Re: Consensus decision making
From: Racheli Gai (
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2008 08:12:43 -0700 (PDT)
We spend a lot of time discussing blocks because that's where people get stuck
when they don't use the process the right way.
To me, the hardest part about consensus is that very few of us come to cohousing with good understanding of consensus, or of working cooperatively to reach decisions. Our dominant culture is incredibly competitive, and much of it hierarchical. So, the change to working by consensus is a major paradigm change, and bound to be difficult. IMO most groups don't get enough training to begin with, so they are off to a very rocky start. Often the process gets misused, which contributes to erosion in levels of trust, and the creation of a large pool of resentment etc. - All of this makes the possibility of using
consensus well even more remote.

The fact that working by consensus is hard doesn't mean, to me, that it's not something
worth learning and getting good at.
Also, I think that a lot of the discussions on this list are about problems: People don't have the urge to write when things go well... This doesn't mean that everything in cohousing is problematic, and no good stuff exists. This is also true of the use of consensus - people don't often write to tell the rest of us how well it worked for them
in resolving this or that problem...


On Aug 12, 2008, at 7:13 AM, Sharon Villines wrote:

On Aug 11, 2008, at 10:35 PM, John Faust wrote:

The reason for suggesting blocks/objections be grounded in the
vision/mission/principles of the community is because these
represent the
basic agreements on what the community aspires to (vision/mission)
and how
it should go about it (principles).

A nicely worded presentation of the importance of group agreements.
One way to phrase the above sentence would be to say that _consent_
must be grounded in the vision/mission/principles of the community. We
talk a lot  about what objections must be based on but very little
about what consent must be based on.

There was a message that flew by yesterday that I lost about a book on
consensus methods that showed that there were many definitions of
consensus and thus one person's view was just one person's view.

What I'm attempting to do is not present "one person's view" but to
question the concept of consensus. What is it? Why do we use it? Why
is it so sacred in cohousing?

We spend an enormous amount of time discussing "blocks" as if they
were important but almost none discussing consensus itself, as if we
all knew what it was and why we use it.

I'm questioning the romantic notions of consensus that end in
frustration and confusion and exclusion. What fundamentally is
consensus decision-making? What result is it intended to accomplish?

Sharon Villines
Coauthor with John Buck of We the People
Consenting to a Deeper Democracy
A Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods
ISBN: 9780979282706

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