Re: Backup procedure for decisions, and developers & bankers
From: John Beutler (
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2006 04:25:11 -0700 (PDT)

Our group. Liberty Village, has a backup provision, using a 75% majority vote written into our documents. We have not used it to this point, but it is there. Perhaps it is a crutch, but you can also think of it as a way of moving past an impasse.

I think of more relevance to a developer is how you will make quick decisions without going back to the full group at all. You need to give the person who is the developer's (or builder's) day-to-day contact a mandate to make snap decisions as the development and building process proceeds. This mandate from the group could be very detailed, but you can't afford to be holding the developer and builder up when time-critical events are happening.

Developers and banks care mostly about completing the process so they can get their money back out of the project. They also don't like to have to deal with a lot of people, which is why having a primary contact with delegated power (project manager, whatever), inserted between the group and the developer is comforting to them. The several members of the group who performed this role at different stages were paid well to carry it out - it's not a trivial job.



Where the black raspberries are flush, the wild blackberries are about to ripen, and the zucchini is jumping in the garden....

 At 08:06 PM 7/9/2006 -0700, you wrote:
Our esteemed consultant, Ann Zabaldo, has instructed
our group to write a prospectus to give to potential
developers to help us in finding a developer who would
be willing to work with a cohousing group such as
ours--in an area of the country where cohousing is not
well known.

One of the questions we need to answer for the
prospectus is: what kind of decision making structure
does your group have? (Our answer--consensus.)  The
next question that the potential developer will read:
what is the group's backup procedure for making

We are inclined to say something that will satisfy
qualms a developer might feel about consensus,
especially if he/she is unfamiliar with the process,
so we are considering saying that our backup procedure
will be by 2/3 majority vote.

Here we are a bit stuck.  Reading the discussions on
this list, my understanding is that most experts in
consensus and the best practices among communities say
there  should be <no> backup decison making procedure
because the presence of such a procedure impedes the
group in working toward consensus, functioning as a

If our entire group agrees with that stance, and if I
am correct that the experts on this wonderful list
generally concur that good facilitation and consensus
training will prevail, and there should be no backup
procedure (given that not every decision must be
decided by consensus), what do we tell a potential

1) Do we assume the developer and bank need to hear
about a backup decision making procedure, even if we
intend that the backup would never  be used and that,
officially, it is not a backup procedure that our
group would ever employ?


2) Do we tell the absolute truth and describe
consensus, and that we will be training the group more
in the process and training in facilitation (or
explain sociocracy, if that is the method we
ultimately decide upon)?


3) Do we stablish a true backup procedure such as 2/3
majority vote and write it into our internal
documents, and that way we can be totally truthful to
a potential developer and bank? Then we would be bound
to possibly using that backup procedure (and
apparently, crippling the consensus building process
during important decisions.)

We could really use counsel on this point from any one
who has had to go through a similar discussion with
developers and banks.

Thanks very much in advance for your help.

Looking forward to seeing many of you in Raleigh at
the Conference,

Tom Hammer
for Concord Village

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John Beutler
Liberty Village, MD
jbeutler [at]

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