|Re: Agenda/Provisional Consensus (long)||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Becky Weaver (becky_weaverio.com)|
|Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2004 10:48:27 -0700 (PDT)|
Hi Jane, Here is what Central Austin Cohousing (still in site search) does. We have been meeting for about 4 years, have 8 equity households, and have used consensus since we started. > Agenda: > How closely do you follow the agenda? Are decisions made about topics > that > were not on the agenda? We start our meetings with 5 minutes for agenda review. Any items that need to be added, for example urgent issues that came up after the agenda was distributed, can be added to the agenda at this time. We then approve the agenda by consensus. Thus, we don't make decisions about topics that aren't on the agenda, but we give people an opportunity convince everybody that we should add something to the agenda. We have had things get added to the agenda, discussed, and no final decision made "because so-and-so isn't here and she will probably want to be involved in this decision." We have several members who've informally taken on the role of advocate for people not present at a meeting. If the group gets into the habit of working this way, you will build trust that can later help you if a decision *genuinely* does have to be made without full input. It has happened once or twice that part-way into an agenda item, we have realized that the decision we need to make is not the one on the agenda. This is a job for a strong facilitator; to identify what's going on, bring it to the group's attention, get permission to change the topic mid-stream, and reach some conclusion in the allotted time. Usually the most that can be done in the time constraints of a meeting is make the realization that we need a new topic/proposal, gather input on the issue, and assign it to a committee for further work. > Is any type of advanced notification required for decisions? What about > 'urgent' matters that come up? Our general meeting agendas must go out 4 days in advance of the meeting. We make exceptions for urgent matters. We have a multi-tiered system for urgent decisions: At the most urgent, we have an emergency decision-making team, set up in advance, of 3 members; usually the chairs of the Finance, Planning, and Legal committees. If an emergency comes up, anybody can contact any of these 3 members. To qualify as an emergency, the team considers, - Does the decision need to be made immediately? - How much will it cost not to make an immediate decision? - Is there time to call an emergency meeting? - Is there time to contact members (especially equity members) by phone? They discuss the situation with as many of the other emergency decision-makers as they can reach in the available time (and anybody else they think appropriate to bring in to the discussion), and make a decision. This decision & reasons for the decision are documented, reported upon, and discussed at the next general meeting. The group has consented to abide by decisions made by the emergency decision-making team if they were made according to the policy. For slightly less urgent matters, we get "phone consensus." The relevant committee membeers call all the equity members, or sometimes all equity & active associate members. Depending on how important/controversial the issue is, we either hold a decison until we get input from everybody, or go ahead with input from most people. These types of decisions are minuted/reported on via our e-mail list. Because we've worked together for quite some time now, we often have a pretty good idea of who will definitely want to be involved in a particular decision, and who is likely to be OK with the committee's recommendation. We make extra effort to get in touch with a person who's likely to have concerns. We can also hold an emergency meeting. I am not sure what the rules are for holding one, but they require some sort of advance notice. Then there are decisions that need to be made at the next general meeting. In those cases, we set aside plenty of time for the decision in the meeting, assign someone to initiate an e-mail discussion prior to the meeting, and use committee time in the week prior to the meeting for further discussion. This has worked better the longer we've been in existence. Our members have more background knowledge, deeper reserves of trust, and a better sense of perspective. We've found that hardly any decision is as earth-shaking as it feels the first time we make it. I have learned (the hard way, on more than one occasion) that HOW we make a decision is actually more important than WHAT we decide. Bad decisions can frequently be re-done or reconsidered. They can at least serve as a vivid example of what not to do ever again. If we make a bad decision together using true consensus, then we take the hits together and grow as a community. If we make a good, reasonable decision in a squirrely manner, the undermined trust means that ANY future decisions will be hard to make. > > Provisional Consensus > Do you have any system for incoporating comments/concerns/input outside of > the meeting? The most important venue for incorporating comments, concerns, and input outside of general meetings are committee meetings. We encourage people with concerns to attend committee meetings. Sometimes a committee will call someone from the meeting, if we realize we're stuck until we get their input. We have occasionally deferred a final decision to a committee, with guidance & input from the general meeting. The full membership consents to empower the committee to make the decision. This is useful when we are missing a piece of information that will soon be forthcoming. Anybody can attend any committee meeting. We also use e-mail for discussions. It doesn't work for everybody but, in conjunction with committee time and phone conversations, it is helpful. For us, it's *extremely* rare for a momentous decision to be made all of a sudden at a general meeting. We've had some emergency meetings, but there is almost always time to collect input beforehand from those who can't make the meeting. Even a day or two is usually plenty of time for most people, and often we have 4 or 5 days between the issue coming up, and the meeting where we make a decision. > Is there a way of consensing in the meeting but allowing > input > for a set amount of time for those not at the meeting? You can always add this caveat to a decision where input from absent members is a particular concern. This might be a good way to test out different methods & see what works for your community. We set aside 10 minutes in every meeting for a "State of Cohousing" report. It contains a Decision Log of all decisions made in the last general meeting, plus all committee decisions reported since the last State of Cohousing. This acts as a "last call for concerns" after which a decision is considered ratified. Practically speaking, we can't necessarily go back and change what's already been done, but it allows people who weren't at the last meeting to say "whoa, WHAT?" and be heard before the decision is set in stone. Actually, I'm not sure anybody as ever done this with a general-meeting decision (some committee decisions have been revisited). But it provides a sense of confidence that decisions aren't being made behind anybody's back. _________ Irrelevant to your question but integral to our consensus process - the State of Cohousing emerged when we realized that people felt out of touch with what committees were doing. So at every general meeting, we distribute and review a document containing: 1) A list of the emergency decision-makers and how to contact them (this reminds us to appoint a new decision-maker if one of them is going out of town or otherwise will be hard to reach) 2) The Top 3 Issues, identified by the Planning Committee, that we are focusing on. This ensures we ask the question "where are we going and how are we getting there?" every two weeks, and helps newcomers get a basic idea of what's going on. 3) The aforementioned Decision Log 4) A financial report from the Treasurer 5) An action items checklist. People can see their outstanding action items and check off stuff they've done. It's a boring, bureaucratic report that ensures that we are all on the page, working from the same information, and going the same direction. It puts everybody to sleep in the meeings, but if we let it slide, we miss it very quickly. Good luck! Becky Weaver Central Austin Cohousing
- Agenda/Provisional Consensus JSUTFRAN, July 14 2004
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