Re: When world(view)s collide
From: Kevin Wolf (
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 10:01:01 -0700 (MST)
At 12:30 AM 3/23/01 -0800, you wrote:
> I'm wondering if anyone out there has had experience reconciling radically
> different world views into a consensus.

N Street has a fall-back voting process when consensus can't be reached. It requires the dissenters meet with a small group of the majority and attempt to work out a solution that all might live with. they meet every two weeks for three months. If at the end of the six meetings, no consensus is reached, a vote is taken at a community meeting with a 75% supermajority passing. Abstentions are considered yes votes for the purpose of determining the percentage. (If you abstain, you can live with the decision.) In the 12 or so years we have had this rule, we have never gone to a vote, though we have started the small meetings a number of times.

In my work in helping consensus-based groups I recommend a fall-back voting process. Different "world views", values or principles can be difficult or impossible to reconcile. In consensus, one should let go on minor issues but stay strong on principles, values and goals. When participants are fundamentally different in these basics, consensus may not work. Here is an example:

Organic versus affordable food in community meals. Some have the principle that the community should only eat organic food. Some members say they won't be able to attend many community meals because the price of the meal becomes too expensive. Others say there isn't any real difference between organic and chemical food. Others say they won't cook community meals if the organic meals are made designed to be low cost but require a lot more time to prepare.

another example.
Some don't want guns in any house in the community. Others say they have a right and a responsibility to keep a gun in their home.

I do agree with Michael D. about the value of bringing in a professional facilitator. It is possible that consensus could be reached in both of the above examples. It would involve getting to the root reasons people hold their principles, values and world views. The way we resolved our gun issue was that the gun owners kept their guns and agreed to keep them locked up and not easily accessible, and the concerned parents talked to their kids about what to do if they saw someone with a gun. Some parents restricted their kids from going to the houses that had guns.

You can find some examples of fall back voting processes that I have help different groups develop on my website at You will notice that in these processes, the rules are very detailed. I don't think most cohousing groups would need this level of formality, but maybe so.


Kevin Wolf
N Street Cohousing Community member
724 N St, Davis, CA  95616
kjwolf [at]

To download my facilitation manual or other material on
consensus decision making, visit

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