Re: Consensus decision making
From: R.N. Johnson (
Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2008 16:35:11 -0700 (PDT)

In my experience, people take blocks seriously, and do not casually override 
the needs of a minority.  I have used consensus in  work situations, in 
community groups and cohousing  settings. I can think of many times we did not 
take a particular action because we did not have consensus. Sometimes we came 
up with great creative solutions because of the extra time we took to look at 
the issue.  Sometimes we gave up on a particular idea entirely, or shelved it 
for a long time because we could not craft a decision that took into account 
very divergent points of view.  In some decisions, group members stood aside, 
if they did not agree with a decision. We did resort to our voting fallback for 
a couple of decisions made during escrow which were too rushed to 
accommodate an extended effort to reach consensus, and which the dissenters 
felt they could live with. There is a definite learning curve, as people absorb 
the concept that consensus does not
 necessarily mean enthusiastic agreement, and that blocking should not be 
undertaken just because your think your solution is better.
 I remember hearing that in some communities at least one other person needed 
to agree that the reasons for your block were "principled". The other person 
did not have to agree with you per se, just agree that your concerns were based 
on more than personal preference.  This seems like a good way to honor the 
consensus process, and keep communities from being paralyzed by the rare person 
who cannot agree to anything unless it is exactly the way they want it.  That 
kind of energy can derail the whole group, particularly when a group is in the 
forming/building stages.
Randa Johnson
New Brighton Cohousing 

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