Consensus and inclusion
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 12 Jan 95 10:56 CST
There is an interesting process issue developing within my community 
which I would like to pass around to those of you doing consensus 
decision making.  At Sharingwood we have always operated by the idea 
that if you do not attend a meeting where a decision is made, unless 
you give your voice to another member, you give up your opportunity to 
be a part of the decision.

Consensus on the other hand is where the full acceptance of a decision 
of every member is required and needed in order to move on the 
decision.  One of the things which has surfaced now a couple of times 
is that members who were NOT at a meeting where a decision was made, 
later had a problem with the decision and we had to go back and deal 
with it, either in person with the individual or at a meeting.   We 
publish decisions to be made at the meetings in the newsletter or in a 
handout which is distributed to everyone so members know in advance 
what is being decided at a meeting. Our process is assuming that people 
not attending the meeting know about  and are in agreement with the decision.

I am beginning to think that when members are not present at a meeting 
where a consensus decision is reached by those present, that they 
should be personally contacted and asked if they also "do not have an 
unacceptable level of conflict" to use the Sharingwood jargon, before 
we determine that we have reached consensus.

Or to put this another way if 5 people out of 23 show up for a meeting 
and make a consensus decision, is it really a consensus decision?  I 
would say Clearly not.  OK, now roll the numbers the other way, if 18 
people out of 23 show up for a meeting and make a consensus decision  
is it really a consensus decision?  If you say yes in the second case - why?

If we move ahead without the full participation of EVERYONE, in the 
name of efficiency, is it consensus or is it a majority vote disguised 
as consensus?  What if someone is pissed off about the issue and 
doesn't attend the meeting because they are feeling pissed off and 
disfranchised?  Is it still consensus?  Yikes, look at all those worms 
squirming in the can!

As always, your thoughts and advise on this would be appreciated.

Rob Sandelin

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