Cohousing: Better Governance

The view of the front of the Pioneer Valley Cohousing Community

The Pioneer Valley Cohousing Community main building.

Sociocracy addresses the challenge of governing intentional communities, including cohousing communities. Governance challenges are a factor limiting the growth and popular adoption of such communities. In February 2013, Diana Leafe Christian — a well-known advocate of intentional communities and expert in community governance and decision-making — spoke to Pioneer Valley Cohousing Community in Amherst, Massachusetts. The set of videos below record the whole presentation – about 2-1/2 hours.

In the first part of the presentation Diana talks about the requirements of any good community governance system. The system must:

  • Create community glue. That is it must establish lots of opportunities for the community to be together socially from adults and kids playing Frisbee to common meals to gardens and other community projects.
  • Establish sound project management. This area should include operating and capital budgets, careful documentation, care for the physical facilities, and so on.
  • Train good communication skills. She recommends that everyone in the community receive communication skills training such as nonviolent communication and restorative circles. There should also be and emphasis on personal development plans so that learning to communicate is an ongoing process.

Then Diana explores more about the cohousing project management area and relates it to sociocratic principles. Effective project management requires:

  • Governance – which she relates to the sociocratic principles of circles and double-linking
  • Decision-making – She advocates consent decision-making. She emphasizes that objections are a gift. She says that she used to advocate consensus with unanimity and now believes that consent decision-making is more fair and efficient.
  • Feedback loops – which help you in evaluating and responding to what you’ve implemented.

Here is Diana’s full presentation, broken up into five parts:

Pioneer Valley Governance Part 1

Pioneer Valley Governance Part 2

Pioneer Valley Governance Part 3

Pioneer Valley Governance Part 4

Pioneer Valley Governance Part 5

Additional Resources

Books & Pamphlets


Picture of a pile of magazines


Image of a laptop with software on it