Re: RE- the politics of co-h
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 94 15:36 CST
Laura Bagnal asked:

>I'd be interested in different decision-making tools employed by
>different groups, if people would care to share their

There is whole chapter in the cohousing guide on decision structures. 
Just to cover the highlights:

The power of having a group decision is that you have assess to many 
perspectives and several lifetimes worth of experiences, training, etc. 
 Create a process to tap this resource and use it to its full potential.

Voting: Use a sizeable majority 2/3 or greater and watch for and avoid 
a persistent minority.

Small groups: Give small groups the autonomy to make decisions.

An individual: Sometimes when dealing with outside people, such as 
agency people, giving one person the authority to make decisions can work out.

An authority makes decisions. Most groups agree that they got too 
involved and should have let the architect make more of the decisions.

Consensus.  Works well for issues which effect the whole group, often 
misused. People often block for personal reasons, rather than for the 
good of the whole group.

In deciding something which is a matter of preference, where there 
really is no right answer, and one persons opinion is as good as 
anothers, consensus usually doesn't work well.  Sometimes  problems 
such as the name of the group don't really need to be resolved and you 
can spend a whole lot of large group time working on it, which might 
not be the best use of the group.

At Sharingwood how we handle such things is to do a large group 
brainstorm of all the ideas, assign a task force to sort and categorize 
the information and to make a reccomendation. Usually the 
reccomendation offers 2-3 alternative solutions with one being the 
reccomended over the others.  If none of the solutions work for the 
group, then the task force recovenes to come up with other ideas, 
incorporating the input of the meeting.  If the issue is time critical, 
and meets certain other criteria that we have established, then we hold 
a vote, with 3/4 majority to pass.

One way to deal with deadlocked issues is to back up a step.  Often 
people can't agree right away to the details but can agree on concepts. 
 For the group name scenario you might be able to get some conceptual 
agreements such as the name should reflect our nature preservation 
values, sharing, or other such concepts.  Having agreement on concepts 
can make it easier to filter out specifics which don't fit the concepts 
and also lead to the direction of agreement.

Rob Sandelin
Puget Sound Cohousing Network
"Building a better society, one neighborhood at a time"

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