Re: Quorums/Reopening decisions
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2006 11:22:35 -0700 (PDT)
 Over time your decision making evolves because you will be making different
kinds of decisions at different times of your communities existence. When
you are in cohousing construction mode you will probably be served best by a
lower quorum (say 25-40%) since your membership may shift making it
difficult to get a large percentage at any given meeting. And you will
perhaps need to make decisions on a deadline, and so not having a quorum can
screw this up.  Also in this building time having a clear path of resistance
to random undoing of decisions may save you lots of headaches and problems,
so having a redo percentage of 30% might serve you well. 

As you live together for awhile, your decision making needs change, and the
types of decisions you make are different. Also HOW you end up making
decisions has a lot to do with how much of a quorum you need or how much
energy goes into redoing things. If you have lots of group trust, small
quorums and no redo restrictions work fine.

 For example a decision such as, what time should we serve community dinner,
is easy to change, and will reflect the needs of the dinner eaters. If one
third of your community does not participate in eating dinners, then they
have much less stake than those who do, thus a quorum is not a very useful
concept, unless it is a quorum of dinner eaters. However, should 3 people
out of 50 determine something which does not meet the needs of the remaining
47, then you will definitely be redoing that decision, and so making redoing
decisions easy makes sense.  At Sharingwood any decision can be reviewed at
almost any meeting should anyone ask to do so. It does not happen very
often, nor do decision get changed randomly at will, it takes a compelling
reason to get the group to agree to modify a decision and if anything,  we
don't review our previous decisions as often as we might. 

Should one person, or a small group continually show the pattern of wanting
to redo all sorts of decisions then you have some different problems. In
general, most decisions you make once you live together are about the ways
you want to live together, and these things probably want to be very
adaptable, you want to try them on for awhile, see how they work, then
modify the parts that seem to have new needs.  This is known as adaptive
management, and it works well with communities in many cases. It is
reasonable to expect that decisions can and will change, and thus any
decision made that deals with life together sorts of issues will change down
the road.  Obviously where you create a garden or other infrastructural
sorts of things are much harder to change and should have a different
approach, but after awhile these things will be few and far between. 

There are many ways to make decisions as a group, and in my experience the
systems that have lots of communication avenues prior to large group
discussion seem to work the best. 

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Community, Snohomish County, WA
Naturalist, Writer
The Environmental Science School
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