18. How Will We Bring New People Into the Group?

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What happens if your sharing plan is going great and you would like to invite others to join? In the spirit of sharing, some groups have a tendency to grow. Whether your group hopes to take over the whole neighborhood or you simply want to add a member or two, there are a handful of key issues to discuss.

Bringing in New Members

The first topic of discussion is whether your group wants to grow at all. Does everyone agree on how large the group should be? If one member wants to keep the group small and another has plans to include every house on the street, you'll need to come to some agreement before you move on to discuss how to admit new members. (For more information on group size, see Question 4, above).

Once you've resolved the issue of how large you want your group to be, you'll need to consider how you'll choose new members. What criteria, if any, must new members meet? Under what circumstances can new members join? Only when another member leaves? Should the decision to involve new members be unanimous? If it's a small group where people must interact and work together, it's probably best that the decision be unanimous. If the decision requires only the vote of a majority, some people could be left feeling uncomfortable with each other. However, in the case of a large sharing group, where people may never have to see each other or cooperate (like a neighborhood tool sharing group), it's probably fine to have just a majority vote or designate a committee or individual to be responsible for admitting new members.

Requirements for New Members

If your group's members have paid into the group (to buy shared items or cover ongoing costs, for example), you should consider what financial requirements new members will have to meet. Will new members have to make an initial contribution? How much does it cost to join? Will the new member own a portion of the shared item? Will current members have to sell part of their share to the new member?

Other issues are new member orientation, creating handbooks or other written materials for new members, and developing documents for new members to sign.

Temporary Members and Guests

What about temporary members or guests? A sharing group may have a core group of regular members, but also leave open the possibility that guests may take part on an occasional basis. This can help to lessen costs for the group and build community with a broader range of people. For example, Larry, Pam, and Steve have a three-unit condo with a laundry room. They decide to allow friends to come in and use the laundry machines if they pay for each use. Or, a group that has started a community garden might allow other neighbors to join in several times a year.

No matter how you envision allowing nonmembers to participate, your group should discuss the issue and make sure all of you agree on whether and how other people will be included.

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