Re: consensus process - decisions/changes
From: Tree Bressen (
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2006 21:30:36 -0800 (PST)
Dear Jane & folks,

In our January meeting, a decision was reached and written on paper in front of the room. The minutes were distributed with the decision as made in the meeting however the relevant proposal had different wording (the decision said, "adult" and the proposal said, "12yo and older").

That discrepancy was brought to the attention of the minute taker and he changed the decision to reflect the proposal's language.

At the February meeting, the Jan. minutes were approved with the change to the decision. (Only 2 of the 8 people at the January meeting were among the 8 people at the February meeting - one was the facilitator and the other took notes)

Now we are coming up to our March meeting and there is disagreement over whether this is a 'procedural issue' with a proposal to return to the original January decision OR a time to re-visit the topic of the original proposal and re-hash it since there is dissatisfaction with it OR a 'too bad' the Feb. crew approved the Jan. minutes, period. OR......???

Experiences?  Thoughts?

I agree with the two other people who have written in so far that if people are not happy with the outcome then it's worth revisiting in this case. One of the main reasons to use consensus is to create high enrollment in the decision; if you don't have that, it's worth looking at why not and how to get it.

Having low carryover of attendance from one meeting to the next also invites problems. Hopefully it just happened that way this time and is not a regular occurrence for your group.

OK, my main impetus to write is to say that a main feature of consensus process is working out solutions in the group, and that means it is normal and expected to alter proposals at a meeting. I don't expect a substantive proposal to pass without modification, unless it's already been discussed a bunch at previous meetings. It's not clear from this description whether that's what happened (that is, did the proposal say "12 & older" and then get purposely changed by the group to read "all adults"), it sounds like the situation was confusing with some people thinking they were agreeing to one thing and some to another. But the group needs to have the power to develop or alter proposals on the floor, and i advocate against having any requirements regarding notice of specific proposals. That is, i think it is obstructive to have a policy that in order for a proposal to be officially adopted at a meeting, it must have been sent out ahead of time. It puts the power in the wrong place, giving it to those who aren't at the meeting instead of those who are.

Of course it is also incumbent upon groups to make every effort to be inclusive--in my community we would not schedule a topic that Fulano is really concerned about when Fulano is out of town and can't make it to the meeting, at least not without talking with Fulano first. And i do think it's helpful to have agenda topics known ahead of time (although i probably wouldn't write it into policy, i would support it as a norm), which is different than giving notice on exact wording of proposals.

I don't know how relevant these comments from me are to your specific situation. I got on my tangential soapbox about this topic because i've seen in my travels that some groups do have such expectations, which concerns me.

Best of luck in sorting it all out at your March meeting.


--Tree Bressen
(facilitator/teacher for a bunch of cohousing groups)


Tree Bressen
1680 Walnut St.
Eugene, OR 97403
(541) 484-1156
tree [at]

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.