the blog posts

cohousing for bermuda revisited

Cohousing is a concept foreign to Bermuda but one that is worth looking at again. 'Again' suggests Bermudians considered it at all when, in reality, I keenly researched it back in the nineties but appeared to be alone in my interest.

The topic came up recently, when (and this happens when you reach a certain age) friends asked us if, in retirement, we would consider some form of communal living. The discussion centred on private accommodation around a square of some sort where we could keep an eye out for each other but not actually live together. We like these friends but not that much.

After dispensing with the term 'commune', which has unfortunate Koolaid connotations, I realised we were being asked to ponder a form of cohousing.

 cohousing in sebastopol, ca: image - schemata workshop

cohousing in sebastopol, ca: image - schemata workshop

A familiar form of residential development in Denmark, Sweden and, to a lesser extent, USA and UK, cohousing communities are made up of groups of families or couples living in self-sufficient private residences but who access and use shared facilities as well. The key component of cohousing is a Common House with a kitchen and dining facilities where everyone can share an evening meal, have community meetings and generally socialise. Links between residences are important too, as the notion of watching out for each other is a primary reason for living in a cohousing set up. Other shared facilities can comprise playgrounds, laundry facilities, workshops and guest accommodation. 

As described by the UK Cohousing Network, advantages include:

             common kitchen: image - schemata workshop

            common kitchen: image - schemata workshop

  • a sense of community and shared values, a sense of belonging,
  • keeping one’s privacy while having an active and locally based social life,
  • living more economically and sustainably – sharing skills, tools, heating systems, all sorts,
  • neighbours that become friends and the mutual support that comes naturally with that (anything from shared childcare to a shoulder to cry on to a pint of milk to someone noticing if you have not been seen for a day or two),
  • support in older age, and,
  • feeling useful/making a contribution.

Cohousing is something Bermuda should investigate. It could be an alternative to traditional assisted living situations or as a (new to us) way of building healthy and sustainable communities. 

a wellbeing report card for bermuda

There were four shootings in Bermuda last week. Four. This is a miniscule number for South Central LA. It is a huge number for Bermuda. 

It made me think about our wellbeing as a community. More than an index of national happiness, which seems all the rage at present; a wellbeing index touches on all facets of our life, crosses all sections of governance and appears to build on the tenets of the healthy communities movement, which I've touched on before.

Santa Monica, CA, is working on this already. According to Jessica Leber's article, How a Well-Being Index for Cities is Taking Shape in California, for Fast Company, city officials of this affluent LA 'burb were dismayed by the public gang shooting of a local resident and the public suicide of a 9th-grader, and now are working with experts around the world to develop the metric for a Wellbeing Index. It is not a small task but with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, The Wellbeing Project is well underway. The work involves using economics, social science, public policy, public health, technology, environment, and behavioral science to tell city officials how people are doing.

As outlined in the white paper, A City of Wellbeing by  Karen Warner and Margaret Kern for the City of Santa Monica, wellbeing indexes can have several different goals. It depends on what challenge you are seeking to address. Basically, though, as the white paper states, the purpose of a Wellbeing Index is threefold:

  • to understand the initial state of wellbeing for a community,
  • to identify disparities and domains where wellbeing falls short, and,
  • to identify areas to strengthen or adjust policies and programs to sustain existing levels of wellbeing and build additional wellbeing.

This is more enriching and comprehensive in scope than a Happiness Index or a State of the Environment Report; it has the benefit of involving and combining all aspects of our lives. Santa Monica hopes its efforts will result in a Wellbeing Index that can be adapted for use by others. Let's hope this happens and that it works. Bermuda needs a helping hand.

not your usual urban planning work

It's a good idea, generally speaking, to look outside your usual environment to see what others are doing.

Mitchell Sipus is someone who is working in a realm that is quite foreign to us here in Bermuda. With graduate degrees in architecture, urban planning and refugee/migration studies, he has served as an advisor in Afghanistan and Somalia, both places in a pretty constant state of (re)construction. 

The range and depth of the challenges is quite something to even contemplate for those of us living and working on a coral reef-ringed island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

His blog, Humanitarian Space, provides insightful learning opportunities for planners and is well worth checking regularly. As he describes it, "In the humanitarian aid industry, a humanitarian space is a defined, politically neutral space within an area of conflict that allows humanitarian actors to assist populations in need with decreased levels of danger." The blog is a "...virtual space committed to ideas and dialogue on issues of conflict, stabilization, displacement, aid, and development."

The blog post, Archive: 9 Posts from HSpace that you wish you had read, links to a number of blog posts Sipus views as well worth a first/second look. I would agree.

image - sutika sipus