Re: Consensus, Majority Vote, "Blocks"
From: R.N. Johnson (
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 2011 10:44:53 -0700 (PDT)
I want to be clear that I think 
that blocks can be healthy and necessary. Communities need thoughtful, 
committed members willing to stand up against proposals that they think 
will have major harmful consequences. I know that in the community I live in, 
people normally are very hesitant to move ahead when someone is strongly 
opposed.   I am one of probably three people in my community who has blocked a 
proposal at some point.  Blocks are rare, and overriding a block even rarer.  
It is not done lightly, and has come up after someone has repeatedly blocked 
for reasons that sounded frivolous  or vengeful. When someone blocks a decision 
because the group did not come to consensus on another proposal s/he wanted, or 
because s/he was angry at one of the people who helped develop the proposal, 
the blocker loses credibility within their community.  But if a community is 
functional, the times when it is necessary to outright block should be rare.  
If the "yeses" are listening, and the "no's' are communicating their concerns, 
and the community has clear guidelines around when it is appropriate to block, 
a lifetime block limit of 6
 or even ten blocks would be hard to hit. Tree Bressen, writing about consensus 
among Quakers, says you" should only block after a sleepless night and the 
shedding of tears, and at most a few times in a lifetime." If you live in a 
community that regularly pushes for decisions that you think would do major 
harm to the community, to a member or members, or to the world, you are in the 
wrong community.   If that community is not open to listening to your concerns, 
you are probably better off finding a community that fits better with your 
values.  Having said that, there are people who due to rigid personalities or 
ideologies,  or serious mental health issues, are not able to see that not 
getting their way is not the end of the world.  I think that communities should 
make a strong effort to deal with any underlying issues that would cause 
someone to feel the need to use blocking as a way to have power.  I also 
realize that communities cannot fix a
 lifetime of hurts, or heal someone with significant mental health issues. 
Keeping a community hostage to one person's issues is not healthy for either.   

    The reason our group adopted such a rule has to do with our experience as a 
forming group being hijacked by a newcomer whose agenda turned out to be 
overturning every single blessed decision we had made, and somehow forcing a 
developer to build market rate housing for half the going rate. The reasons 
behind this agenda had nothing to do with our forming community.We lost 
two-thirds of our members and nearly disbanded. Having some sort of a check on 
one person's ability to block decisions the rest of the group has agreed to 
seems only prudent.  

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