Monday, November 11, 2013

Issues in Community: Recruitment

One of the people at the co-op where I'm currently staying decided to sublet his room while he was away.  Since the other housemates would have to deal with whoever sublet, we interviewed almost a dozen people.  A few of them we decided quickly weren't appropriate.  With the others we ranked them and it turned out different people here had very different preferences.  We had a hard time coming to agreement about what we wanted.  And in the end, it didn't matter.  Most of our top choices, chose somewhere else.  It was less about who we wanted than who wanted us.

Recruitment is a tricky issue.  On one hand, communities need people and want good folks to live there, people who believe in what the community believes in and supports what the community supports.  On the other hand, interviewing people is a pain.  It takes a lot of time and can be very disruptive to the community.  In co-ops like the one I'm in, prospective members get an hour or two each, and sometimes are asked to come back for a second (or very occasionally even a third) interview before we make a decision.  It's a lot like job interviews.  At one point one of my housemates started yelling, "That's it.  No more people.  No more interviews." 

Twin Oaks, Acorn, and Dancing Rabbit all have three week visiting programs, the chief function of is to evaluate prospective members.  (Over the last year I used these programs to visit all of them and, in the cases of Twin Oaks--which I did the visiting programs twice--and Dancing Rabbit, I was very clear with them that I wasn't applying for membership--so you don't have to want to be a member to do the programs.  See my post Nine Communities, Many Thoughts, 7/1/13, for a wrap up on my community visits.)  Having someone visit for three weeks gives you a much better idea of a person than even several multi-hour interviews.  You actually get to live with them for three weeks.  A person can put on a good performance for a few hours, it's a lot harder for a few weeks.

But even three week visits have risks.  Acorn just experienced a nasty fire deliberately set by a visitor who had been asked to leave.  And communities have accepted people who seemed nice but had lied to them and put on a good show for the full three weeks and later caused trouble.   (Or in some cases, the person changed over time.)

One person at the co-op I'm currently at didn't want to be part of the latest decision making process because he had been enthusiastic about two previous members when they were being interviewed, and both of them turned out to be difficult people to live with.

And that's the hard part of recruitment.  There really isn't any way to tell until you've lived with someone a long while, but if you don't do recruitment, you won't have people to live in your community.

Quote of the Day:  "I saw a larger and larger part of the community sitting around on the front steps of the dining hall smoking cigarettes and drinking their wake-up coffee at 11 in the morning, and heard them ridicule as 'workaholics' the people who made the money and kept the organization together.  It looked possible, even probable, that this once-promising community would be undermined and destroyed by it's own people. ...
"I knew this phenomenon was not happening at Twin Oaks, and the difference seemed to be that Twin Oaks selected its members with some care." - Kat Kinkade

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