Re: Conflict Resolution
From: James Nordgaard (
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 14:38:16 -0600
---mbishop [at] wrote:

> Concerning trust: It seems to me that a group of untrusting strangers
> making decisions about their community will have problems no matter
> process they use.  I am not clear on how consensus is more
vulnerable to
> the lack of trust than a majority vote. Anyone able to explain this
to me?
> Does consensus require more trust than a majority vote?

Yes. Any system of decision making requires some degree in trust in
the process (except for tyranny of course). However consensus has a
much higher threshold; %100 versus %51 for a major voting process. 
This requires not only a higher of trust, but a higher degree of
common interest, commitment, and understanding of the process, for
consensus to work.  In a majority voting system, you can have almost
half (or more) the participants not really understanding what they are
doing, and still have the process work (this is why Congress and
legislatures continue to function).

Consensus is a very powerful, but very demanding tool.  When it works,
it finds win-win solutions for everyone, where simple democracy finds
only compromises for the majority.  However, it is important that
there is a fallback mechanism to conventional democracy; if there is
any chance that consensus could fail.  The reason is, that if
consensus fails, it fails miserably.  What happens when a failed
concensus is perpetuated, you end up with behind the scenes
(self-appointed and unaccountable) leaders taking over, or staganation
of the group, or spintering and effective dissolution. The results of
a failed consensus is worse than traditional democracy.

>  In fact, it seems to me, that training should be a requirement
> for membership.  I may not be speaking for many people when I say
that I am
> not interested in living in a cohousing community that are not
skilled in
> communications and working together collaboratively. I?m not
interested in
> living with people that use competitive behavior patterns in making
> decisions in my community.  This is one of the weakness of consensus
> cohousing catching on.  It goes against the norm.  

The "training" goes on during the process of forming the group,
planning, than building, than moving into the community. It's true,
that if cohousing catches on, it the process will be faster and
easier; making less opprotunity for "training."  This is a problem
that is going to have to be addressed if the cohousing movement
succeeds in the long run.

Jim Nordgaard

Jim Nordgaard /\ jimn [at]  /\
J. River, Inc. - Monterey Cohousing Community - Green Party of MN
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