You've heard it. I've heard it...
"They won't help." "They want to spend money we don't have." "They never come to meetings." "They think we're the landlord." On and on and on it goes.
When I hear this during a meeting at a resident-owned community, it always raises a question for me: Who are they? I quickly follow up with a 'Wait a minute, they are we,' as in WE, the owners of the cooperative, and as in WE are all in this together.
Like it or not, disagreements occur in every society. Differences of opinion occur, debates and arguments are waged and sides are taken. The need to consider all viewpoints while working through those challenges is what makes democracies (and cooperatives are little democracies) unique.
It is easy to draw lines in the sand and wage an "us versus them" battle. It is much harder to resolve challenges with people we don't see eye-to-eye with. But don't we all want to resolve challenges constructively? Don't we all want to find solutions that our neighbors can, if not agree with, at least live peaceably with?
Consider this: Whenever someone attends a meeting, helps clean their street, supports a neighbor, hands out flyers, knocks on doors, helps with a cookout, plants flowers, shovels snow, or does anything that helps their neighbors and community... they become we.
It's hard to find simple solutions to the challenges facing many cooperatives, which is all the more reason to figure out how to tackle those challenges together. Eliminating language that draws those invisible lines in the sand is a good place to start.
So the next time you are in a conversation or a meeting and you hear someone talking about they, take a moment to remind yourself and everyone around you that in cooperative living, they are we!
Former ROC-NH Organizational Development Specialist Gary Faucher now works for ROC USA.
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