Consenus as a participatory process
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 16:52:34 -0800 (PST)
Consensus requires partipication.

As a decision is being discussed around a group, there is a change which
often happens. I might hear some ideas, or answers to my questions or fears
that cause me to change my thinking, expand my understanding.  In a well run
process, sometimes there is a group, Aha! Which then shifts the direction of
the ideas unto the final trajectory. If you miss that meeting, you miss out
on being changed, and you are stuck in your same old place, without  the
benefits of the new knowledge and ideas. You can read the minutes and unless
you have an absolutely over the top amazing minute taker, much of the change
discussion will not be reflected. You then have no idea how in the world the
group went from a decision about a carpet to a decision about drapes.  Those
who experienced the Aha! Know. But if you did not attend, you do not. 

It is my opinion, based on my experiences, that if you miss the discussion,
you should generally exhibit humility and excuse yourself from the rest of
the decision process. One of the things that absolutely kills group decision
making is when somebody who was not at the discussion, shows up at the end,
makes the group rehash the whole discussion over again, and then at the next
meeting it happens again. At this point people usually lose their patience.

One thing that is helpful is having a deliberate checkout process. So
instead of assuming if I am not there I don't care, you assume the opposite,
that you do care and want to hear about it and so somebody is assigned to
tell you all about it. Unless you sign on a checkout, which says something
like, I am removing myself from this decision and will abid by whatever the
group decides. Checking out often means, I trust the group to do the right
thing and I don't have any wisdom to add to this process, and would just as
soon apply my energy to something I know and care about.

There are limits to most peoples time and energy, and it is often good
advice to conserve your time and energy for things that matter to you.

Rob Sandelin 
Sharingwood Cohousing
In the wilds of Snohomish County, WA

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