At ROC-NH boot camp, leaders learn how to take charge

On a sunny September morning, eight adults are back in school.

And although it’s a Saturday, and the scene in Mascoma Valley Regional High’s cafeteria could be a decades-later sequel of The Breakfast Club, these students aren’t in detention.

Man and woman at a table, laughing.In fact, they’re serious students, and they’ve volunteered to be here. They’re leaders and potential leaders of New Hampshire’s two newest resident-owned manufactured-home communities (ROCs)—Lakeside Cooperative in Enfield and Mascoma Valley Cooperative in Canaan—and they’re hungry to learn.

Few of us can imagine being put in charge, almost overnight, of multi-million-dollar businesses. But that’s exactly what happens when residents of manufactured-home (mobile-home) parks buy their communities.

For the weeks and months preceding the sale, their energy and concentration are absorbed by organizing their neighbors as a cooperative, meeting, and gathering documents.

Then, on closing day, relief. Yay, we own it!

Gulp. Now what?

This morning, two ROC-NH trainers have brought the “here’s what”—a six-hour “boot camp” covering the basics of governance and accountability; financial statements; the differences between community bylaws, rules, and policies; legal and regulatory compliance; and planning for capital improvements.

Among the reasons none of New Hampshire’s 123 ROCs have failed, even through two economic recessions, are the training, technical assistance, and peer connections ROC-NH provides. Newly converted ROCs have access to more than 30 years of experience, as well as an online management guide and templates, and the expertise of their peers at other ROCs. All of this training and expertise is paid for by donations to the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.

In Canaan, the most interaction occurs when the attendees break into small groups and discuss real-life scenarios: A resident threatens to sue a board member because park rules say she can’t have a dog. A resident is so disruptive at meetings that the board can’t conduct business. Can the board fix a water main without a vote of the members?

These community leaders will deal with these types of scenarios, and many, many, more, as they and their neighbors transition from renters to owners. It’s a major mind-shift, like being elected selectman in town.

Learning how to be in charge doesn’t happen overnight, but ROC-NH’s boot camp is a good start.

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This story originally appeared in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s 2017 annual report.