Consensus with neophyte group
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 1995 22:34:45 -0600

I have a couple of queries for you process people out there.  This is 
actually arising out of a situation at work, but it could easily arise in 
a cohousing setting, so I am hoping folks won't mind.

I've agreed to facilitate a lengthy group process (to design a software 
system actually) by consensus.  I have a fair amount of experience 
facilitating.  However, the people involved do not have much, if any, 
experience with consensus.  So that's the first question - what special 
tactics are needed with a neophyte group?  What do I tell them at the outset?

In particular, I have at least one person in there who has a "cynic" side.  
By "cynic" I mean the archetype who derives their gratification from 
predicting that something will fail, secretly working to make sure it does, 
and then being able to say "I told you so."  How do I handle this?  How do 
I appeal to this guy's better side?

I know there is a lot of experience out there with this kind of thing - any 
advice will be much appreciated.


P.S.  After my second beer tonight, I had a brainwave.  What about a mailing 
list called consensus-l?  The idea would be a support and discussion group 
for people working with consensus process.  The hope would be to 
cross-fertilize ideas between cohousing, intentional communities, quakers, 
non-profits, and businesses - any person or situation that is involved in
consensus decision-making.  We could all talk process endlessly.  Let me 
know what you think - if enough people like the idea, maybe I'll have the 
energy to do something about it.

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