The General Election, cohousing and well-being?


As the dust settles on the recent General Election, I was struck by it's possible relevance to cohousing.

Now I'm not going to go into the ins-and-outs of what a Conservative government may or may not mean for the cohousing movement (in part because I simply don't know enough of such ins-and-outs) but some things about the election, or many people's comments about it, did seem relevant.

Firstly, I read multiple times that people were dissatisfied with only having the chance to have a say in how our country is run every 5 years - in short I think they felt disempowered. And this led me to think too about the 'top-down' nature of many of the decisions that affect our lives as opposed to, say, a 'bottom-up' or even a collective approach.

So what of peoples dissatisfaction with feeling disempowered? Well, given that creating and running a cohousing community is a bit like creating and running a mini society I think it's interesting to consider. Especially in light of a recent report from the Young Foundation that asked 'is there a formula for happy communities?'

I haven't read the whole report, but the executive summary and the introduction certainly caught my attention. It proposes:

  1. that wellbeing is higher in areas where residents can influence decisions affecting their neighbourhood

  2. that wellbeing is higher amongst people who have regular contact with their neighbours

  3. that wellbeing is higher in areas where residents have the confidence to exercise control over local circumstances.

In short, it's possible to increase empowerment by increasing contact between neighbours and/or improving knowledge of the local democratic process, and these all have the potential to enhance wellbeing.

Quite unsurprisingly, as someone passionate about cohousing, this made a lot of sense to me. More meaningful contact with neighbours, more opportunity to influence decisions that affect the community I live in and the increased confidence and sense of empowerment that those bring are all reasons I want to be an active part of a cohousing community.

At Sussex Cohousing we're all about contribution, co-operation, empowerment and inclusivity and so we use a form of governance called Sociocracy, that some say is "democracy realised". I'm not sure I'd go quite that far yet but having worked with the structures and processes involved for a few years now I can certainly vouch for it. To me Sociocracy is an inclusive, respectful, practical, efficient (with practice), transparent, agile and flexible approach to having a say, making decisions, addressing challenges, and working constructively together. How better to foster a genuine sense of belonging within a community than really helping create and steer it? And that kind of engagement seems to be truly nourishing too.

For now, all core members of Sussex Cohousing have received some training in Sociocracy and we hope future members will embrace this way of working, which is certainly in stark contrast to having a dissatisfied say once every 5 years.

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