Re: Consensus, Majority Vote, "Blocks"
From: Mary Ann Clark (
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 2011 14:31:25 -0700 (PDT)
We also have the possibility for majority vote if a block can not be resolved. 

However, we've discovered when we got more explicit that blocks had to be based 
on our agreed up Vision and Mission or a strong concern for the welfare of the 
community and developed an explicit procedure for dealing with blocks that 
frivolous blocks and blocks based on personality issues that had nothing to do 
with issue at hand became so rare as to be non-existent. As someone else 
mentioned earlier, we require that at least one other person in the room sees 
the sense of a block. We have developed a process that might require multiple 
meetings to resolve the block but that assures that the blocker is sincere and 
that the rest of the community has the time to seriously consider what the 
blocker has to say. We've had the opinion of the community make a 180 degree 
turn base on a group of blockers whose concerns were not heard and considered 
earlier in the process. 

Consensus can be messy and time-consuming. We often say a dictatorship would be 
faster and cleaner but we wouldn't be happy with the results ;-)

Mary Ann
in Manzanita Village where a cold front has given up a taste of winter but 
fall's coming back tomorrow

On Oct 6, 2011, at 10:44 AM, R.N. Johnson wrote:

> 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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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit 

Mary Ann Clark                                                  drmaryann49 
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