Against tourism: a faster, sharper recruitment process


Mark and others warned us that cohousing projects tend to attract “tourists”. By this word, Mark means people who love being part of groups, enjoy the meeting culture, are genuinely interested in cohousing as a spectators sport… but are never going to commit the time and money it takes to actually build one. When asked to make substantial commitments, tourists leave. Though often well intentioned, they are a burden on the group, both in organizational terms (we rent large venues to accommodate big meetings, try to give them tasks that they don’t deliver on, slowing everyone down) and in emotional terms (it’s always ugly to see people go).


A good recruitment process:

  1. It is fast (delays are expensive in rent money and months of misery).
  2. It does not discourage the good people.
  3. It flushes out the tourists early, and so minimizes investment in people that will leave.

Our current process is good at 2, but, IMHO, bad at 1 and 3. So, in the context of the culture change in favour of speed and action that we talked about at the last plenary, I would like to suggest, for the future, a different recritment process. I also volunteer to tweak the current slide deck to deliver the message. The purpose of this process is twofold:

  • Speed: from presentation to associate member in 3 weeks instead of 7-8. From presentation to full member in 4 months instead of 6-7.
  • Efficiency: before showing up at the first meeting, receiving some NVC-sociocracy basic training etc, people should already have made a small commitment towards finding out if being part of a cohousing group is something for them. In numbers, it means that, out of a presentation to 30-40 households, we would have 1-4 households starting the process, instead of 6-10 like now.

I welcome criticism and suggestion, but respectfully ask the group to let me have last word on this. In 2022 we designed and tested a “soft landing” approach, prioritizing giving one another time, but I think the past 10 months have shown that Mark was right to warn us about tourists. Time to test a new approach. The test will work best if we keep the two approaches well distinct from each other, without too many compromises.

In practice (1): from the presentation to associate members

So, in case we decide to reopen, it could work like this: we do a presentation, like before. Then, we invite people who are interested to:

  1. Read the key documents.
  2. Fill in and send us our usual form.
  3. Schedule a one-on-one with one of the full members where they can ask anything.
  4. Request associate membership and pay 125 EUR.

All this needs to be done within 21 days of the date of the presentation. This means we have quick results on our test: it takes 4 weeks to schedule a presentation, so in 7 weeks from the decision to do one we can see if, indeed, we have 1-4 households.

In practice (2): from associate to full members

People that do all this become associate members. They are invited to the next plenary meeting; asked to fill Team Building’s form to get an idea of what kind of unit they want, and immediately sent through the confesseur process (I am not completely sure how the confesseur process should work when people come through in small batches of 2-3 households: suggestions welcome). Then they have three months to become full members, by which I mean:

  1. Test the process and the feel for the group.
  2. Join a team and help out.
  3. Get a green light from the confesseurs, which in most cases also means going getting it from the bank.
  4. Pay 2,000 EUR.

@lara @ChrisM would you be deterred by this process? Anybody, any thoughts?


Not exactly sure why Lara and I are being asked specifically about this, but happy to respond :slight_smile: I think these changes are appropriate to the stage the project is at, so if I was thinking about joining now after attending a presentation, I wouldn’t be deterred. But I think you’re wrong that the “soft landing” approach has been a failure. Because I think that if this way of doing things had been the approach last June or October, I think some people who have either committed to the project, or are seriously considering committing, might not have become involved. And although I see the benefits if there had been a smaller group of fast-moving partners, I think that we’ve learned a lot over the last nine months with a bigger group, even from those who have not continued. Also, I think it’s overly harsh on some of the people who have come and gone to say that they were only “interested in cohousing as a spectator sport”. Bottom line though, I think this proposal is a good one for moving forward from where we are right now :slight_smile:


@alberto - did you decide to join Team Recruitment in light of Ralf leaving?

Because I believe you two might be the most distant from my own way of thinking. Thanks for taking the time!

Indeed. Not a failure, just a mode that has shown to be wanting in some dimensions, though it did perform well in others.

Please, re-read the post, because personalizing can be dangerous. This sentence is my rewording of Mark’s warning back in spring 2022. It cannot refer to people in our group, he did not even know anyone yet. He was pointing out a general pattern, and probably had specific people he met in other groups in mind.

Not exactly, but I am interested enough in testing out a new approach that I am happy to help out in this phase. In practice, this would work more or less as usual: make a team of @Lee + 3 for the presentation “revamped”; I would be one of the 3. Then, full members agree to be a buddy for one household, that includes me. From then on, either people join as associate members of don’t. Either way, for them, the recruitment phase is over. Rinse, repeat as needed. :slight_smile:


Have re-read the post, and I got that wrong… apologies!

You’ve no doubt discussed this all with Lie, who is currently the only member of Team Recruitment, so there’s no issue regarding mandate.

