Re post in digest, Leadership & Consensus Decision-Making
From: Diana Leafe Christian (
Date: Thu, 6 Aug 2015 16:38:34 -0700 (PDT)
Hello Stephenie Frederick and all,

        I am so glad Stephanie notes consensus is a decision-making method but 
not an entire governance method, and that community governance involves much 
more than decision-making. 
        I want to encourage people to consider the tasks and activities 
required for the ongoing governance and management of their community project. 
        In my experience, the ongoing process of community governance -- 
management -- includes both the _content_ of decisions that need to be made 
(the "what") and the process (the "how"  decisions are made). For example:

        (1) Finances. How do we collect, budget, spend, invest, and keep track 
of our community finances (including sending invoices, collecting money, doing 
bookkeeping, keeping financial records, and paying bills? 

        (2) Labor. How do we determine what community labor is required and who 
will do it and how do we know it has been done? 
        Is it volunteer-only and informal (it gets done or it doesn't?) 
        Do we create a community labor system with a certain labor requirement 
per member per month? And if so, do we track it formally, perhaps with people 
turning in labor sheets to show they've' done their labor and met their labor 
requirements for that month? And if so, which tasks do we officially recognize 
as needed for our ongoing community management (like cleaning the Common 
House), and which might we consider informal, impromptu, and simply voluntary 
(like writing a presenting a skit about our community)? 
        Do we have a committee or a designated manager to coordinate things and 
match labor tasks to people willing to do those tasks? Do we hire the necessary 
labor in a part-time, as-needed way? If so, do we hire our own members only or 
also hire neighbors or other non-community members? 
        Do we do as Stephenie suggests and what some cohousing communities do, 
and hire a part-time manager to coordinate this work and do some of these these 

        (3) Information. How do we be open and transparent with our members re 
community information, so everyone can know what's going on re our finances, 
our needed tasks and how they're getting done, what our ByLaws, CC&Rs, and 
other formal documents say, and what decisions we've made over time (for 
example, with an online and/or physical Decision Log, organized both by date 
and by topic alphabetically) that all members can access easily?

        (4) Decision-making. How we make these decisions.

        I now believe how a community governs itself -- manages itself -- is 
the foundation for how well it succeeds and thrives. 
        (When a community uses consensus, I recommend they create a 
governance/management method to address all the above topics and use the N St. 
Consensus Method to make their decisions. Or else using Sociocracy, which is 
both a governance structure and a decision-making method.)
        Thank you again, Stephenie, for bringing up this important point.

> Date: Tue, 4 Aug 2015 08:19:26 -0700
> From: Stephenie Frederick <sjoyfred [at]>
> To: cohousing-l [at]
> Subject: [C-L]_ Leadership & Consensus Decision-Making
> Message-ID:
>       <CAD4Y-H5NSQMFK-YcEbjBsww8f9awhNZhP6SHiHwyvBvP-wF3NQ [at] 
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
> Our HOA has tried to operate with a committees & board-consensus approach.
> It has not worked out entirely satisfactorily because too many matters have
> been overlooked.  I believe the reason is as follows:
> Consensus is not a form of governance.  It is only a process for making
> decisions about something.  If there is no one to introduce that something
> into the consensus process, the group does not arrive at consensus for or
> against it.  For the group, the issue doesn't exist.
> A cohousing community that relies only on consensus and committees can end
> up NOT accomplishing critical actions such as evaluating the physical
> plant,  minding insurance issues to protect the cohousing
> population, establishing a dues collection policy, requiring contracts and
> supervision when hiring firms to work on site, periodically issuing a
> financial statement, etc.  These are difficult matters that the committees
> may never bring to the board; the issues remain invisible ? until a major
> incident occurs.
> I believe that a community that relies on consensus decision-making can
> benefit from having a person or persons *(a leader) *who is responsible for
> bringing up the essential issues.  This person or persons need not play a
> 'command & control' role.  He/she/they can be organizers who make sure
> that the decision-making community attends to the invisible but vital
> matters that enable the community to function without major mishap.
> I'm all for a democratically elected and recallable leader who plays an
> executive role and is responsible for injecting the critical issues into
> the consensus process.  The non-critical issues will make it into the
> process via the committees.
> Stephenie Frederick
> La Querencia-Fresno Cohousing, Fresno, California

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