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Community participation

Participation is at the heart of cohousing. Members agree to take part in the planning, maintenance, and daily operations of the community. It's the way we get things done, and it's the catalyst that brings us together as a group.

Member expectations

Members of Iowa City Cohousing agree to attend monthly all-member meetings. Each adult member also agrees to take an active role in at least one committee or work circle. The work circles function much like committees. Here’s an overview of our current committee/work circle structure.

Community Life Circle

This group is charged with overseeing the common house and fostering a harmonious living environment for all. They figure out the best ways to handle community meals, guest room bookings, social events, and internal communication. When a resident needs extra help, they put a system in place to get it to them.

Communication Sub Circle

This group works to improve communication among Prairie Hill members. Here are some of their responsibilities:

  • manage the internal website
  • publish weekly Prairie Points newsletter
  • manage the Prairie Hill blog
  • Help orient new members to internal website
  • organize, publish, and archive Prairie Hill decisions and policies

Non-Violent Communication/Sociocracy Sub Circle

Coordinate training sessions in non-violent communication and sociocracy. Support regular use of these skills in Prairie Hill meetings and interactions.

Buildings and Infrastructure Circle

This group oversees the outdoor common areas. Parking, garages, sidewalk maintenance, snow removal and trash/recycling are all part of their purview. They also oversee exterior changes to existing buildings.

Land Circle

The Land Circle studies issues and makes recommendations regarding land use. Here is a partial list of their responsibilities:

  • Create and maintain shared green spaces and landscape infrastructure
  • Plan community vegetable garden
  • Oversee community composting program
  • Plan and organize work days
  • Oversee mowing and weeding of public areas
  • Approve planting areas and tree plantings that members wish to adopt

Finance and Legal Committee

This committee manages much of the day-to-day work of the project. Here are just a few of its tasks:

  • Oversee and safeguard Iowa City Cohousing’s financial assets
  • Represent legal interests of ICCH with other entities
  • Clarify legal documents and language to members
  • Review all major contracts to identify potential legal problems
  • Maintain files of legal documents required for HOA compliance 
  • Oversee payments of expenses and receipt of revenue
  • Recommend annual budget and dues
  • Administer contracts for insurance, fire alarm monitoring, etc.
  • File all federal, state and local tax returns 
  • Research, write, and manage grants
  • Keep group in compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements 

Note: The meetings of this group are closed due to the confidential nature of their responsibilities.

Sales and Marketing Committee

Here are some of the bases this group covers:

  • Develop marketing materials
  • Correspond with people interested in the project
  • Coordinate open houses
  • Coordinate advertising and outreach opportunities
  • Manage the Iowa City Cohousing website
  • Coordinate the membership process for new people interested in joining the group
  • Plan field trips to visit planned communities, green buildings, small homes, and other destinations of interest to the group

How much time is involved? 

No doubt it will vary from month to month depending on what's happening. Many cohousing communities estimate that members spend around 15-20 hours per month working on community projects. This includes circle work, work days, and general membership meetings. But, members are quick to point out that their community obligations often take less time than they regularly spent on home maintenance projects before they moved into cohousing. Plus, it's just a lot more fun working together!

We recognize that participation requirements will need to be somewhat flexible—each member's participation will reflect his/her unique talents and abilities. Our goal is to get the work done and make sure everyone feels a connection with the community.