Re: Consensus [was balance]
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 21:46:23 -0800 (PST)
Unanimous agreement in a group bigger than a dozen is extraordinarily
difficult. And what most groups call consensus is really unanimous

Consensus is not about agreement.  Let me repeat that. Consensus is not
about agreement.

The root of consensus is consent, which means give permission. When you
consent you give the group permission to go ahead, even though you might
disagree with some details.  Often it is required and necessary to give
permission to something you don't entirely agree with in order for the group
to move ahead and have the experience to learn from. It's ok to move ahead
with imperfect if the end result can be easily changed or modified after

Almost all the time, the end result does not really matter and can be
changed later so giving permission should come easily in order to try out
new ideas and processes.  Only when the end result will cause serious damage
or be very difficult to change or fix should permission be withheld until
all conditions possible are thoroughly examined. In most cases, after
buildout, these kinds of hard to change decisions are fewer and further
between. Most the stuff you decide is easy to change later. 

 When simple things take huge effort to accomplish, people give up and often
stop participating in the system. Consensus they say is broken, process is
not worth the effort, nothing ever gets done. 

This is sometimes actually the truth, if simple things get bogged down, your
process is problematic and should be held accountable.  One solution is to
give subgroups, teams or committees decision making ability in their realms
which reduces the number of people in the process. It is also not a crime
against cohousing to revert to a voting process, sometimes having a vote
backup after x tries at consensus can get things moving. 

Consensus is a just a tool, not a religion, not a requirement. 

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Resident of 20 years.

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