On the first weekend of June, twenty-two cohousers from Haystack Heights attended the National Cohousing Conference in Portland, Oregon. It was a sold-out event that also offered two pre-conference days (if a very full weekend wasn’t already enough to fill hearts and minds). From the feedback of our group, plenty was gleaned from speakers, workshops and tours of the cohousing communities in Portland.
The theme of this year’s conference was Community For The Health Of It, highlighting cohousing as an antidote to the epidemic of loneliness here in the US and abroad. Helen Jarvis, whose research was one of many bundled into the United Kingdom’s appointment of a Minister of Loneliness in 2018, was the opening speaker. Learning and workshop tracks were available for all stages of cohousing from planning a cohousing to issues relevant to already mature communities.
Many “Haystackers” participated in one or more of the workshops on conflict, power, leadership, and facilitation. Laird Schaub, who has lived in an intentional community for forty-one years and is Executive Secretary of the Foundation for Intentional Community, was a favorite among all. Some of the take-aways from his presentations were: a community needs to have a system to deal with feelings in order to acknowledge and defuse conflict; leaders need support and self-evaluation tools and term limits need to be in place; a community needs to continue to build an evolving shared vision so that later-joiners do not feel like 2nd-class citizens; communities should schedule a retreat away from their home yearly to help one and all recommit to the group’s values. Some Haystackers attended forums on diversity, classism and racism. One takeaway from those forums is that these issues should be transparent, and ongoing discussions should provide a safe space for everyone to be heard.
Our group learned some practical tips such as the use of a web-based subscription service software called “Gather” to organize internal jobs and more; people are quite happy with induction stoves; rainwater collection is a good idea; experiments are in process at some cohousings for work equity for those unable to put in their time; cohousing communities need to have a line-item budget for on-going workshops and speakers to maintain community harmony.
Abbey Roose, on our Construction Interface Team, said that the conference organizers allowed plenty of time for coffee breaks and networking. She says that it was almost impossible not to meet people getting from one session to the next. From meeting so many fabulous and enthusiastic cohousers (and a very full plate of offerings starting at 6am yoga, ten sessions each morning and each afternoon to choose from as well as keynote speeches), she came away with a rosy glow.
Watch Grace Kim’s Ted Talk on Loneliness. Ms. Kim co-chaired the 2019 cohousing conference.