500 Communities Kick off retreat
On Wednesday 12 September I boarded a plane to San Francisco (USA). I was on my way to Nevada City (California) to attend the 3 day kick-off retreat of the 500 Communities Program. Let the adventure begin!
Did you know that thirty years ago, there were no cohousing communities in the United States? Now there are over 165 communities in the United States, with dozens more in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and England. These communities, many now over two decades old, have proven the value of these neighborhoods over time. But we need more! Many more! 500 Communities!
So what did we do those three days?
The time in Nevada City was obviously an opportunity to meet and get to know Katie McCamant and my fellow trainees in person; they are a great and diverse bunch with one thing in common: a passion for creating strong, sustainable cohousing communities. Some trainees live in cohousing communities, some come from a property development background, one attendee wants to see more opportunities in cohousing communities for people with a disability, another focuses on seniors entirely.
Katie spoke open and honestly about her cohousing journey, the triumphs, trials and tribulations. She stepped us through the different phases of, and roles in, a cohousing development process. Of course knowledge about property development is critical here. Equally important is a strong focus on the social side, building the community; it was interesting how Katie builds it into the process (and budget!). I clearly see that a ‘cohousing consultant’ plays a key role assisting the group, working with the team of professionals, bringing it all together.
We also visited two communities developed by Katie and crew: Nevada City Cohousing, and Wolf Creek Lodge, the latter the first senior cohousing community. The stories from the residents touched my heart and were each powerful examples of the positive impact on people’s lives that living in community can bring.
My personal belief in cohousing communities was strengthened when Katie said “I think one of the most important aspects of cohousing is that it makes it easy to use less resources while at the same time having a better quality of life. We have now documented that people living in community drive less, buy less, and waste less. It’s easier to have a smaller footprint when you live in community.”
Over the coming months the program will delve into the detail. Through monthly webinars and ‘mastermind sessions’ we will learn about the marketing and communications, investment structures, working with developers, group formation and much more. All from a cohousing angle. Individual one-on-one mentoring sessions with Katie provide an opportunity to pick her brain about anything, including discussing the projects and opportunities I am working on here. Already, I am applying some of the knowledge and experience gained. This program is a game changer, for me, and the communities that no doubt will be built as a result of it.
I owe a heartfelt thank you to those that made it possible for me to participate in this program. I would not have been able to had it not been for the financial support from many, including a part scholarship from Cohousing Solutions, contributions from the co-operative housing sector, and donations to my Go Fund Me campaign (still open); together you contributed over 70% of the program costs. I cannot thank you enough and look forward to sharing the experience and learnings with you.