1. Develop your group so that it is an effective size
Not too small, not too big. At this stage you want a group where everyone is actively involved, probably around 5 – 10 people. For now, recruit through your networks rather than by big public meetings.
2. Give your project a name.
3. Do your research
Find out about cohousing generally but also about other issues which may matter – sustainable design, involving a social landlord, what works in the commonhouse, environmentally sustainable building materials, different forms of tenure, consensus decision making (see part two of this toolkit – Building community). If you can, visit other projects (not just cohousing projects but any other developments which share some of your values).
4. Establish a “manifesto”
The things which will really matter about your cohousing community. These things are bottom line values. Include a realistic view of the mix of tenures. Try to avoid including “nice to have” elements which may distract from your core purpose.
5. Organise yourselves.
How will you organise meetings? Where will you hold them? Who will chair them and take minutes? What approach will you use to decision making? How will you file your minutes and keep track of decisions? How will you cover expenses and who will manage such money as you have? Will you need childcare – how will that be organised/paid for? Do you need any training? How will you communicate between meetings?
6. Become expert on the context
Understand local planning priorities, processes and issues; know what programmes the Government has or is planning on everything from empty homes to renewable energy to car sharing to social enterprise to playgrounds; investigate grant schemes (again it all helps – anything from support to develop your business plan to subsidy for building lifetime homes). Understand VAT .
7. Set up a basic website.
Everyone,from potential funders to potential members will expect one. Find out about using Facebook and Twitter. both can be brilliant tools for building a presence and recruiting members. Make sure, if you are a member of the Network that you have a completed profile listed in the Groups pages of this website
8. Decide on a legal structure
Are you going to be a company? A CIC ? A mutual organisation? In doing this, you will need to formalise your decision making process – see below.
9. Set up a bank account.
- Articles (from US) http://www.ic.org/pnp/cdir/2000/20diana.php -good on the whole early process and the human side of things
- http://wiki.ic.org/wiki/Starting_a_community - a comprehensive collection of resources for this stage–but again from the US.
Books (mainly from the US, but available in the UK)
- Low Impact Living; A field Guide to ecological, affordable community buuilding. Paul Chatterton. 2014.
- The Cohousing Handbook: Building a Place for Community. Kelly Scott- Hansen. 2005.
- Cohousing – McCamant and Durrett. 1998
- Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities. Diana L. Christian. 2003.
UK Cohousing courses
See the 'Visit Cohousing' pages of this website for up to date listings of open days and courses.
Resources about running groups
There is an extensive range of books and online materials about the business of setting up and running community groups. Many areas have a CVS (Council for Voluntary Service) which often offer online materials or access to a library of useful resources. NAVCA has a directory http://www.navca.org.uk/
http://seedsforchange.org.uk/free/resources - a really useful collection of resources, listed initially here for the materials about meetings but we will return to this site for a range of other resources.