Re: Consensus as primrary decision-making method w/voting back-up
From: Lautner, Patricia (
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2013 08:19:21 -0800 (PST)
At JPCohousing we have a list of common values, extracted from our Vision 
Statement.  A member is not allowed to ever 'block' anything unless they are 
protecting a commonly held value.  

In the dog example below, the only way the member could 'block' the creation of 
a committee is if there were a community "common value" that there should be 
absolutely no rules/restrictions/ or policies about pets.  In the absence of 
this stated common value, the facilitator would not allow the block and most 
likely a conflict resolution session would get scheduled.  

To me, it seems like the dog member is worried that her fears won't be 
validated and respected, and that her very real and profound emotional needs 
will not get met by her neighbors.   She does not trust her community's 

Sometimes however, blocking could be important.  If it looks like the community 
is heading toward a decision that is against a common value, a member should 
stand up in defense of the value.   At JPC we haven't had any blocks once we 
agreed that the blocking tool may only be used in this way.

Patti - JPCohousing - Boston, MA

 -----Original Message-----
From: Sharon Villines [mailto:sharon [at]] 
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2013 10:49 AM
To: Cohousing-L
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Consensus as primrary decision-making method w/voting 

On Jan 12, 2013, at 11:24 AM, Diana Leafe Christian <diana [at]> wrote:

> Each time someone proposed they create an ad hoc committee to draft a 
> pet policy proposal, one member always blocked the creation of the committee, 
> saying she didn't want her four dogs to have any limits on their freedom, so 
> she  adamantly opposed their even being a committee to talk about it! And  
> the  community let her get away with this.

This is something that kills communities and convinces people they don't want 
to live in cohousing. 

A block is a veto.

Vetoes are absolute. They don't have to be explained. The President of the 
United States has veto power which was given to him by the government. Who gave 
 your members veto power?

Objections are things you discuss. They have context and nuance. They are 
raised by people who are rational and can explain them. Not "explain" like an 
expert in logic but enough to understand and resolve them. A person raising an 
objection can sit down with people and examine their own feelings and 
understand their objection better. Then you can decide if you share a common 
aim. If you don't you won't be able to reach consensus until you find one.

Unless your community has given someone veto power, they don't have it. Why 
would you allow them to get away with it? 

This is a rhetorical question because I know why. People are intimidated and 
afraid to confront the reality that on this issue they don't share a common 
aim. This person is not thinking of the physical or emotional welfare of her 
neighbors and in fact is not thinking of the physical or emotional welfare of 
her dogs. To allow her to continue this is to endanger her dogs as well as 
everyone else. Should dogs have more freedom than her neighbors who are afraid 
of dogs or who have young children who cannot play when her dogs are out 
roaming around?

This kind of situation can be dealt with by voting, but better to get expert 
help. Who knows if the vote will produce an intelligent decision either? We 
finally broke this chain in our community by looking at local laws and it was 
resolved in two minutes -- well, two weeks, but quick considering it had been 
13 years. Since before move-in.

Get a grip. No vetoes.

Sharon Villines
Co-author with John Buck of We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, a 
Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods

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