Cohousing values and accounting software

December 6, 2014 10:26 am

The public face of cohousing often looks mildly glamorous. It’s not just that the more photogenic members of the group get pushed to the front for those smiley photographs, but the news celebrates those ecstatic moments when champagne is the only logical response. Nevertheless, as I say more times than I ought to, there’s a lot of paddling going on beneath the glamorous surface. One of those paddling moments set me thinking.

I was looking at modern ‘cloud’ accounting packages because, when a cohousing development gets going, you need as much help as modern technology can give you to do accurate budget and cash flows, keep control of costs and do all the returns demanded by HMRC.

When setting out the specification of the software I was amazed by how closely the values of the group fed through directly into our needs for something as simple as accounting software. I say ‘simple’ but, as an accountant, I can afford to show off a little. It is difficult to move in the corporate world without bumping into a list of values (‘meek’ seldom features); but living your values actually means something for a cohousing community (at this stage you are allowed to insert your own counterblast that ‘of course the organisation I work for lives its values’ – so long as you can find a good argument as to why it does not actually mention making a profit).

This cohousing group’s support for the principles of equality, inclusion, and diversity dictate that we must have accounting software that allows everyone in the group to see everything: every transaction, every report. Diversity means we accommodate PC, Mac, phones and tablets and, if a member has a problem with the technology, we make sure they have a ‘buddy’ to ease them into it.

Lots of accounting software insists on charging per user and when you are trying enthusiastically to recruit more members you don’t need any cost disincentives. Actually, our whole approach so far has been to make software costs for members = zero. This constraint has not imposed any problems, indeed I was pleased to note that recently PwC, one of the largest professional services groups on the planet (and they know a bit about accounting software) had opted to introduce for many of their professional staff globally the same systems we use. See

Of course if you want to know what accounting software we select you can either (1) join us in our Cannock Mill adventure or (2) wait for a future blog.

On Twitter as @da_york