Tracy at the NE Cohousing Summit

What follows are Tracy’s notes from a presentation she gave in Peterborough about what she learned from the Northeast Cohousing Summit in Amherst, Mass. on the weekend of September 21-23 2018


Marketing and Relationships

I was recently explaining to family my involvement with cohousing. When describing the idea one family member nodded and said, “oh yes, I see, we have the same thing on our dead end street – we share things like lights standards and front lawns”.

But it is so much more and this quote sums it up… “It is the human experience that makes cohousing different from the cul-de-sac”

Icebreakers start conversations and are key to building relationships

Connects people – what we have in common

Draws out people’s characteristics,

Highlights who you are.

Provides insight as to whether or not cohousing is a good fit for you.

An example icebreaker – we were asked to tell:

Your name

Your maternal grandmother’s first and last name

What type of house you lived previous to the one you are in now?

After hearing everyone’s answer we began to feel at ease and the conversations blossomed “Really? my aunt was from XXX too”, “I lived there!”

What we have in common leads to answer the questions “Who you would like as your neighbours?”,“What are their goals?” , “What are their challenges?”

But it is so much more

“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?” – Alan O’Hashi

Pick a few words that resonate with the those we want to market to, In a few seconds you can get a feel for the community: The ‘what if’ statement

“What if compost making chicken keepers formed a neighborhood for the common good, creating resilience and connections together.”

“What if a few passionate souls bring back a historic site by attracting 110 creative people to live in a like minded cohousing community.”

Use jargon that is used in the community that you want to attract

modern tribal village

the new old fashioned neighbourhood


the Coop – Roosters Welcome

The biggest barrier is ourselves; conflicts and group decisions

Tell your story like it is a classic movie

Story logline or premise

The protagonists – who would you like as your neighbours

What are their goals? Challenges?


What does “sustainability” really mean?

the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level or avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance

Alternative – specifically “fresh seasonal vegetables steps away from your door”, “limit use of cars”

What does “affordability” really mean?

Poor connotations – low income housing

Alternative – “financially flexible” or “community supported housing”

What does “great value” mean?

Not just the cost/ownership of the house

Alternative –


Who are the core members and what is their passion for cohousing? (sometimes referred to as “burning souls” what are their characteristics?

“A few burning souls preserve an historic site”

Pick words that resonate with the fuzzy boundaries of these criteria. Narrow but welcoming. Not using the word cohousing

Neighbourly engaged

Committed to being helpful to one another

“A new old fashioned neighbourhood

“A lovely garden salad; each ingredient is different on its own”

Functional family

Neighbourhoods supporting each other

Address challenges as “what if statements” and make intentions known clearly

“What if a few ‘burning souls’ bring back a historic site by attracting 110 creative thinking people to live in a like minded community.”

Use jargon that is used in the community that you want to attract

“Modern tribal village”

Show concept of change – how cohousing can change personal perspective

Shared and cared



Living Business Plan

Premise: Vision Mission “what if…”

Core Business

Strengths Challenges, Opportunities, market analysis

How to get the story out there

Marketing Public Relations (MPR)

Marketing – define the niche of people

Public Relations – creating a positive image to the public, resonates with the people you want to attract


how to link with other organizations for market support in the community

Are there business in the area that we can link with for positive reaction/visuals

MPR and the RACE formula

Race = Research, Action, Communication, Evaluate

Website structure:

Advertisement – 3 second hook

Home page – 1 page, with link to sections and photos of people

Sections – the details, based on themes

Social media

More than just facebook

How To Tell Your Community Story – Friday Pre-Conference Intensive with Alan O’Hashi

Alan O’Hashi, MPA, resides in Silver Sage Village cohousing in Boulder, CO and is a documentary filmmaker, screenwriter and seasoned storyteller. His latest, “The New Deal Artist Public Art Legacy just aired on Wyoming PBS. He’s developing the Lincoln Court Mixed Use Intentional Community in Cheyenne, Wyoming.



Are you starting a cohousing community and want to know where to start? Some will say tie up the land first, which is true. Some will say have a meeting to get people interested, which is true. Some will say, get an architect, which is true.

We’re here to tell you that overlaying the mechanics of cohousing, is a “story.” It’s about coming up with a good story that grabs the imagination. As a storytelling case study, we’ll use the intentional creative West End Neighborhood in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We’ll start out with a primer in storytelling and how to push out your story to a particular audience.

COHOUSER (musing with a smirk) Oh, that’s nothing…anyone can write, Why do I need to pay $65 to write and use facebook?

We all like a good book or movie, but the reason your imaginations are captured and attention paid to the action on the big screen or on the written page is because of the story – there are good ones and not so good ones.

The same holds true when you’re attracting people to be interested in joining your cohousing community – what’s your catch?

You’ll learn how to structure your story – what is the premise; how does your story start in Act I? What happens in Act II? How does your story end in Act III?

You’ll put your pen to pad or your fingers to keyboard and begin outlining your community story – writing it from the inside out.

We’ll help you craft your “elevator speech” summarizing your story so it is quickly understandable and then provide you some low / no cost ways you can get your information out there to your targeted market through online media.

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. We’ll outline tools and best practices for finding your future neighbors via your website, newsletter, facebook, twitter and Meetup pages, as well as Coho/US’s resources.

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?

My teaching approach appeal to all learning styles – auditory, visual and hands-on, so there will be plenty of activity and film clips to go along with our talking heads.