Consensus and time pressure
From: Becky Schaller (
Date: Sat, 6 Mar 2004 10:11:59 -0700 (MST)
Part of the way I understand consensus is that the group tries to create a
proposal that addresses the concerns and needs of all involved when
making the final decision.  There are ways of doing this which maximize
the chance of this happening.  We've adopted a 3 step process where you
start by hearing the concerns and needs of people before creating a
proposal.  Theoretically, this sounds great but for various reasons, we
often overlook this step.  Sometimes we skip over this step because
some people may think a particular proposal will address numerous
community needs and it is simply difficult for any of us to think how we
would star with this first step. Other times we skip over this first
step because of time concerns.  This tactic has been known to backfire
on more than one
occasion.  What I've found is that sometimes when we skip over this
first step, we then have trouble even thinking of how to incorporate
everyone's needs and concerns.  When we skip over this first step, the
whole energy around the decision often changes.  We're no longer looking
to see how we might create a proposal which addresses everyone's
concerns in the best way that we can.  Instead we're looking at who is
for the proposal and who is against it.  There is a lot of pressure on
people to at least agree on the proposal so that we can all move

Unfortunately, what happens is we skip over that time of creative
problem solving which I believe is so essential to the consensus
process.   Understandably, people want to move on.  So we hold up
the cards, and most people are happy with the decision and a few people
feel like they've been worn out and leave with perhaps a few emotional
bruises. Who the unhappy people are changes from time to time and I actually
think everyone is happy with most decisions.  But as time progresses,
more and more people have memories of feeling worn out and bruised for
wanting the community to try to address some less popular concerns in
the final proposal.  

Most decisions will probably not
contribute to the destruction of the community. Therefore, it's really
not legitimate to hold up a red card.  However, as I see this process
get repeated over the years, I think the process itself contributes
little by little at least to the wearing away of community life and

My question is, Do other communities experience a tension between those
who want to follow the process and those who want to get decisions made
quickly?  If so, is it anything like what I have described in the above
message?  What did you do to address the issue?

Becky Schaller
Sonora Cohousing
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