As I said, I think it’s a sensible move in light of where the project is at :slight_smile:

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Hey @alberto, I have something to add to your proposal. A tweak that could be made to the steps after the presentation.

I thought of it after reading @Lee’s proposal about reopening for another recruitment round. In that proposal it says “Shorten the time period to become a Full Member, while still leaving sufficient time to get to know each other.”

While getting to know each other is important, I’ve been getting more of a sense that the actual breaking points are not knowing/liking each other, but rather figuring out how/if you fit into the organisational culture of The Reef. And that newer members mostly need time to get to know themselves within the context of The Reef.

I feel like drop-out rate (or tourists, if you will) could be significantly reduced if we can stimulate some more critical self-reflection early on (definitely before joining the plenaries), before people get too excited and overly ambitious about the project. I’m NOT talking about hand picking who we ‘let in’. I AM talking about some sort of self-evaluation ‘reality check’ for people who are interested in potentially joining.

Think for example: Some sort of form that we can hand out at the presentation and would strongly advise them to fill out, purely for themselves. An aid for them to self-evaluate, get a good sense of whether or not they are cut out for a project like The Reef in the stage that it’s at right now. I know we use a form now too, I don’t remember exactly what’s in it, but I don’t remember it containing super critical and thought provoking questions about the topics below. Filling out a form for your eyes only or for others to see also gives you very different results.

I think it’d be good to encourage potential newlings to just for themselves:

  • actually put down on paper how many hours/evenings a week they realistically could be available
  • how many hours a week of this they are willing to invest in The Reef
  • reflect and rate how stress-resilient they think they are and how they cope with stressful times
  • think about how they function in group settings and which types of roles do and don’t suit them

When they later have a one-on-one with a full member, that full member can ask them about that reflection excercise. “What do you think your biggest hurdle might be?”, “Was there anything that made you pause, gave you some concerns?”, …

Newlings who’ve done this sort of self-reflection well (with or without a form) will have a much better sense from the start of how much they can contibute, and will be better prepared to deal with the stress and work load that will inevatably come with joining The Reef.

This type of self-evaluation is often and successfully used in recruitment processes for volunteers. For years I’ve seen how through this method well-intentioned but poorly-equipped people efficiently weed themselves out of volunteer commitments they would very much like to take on, but really do not have the necessary capacity for (at this time).


Good idea Nic. The self-evaluation form sounds very helpful, and shouldn’t be too complicated to set up.

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I literally missed that my name was specifically pinned in this post.

I am unfortunately not able to stay in the project, but still here my answer: Given where the group stands now I understand the how tightening the time periods could be helpful in recruiting the “right” people faster. However the 21 days for becoming an associate members seems a tad too fast for me. Not sure people are able to do the necessary self-reflection and evaluate for themselves if the project seems right to them + do the administration necessary + have a meeting with a full member. Seems a bit rushed. (Three months from associate to full members seems good to me.)

I VERY much like Nic’s suggestion!


Love the idea! Would you be willing to take the lead and produce the form?

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Sure, no problem!


@alberto and @ChrisM, I understand that you will be the two key people taking the lead on the faster recruitment process?

Because I was working on my little manual, I carried on and tried to convert Alberto’s post above into a step-by-post process (internal link > Section 3).

The steps I listed are only a first draft IMHO. More clarity is needed. Maybe it would make sense to create an extra column, for The Reef’s action points?

Anyway, the document is yours now. Let me know if you need help though.

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Thanks @Lee!
I have a couple of hours free tomorrow to catch up with Reef-related things, so this will be one of them :slight_smile:

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Hi @alberto - I think that there’s one step missing in part 1 (from the presentation to associate members) of your original post. Between steps 3 and 4 there should be: attend one plenary meeting. This would be between steps 6 and 7 of Lie’s new document. Upon reflection, I think people will be averse to committing even 125 euros to take the next step without meeting the group. And there will always be a plenary in the 21-day period you’re suggesting.

@Lee - very comprehensive document outlining the current recruitment and onboarding process! I’m happy to take responsibility for managing the buddy system and the one-on-ones, and creating (or working with the current) onboarding material so that we have more clarity from the beginning. But there’s a lot of other practical and administrative jobs before, during and after the presentation… what did you have in mind in terms of filling in the ‘who’ column? And are you planning on giving the actual presentation itself?


Just seen the other post about this :slight_smile:

A self evaluation document is now available on nextcloud in the Onboarding folder. It’s a first draft that can obviously be worked on further, but I think most crucial questions are probably in there atm.


@Sophie_Beese is going to look at whether she can do this, once she is back from a little break.

Yes, that’s the plan indeed. Would you have time to join us, or rather not?

I would have liked to be involved for the whole thing, but I have plans for later in the evening already. However, I’m hoping to be there for the beginning…

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