Re: CH game room
From: Becky Schaller (
Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 00:05:05 -0500
Patty, I tried sending this a few days ago, but it didn't get through. 
Hopefully, this time.  Some of it was said by someone else in an email 
since then, but I'm  going to go ahead and send this as it was.

I don't have any direct answers for the situation your group is
in, but I do have a few thoughts.

In terms of new members coming in and vetoing the decisions of the
past -- we have a policy which is that once a decision is made, that's
the decision of the group.  If someone wants the group to reconsider
that decision, then five people need to agree that it is worth the
groups time to reconsider it. (That number is somewhat arbitrary.)  If
the group decides to reopen that decision for consideration,  even
then the old decision holds fast unless everyone in the group agrees
to change it.
Also all decision consensus are written down.  When new members come
in, they are really agreeing to be willing to live by all the
agreements that the group has made up to that time.  (Unfortunately,
we are not as good about letting new people know what these decisions
are as we might be, but it's also a matter of not wanting to overwhelm
people with too much information.)

In looking at what happened in your group in retrospect (or with 20:20
hindsight), these are the places I think things could have gone

1.  When the member wanted confirmation that the pool table would go
in the game room, all that was really necessary was to look in the

2.  Since it was brought up, then I think the proposal should have
been worded to change the previously made decision.  For example, the
proposal would be, "Over a year ago, as a group, we consensed on
the following.   Blah, blah, blah.  We are now looking at changing
that to  blah, blah, blah.  Do you agree, stand aside, or stop the

(We've recently asked ourselves a question  related to this.  If you
have 40% of the people in the group standing aside, but not blocking,
then do you have a consensus decision?  It seems clear that the answer
to that question is that you don't.  But what if you have ten per cent
of the group standing aside?  One person?  Where do you draw the line.
In our group, we decided that if you have at least one person standing
aside, then the group would need to look at where the various people
are on that particular question and decide whether or not there is
consensus or not.)

3.  The third place I would suggest that you consider looking at the
situation a bit differently is to look at all decisions as in process.
That means that even when someone is blocking a decision, the group
can still move forward.

In our group, we have a process for this.   Basically/theoretically it
works like this.  The group spends three meetings discussing a
particular decision.  On the third meeting, someone puts out a
proposal to see if we have consensus.  If someone is blocking or if
there are two or more sides who can't agree, then those people who
feel most strongly about an issue form a committee and continue
discussing to see if they can come up with a solution which they can
agree upon.  If so, it's brought to the group.  If not, then the group
may decide to go to a vote on a particular proposal.  If so, 80% of
the people need to agree to that proposal for it to be a decision of
the group.

I've been involved in consensus decision making since high school and
I've never seen consensus decision making thought out as well as it
has been in cohousing.  This group has a wealth of information on the

I wish you the best in working this issue out with your group.

Becky Schaller
Sonora Cohousing
Tucson, AZ
We're planning on starting constuction of thirty-six units on 4.7
beautiful acres this fall in central Tucson.   Jim Leach is working as
our developer.  You may check out our website at

> Over one year ago a community member asked the group if we were interested in
> a donation of a family heirloom slate pool table for use in the common house
> game room.  We enthusiastically accepted the offer.  He went to the expense of
> pulling it out of storage and restoring it.
> Last week at our regular business meeting the same member brought it back up
> to the group to receive confirmation that the pool table would indeed be
> placed in the game room.  A long discussion followed with some of the newest
> members expressing some discomfort with the notion.  After several rounds we
> crafted a proposal that incorporated two concerns:  that the pool table be
> made convertable to a ping-pong table and that the issue be revisited in 6
> months after move in.  When put to a vote one new member thumbed it down.

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