Consensus Decison-Making [was A Glimps of Cohousing in 2060
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2015 07:41:34 -0800 (PST)
What is a block? This is not a facetious question. If this is the word people 
want to use, what does it mean? Following the accounts given here:

First the word "block" is used, and then it is explained as based on personal 
preferences. So personal preferences seem to be the problem.

Since the objection is not considered logical, a skilled facilitator is needed 
to step in and 'fix' it. A magician. Someone who can persuade the unpersuadable.

But we have values! A "valid block" has to be based on our values. If it isn't 
based on our values, it is an "invalid block." Objections in sociocracy are 
based on logical arguments. In a community where one lives, an objection based 
on personal preferences may be perfectly valid. It's valid, for example, to 
object to a tree being planted in front of the only window on the north side of 
your unit which only has two sides, north and south.

Values are important; they give purpose. They feel good. They are necessary but 
not sufficient. They have to be defined in terms of action before they can be 
made operable. For example:

-- We value the lives of birds so we feed them all winter. (I hear this is very 
bad for birds). 
-- We value the lives of birds so we don't allow outdoor cats. 
-- But do birds have any more right to eat worms than cats have to eat birds?

The values are around cats and safe birds But what are the actions that will 
implement the values. So the aim would probably be to restrict outdoor cats. 
How? That is the decision, not the value of cats or the normal cycles of 
nature.The arguments will only stop when a group decides that for them, these 
are the actions they will take to make their vision tangible. 

However, an aim is something you can measure. Without an aim and without 
measuring whether that aim is being achieved, that you are moving closer to 
your vision, a decision will always be a "personal preference" because it will 
vary with one's implementation of values. Even the people who have consented, 
have personal preferences and have expressed them.

Consensus decision-making only works when (1) everyone has a common aim, (2) is 
willing and able to sit together long enough to resolve all objections, and (3) 
chooses to make decisions with this group. It is said that consensus can't work 
in cohousing because people can't choose with whom they make decisions. I would 
argue that the premise of cohousing is that one has chosen to make decisions 
with everyone who lives there. Members have chosen to make decisions with a 
diverse, self-selecting group.

Consent and objections in sociocracy are based on the ability of the person to 
support/respect/implement the actions required by the proposal.


Values relate to a vision statement. You can accept a vision statement. But a 
vision is a dream. It's what you want the world to be. A vision is intangible 
and not a good plan for action. You need more: a Mission. For those on this 
list, this will be cohousing or cohousing plus ___. 

How you put the vision and the mission together will lead to the aim. A 
tangible basis for taking action -- actions that can be measured to determine 
their success. Was that a good decision? How do we need to improve it? That 
needs to be measured.

I think groups may be trying to make decisions based on their vision, not their 
aim. What is called a "personal preference" is really a values issue and can't 
be measured as valid or invalid. Only actions can be measured. To resolve 
objections should be focused on the aim of the proposal and how to accomplish 
it though action.

If there is no common aim, how can there be a consensus on action? If the 
proposal has no aim, how can it be useful?

I think the argument about "personal preferences" is first a the lack of a 
common aim or lack of a defined aim, then an avoidance of majority vote. 
Instead a facilitator, a fixer, is supposed to fix what is a structural, logic 

Sharon Villines
Sociocracy: Collaborative Organization

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.