Re: Consensus [was balance]
From: Ann Zabaldo (
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 16:59:52 -0800 (PST)
Hi everyone!

Consensus is always such a powerful topic of discussion on this list ... as elsewhere.

I think this is because it seems to go to the very heart of how we govern ourselves.

And in cohousing is this new territory for most of us. For a lot of us this is the first time in our lives when we have the opportunity ... the power ... to have a say in EVERY aspect of our living situation. And because we can ... we do.

In cohousing we are exploring in our communities who gets to make the "rules." Who has "authority" and "power?" In the larger world these rules are almost always already in place. In cohousing ... it's up for "grabs." We're making it up. Or creating it. We don't have an abundance of models on how to do this. We are truly pioneers.

As Rob and Sharon have alluded ... I have come to believe the inability to move forward on issues is more of a governance issue than a decision issue.

I often see posted or hear that a voting back up is an answer to this dilemma. Any number of ways of constructing a voting back up are offered: after x number of meetings, having a super majority agree to it, etc. And that somehow w/ these criteria (and/or others) in place everything turns out alright in the community after the "vote" is taken.

I'd like to find out more about this whole voting back up process.

How many of you in your communities use a voting back up?

Under what conditions?

How frequently have you used it?

And what has been the aftermath? What has been the affect of the vote on the individuals whose position, consideration, concern, etc. was not included in the decision? AND I'd like to hear from those disaffected by the vote not just from people whose position was confirmed by the vote.

Let's get down in the weeds on this. I'd truly like to know what it's like the day after the vote has been taken on a serious, divisive issue.

Was the community healed?

Did the vote somehow make life in the community better?

Did the community have to go thru a healing process?

Was the vote worth it?

What did you learn?

Would you do it again?

What happened to those in the minority?

Thanks, all! I look forward to hearing your actual experience in using a voting back up. And, again, I'd like to hear how it was for those in the minority.

Best --

Ann Zabaldo
Takoma Village Cohousing
Washington, DC
Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
Falls Church VA
703 663 3911

On Feb 25, 2010, at 12:46 AM, Rob Sandelin wrote:

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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