Re: Seekingc ohousing communities with criteria for a principled block
From: Jessie Kome (
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2009 12:07:56 -0700 (PDT)

Here at Eastern Village, we call such a block, "intervening". Our policy is below my signature.

-Jessie Handforth Kome
Eastern Village Cohousing
Silver Spring, Maryland
Governance Task Force Proposal 3: Decision-Making

Consensed 7/25/07

A. Core Values
l These rules are designed to establish a decision-making system within EVC which is:

civil and community-building;

welcoming and responsive to ideas;

efficient, reflecting respect for time and effort of community members;

and produces reasonable and satisfying results.

B. Definitions
Policy – a rule or guideline adopted from a proposal, which determines rights and authority to govern or guide conduct of the community or particular members and groups within the community. Proposal – A suggestion or idea which, when adopted by the community, would:
l      commit EVC to spend money;
l assign a significant particular space within the common area for a particular use; l prohibit members from using common area space in a way that it is currently used; or l require community members to do or refrain from particular action or conduct. C: Decision-makers – Proposals are decided upon by the community through consensus in the MC, except as follows: Necessary Board responsibilities – Pending proposals may be transferred to the Board for decision to the extent:

l decisions concerning the proposal are needed for financial and legal actions that are subject to hard deadlines under the bylaws, and the general membership cannot make the decision in time; l delay in decision will have significant negative financial, legal, or other consequences, and the general membership cannot make the decision in time; l decisions are required immediately to avoid or respond to an emergency
l      the decision constitutes implementation of an existing policy.

Delegation of decision-making authority - The MC may delegate authority to a specific individual or group to make a particular decision relating to a proposal to the extent the decision

o relates to a matter of aesthetics concerning which reasonable persons may differ; or o involves matters of method or procedure which are not viewed as of great importance by members who are not included within the delegated authority; or o relates to dealings in which the approval or agreement of a non- member third party may be required; or o involves other unique circumstances which in the judgment of the MC call for delegation of authority to decide. Such delegated decisions will be subject to approval by the MC unless explicitly stated otherwise by the MC in the delegation of authority. The MC's decision to delegate authority is to be made by consensus reached under these rules, and exercise of the delegated authority also is to be made by consensus.

 D: Membership Circle Decision-making Procedures
Meeting schedule: Meetings will be scheduled by the MCC.

Quorum: A quorum of the MC is required to reach consensus. Representation by 15 households physically present at an MC meeting constitutes a quorum.

Proposals Origination: Individual members, ad-hoc groups, teams, the Task Management Group, or the Board may initiate proposals. Before proposals are submitted to the MCC for consideration:

o Proponents should discuss the content of proposals with the members of the community who would be most significantly affected by their adoption; and

o Proponents and affected members should attempt to work together to discuss ideas and shape the proposal.

Agenda setting: The agenda for the MC will be coordinated by the MCC and determined in consultation with the interested members, including the Task Coordinator and Board president. Proposals and other items to be considered for an MC meeting agenda should be submitted to the MCC 10 calendar days in advance of the MC meeting.

Agenda and materials distribution: Agendas for MC meetings and relevant accompanying documents will be distributed by posting on the common house corkboards and the community’s online bulletin board system at least 5 calendar days before the meeting. Proposals should be accompanied by a separate statement with relevant background. Minutes will be distributed similarly within 7 calendar days after the meeting.

Participation by members not present: For a meeting in which a Determination of Consensus is to be made, an absent member may provide a written statement to the MCC in advance to be read to the meeting (and recorded in the minutes) or may participate and make oral statements via phone or other technology. However, a Determination of Consensus reflects the best thinking of those present in dialogue, and members must be physically present to take part in a Determination of Consensus.

Ad Hoc Decision Making Methods: By agreement of all members present the MC may decide to use an alternate decision making method for a given decision. For example, in a case in which the MC is faced with multiple equally valid options the MC might decide to use an alternative method, such as voting or a random selection procedure, e.g., flipping a coin, to decide amongst the options.

E: Consensus
o Establishing consensus: To establish consensus, the following must occur:

§       Meeting Procedures

· The goal of consensus proceedings is to produce a result satisfactory to all members of the community who are prepared to continue working in good faith to achieve a result satisfactory to all. There should be no expectation that consensus requires or will be reached within any given number of meetings.

· Proposals and any modification of them must be in writing and available to be seen by all, including display on an easel or chalkboard in the room at the MC meeting considering the proposal or proposed modification. If, after presentation of the proposal and full discussion, all of those present wish to move forward with the proposal, the MCC may call for a Determination of Consensus.

· If all present (with at least 15 households agreeing to the proposal) either agree to the proposal or stand aside, and if no member seeks to intervene to prevent a consensus, a consensus is established. There is no requirement that a proposal be considered at a prior meeting in order to move to consensus if all of those at the meeting are willing to adopt the proposal at that time.

