Re: Consensus landscape?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2012 09:47:47 -0700 (PDT)
On Sep 24, 2012, at 12:13 PM, Louis Lieb <louislieb [at]> wrote:

> I'm looking for a process that would yield a community decision on these 
> matters - what I would call a compromise. Is compromise consistent with 
> consensus? 

Compromies often end up making no one happy. The best option is to discuss all 
the wants and druthers and figure out a plan that addresses all of them. Don't 
forget planters and inside the CH. Planters can provide a place for a favorite 
plant that separates it visually from a garden of a different type. Exotics can 
go inside. A formal look might be good for entrances to buildings.

One method of determining the strength of druthers without a humungously long 
discussion is range voting. Let people define the options and explain each one 
briefly. Make it fast.

Put all the options on a list and each voter awards each one of them 1-5 stars. 
No opinion is a 0. People don't have to choose between one or the other. You 
score them using a spreadsheet. One person records as another reads them off. 
It goes very fast. Add up the scores and divide by the number of votes cast. 

The totals are  interesting but even more interesting is looking at the ranges 
for each option. Some will be highly favored by a few or by a huge number. 
Others will be middling for everyone but not really desired by anyone.

Range voting is very informative and often corrects some strongly held beliefs 
about other people and allows the quiet people to clearly express their 

Another way to do this is to have the votes of the people who will actually be 
doing the work scored separately. The people who are doing the work are doing 
it for themselves but they are also doing it for all residents and using "other 
people's money." They probably shouldn't have all the say but they are much 
more likely to keep doing the work if they like the garden.

You can only reach consensus if people share the same aim, can sit together 
until all objections are resolved, and are a defined group. You can't resolve 
objections well with a shifting membership.

Also, no decision is forever and gardens are wonderfully changing. Part of the 
plan will just seeing what grows given the soil, sun, and amount of labor 
available. Laying out a strategy for change may be as important as the initial 
choices. Take a "let's try this" approach.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC 
Making Freedom and Equality a Reality

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