|The failures of consensus||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Rob Sandelin (floriferousmsn.com)|
|Date: Fri, 26 Feb 2010 09:36:36 -0800 (PST)|
Consensus is a very difficult, perhaps even the most difficult of decision processes. It can fail in many ways. Below are some of the ways I have watched it fail, maybe you will recognize some of these. It is easy for consensus to be railroaded by dominant individuals who have strong opinions, and good verbal skills to convey their opinions and points. It is easy for people to give in, to give up, to stay quiet. It can be hard to challenge a dominant personality. Especially if you perceive your relationships with others might be damaged you they speak up. It is easy to withdrawal from the process, not show up at the meeting or not bring up ideas because: "if it took 4 meetings just to buy some dishes, it will take forever to decide this". And it's just not worth the effort. Sometimes the meeting environment itself becomes toxic, people get called names, are subjected to unpleasant emotional reactions, get angry blasts directed at them personally. Why put up with that find of abuse? Easier to let it go. So members stop participating, and in some cases people might be relieved that they are not there. It is not common for most cohousing groups to actively inquire about why its members are not attending meetings. Once someone has given up on the process it can be hard to get them to come back. Avoidance is one of the most common conflict resolution strategies and if meetings are full of conflict they are easy to avoid. Some people live in cohousing only because their partner really wanted to. Often these disaffected spouses just don't engage much. The problem cohousing has is that there is not a strong common cause that unites everyone. Unlike say, Greenpeace, which has a strong vision and mission, most cohousing groups have vague, undefined purposes and the truth is people are rarely ever screened by the mission of the group. Someone might just want a comfortable, safe and convenient place to live. If meetings are not comfortable or safe why go? Without a common purpose you can agree and unite around it is easy to define the bottom line of any decision as, how does this impact me. When a decision affects members differently is can be seen as unfair and then easy to stand against. And finally, without an under laying set of agreements about how to conduct yourself in meeting, without well trained facilitators to uphold these agreements, and without a clear understanding of how to run an effective process or even what consensus means, its easy to bogged down, tied up and unable to move even simple things forward. Pt. Barnum, the famous Barnum and Bailey circus owner used to go out into the crowd to measure the responses to his shows. One day there was a woman who criticized the dancing bear, that the bear didn't know how to keep time, that was no waltz, etc. His response was: "Madam, the amazing thing about a dancing bear is NOT how well it dances, but that it dances at all". I have observed some consensus processes that dance really well, and others which barely dance at all. Yet somehow things move on and eventually those which work poorly usually figure out some strategies on how to make things better. Best of luck on using the most difficult decision process. If its not working well for your group you are not alone. Rob Sandelin Sharingwood
Re: balance Lynn Nadeau / Maraiah, February 24 2010
- The failures of consensus Rob Sandelin, February 26 2010
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