Re: Consensus and inclusion
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Thu, 12 Jan 95 23:16 CST
Rob Sandelin writes:

> 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.

N St. has an appeal process for this situation.  A decision can be appealed
for up to two weeks after the meeting that made it.  Then we have to 
schedule a meeting with the appealer to go over the issue again.  This 
process is *very* rarely used (I can only think of one case), but it is 
there if necessary.

For that reason, we sometimes implement decisions (eg spend the money) before 
the two weeks are up in the hope that no-one will appeal.  We aren't supposed 
to, but we do.  We tend to be a lot more careful over this kind of thing if 
the decision is a big one.

> 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.

I wonder if you might have trouble doing this because the absent people
didn't hear all the discussion/sharing/compromise that went into the 
decision and will therefore form their opinion in a different frame of
reference than the rest of the group.  If you insist that they all must
consense, this might make it harder to reach decisions.  Maybe not if you 
are all sophisticated enough about the process.  It does also put an extra 
step into the process (and therefore an extra opportunity for the group to
flake and not implement the decision)  The way we do things has the merit 
that the person who is unhappy has to make the running.  (A reasonable 
atonement for missing meetings in the first place :-).

> 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!

Yes indeed!  We have had this and it's a *big* problem.  I believe it hasn't 
happened recently.  We don't have a good way of handling this (in my opinion 
- other N Street people may differ).  Maybe this would be a time for your 
Process and Communication committee to step into the breach.

Best wishes from Sunny California,

stanifor [at]
N St Cohousing (wet but not drowned).

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