consulting to cohousing groups.”

Here’s a video with the introductory presentations from each of the attendees, from the open house that was held at Activity Haven in Peterborough, which 22 people attended: