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Participation Policy

This policy covers three distinct but inter-linked things;

  • ‘Sweat equity’

  • Sabbaticals

  • Ongoing Development Team membership requirements 



Sweat Equity


Throughout our history, Sussex Cohousing has consistently said that being a supporter of the project does not guarantee a place in the eventual homes we create.


By the same token, when we eventually realise our project and have properties to move into, a tremendous amount of work will have taken place to make it happen, over many years and mostly on a voluntary basis.


In addition, paying Supporters will have contributed financially through monthly subscriptions, to make it happen.


Whilst it would be difficult – and potentially divisive – to try and put a financial value on the many contributions of time and money that individuals have made, this policy defines the way in which we will attempt to recognise these contributions, through allocation rights. It is beyond the scope of this policy to resolve whether sweat equity could have a financial value and this may be considered in future.


1st tier – Development Team members


Our project is driven by our Development Team members – without these people, Sussex Cohousing would not exist.

Order of property allocation will be determined by a simple points system, based on the principle of ‘length of active service’.

For every month of active contribution, Development Team members will accumulate one allocation point.

In recent years, Sussex Cohousing grew in size sufficiently to enable the creation of Task Circles to work alongside the General Circle.


  • Development Team members who are/were an active member of BOTH the General and a Task Circle will receive 1.5 points per month of active service (ie in both at the same time).


  • Development Team members who are/were active members of EITHER the General or a Task Circle will accumulate 1 point per month.


  • Development Team members who are/were inactive – for example, through ill health, sabbatical, or for any other reason – will not accumulate allocation points whilst they are inactive.


  • In order to ensure a minimum meaningful contribution, Development Team members must contribute to the project for at least six months in order to begin accumulating allocation points. 


A historical date review, using stored meeting minutes and other documentation, will take place to assess contribution levels to date.


Going forwards, we will manage a simple spreadsheet to record all future service, breaks etc.


It is the nature of long-term projects like ours to have a degree of attrition and turnover. Therefore, whilst service does not need to be continuous for the allocation points to count at the relevant time, the holder of any points must still be actively involved in the project to at least the level of regular paying supporter.


2nd tier – Supporters


Supporters contribute financially to the project through monthly subscriptions - these have been invaluable to keep the project afloat.


Therefore, once the accommodation needs of all Development Team members have been taken into account (as far as is possible), remaining accommodation will be offered first to paying supporters (subject to any separate requirements about ‘positive discrimination’ for diversity and/or affordability). Also, we may not be allowed to fill all affordable properties with members before considering council nominations, so this exception may apply to members' allocations too.


Order of allocation will be determined by the length of time each supporter has been paying contributions to the project (as determined by our bank statements).


In order to reflect our principles of equity and affordability, the actual amount paid by individual supporters will not be taken into account in this calculation.





Participation in Sussex Cohousing requires a good deal of time, and it will not always be possible for Development Team members to be able to commit their time to the project at any given point. There have already been a number of reasons for this, including;


  • Ill health


  • Changes in family circumstances (eg birth of new child or additional caring responsibilities)


  • Changes in domestic circumstances (eg new job, moving away etc)


Sabbaticals can also serve as a useful ‘pressure valve’ to avoid longer-term members experiencing burn-out, although Sussex Cohousing has not used them for this purpose to date.


Whilst recognising that ‘life happens’ and sabbaticals will sometimes be required due to unforeseen circumstances, ideally they should be planned in advance in order to mitigate the impact on organisational effectiveness.


Going forward then, where possible, we would like to adopt the following principles towards sabbaticals;


  • Planned and notified in advance, with approval from General Circle.


  • No more than 25% of Development Team members on sabbatical simultaneously.


  • Length of active service since last sabbatical taken into consideration in determining priority order.


  • Clearly defined timeline, with start and end date.


  • Nominated Development Team member responsible for keeping in touch with each person on sabbatical; however, responsibility for keeping in touch remains with the person on sabbatical.


  • People on sabbatical can choose how much information they wish to receive about the project whilst they are on sabbatical, but they cannot pick and choose what they wish to get involved in - they are either on a break, or they are not.


  • Sabbaticals will typically be of a minimum 3-month and maximum 12-month duration, unless there are specific reasons for varying these limits.


  • People on shorter sabbaticals may choose to extend their break for up to a maximum of 12 months, according to their individual circumstances.


  • However, once the 12-month threshold is reached, only the General Circle can agree to any further extension. The normal expectation is that if someone is unable to return to active participation after 12 months absence (for whatever reason), then they will cease to be a Development Team member, and will return to being a Supporter (unless they choose to leave the project altogether).


  • At the end of any sabbatical, there is no guarantee that a Development Team member can return to whatever role they were carrying out in the project before their sabbatical started. In each case, the General Circle will determine where a person returning from sabbatical can best contribute to the project.


  • As described in Section 1 above, time spent on sabbatical does not count towards allocation point entitlement.



Ongoing Development Team membership requirements


The success of the project is determined to a large extent by the voluntary work carried out by Development Team members. There will always be variation in the amount of time and energy that people are able to commit, according to personal circumstances, and this is to be expected. 


When something happens in someone’s life that means they are unable to continue being actively involved in the work of the Development Team, then they are welcome to request a sabbatical, as described in Section 2 of this policy. It can be demoralising and demotivating for other active members when individual Development Team members do not choose to stay engaged and have not requested a sabbatical.


To give ourselves the best chance of success, it is therefore important that all Development Team members maintain a minimum level of contribution. Our expectation is that this involves actively attending and participating in at least one meeting per month of the relevant Circle(s) that each member is part of at any given time (subject to holidays etc).


This includes the following behaviours;

  • sending apologies to meetings that a member is unable to attend, and ensuring any updates are provided to that meeting as required

  • carrying out agreed actions / work between meetings

  • using the IT tools etc agreed to by the Development Team


It is the responsibility of each individual Development Team member to remain active and in regular communication with the rest of the group. It is not up to the rest of the Development Team to chase or remind inactive members of this minimum level of ongoing commitment requirement.


Any Development Team member who becomes inactive for more than two months without pro-actively providing an acceptable explanation (as determined by the General Circle) will have their Development Team membership automatically revoked. They will be asked to choose whether they wish to remain as a Supporter or to leave the project altogether, and offered one opportunity to attend a General Circle meeting should they wish to appeal this decision.


In either instance, the person concerned is responsible for amending their monthly payments accordingly. Sussex Cohousing will not refund any incorrect payments that continue to be made after this time.


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