· If some members indicate a lack of readiness to join in consensus, and if the proposal has not yet been considered in at least two previous meetings, the MC will defer action on the proposal so that there can be an opportunity for proponents and questioners of the proposal to discuss the matter further and to consider possible modifications which might make the proposal satisfactory to all members.

· If the proposal has already been discussed during at least two previous meetings, the MCC may either:

o Call for consensus after determining whether the member(s) who have stated lack of readiness to join in consensus wish to 1) stand aside on the decision or 2) seek to intervene to prevent a consensus; or

o Defer action on the proposal so that questioners of the proposal can, in an active and timely fashion, discuss the matter further with the proponents to consider possible modifications which might make the proposal satisfactory to all members.

§ Once adopted, the Determination of Consensus and the names of the households constituting the quorum must be recorded in the Membership Circle meeting minutes by the scribe. The MCC must post the final form of the proposal to the appropriate location on the common house cork boards and the community’s online bulletin board system.

o      Intervening:

A member who in good faith reasonably believes that a proposed action is not in the best interests of the community or its values, as explained below, and who commits to work with proponents of the proposal to seek a better course of action, may act as an intervening member and prevent adoption of a proposal under the following conditions.

1) the intervening member(s) must explain or demonstrate that there is a reasonable basis for believing that one of the following criteria is met:

· The action likely would financially endanger the community, meaning the decision would likely commit the community to financial obligations beyond those which could be paid with the community’s current revenue. · The action likely would legally endanger the community, meaning that the decision would likely lead to a violation of the community’s legal responsibilities. · The action likely would physically endanger the community, meaning the decision would likely lead to a serious violation of building code. · The action likely would endanger the security of the community, meaning a strong possibility that the decision will threaten personal safety. · The action would be clearly contrary to a value expressed in the community’s statement of values. 2) one or more members from each of at least three other households must join in the intervention on grounds specified by the intervening member above.

o Expression of concerns without intervention: Members who have concerns about the community's state of readiness to respond to a call for consensus, or about a proposal under consideration, but who do not believe adoption of the proposal will endanger the community or violate community values according to the criteria required for intervening members to prevent a consensus, and who do not seek to oppose the will of the majority may take either of the following actions.

· Support with reservations - Members who have concerns about a proposal or the community's state of readiness to address the question of consensus, but who do not wish to oppose or withhold support from the proposal may express their reservations to the MC for the record.

· Stand aside: Members who have concerns about a proposal or the community's state of readiness to address the question of consensus, and who do not wish to appear to support the proposal, but who do not believe its adoption will endanger the community or violate community values according to the criteria required for intervening to prevent a consensus, may stand aside


l      Special Rules Regarding a Modified Proposal:

o Implementation: If during an MC meeting a proposal is changed from the form in which notice of the proposal was distributed prior to the meeting, and consensus upon the modified proposal then is reached during that meeting, the decision shall not be implemented until at least two additional MC meetings have taken place.

o Amendment: Any member who seeks to amend a proposal which was modified at the meeting at which a Determination of Consensus was made, and who delivers a proposed amendment in writing to the MCC at least six calendar days in advance of the second MC meeting following adoption of the proposal, will be given the opportunity to propose the amendment at either of the two MC meetings following the consensus. The amendment may propose revisions to or entirely replace the newly adopted proposal. The MC will determine the actions to be taken upon submission of the proposed amendment and may employ ad hoc decision- making methods in doing so.

l      Role of the Facilitator

o The facilitator or MCC leading the discussion should work to assure that ideas and views are expressed in courteous fashion

o The facilitator or the MCC (both must consult, agree and act together if a facilitator and the MCC are present simultaneously ) should terminate MC discussions of the topic and reschedule further discussions for a later time in the meeting or for a later meeting if the atmosphere of cooperation necessary for consensus does not exist. Any member of the MC may suggest to the facilitator or MCC that such action would be in order. The facilitator or MCC may request a nonbinding show of hands as an aid in determining the sense of the community as to whether the necessary spirit of cooperation exists.

o Before calling for consensus, the facilitator shall ask whether there are any who have reservations or wish to stand aside or intervene. Those persons should explain their concerns and how they propose altering the proposal to make it acceptable. In addition, persons who express an intention to intervene should confirm their willingness to work with proponents of the proposal to reach a satisfactory solution. The potential intervenor should also explain: (1) what, if anything, he or she has done to monitor the proposal and to raise the issue(s) about it before; and (2) why the issue is of sufficient importance to justify intervention. The facilitator or MCC may ask additional questions, and may permit other MC members to do so, and should consider the responses of these concerned or dissenting members in deciding whether to proceed with a call to consensus.

F: The EVC Governance Policy consensed on as of January 12, 2005 and the EVC Consensus Policy consensed on as of April 26, 2004 are null and void as of the approval of this replacement policy. All Policies and House Rules consensed on under said policies shall remain in effect.

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