The recent CohoCon (National Cohousing Conference) brought together cohousing residents, architects, builders, and consultants to talk about the present and future states of the industry. We were so inspired by all of the different people we met throughout the event, that we wanted to bring back some of their insights. Over the next few weeks, look out for videos from the conference both here and on our social media pages.

In this video, we spoke to Karen Gimnig, a professional facilitator at Imago and consultant for cohousing groups, focusing on relationships and how they play out in a community. Karen shares her insights into the different design needs of groups and individuals and how to balance their expectations. 


The following is a transcript of our interview with Karen, lightly edited for clarity.

I'm Karen Gimnig, and I am both a staff member for the Cohousing Association and I’m a process and relationships consultant for cohousing groups, nonprofits and with a particular focus on relationships and how relationships play out in a community.

One of the things that I'm most interested in is the difference between where a group is sort of individually and what their expectations, what their beliefs, what their tolerances are two years before move in, when they're forming and talking to an architect, or three or four years before move in, when they're in that design process. And then what those same things look like two or three years after move-in, when they've had the experience of community living together. And the more that we can begin to make that shift prior to move in, the more that it can influence the design decisions so that they're not spending resources on things that in fact, they'll never use. And so that they're designing the space for the people that they will become, through the process of community living.

So, I'm very interested in how to create the space of relationship where we can find that self we're going to become. And a lot of that for me is around creating safe spaces, creating trust, creating a sense of belonging. And what I believe is that most of us, when we have experienced that, get there through long-term, like it takes us a long time. There's a belief in cohousing that it comes about because you have seven years of painful experiences together and that draws you close.

I think that can work, but I think there are some relationship tools, that if you're willing to put a little time and work into learning some relationship tools, and practicing those relationship tools that you can get closeness much, much faster with a whole lot less pain and with a lot fewer lost members. And in that trusted, connected space, you actually find out things about yourself that you didn't know.


For more on how cohousing benefits communities of all kinds, click here for a round-up of useful articles.