From: allenbutcher (
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000 17:58:24 -0700 (MST)
Regarding process, I have the material following produced on a tri-fold
brochure, that I could send to anyone interested, in PDF format.  It is
basic consensus meeting process information.     

Something I've been wondering about--Katie and Chuck wrote in the first
cohousing book that, "Most cohousing groups try to use consensus as much
as possible ...."  In America we credit the Quakers with developing
consensus process (somewhat inspired by Native American meeting process,
but largely inspired by George Fox's writings in the 1600s, starting the
Quaker church).  Are there Quakers in Denmark?


* Much of this material is from Resource Manual for a Living Revolution: 
A Handbook of Skills & Tools for Social Change Activists, 1985, Coover,
Deacon, Esser, Moore, New Society Publishers (4527 Springfield Ave.,
Philadelphia, PA  19143 800/333-9093, $11).

PROCESS SERVICE (PS):  Teaches group facilitation, conflict resolution
and consensus decision-making process, through its services to the group.

TEAM FACILITATORS:  The Process Service may have any number of members,
referred to as the Process Team.  It is best if the team or the entire
group can meet before each meeting to set the agenda and to decide who
the facilitator and note-taker will be, and again after each meeting to
talk about how the facilitation was managed.  Always include a short
evaluation at the end of the meeting to get group feedback on the
process.  The group or Process Team divide among themselves the following

Greeters:  Introduces new people to the organization's mission and group
process.  May become a separate education and recruitment committee for
bringing new people into the organization.

Process Observer/Time Keeper:  Pays attention to compliance with the
agreed upon process, including time limits.  Watches for unexpressed
feelings, tensions, and the need to call breaks.

Notetaker:  Records at least the meeting attendance, proposals,
amendments, decisions, and task lists.  May record details of discussions
if desired.

Facilitator:  Takes suggestions for and asks for group agreement on the
agenda.  Encourages participation by "stacking" names for order of
speaking, calls for "go arounds" and otherwise assures that everyone is
heard.  Helps the group resolve conflicts and find compromises by
summarizing, repeating, or re-phrasing proposals and positions as
necessary.  Leads the group in refusing to permit verbal or other attacks
or domination of the meeting.  Remains neutral on all topics, and steps
down when they wish to participate in issues.

AGENDA CREATION:  Items for the next meeting's agenda should be listed in
the minutes of each meeting (whenever possible, along with date, time and
place of the next meeting).  Before the next meeting begins, the Process
Team will create a Draft Agenda on large paper with items given to them,
with each item listed including a presenter present at the meeting and a
length of time for each item.
     After the "check-in" period at the start of the meeting, the
facilitator will ask for any additions to and then for consensus on the
agenda, with its item time limits.  If an item begins to go over its
allotted time, then the group must contract for an additional block of
time to be used for that discussion, taking time away from other items. 
Alternatively, the group could table the issue, postponing it to another
meeting, or until after all of the other issues are completed, perhaps
extending the meeting to complete all items.  (This process may seem
awkward at first, but it can help to keep people conscious of keeping
their comments short and to the point.)

SAMPLE AGENDA:  Before the meeting, while the Process Team creates the
agenda, new people are greeted and oriented to the process.  Designated
facilitator calls the meeting.

Agenda review and consensus.      Facilitator  2-5 minutes
Announcements and Committee Reports:     Presenters 15 min.
(These are quick reports, detailed issues are in Old or New Business
agenda items.)
Old Business:  Items carried forward from earlier meetings.
New Business:  New issues and proposals.
Task List:  Confirmation of individually accepted tasks.
Next Meeting:  Agenda, Date, Time, Place.
Evaluation:  Go Around, or "Good, Bad and to be Improved."

     Items for whole group consensus should be brought to the meeting in
writing, with enough copies for all.  This assures that someone has done
some detailed thinking about the issue.  If the issue falls under the
concern of a standing committee, that committee should work with it
first, and then make the proposal to the whole group.

     Complicated issues, or issues proposed to a very large group, can
begin with a brainstorm list of solutions made by the whole group.  This
group then breaks into smaller groups of 6 to 8 people, each of which
develops its own proposal.  These proposals are presented to the large
group, which discusses them.  Commonalities and disagreements are
identified.  Contested points are sent back to small groups until all
issues are resolved.

