Consensus Definitions [was We ditched consensus
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 2013 07:31:26 -0700 (PDT)
On Sep 14, 2013, at 10:03 AM, Racheli Gai <racheli [at]> 

> The "revolutionary" term was applied, I believe,  to deciding on GM agendas 
> directly by the membership, rather than by a team or committee.  This can be 
> a democratizing (and so can majority voting) when consensus doesn't work. 

Not sure what the GM is but here it becomes a problem when teams are the only 
way to get an item on an agenda. We have some teams who just won't sponsor an 
item they don't care about or think is a problem. 

Another opinion is that nothing should come to a meeting unless it is a formal 
proposal. Many issues could be resolved if we could just have a discussion. We 
don't need a policy; we just need more awareness and more eyes on the issue.

I think anyone should be able to bring up an issue for discussion. That's what 
agenda setting in meetings is supposed to be -- agenda's don't have to be set 
in stone before the meeting. If there is time to consider other issues, or the 
group decides that another issue is important, why not discuss it? Attendance 
at meetings might be better if the meetings were more open. Why go if you don't 
care about the items on the published agenda?

> Can one play chess when the players use different sets of rules?  Can one do 
> consensus when there is no agreement what the basic rules are?  

We worked for several years on a written process for consensus. When the 
process was very detailed, some people complained it was too complicated. If we 
made it simple others said it wasn't clear. We finally reached consensus on 
definitions, which in a sense are rules. The heat went out of needing a more 
formal statement of process. We do clarifying questions, concerns, resolution 
of objections, and consent.  

Standing aside is really a "soft" consent. It's a no opinion or a concern that 
is there but not strong enough to object. We have people who feel that 
"consent" means active support, not just letting things go forward. So they 
insist on standing aside. I recently stood aside because I thought a decision 
would be counter-productive in terms of building engagement in the community, 
but the issue didn't affect me personally and I couldn't give evidence on it. 

Our majority vote policy is in the bylaws. Anyone can call for a vote at 
anytime, and the vote takes place in the next meeting. It's never been done, 
though one person a couple of times a year says I don't understand why we don't 
just vote. There is silence in the room. Finally the facilitator says, I don't 
think people are with you. And it ends there.

Our Definitions:

Our definitions are:

Decision-Making Definitions
Takoma Village Cohousing
Clarifying Questions are asked to obtain more information about the proposed 
decision. For example: Does this include … ?
Concerns are expressions of uneasiness about the possible results of a proposed 
decision. For example: I’m concerned about the effect on….
A Friendly Amendment is one that is perceived by all parties as an enhancement 
to the original proposal, often as clarification of intent.
Consensus means that all members participating in the decision have consented 
to it. Eligibility for participation in decision-making is defined in the 
Decision-Making Authority and Accountability Policy and in the Bylaws.
Consent means a member has no objections that would prevent them from complying 
with the decision.
An Objection means a member believes that the proposal is not in accordance 
with community policies and agreements. The objector must explain the objection 
so it can be understood and resolved. An objection must be resolved before a 
decision that requires consensus can be made. Resolving an objection is the 
responsibility of all members, including the objector.
Community Policies and Agreements include the Declaration, Bylaws, Policies, 
Guidelines, Mission, Values, Vision, community practices, and any other 
statements approved by consent of the Membership.
A Stand-Aside means a member:
(1)      has an unresolved concern but will allow the proposal to go forward 
and will comply with it, or
(2)      is neutral because they want to avoid a potential conflict of 
interest, or because the policy will not apply to them, or
(3)      has insufficient understanding of the issue to consent.
The number of members standing aside and their reasons for standing aside must 
be recorded in the minutes with the decision.
Unresolved Objections (sometimes called “blocks”) are those that remain after 
strategies for resolving them seem to have been exhausted.

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