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The Functioning of De Nieuwe Meent During Corona

Reinilde Jonkhout

As independent housing cooperative De Nieuwe Meent, we make decisions by consensus, within and outside the Design, Legal, Community, Media and Finance working groups. But how is that going during the Covid-19 crisis, with social distancing?

What Are The Positive Takeaways of Working Online During Corona?

All our meetings are now online on Zoom, Google or Jitsi. Can this work in an organization with a large community aspect? Is meeting online something we will do more often when we are back to more ‘normal’ times? In conversation with members (via the interwebs!!) of various working groups a number of interesting points came up.

Online Workshops and New Members

De Nieuwe Meent continued to organize workshops when the Corona measures were introduced. They were all online and open to anyone new. Was it a bit strange perhaps, talking to someone virtually who you have never met face to face?

 “For new participants we had a general online information session before the actual workshops started. It seemed that there were many more new people than usual”, according to Shacham and Michal of the working group Design and Legal. “An extra information session beforehand had the bonus advantage that members who had heard this information a thousand times before could easily connect later on when the workshop itself started.”

Because how do you build a growing community online and make sure people stick around a bit? “We will continue with organizing workshops so that people can meet digitally and be part of the Nieuwe Meent”, Said Josta of the Community working group.

Josta: “I notice that now during the Corona crisis people have had more time to invest in De Nieuwe Meent. If they don’t have to be physically present, the threshold to join seems to be lower.”

It’s not just about online talking and organizing. Shacham and Michal mention that it was necessary to find ways of creating and ‘doing’ online. Several creative assignments have been moved online. One assignment was filling in a floor plan, of one floor for ‘the tower’ of communal living groups.

“Now that we give people homework to prepare for the online workshops, we notice this actually works very well. These warmed up participants are more active and involved and they dare to contribute more right from the beginning”. So handing out homework before workshops may be good to keep doing for when we can meet at workshops ‘for real’ again.

Efficient.. Or Not Really?

Talking to different members of De Nieuwe Meent I hear some conflicting statements about the efficiency of meeting online. How is it really going? “Online meetings are faster and as far as I am concerned we can keep meetings online for the most part. I think we’re going to keep our workload mainly online in the corona-free future.”  -Andrea, member of various working groups.

It would be great to keep the conversation going and continue to evaluate as we go along during the easing of the Corona measures.

What is your experience with online meetings? Let us know in the comments!

An Online Excursion!

Inti, one of our members active in the Media working group lives at independent social housing project Iewan (Initiative Ecological Living Nijmegen). They usually organize a tour every 1st Sunday of the month, and the Nieuwe Meent was planning to go there to take a look and be inspired. This did not happen because of Corona, but Inti decided to continue this online!

Shacham and Michal were very pleased with the tour, which was ultimately more of a presentation because of connectivity issues. “We can certainly learn from them – how they did things and the problems they encountered along the way.”

What’s Missing In This Partial Lockdown?

A number of potential groups for living together at De Nieuwe Meent had already started forming before Corona. During the first admission rounds in June, people have to register as a group for the floors designated for cohabitation. Josta: “The activities we organize also serve as a meeting place so that people can get to know each other, and think about with whom they would like to live together.”

Although these activities are now conducted digitally, Thijs of the Legal working group says: “Online communication does not feel authentic, I miss the nuances. You don’t really get to know people better. people you might want to live with.”

Fortunately, persons new to de Nieuwe Meent still find their way to the online meetings. But informally hanging out with large groups is no longer possible during the Corona measures. Shacham and Michal: “Community building and forming groups for cohabitation online is simply impossible.”

Thijs: “As soon as it is safe, we will meet in person again’

Andrea, active in the Media, Finance and Design groups, says that about a month before the Corona measures he felt the group was getting closer to each other and that people were getting together informally as well. And now, there are no hugs.. and no chilling”. 

Fortunately, we will be able to meet again soon, albeit 1.5 meters away from each other, in possibly smaller groups.

Read more about the progress of the various De Nieuwe Meent working groups during Corona.

In Conclusion

Opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of meeting online during Corona measures differ somewhat. And although we miss each other tremendously, it is certain we have learned from our new online working methods and that we could benefit from this new knowledge. 

This could result in continuing to hand out homework before workshops, keep more meetings online, and tighter organization. But of course, we will have to discuss this in a face-to-face conversation someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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