Starting a project
Getting one started whats involved--an overview.
A couple of people with a vision and a bunch of time to
spare can be a suitable catalyst for a project's conception. In fact there
are very good reasons to start small.
The clearer the stake in the sand, then the more in tune
people that later join are going to be. Obviously that vision cannot encompass
every single detail of the project as many things jell as it progresses,
but if the basics are covered then this will help avoid the group splintering
In hindsight there are a number of tasks that are better
accomplished early on when the group is small. Then the group can grow
in a timely manner to tackle the tasks ahead.
The following is a list of important early tasks.
1. Realize the magnitude of the task
Get clear that you are about to become something akin to
a property developer, and that likely as not you are not trained or experienced
as such. You are also going to be making these nice big complex decisions
as a community, also something you are not likely to be able to do
You are treading new ground, allow time, patience and prepare to learn
a lot, both about human settlements and about yourself.
2. Defining the vision of the 'village'
3. Establish processes
aligning with parts of predefined visions, eg cohousing, co-op
getting clear (and realistic) about location, urban/rural,
size, legal / title type, environmental aspects, degree of privacy vs community,
any philosophical alignments
the development process, do it yourself or developer led
write a vision statement, and description so it is accessible
4. Establish effective membership procedure
meetings procedures?, facilitation? (get some training),
consensus?, rituals, communication agreements, conflict resolution tools
praise, praise, praise, handle criticism very carefully
talk about money early on, there is a tendancy to avoid money
as a subject, but it is a measure of the groups realism to ba able to do
rules for spending group money
write these all down , and print an info package, it'll save
you a lot of questions
remember to have fun, food, songs, games and outings.
don't reinvent the wheel, draw on other groups
Hanson, McCamant, Norwood, Gillman are all expensive but
5. Now it is time to think about the groups growth
this is impt to avoid newcomers continually slowing the project.
Also people need to know what they are getting into before they will be
willing to join.
the best way we found was to hold regular or ad hoc orientation
evenings followed by attending 2 meetings as an observer. At this time
a membership fee is paid (say $100) and an initial organizing agreement
signed which ritualized the above agreements.
6. Assemble a team
plan and prepare to grow, as it can be a little unsettling
grow when the project needs to, ie need money and/or energy
to work on project. Waves of growth work well
get very business like about promotion strategies to find
cost effective marketing tools
establish subcommittees or task groups to tackle the work
get clear what the task group relationship is and good process
for giving feedback
get one thing straight, you cant do this without employing
the appropriate professionals. Groups will likely have a strong DIY attitude
which will hinder the groups progress. Now is the time to make connections
with lawyers, development/ financial consultants and architects. These
people are essential to a projects success and you are not in a position
to even look at land until this team is together. This is really important,
development is a complex industry. They are not as wicked as we often seem
Once this far, and with land optioned a group is pretty much
assured of success. I think it would be fair to say that the secret lies
in the ground work. And remember that the way that it is gone about is
as important as what you do, so enjoy the ride.
Author: Peter Scott WENCP 1998
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