Amanda recently published an article about the Canopy in the Beacon Hill Friends House (BHFH) newsletter! It appears in its entirety after the jump.
While I'm currently a resident at BHFH, I’m also working with a group of collaborators to start a new, child-friendly coop. We are the Canopy, and our mission is:
To pioneer a progressive, cooperative family living model and cultivate networks of support for people who want to raise children in community.
Put another way: we’re a group of open-minded coop enthusiasts who are going to buy a big house in Boston and put a treehouse out back.
Children and their caregivers stand to benefit immensely from the resource-sharing that cooperative living makes possible, including shared chores, meal preparation, and childcare, but we’re not aware of anything quite like the Canopy that exists in the Greater Boston area. Other coops may include children, but weren't set up with that as their focus. Cohousing tends to be child-friendly, but its model of private ownership at market rates makes it unaffordable for many and shifts the focus of the household toward family units and private space more than our group is interested in doing. So, while creating a new coop is a lot more work than joining an existing one, we've identified an unmet need that the Canopy will address.
In addition, there are broader problems in the Boston housing market that The Canopy can help to solve. First, in general the supply of coop housing in Boston has not kept up with demand; we’ve talked to coop households who report getting over 20 applications every time they have an available room. Secondly, even though it’s technically illegal, housing discrimination against people with young children is rampant in Boston and those who can’t afford to buy find themselves shut out of many apartments. Our long-term vision is that The Canopy will be one step in a movement to mobilize and organize, and combat that injustice.
Our current core group of members has diverse personal reasons for why this feels like the right choice for each of us. Personally, I grew up with the benefit of a large network of extended family; my babysitters were grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins. (As far as I know, my parents never once paid for a babysitter.) As I start building a family of my own (which will definitely include close caretaking relationships with children, whether they are biologically related to me or not), I seek to recreate that network of support, which benefits everyone involved.
A helpful resource during this process has been the book Creating a Life Together, by Diane Leafe Christian (the former editor of Communities magazine). Among the key factors that successful and longstanding coops share, she points out that the most important may be an investment of time upfront in defining their mission and core values. We have prioritized this work, sharing stories from our own childhoods and strategically crafting our dreams for the future, in our weekly meetings since last fall. The shared community values that have emerged include:
We value education and exploration. Ours is a house of books and board games, art projects and musical instruments, science experiments, creativity, calculus, and curiosity.
We want to raise confident, resourceful, independent, responsible, empowered people, which means we must embody these qualities as parents.
We choose humor. We like fun. We like treehouses. We like nature.
We are committed to contributing to the well-being and care of the people around us.
(There are more: The full list is posted at our website, canopycoop.weebly.com.)
On other technical matters, we’ve consulted with other coop founders, loan officers, and lawyers, and are grateful for the guidance they’ve provided. At present, we are officially incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Massachusetts, and are considering applying for 501(c)3 federal tax exemption. We are actively recruiting new members and are planning some exciting fundraising events for the summer, with a plan to purchase a property accessible by public transportation in the next one to two years. To learn more about The Canopy and receive updates, like our Facebook page (facebook.com/thecanopycoop) or visit our website (canopycoop.weebly.com).