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Sharing the knowledge base

February 16, 2007

If you are interested in cohousing, you are probably already aware of the Cohousing-L e-mail list. (If not, go subscribe now!) I’ve been a member for less than a year, but even in that short time I’ve noticed many requests from individuals and groups asking for samples and examples of existing cohousing groups’ documentation; CC&Rs, by-laws, house rules, membership approval procedures, and the like. So when someone mentioned that it would be a good idea to gather all such documents in one place, I wholeheartedly agreed, and volutneered to do something about it.

The motivation behind my actions aren’t totally altruistic – I have a vested interest in such a project. I’m actively trying to get Laurel Creek Commons up and running myself, and right now we have no documentation or structure of any sort. That puts a bit of a damper on actually doing anything. (We may be adopting a very large part of our documentation from the Ecovillage at Ithaca, as one of our members was past president of FROG, making her very familiar with their documentation, structure, operations, and so on.)

As someone on the Cohousing-L list wrote, cohousing is not a new phenomenon anymore. It has been in North America for decades, and longer in Europe. So why is it that new cohousing groups always start from first principles, and work everything through by themselves? That seems like an awful lot of effort that could be put into tougher decisions. There is a huge base of knowledge out there, with many cohousing developments in operation. Let’s tap that reservoir of knowledge and put new groups on the fast track to success.

Thus, I’ve been talking and e-mailing with a lot of people to figure out how to do this, and where on the web to put it, and it looks like all the stars are pointing to wiki.cohousing.org, which was just created yesterday for this purpose. Instead of just being a document library, however, it will serve to be the Wikipedia of cohousing, which will include all sorts of documentation to help new groups get started.

As we’ll be going with a wiki model, that means that my job just got a heck of a lot easier. Now instead of all the documentation flowing through me, individuals and groups can submit their documents all by themselves, and I can simply be a resource to help those that are having trouble (or simply don’t want to learn the ins and outs of a Mediawiki site).

This is going to be so much fun – I get to literally watch a brand-new wiki start from nothing and grow. I have no delusions that it’s going to ever get to rival Wikipedia in scope and depth, but in terms of cohousing I bet it’s eventually going to be THE resource. I’m so excited.

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