Re: consensus and the greater good of the group
From: Mac Thomson (
Date: Sat, 8 Feb 1997 08:47:07 -0600
This is a timely issue for us at San Juan Cohousing as we are just working 
our policies on consensus.
Carrie Burmaster of Liberty Village that is looking at how we
> use consensus.  Our reference point is C.T. Butler's book on Conflict and
> Consensus.  My question relates to how you go about deciding whether a
> person's concerns about an issue are or are not related to the greater
> good of the group or whether they represent individual preference,
> possibly leading to that person standing aside. Does the decision about 
> whether it is an
> individual or group concern become another issue upon which consensus has
> to be reached, does the individual him or herself get to determine that,
> is there a vote,
> etc., etc.

As I remember Butler's book, formal consensus requires that the person standing 
the way of a decision must do so based on the previously recordered documents 
decisions of the group.  So, for example, if a person can't show that the 
Statement (or some other policy or decision) calls for respect for the 
environment or 
use of native plants only, he couldn't stand in the way of a decision to plant 
Russian Olive trees on the grounds that they are a non-native plant and the use 
them would be bad for the community.  In a way, this is a more formal/rigid 
to what Rob recommended in his post about getting back to the purpose or goal 
of a 
decision and comparing that with the reason someone has for standing in the 
Hopefully your group's Vision will be a statement of purpose or goals and so 
you can 
compare how the decision does or doesn't support your Vision.

Regarding the post from Canada in which someone was standing in the way of the 
buying a piece of land because it wouldn't work for them personally, the 
raised was is it possible that someone "could live with the decision" even if 
couldn't live in the community if the decision were made.  A resounding "YES".  
would obviously be a very difficult decision and poosibly a personal sacrifice, 
but I 
think that it's obvious that in thinking of the good of the group, it's much 
to have the group create a cohousing community with whomever can live on a 
piece of land than to wait forever for a piece that works for everyone that may 
come along.

And finally, in response to a comment made by Molly of Cambridge Co-Housing 
where a 
person standing in the way of a decision may change to standing aside with the 
statement, "I feel the sense of the meeting is to move forward, I will not 
stand in 
the way..."  This is a very scary statement to me.  I feel that a person should 
aside because they think that the decision will be OK for the group, but not so 
for them personally, not because the group is impatient to move on.  Consensus 
about spending the time necessary to allow everyone get to a decsion they can 
with.  If someone decides not to stand in the way because "the sense of the 
is to move forward", I don't think this is consensus at all.  Other comments?
           Mac Thomson                   San Juan Cohousing
           ganesh [at]                Durango, Colorado

"Have the gumption to live differently AND the sense to let everyone else live 

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