Rhizome reviewed – "Decisions, decisions, decisions"

HCP_houses_AWe usually invite those we work with to write a post for this blog. They don’t always find the time. But the folk at Hackney Cohousing Project have reflected on the work Perry and I did with them back in March on their own blog. I’ve pasted it below for ease:

“As an informal group of people working on a very technically detailed project, we’ve realised that in the absence of a clear set of corporate-style organisational processes, we needed to establish a way of working together that would help us make decisions efficiently. And make those decisions in a way that upheld our principles and values.

Not entirely sure of what we needed, we spoke to a number of professional trainers and initially found it hard to identify the right kind of support. They tended to be either really strong on particular tools, but with little experience of working with cohousing or cooperative groups, or to avoid tools altogether and emphasise process instead.

As a group we wanted the reassurance of input based on specific tools from trainers with experience of working with cooperative groups. And then we were introduced to Rhizome, an organisation that offer training and support to cooperatives.

Our trainers, Mathew and Perry offered both specific tools and a background in working with co-housing projects. With Perry and Mathew, we agreed a training outline that spanned Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. The planned activities intended to reconnect us as a group to our core principles, build greater understanding of how we engaged in decision-making as individuals and how to work together as a group.

The training gave us the following insights :

1. Spending time together as a group is important. It helps build relationships that are the bedrock of working together in a cohousing community.

2. Approach decisions with a clear sense of what final decision needs to be made.

3. Understanding that decision making has a process. i.e it is a space to check in with ‘outliers’ with dissenting views and recognising that every complex decision will involve a ‘groan zone’. This is where the full range of perspectives make it feel like a conclusion is impossible, but trusting that underneath the sometimes wildly divergent positions that people take, are often reconcilable needs that can be met.

4. The importance of making decisions that are guided by values and vision of the project. And making sure that everyone is aware of the values and principles on which the whole endeavour is founded.

5. Finally, recognising that even where there is a nominated chair, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that everyone can contribute, especially those that are often silent or marginalised.

The day itself was a fun mix of activities, discussion, peer learning and structured teaching. The group as a whole felt that it had really contributed to strengthening the way we worked together. A few weeks later we had to approach difficult financial discussions and we were able to move through the process of making some really quite important decisions far quicker and smoothly than in the past.

We’ve now started to incorporate the lessons that we’ve learnt, though we know that it will always take practice and effort. We also recognise that one of the most important aspects to working well together as a group, is the strengths of relationships that we have.

So, we’ve decided to spend a lot more time together, doing what we do best. If you want to join us, you’ll find us in the pub!”