RE: Individual vs. the group in consensus process
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 14:47:09 -0600 (MDT)
I think Sharon you misunderstand me. I don't say individuals do not have
self interests, or should give up their self interest, I say, if the group
process I call consensus is to function well, the individual interests are
given to the group, examined and fairly dealt with in relation to the whole
groups needs. However, if as an individual I am not willing to accept
anything but serving my own self interest, even at the detriment to others
or the whole group, then consensus is not a process that will ever work well
for that group. It is, in my opinion, a requirement for consensus to work,
that an individual be willing to let the larger groups interests supercede
their own, and once they understand the differences, they do so happily in
service to the greater good of the mission and success of the group.

Labeling this Groupthink, is a misnomer. It's group commitment. In an
individualist focus, there is shallow group commitment, where the individual
is only willing to give to the group in relation to what is comfortable or
convenient for them.

Consensus at its very base is a GROUP decision process, not an individual
one. In its highest expression, It's NEVER based on what's best for me, its
ALWAYS based on what's  best for all of us together. Humility, Service and
Selflessness are the value foundations, and so this process is best used by
groups that have a strong mission and purpose to which the participants
subscribe to. Organizations like Greenpeace, the River Council or the
Interfaith quest can use this process well and it serves them well because
the groups work is the most important thing. This is also one of the many
reasons why so few cohousing groups can really ever make this process work
very well. The group definition is not strong enough so that all the members
commit fully to its success.

Rob Sandelin
South Snohomish County at the headwaters of Ricci Creek
Sky Valley Environments  <>
Field skills training for student naturalists
Floriferous [at]

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l-admin [at]
[mailto:cohousing-l-admin [at]]On Behalf Of Sharon Villines
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 8:01 AM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: Re: [C-L]_Individual vs. the group in consensus process

On 4/23/2003 10:15 AM, "Rob Sandelin" <floriferous [at]> wrote:

> Let me put this another way, a group of people that only
> consider, and primarily negotiate from their own interests are unlikely to
> be successful using consensus process. Their decision making process will
> a series of slow and painful negotiations with every persons self interest
> issue, and this may often end in roadblock when two or more opposing self
> interests collide.

But this definition of self-interest is a straw man. A person whose
self-interests are considered in opposition to the group is not in a group.
To require that people _not_ consider their own interests is to deny the
needs of the individual, and to deny their own intelligence in the process.
A group needs the intelligence of each member of the group in order to have
a strong collective intelligence. Too many times I've heard too late, "Well
I thought that wasn't a good idea but the group was all going in the other
direction and it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing."

A good decision comes from understanding the interests and needs and ideas
and opinions of each person in the group and finding a workable solution.

I see consensus is a process, not a thing. It's a process of understanding
and working through each persons interests, in relationship to each other,
in the context of what is possible. All these interests have to be addressed
or they fester under the surface.

In Sociocracy this is handled by keeping the focus on the "argument",
meaning the decision to be made. What is the decision, what needs does it
have to address, and what can be said for and against each possibility -- in
the context of understanding that we need to move forward. What is the best
we can do at the moment to address all this need?

Objections are seen as good because they require the group to address all
concerns and thus make a better, more long lasting decision that will have
the full support of all members of the group.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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