Reinilde Jonkhout –
Time hasn’t stood still and neither have we. All workshops and meetings have been moved online. How is consensus decision making at De Nieuwe Meent working online and how is the progress in the working groups Design, Legal, Community, Media and Finance?
“They went completely crazy and were very involved, with nice details such as plants, a cat and a chair in a corner.” – Shacham and Michal from the Design working group, about the interactive workshop in which floor plans of a residential group were filled in in advance by participants.
In this article about the Nieuwe Meent during Corona, some interesting takeaways emerged from meeting only online.
Consensus Decision Making
The Nieuwe Meent works together via consensus. How does this work? Within the working groups actions and decisions are discussed, then there is communication outside of the working group and feedback is given. Matters are then adjusted where necessary and decisions are made or action is taken. Subsequently the next topic is discussed within the working group, actions are drawn up and the process continues. But how does this work online?
Have The Working Groups Been Able To Continue Work As Usual During The Corona Measures?
We are an ever-growing group of people working on the realization of the Nieuwe Meent and are divided into various working groups. What are these and how is progress going during Corona?
Design – Online Discussions about Tradeoffs between Cost and Ideals
Shacham and Michal: “The design process was already well underway before the Corona measures went into effect, so it has been carrying on from where it started.” The decision-making protocol also continues in the same way. There is contact from the design working group to the architects, who communicate with the municipality and back again. Then there is feedback again and this continues on.
The working group held various interactive online workshops. In addition to filling in a floor plan of a residential group floor, there was also a discussion about the façade of the building and what should weigh in heavier between the costs, sustainability, and what it looks like. There has also been talk of the level of accessibility the building should have versus the cost.
These workshops have multiple goals. In addition to making decisions through consensus, a community is also formed and people get to know each other better which is important for finding potential compatible De Nieuwe Meent flatmates.
During the Corona measures, more information has been shared via the online application Slack, for example by creating a special channel there, ‘design façade’, for discussions about this topic. It was an active channel, with sharing reference images, asking questions, the architect also shared information in this channel.
Legal – An Update on Admissions
The Legal working group takes care of both the hard legal aspects of De Nieuwe Meent – discussions with the municipality, drafting contracts, sending rules and regulations, as well as the soft aspects of the way we ideally want to live together. Things like house rules, how to best handle agreements – aspects concerning the (daily) life within the community.
During Corona the Legal working group organized an online workshop ‘Core Values’. Anyone could sign up for this. The discussion of shared values can aid in the formation of pleasant living groups. During the Core Values workshop, a discussion was held about which values are most important, and what they mean in practice to different people. As an example, see a note below on the topic of “sharing” with statements made by different people. Someone, as you can see below, does not seem to find divided refrigerators very simpatico, which might feel very different to someone else.
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What About The Application Rounds?
During Corona, a plan for the admission of potential residents of the future the de Nieuwe Meent building continued being made. There is now a draft version of the registration. Because of the joint decision making, earlier concepts were shared with the community, this was discussed and further worked on by the members. After this came a new proposal.
While the Legal working group has been able to do everything online with Skype and Zoom, the first sign-up round has been delayed until summer, but there’s no putting it off beyond that. The plan is to have a workshop for the online application process. The working group Legal plans to provide people with helpful tools for the procedure and will also support members by email.
The first admission round is probably for two groups that will inhabit two floors of the ‘tower’ as you can see below, and for six of the independent ground-level social rental homes. The intention is to have a second admission round in early 2021.
Community – Forming A Gemeinschaft at A Distance
The Community working group overlaps here and there with the Legal working group. In addition to admissions and facilitating the finding of living group friends, the group is also involved in forming a vibrant community since De Nieuwe Meent is much more than merely a residential building in the making.
The Community working group is currently preparing for the admission procedure, but their ardent wish is also to brainstorm about what activities can be organized to better get to know each other and exciting new people. Besides events in the near future, this also means thinking of possible activities for when the building of the Nieuwe Meent is realized.
Although getting together has partly come to a standstill at the Community working group, an online Community Building workshop has taken place during the Corona period.
Michal, who is part of the Legal working group, would like to see an online informal get-together happen. “We could have different chat rooms with different conversation themes, such as -Parties, Sleep, alcohol and drugs-, -Food-. -Pets & Children-. That way we could get to know each other’s values more”.
Media – Steadily Preparing for The Crowdfunding Campaign
The Media working group is among things responsible for the De Nieuwe Meent website, overall design and promotional material for the upcoming crowdfunding including the crowdfunding video. Since the Corona measures, meetings have been held as often as before, albeit online.
Discussions were held about the layout of the new website, using amongst things, a Google Jamboard on which you can work visually with post-its. Because the crowdfunding campaign starts in the summer, the Media working group is also involved in the promotion and information side of things, and we feel the urgency to be getting it off to a good start.
How is this going, as a working group online? According to Kai, who is working on the website, there is slightly less participation and they think that this may be because people are at home with their children, and that warm ties in the community may have cooled down because there is no getting together in person at the moment.
Finance – Counting on The Future in a Changed Situation
The Finance working group deals mainly with four different financial tasks. Those are:
- Budgeting and Expenses – Things like construction costs, hiring consultants.
- Researching financial possibilities, subsidy and loan applications to cover costs.
- The financial part of the crowdfunding campaign which will start in the summer of 2020. What kind of bonds are we going to work with and how do they relate to the business plan? We are making a plan for the pay-out of the bonds for when the time comes, in consultation with advisors. The working group is responsible for keeping the business and liquidity plan up to date for 30 years.
- Administration. This includes paying bills, making sure there is money on the bank account, and writing the annual financial report.
Since the Corona measures, more meetings have been online than ever before, says Andrea, who is part of the Finance working group. ‘It is more difficult to make decisions. It is easier to estimate someone’s reaction in person. Without personal contact we are more uncertain in our individual decision making. The process is also more fluid and stretched out, because online we are quicker to add extra meetings, which makes focusing more difficult. But we are on schedule, and more people have joined to help out.’
Because there was already so much on the rails in the different working groups, attempts were made to continue on the same foot as much as possible. Although during Corona working together is different, our goal remains the same: a realized de Nieuwe Meent in 2022.
If you are interested in joining one of these working groups, please send an email one of the working groups:
Treasurer@nieuwemeent.nl (this is finance)
General info: firstname.lastname@example.org