consensus with or without voter override
From: Audrey Watson (audreygalisteo.com)
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2008 10:14:30 -0700 (PDT)

One way we empower our committees is to pass the budget at the beginning of the year (which is the one thing that is done by vote, I think it is a legal thing, for the corporation), and each committee has a budget that has certain line items in it, (maintenance being the biggest discretionary budget), and if committees stay within their budget, they make those decisions (so for example grounds doesn't have to come to the whole group for each set of plants they buy, it is in their annual budget). Note: as the community has aged, and more history been established, the budget passing has gotten easier and easier. in the beginning, it was a huge challenge as well, as each line item was examined and debated. Now, people trust the process a lot more.

We do have consensus with vote as an override, but generally if a red card is presented, to block consensus, we generally stop and try and work thru it. Often it goes back to committee, and we take the next month to try and figure out what is going on.

That said, we have a task force going right now to make sure we all understand consensus and when to use it, and when is it not the right vehicle, and how to make it work better. And we think it does require continual education. Not only does our group evolve over the years (we average about one new household a year, out of 30), and not everyone is at every meeting, but we forget how to do it "right", making sure everyone is heard, and that everyone hears.

We have sort of a rule that if something is controversial, it gets brought before the whole group, but that is a judgment call, and not very clear. We also say that decisions need to go in front of their committee first, then to a forum (a week before the general meeting, to get a feel for how something is going to be received, and to have time to do more research), then to a general meeting. And they have to be posted on the general meeting agenda, so people know that a decision is being asked for.

I think the vote override was used more in the building phase when there was a tighter time frame needed for decisions.
--audrey
winslow cohousing
bainbridge island, wa

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