     The goal of the consensus process is to reach a decision with which
everyone can agree, without resort to the win-lose decision-making
process of voting.  As a group process, consensus requires that each
person places a higher priority upon the good of the group as a whole,
with personal needs and wants being secondary. Proposals and decisions
should be evaluated in terms of whether they are consistent with the
stated goals and values of the group. Consensus does not necessarily mean
unanimity.  A group can proceed with an action without having total
agreement.  In the event that an individual or small group cannot agree
with a given proposal and is blocking consensus, the facilitator may ask
if the individual(s) are willing to "stand aside" and allow the group to
act, or if they feel so strongly about the issue that they are unwilling
for the group to act.  If the individual(s) agree to stand aside, their
disagreements can be noted in the minutes of the meeting, and the group
is free to act on the decision.  Blocking or "standing in the way of" a
decision is used only when an individual feels that what is happening is
going to have disastrous effects for the group (not for personal

Ways of objecting to a proposal without blocking consensus:
NON-SUPPORT - "I don't agree, but I'll go along."
RESERVATIONS - "I think this is a mistake because ..., but I'll    live
with it."
STANDING ASIDE - "I personally can't do this, but I won't block others
from doing it." 
WITHDRAWING FROM THE GROUP - "I will not be a part of this."

If the individual(s) are not willing to stand aside, and state that they
block action on the proposal, it becomes their responsibility to work for
a compromise or substitute agreement.  They and one or more others should
leave the large group to work out a compromise to bring back to the whole
group.  This prevents the large group from getting stuck on one issue,
and assures that the dissenters are concerned enough about the issue to
work out a compromise.  Alternatively, the issue could be postponed until
later in the meeting, or until the next meeting, or the time allotted for
this item could be extended if resolution is near.

     When consensus on a proposal is sought, test for agreement as soon
as a decision seems to be emerging.  State the tentative consensus in
question form:  "Do we all agree that ..." and/or, "Is there anyone who
does not agree that ..." and insist upon a response.  Silence is not
consent.  If necessary, go around the room asking each person
individually for support or reservation.  Participants need to affirm the
contract that they are making with one another.  Specific wording of the
agreement must be written in the minutes. 
     For contentious issues, suggest a trial and review period or other
limits as appropriate.  If there is no agreement, ask for amendments and
test for agreement on these amendments individually, then when all
amendments are agreed upon, state the amended proposal and test for
consensus on the whole proposal.
     The Process Observer can note when people are getting frustrated
with the process, suggesting that a small group should work on the issue
away from the large group, planning to bring their revised proposal back
to the group at a later time.

     In the event that a decision must be made quickly for the group and
no consensual agreement can be found, a process proposal may be made at
any time by any group member that the issue be termed an Emergency
Decision.  80% of members present must first vote that the issue is an
Emergency Decision, and then a second vote is taken requiring a
super-majority vote of 80% to pass the item.
     An Emergency Decision may also be one that a group member or
committee makes (either by consensus or by super-majority voting) that
affects the group, but that cannot wait for a full meeting.  Care must be
exercised in making such an Emergency Decision as a serious error in
judgement may result in termination of the Service or Project, or other
consequences determined by the group.
     Both kinds of Emergency Decisions must be brought back to a full
meeting using its consensus process for full group agreement or reversal,
or until the group refuses to place the issue on its agenda.

1.   Define the problem in terms of individual's needs or preferences,
not according to their solutions.
2.   State the issue in a way that includes both sides' positions.
3.   Brainstorm possible solutions, with no discussion.  Continue until
both sides identify more than one potentially acceptable solutions or
elements of a solution.
4.   Evaluate alternative solutions, or construct a solution from
suggested elements.  Each person eliminates unacceptable solutions or
elements.  Never tell another person what their needs are, but use "I
Statements" and Active Listening (listening for feelings as well as
specific points and reflecting them back in your words to confirm that
you heard what the other said).
5.   Decide on the best solution, acceptable to everyone, and make a
mutual agreement to try it.
6.   Implement the decision.  Decide who will do what and set a time to
evaluate the implementation.
7.   Evaluate the implementation of the decision, and if necessary, start
again the conflict resolution process.
  • Re: process Buzz Burrell, July 20 1996
    • Process allenbutcher, January 22 2000

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