Re: blocking consensus
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 21:17:01 -0700 (MST)
> I've been told repeatedly that the only justification for blocking consensus
> is that you think the proposal will harm the community, and not because you
> dislike it personally.

As soon as we decide we are making all decisions by consensus, we start try
to define consensus in the same terms used for voting and majority rule. We
want percentages and time periods. Lists of justifications and qualifying
test questions.

Consensus requires that a subject be studied, discussed, and solutions found
that every member of the group is able to accept at this time. Once you
start chipping away at the value of every person's position on a subject,
you no longer have consensus decision making. What you have is a decision by
the majority with the "no" votes standing aside or avoiding the meeting.

My group has been in the habit of what I call "voting consensus". Rather
than asking "Are there any remaining concerns?" and hearing none, declaring
consensus achieved, we have people raise their hands if they are in favor.

I refuse to raise my hand and have spent many hours thinking about why this
is such a big issue for me -- it feels major. I finally figured it out.

Consensus isn't achieved seriatim. It isn't like Congress where you collect
votes and tally them up on a blackboard, making whatever compromises you
need to to hit the final number and stopping there.

Consensus is a group decision, not my decision or the decision of the first
25 people to raise their hands.

My "vote" is dependent on all the other concerns being satisfied. I don't
know what my decision is until I know that everyone else's concerns have
been satisfied. How can I vote without knowing that?

I find consensus exciting when it is done thoroughly. The best solutions are
often a big surprise. Usually we stop too soon and are too satisfied with
"only" two people standing aside or just not noticing that 7 people avoided
the meeting.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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