Forming a group

From My Wiki

What is important to you and your co-op?

A co-operative can be formed to cater for the needs and ideals of a particular group, or even a particular you!

Knowing what you want out of a housing situation helps you to get what you want. Here are some prompts to help you consider what is important to you in where and how you live.

Some of these may be very important to you, and others may not matter to you at all or can be more flexible. Starting out as a single person, you might only have one or two things that matter to you. As more people get involved you will start talking about what is key to the group as a whole. This will be an evolving discussion.

You should be clear if you do want to be specialised before you start recruiting. Once you have a large group of people who feel involved in a project it's very hard to exclude anyone for not fitting the bill unless that has been explicit from the beginning.

Physical aspects


  • General structure of the co-op and how the living spaces are laid out. Do you want to live in a single large shared house, or cohousing, where individuals have their own self-contained living quarters? Some co-ops have a mixture of both, though this is more work to set up.
  • Location. Do you want to be in a specific city, a specific county? Central and close to amenities, or rural for cheaper land? Are there key things you or other members need to be close to (e.g. hospital, school, a train station, sports clubs or parks), how close do you need to be to those things?
  • Do you need parking spaces, how many does the group need?
  • Any other accessibility needs. Would you or other members struggle to manage stairs, or to walk up a steep hill or driveway? Some buildings can be retrofitted for accessibility. If self-building, consider accessibility in the build.


You should be clear if you do want to be specialised before you start recruiting. Once you have a large group of people who feel involved in a project it's very hard to exclude anyone for not fitting the bill unless that has been explicit from the beginning.

You may already have a small group of people in mind, but you're likely to find that you need more people to fill up your future home.

Use the networks that already exist where you live to find people. Community noticeboards, social centres, and word of mouth are all ways of reaching out to people. You may want to host open days or meetings where people can drop in and find out about the project.

Depending on what brings your group together, you may already have an obvious network of people to draw on. If not, think about how you can get messages to people who are looking for what you're hoping to create.

Make clear  in your adverts that this isn't like offering a room for rent in a house share. You need to find people willing to commit time and energy to setting up the co-op, running the co-op, and going through all the stress and strain of finding and buying a property. It's as much advertising a job or volunteer role as it is offering a place to live. You need someone who can see the benefits of that, of which there are plenty.

You may find you already need to start thinking about membership procedures. Even before you have official membership, you need to think about how you will decide who can join the group.

You also need to be clear with people about what they are likely to get out of the project. Will you be able to house everybody? Will some people go on a waiting list? It's really important to make sure everyone supporting the project understands the plan.

If you want to live in a household of 6-8 people you need to actively recruit until your group reaches that size – it would be a disaster to buy the house and find you couldn't fill the rooms! You need to be very clear what you would do with more members – would you put them on a waiting list or would you change what kind of properties you are looking at? Can you afford (in money and energy) to recruit yet more people and search for a second property?

Clear and honest communication and making sure the whole group is behind the decision is key to avoid disappointment and bad feelings (see section on consensus decision-making.)

The goal is always the same, to get a stable group which sticks together and is made up of people who trust each other. There is no clear recipe for this though. Each group must find its own path.

Getting to know each other

Look out for opportunities to work and spend time together as a group. Attending work weekends at other co-ops as a group is good because you get to try out working together. You can have lots of informal discussion about what you would or wouldn't like to do the same as the co-op you are visiting and support another co-op all at the same time!

If you get the chance to live together before you buy a co-op property, take it. Even with all the meetings and activities in the world you can never quite know what it's going to be like to live with someone until you do. Before you move in together talk about how you imagine living together, what are your likes and dislikes, what level of tidyness, noise, guests, etc.

Start up Admin

It can be useful to start discussing your secondary rules before you have your home. These rules decide a lot about how you live together, and could reduce conflict in the group. This gives you a chance to find out more about each other, and practice reaching consensus. It may help you figure out if you have different ideas about what the co-op should be like.

Think about how you will take minutes and record meeting decisions. This is only legally required once you have registered as a co-op, but it is good practise to do so from earlier, and you may find it useful to look back on these later to check decisions that were made early on.

Choose one place where meeting minutes can be kept that everyone can see. Whether that’s a shared google drive, dropbox, etc, it can be frustrating later if you realise you have taken minutes at every meeting, but have stored them all in different places making them hard to find.