In August we organised a two day visioning workshop. On one of the hottest weekends of the year it tested our commitment to the full. Like most groups in their development phase our regular monthly meetings are pretty much filled up with business matters, as well as welcoming and informing new people seeking to know if our cohousing scheme is right for them. There’s never enough time to chill and talk.
We organised the workshop as an opportunity to break out of the routine, meet each other in a different way and get talking.
With an external facilitator, we started off by building up a picture of what we are seeking to realise through Cohousing Woodside, what could help us achieve it and what could stop us getting there. We were invited to close our eyes and visualise what we want to see in place in 4 years’ time. What sort of group would we like it to be? What do we want from it? What do we want to give to it? Common threads included a community with ‘a smile and say hello culture’, ‘more than just friendly neighbours’; ‘mutual support’; ‘shared activities’. We want a community that relates to the surrounding area rather than keeps to itself, a group that is diverse, inclusive and fair in our dealings with people.
As we talked it became clear that we share a fair amount of excitement at the challenge ahead, at the thought of a new beginning in new surroundings and stimuli. We are looking for ‘a loose, friendly set-up’ where everyone plays whatever part they can offer, living sustainably and ethically and getting the right balance between privacy and communal life. We want fun, parties and shared interests.
What worries us, besides the costs, which we don’t yet know, are the possibility of ‘too much group-think’ or ‘people joining us for the housing rather than our cohousing ethos’. There was an awareness that focussing on inevitable anxieties may even be preventing us from enjoying the journey we are on together now.
Our next step has been our ‘Come dine with me’ initiative. This is where members organise get-togethers over a meal for a few of the group at a time, in their own homes or away, so that we get to know each other better. Other roll-up-our-sleeves opportunities are small task-group meetings. They are beginning to address various aspects of our future life, like car-sharing, or how we equip the Common House.
The workshop has helped us organise ourselves to make this inclusive, participative community work. There is much to do. The developer is poised to start the marketing phase of what is now rebranded ‘Woodside Square’ in Muswell Hill and we ourselves are poised to contribute an understanding of cohousing to the process.
Cohousing Woodside is actively seeking new members to come and join us. Our group-building process was given a shot in the arm through the workshop and we now feel we know each other better. It is an ongoing process, of course. It must welcome and embrace new members as they arrive, catch them up and help them feel at home in the group. It must also sustain itself into the reality of living together in Cohousing Woodside come spring 2017.