On the necessary transparency of the confesseurs process

In December, all Reeflings went through the confesseurs process. As you know, our invaluable team of two confesseurs asked questions and came up with an evaluation expressed as Green (no issues, go ahead!), Orange (doable, but some obstacles to overcome) or Red (financial means are not adequate to the size of the unit the households wants to buy). This post is an explanation of the degree of transparency of that process. I offer it as a material for a possible plenary discussion.

At least for me, meeting with the confesseurs felt like meeting my own personal financial advisors. They had helpful hints about obtaining credit, for example, and they were preparing me to interacting with banks for doing so. Also, the meeting was confidential, between me and them. However, that is only a part of what was going on.

The other part is this: the confesseurs process is a mechanism to reduce uncertainty. Me going through a financial reality check is meant to reassure other people in the group that I am solid, and have the resources to make good on my commitment to go through with putting on the table my part of the financial resources to build The Reef. For this to work, the group needs to know each household’s score. I don’t see how the scores can remain confidential, and still achieve the reduction in uncertainty that we want. So, to summarize:

  • The content of the discussion with the confesseurs remains confidential.
  • Its result (Green, Orange or Red) is shared with the whole group.

Hello @reeflings,

Here’s the post about the confesseur’s results that we briefly discussed at yesterday’s plenary. Can you please read the post and let the group know in the post below in case you would not consent to making the results known by everybody in the group.

I would add one argument to Alberto’s proposal of sharing the scores, which is that I think it will bring more understanding when we’ll be having difficult discussions about money.

Jeremy and Nele will be informing you about your score one of these days. Just to take away some suspense: if you got a red score (or a C) you already know, so if you don’t know, you didn’t get a C.

Also, just for the sake of clarification: Ugne and I have already seen the results. Ugne as the coordinator of the confesseur’s exercise, and me as the coordinator of the group. Overall results: 16 As, 5Bs, 3 Cs.


I am personally fine with it, but I am not sure everyone would feel great about it, and in order to avoid people feel coerced ‘to consent’ I would like to propose a few questions that might help us reflect about it (if we, collectively, see the need to further reflect about it):

Is it necessary that everybody knows, i.e. what benefit does it have if everybody knows, i.e. in what way would it help to not just know the anonymous results (16As, 5Bs, 3Cs), but to know who got which score? If it is helpful in meaningful ways, can we reduce the number of people who get to know the individual scores and see at what stage this will be necessary (e.g. only the full members remaining once we get close to the purchase, the full members now, everyone)?


Yes, it is necessary. Reason: you now enter in a high-stakes financial partnership with me. If I am not solid, this introduces risks for you. The responsible thing is for you to have information on my personal solidity, not on the average solidity of a group I am part of.

Plus, it is the human thing to do. If you know I have a B, and my solidity depends on me willing to make some adjustments in order to protect the group, you can think of me as a human being, and not as some anonymous market operator: “I know Alberto. He is going through a difficult moment because of that illness (fictional example, eh), but now that is resolved, I see he is committed and I trust him.”

The point about data is well taken, and that is why there are basically no permanent data here. No CSV, excel files, nothing that lives in a database and can be linked to people’s identities via automated processes. Indeed, we should be as explicit as possible, as a matter of practice. But this is no guarantee of perfect compliance, because human processes are messy. In the case at hand, already in June 2022 the confesseur process was described (see below), but who goes back and reads older discussions on the forum? So, I would propose to absolutely NOT be legalistic about this matter, but to treat each other as fallible humans, worthy, for all our failures, of compassion and trust.


@BarbaraG , on second thoughts there is a case in which this is not necessary: when (1) there are only two scores, “can do” and “cannot”, and (2) there is an understanding that people with a “cannot” score will withdraw. I am not against it (in fact I am not super sure why the cohousings that came before us decided on the three-outcomes model), if that works better for others.


I do not know how the scoring worked, so it is difficult to say whether it is useful to have 2 or 3 categories (but would definitely be in favour of having the orange category if that allows more people to stay in for a little longer, also because one’s financial situation can change over time).

I understand from a private message of Lie that the scoring does have the effect that some will be excluded. If the consequences of the scoring were clearly discussed earlier on - sorry, I missed that. But if not, it might be helpful to clearly state/discuss those rules (e.g. ‘if you have a red score you will not be able to become a full member [at which point?]’, if orange then [?]).

I mostly just made the post above because this is about personal information that is linked to a particularly stigmatised form of vulnerability in our society (although I would wish it to have less importance, and precisely because it should have less importance), so not everyone might feel good about this being shared with lots of people who do not necessarily need to know. (I also wish we could offer forms of mutual support rather than the scoring leading to the exclusion of some, but I know I am dreaming here.)

One option could also be that all those who are and want to become full members once we get to purchasing a site share their financial situation with each other. I believe that working together on shared values is central for this too (honesty, trust, solidarity etc.).

If everyone is fine with the way ahead as proposed above then I surely don’t want to stop this. If no one else reacts please go ahead!

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Thanks all for the input. What I conclude from this is that we’re missing some clarity around the why and the how, and also that we’re talking a bit in the abstract instead of speaking about what’s going to happen concretely.

As a way forward I propose the following:

  • I prepare a document that clarifies a couple of things that seem to be unclear
  • I include a proposal on a couple of tiny things that could be improved
  • We discuss it at a plenary meeting, mostly aiming at a shared understanding

Note: I don’t want to take away work from anyone, I’m just feeling inspired. Feel free to let me know if you’d like to take over.

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Hello all,

Based on the discussion above, the discussion we had among the Full Members and also based on a quick discussion with my dad about the difference between the different scores, my summary of the things we need to change would be this:

  • We need better documentation: a wiki or document that explains the why and the how to people who are new to The Reef.

  • We need to be clearer on the timing. Our membership process says that one can’t become a Full Member without the green light from the confesseurs, so it’s probably good to include this in the documentation.

  • The differences between the different scores are a bit unclear. If we keep them, I believe we need an extra “D” score for people for whom there is sadly absolutely no perspective.

  • We need a little more guarantees that people with a B or C will actually be able to get a mortgage that is suitable for the size of unit they would like. I’d leave it up to the confesseurs to do a case-by-case approach, but at the end of the day I would recommend that they request a proof from either the Immotheker or the Fonds the Logement that a household will manage to secure a mortgage.

  • We need to be clear on who gets access to the scores. My proposal is to do it on a “need to know” basis until people become Full Members, and if everybody who is a Full Member during the Reeflings weekend agrees, to then share the scores of the Full Members with everybody. In my proposal I argue why I believe this is not as important as it may seem.

@ugne, I was in a very good flow last time I reported on this topic, and so I had already finished about 95% of a first draft (saved in Team Reef > proposals). Would you be willing to pick it up from here with Team Finance? Feel free to amend or scrap anything that you like eh. It’s not super urgent, but it would be good nevertheless to tackle this sooner rather than later. F


Thanks @Lee ! Yes yes yes!


For the person who will be finalising the proposal, I would strongly recommend having another look at an example that we received from Mark (internal link). What jumps to the eye to me is that it has three categories (A, B and C) AND indications of the budget, regardless of the categories. If it’s not in the proposal yet, I would recommend to add that getting the green light from the confesseur will be for a certain budget or number of square meters.