7 steps to getting started
Getting Started: The first 7 steps
Some elements to consider working on in the first months you spend together. This assumes you have a core group of at least 2-3 households.
This should define the intentions and directions of the community. It needs to clearly state what you hope to achieve as a group. Give it to every future member. For more info see Setting community goals and values in a vision statement.
You need to answer the following questions:
- Who are members? What is the process and qualifications to become a member?
- How are decisions made? Who gets to make them?
- How will meetings be run? Who gets to talk, when?
- How will conflicts be handled/resolved? When we don’t agree how will we work it out?
- How will records be kept?
- How will new members be brought up to speed?
For more info see Group Decision and Communications Process.
You should have answers to the following questions:
- How will expenses get paid?
- Who will keep records of what has been paid?
- Is there a membership fee? How much?
- Will payments be refunded? If so, how?
For more info see Dealing with start-up money.
There are many different legal structures that can be used for an intentional community. For complex community development projects, such as is often the case for cohousing, it is common for more than one legal structure to exist as the community and project goes through different phases. It costs very little to incorporate, which offers you some protection of your personal assets. Being incorporated also lends legitimacy to your organization in the eyes of banks and other agencies. For more info see Legal.
Based on the decisions made in Group decision and communications process, write them down as part of the bylaws for your organization. These will be changed several times as you evolve your group and the ways it operates - the purpose is to write down your agreements NOW so you don’t forget them. You need to create a record which you (and those who have yet to arrive) can refer to. Hopefully, the newcomers won't point out too many inconsistencies between what you agreed to do and what you actually do.
Once you incorporate you will be able to get a tax ID number and a corporate bank account. Use this for all expenditures and put someone responsible in charge of keeping track. Remember, once you start spending peoples money you are a legal entity in the eyes of the courts and the tax man. Lots of communities have gotten in trouble from bad accounting. For more info see Community bank accounts.
7. Collect Assessments from Members
Start with a small sum, like $20 a month. Along with an initial $100 investment this will identify those who are committed and also painlessly raise some startup capital for mailing, legal paperwork, advertising, etc.
Cohousing Magazine - a free, monthly electronic newsletter for, of and about cohousing published by Coho/US. It is always available online, but if you complete this free sign up you'll always be kept up to date AND the Coho/US organization will be able to help connect with you for other good reasons, e.g. a new cohousing project starting in your area, local workshops, etc.
Communities Magazine: Journal of Cooperative Living is published by the Fellowship for Intentional Community, recent issues focus on leadership, community updates, women in community. An excellent forum of communities, for communities, by communities. Quarterly, $20 yr. Back issues available. Communities magazine FIC 138-CM Twin Oaks Rd. Louisa, VA 23093 phone 800-462-8240
Creating a Life Together, by Diana Leafe Christian. Book.
This started as an article by Rob Sandelin, distributed in various forms and published online by NICA. Rob gave permission to post it here, knowing that it may morph into something new as we "wiki" it...