Re: Conflict Resolution
From: James Nordgaard (
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 18:27:30 -0600
---Mark & Kathy Bishop <mbishop [at]> wrote:

> Is it true that in a simple majority vote, greater than 50% must
vote in favor.
> The rest can abstain or vote against?  In consensus it takes as
little as one
> person in favor if the rest step aside and allow consensus.  This
seems like a
> lower ?threshold?.

This is theoretically possible, but is something not really
conceivable in real consensus.  I have never seem more than a handful
stepping aside.  If more than half are "stepping aside" on a decision,
it would be apparent to everyone that there is no real consensus of
the group on that decision.

> If I am in a room with strangers that I
> don?t trust, I would prefer a consensus process over a majority
vote.  ?Hey, I
> don?t know what secret alliances are among these strangers, I don?t
know who
> knows who.  Maybe I am the minority here.?  Majority vote process
demands that
> each individual trust that the majority is right.

If you were in a room full of strangers with that little trust, you
would not trust ANY kind of decision making process from that group. 
If you are relying on your own individual "veto" power to protect you
interests, a consensus in that room is completely out of the question.

> Behind the scenes leadership? Stagnation? Splintering?  Are you sure
you aren?t
> describing our Congress? I think a majority vote process encourages
> and behind-the-scenes lobbying for votes. Consensus discourages this.

I guess I should modify my statement slightly to say a failed
consensus end up be about as bad as the least functional democratic
process; which well describes Congress right now.

> A majority vote is quicker in making a decision but slower at
execution because
> it takes time to educate the uninformed and enforce the decision on
> unwilling.  Consensus decisions come slower but execution is quick
and has full
> support.

Well said.

> Having a fall back to a majority vote from a consensus sounded good
to me until
> I got into the details of transitioning from consensus to majority
> Blocked consensus cannot be a trigger to ?fall back? because blocked
> is a very very important part of consensus.  Undermining the ability
to block
> consensus in turn undermines the consensus process.  Is it consensus
for the
> group to decide to vote around the person blocking a consensus that
is counter
> to the agreed principals of the group?

This is very true.  Either way, the consensus process fails.  When
there is no backup process, and you have (unresolvable) deadlock (a
blocking vote); everyone knows the process has broken down; but there
is nothing ANYONE can do about it, except dissolve the group.  With
that backup procedure, if the backup procedure is implemented
(majority vote), everyone still knows the consensus process has
failed, but the immediate results are not catastrophic.  (It might
give the group time to seek conflict resolution and repair the damage,
or the group might end up dissolving anyway.)

If the majority of the group (and it would take a majority) find it
legitimate to use the fall back process to get their way in an
ordinary vote, than one could credably argue there was no consensus
process within the group to begin with.  My cohousing group has such a
backup majority vote in our bylaws.  It exists, I think, because there
are there are some very important legal matters dependent on the
group's decisionmaking abilities.  However, this provision has never
even been brought up with the group since I've been there.  It is
likely few even remember it exists, and certainly no one would
consider using it as a tactic to override a blocking vote.


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