|Re: Consensus with neophyte group||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Monty Berman (mbermanmailbox.syr.edu)|
|Date: Fri, 22 Dec 1995 14:16:33 -0600|
On Wed, 20 Dec 1995, Stuart Staniford-Chen wrote: > 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? MY EXPERIENCE WITH CONSENSUS IS THAT IT'S NOT AS HUGE AN UNDERTAKING AS I INTIALLY THOUGHT WHEN IT WAS SUGGESTED AS THE WAY FOR US (AT ECOVILLAGE AT ITHACA) TO GO. WE HAVE OPERATED UNDER CONSENSUS DECISION-MAKING FOR OVER FOUR YEARS. SO, ONE THING I WOULD TELL PEOPLE THAT, IN PRACTICE, THEY MAY WELL FIND IT NOT TO BE DIFFICULT. WE ALSO HAVE HAD A FALL-BACK PROCEDURE WHICH, AFTER SOME DUE PROCESS, WE CAN PASS STUFF WITH ONLY 80%. BUT I DON'T KNOW THAT WE'VE EVER USED THIS!!! ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE THAT MIGHT BE SHARED IS THAT INSTEAD OF THINKING ABOUT CONSENSUS AS HAVING TO GET EVERYBODY TO AGREE (THE HALF-EMPTY APPROACH), WE CAN LOOK AT IT AS A PROCESS IN WHICH ALL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO VOICE THEIR VIEWS. EACH PARTICIPANT GETS TO BE HEARD (AND, OFTEN, EVEN UNDERSTOOD!) AND THIS, I WOULD TELL THE NEOPHYTES, IS USUALLY SUFFICIENT TO ALLOW THE DECISION TO BE MADE EVEN THOUGH EVERYONE ISN'T 100% FOR IT (THUS "STAND-ASIDES"). OR, OF COURSE NOT-MADE; I WOULD SAY THERE USUALLY IS A SENSE OF RIGHTNESS ABOUT NOT MAKING DECISIONS WHEN A NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE DIFFICULTY WITH IT. IT JUST OCCURS TO ME THAT RIGHT AT THE OUTSET THE GROUP COULD HAVE A REAL LIVE OPPORTUNITY TO DO CONSENSUS; THE GROUP COULD DECIDE ON ITS OWN DECISION-MAKING PROCESS, AND THE FACILITATOR COULD KEEP LOOKING TO HEAR ALL VIEWS ON THIS---UNTIL . . . SURPRISINGLY TO ME, ONE OF OUR LONG-TIME AND VERY INFLUENTIAL MEMBERS HAS RAISED THE QUESTION ABOUT DOING LESS THAN CONSENSUS, OUT OF, I BELIEVE, A CONCERN ABOUT GETTING BOGGED DOWN. THIS CONFOUNDS ME SINCE WE'VE MOVED STEADILY AHEAD FOR OVER FOUR YEARS BUT, MORE TO THE POINT HERE, I REALIZE IT'S HARD FOR ME TO CONCEIVE OF OPERATING IN ANY FORM OTHER THAN CONSENSUS. I BELIEVE I WOULD VIGOROUSLY OPPOSE SUCH A CHANGE (AND, OF COURSE, HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO ARTICULATE MY POSITION TO THE GROUP). > > 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'M THINKING THAT YOUR POTENTIAL CYNIC WOULD HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO PUT HIS OR HER STUFF OUT IN THE CONSENSUS PROCESS IN A WAY THAT S/HE MIGHT NOT USUSALLY. IT COULD BE TREATED AS A CASE IN POINT ABOUT CONSENSUS---ESPECIALLY IF THE GROUP EXPERIMENTED WITH ITS OWN DECISION-MAKIGN PROCESS. I LIKE YOUR IDEA ABOUT A CONSENSUS-L MAILING LIST. AND I WOULD KEEP IT FOCUSED JUST ON CONSENSUS, ESPECIALLY OUR VARIOUS EXPERIENCES WITH IT. MONTY BERMAN, ECOVAILLAGE AT ITHACA, FIRST RESIDENT GROUP > I know there is a lot of experience out there with this kind of thing - any > advice will be much appreciated. > > Stuart. > > 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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