Re: consensus blocking
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2013 05:55:39 -0700 (PDT)
On Sep 8, 2013, at 10:53 PM, Fern Selzer <fernselzer [at]> wrote:

> our community is  
> experiencing frequent blocking by an individual who  explains it in  
> terms of her own wants and needs, not the needs of the community.

1. Try to redefine her objections as objections, not cement blocks, which i'm 
sure is hard since the community has already identified the cement block.

2. Be sure each decision has an aim, that its intended purpose is clear. "Needs 
of the community" is too vague to be measured and usually means will of the 
majority, certainly the will of those making the proposal.

3. Have her address her objections in terms of the proposal's aim. Can she 
improve the proposal? What does she think needs to be done? Reverse the 
situation--how would she address the objections of others to her proposal? (By 
objecting, she is in effect making a different proposal.)

4. Do rounds and rounds and rounds. Let her hear what each other person in the 
room thinks about the proposal and its aim. The round focuses on the problems 
or benefits the proposal addresses, what it hopes to accomplish--not how people 
feel about someone objecting to what they want.

Too often the process of resolving one person's objections becomes a back and 
forth between the facilitator or the proposal maker. Group decisions have to be 
group decisions. Rounds create a group better than anything else. When the 
sense of a group making a decision together is lost, that has to be 
reestablished before you can make a group decision.

5. Moving forward in spite of objections is effectively saying that the 
majority has decided. If the majority wants to decide, be honest about it and 
vote. "Consensus minus one" etc., is majority vote. It's like being a little 
bit pregnant. Saying it is consensus doesn't make it so. 

Voting can also be a breath of fresh air to the person who objects. With a vote 
they aren't pressured by the group's desire to have them agree when they don't. 
It's nice sometimes to be able to say no and move on.

6. Consensus only works if everyone wants to go in the same direction but has 
different ideas about how to get there. That you can work with. 

In another situation, the group would choose members who share a common aim and 
the group would break up or members leave when that is no longer the case. 
Cohousing is different. Sometimes you have to vote. 

7. The community needs to move forward. Nothing stands still; it goes downhill. 

8. A suggestion is to use preference ranking instead of voting. preference 
ranking allows a much greater range of druthers. It isn't black and white. Try 
it early in the process when you expect strong reactions. It gives you 
information. It doesn't have to make the final decision but it could.

OUR BYLAWS are on our website. They say anyone can call for a majority vote at 

"Back-up voting. If the Association cannot reach consensus on a Class 1 or 
Class 2 decision, the issue may be tabled or set aside for another meeting. 
Alternatively, if the relevant quorum (as defined in Section 4.3.5(b)) is 
present, there may be a call for a vote, to be passed by a simple majority of 
eligible voters present and voting, or such super majority as the Community 
Rules, the Declaration, and/or these Bylaws may require.

The vote shall be taken at a later meeting after the notice required for an 
Association Membership Meeting has been given. The vote shall be by simple 
majority of eligible voters present and voting, or such supermajority as the 
Community Rules, the Declaration, and/or these Bylaws may require."

It's never happened but I have actually come to think it should. We have been 
trying to get the CH painted since 2006. There is always a reason to delay, 
always a reason to get new bids, always a reason to not to spend money. All the 
reasons are perfectly logical but sometimes you have to just do it.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
A Deeper Democracy: Making Freedom and Equality a Reality

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