Re: Document of community norms/standards for conduct at meetings?
From: Fred-List manager (
Date: Sat, 27 Aug 2016 07:23:45 -0700 (PDT)
Karen Ecklund <ecklund.karen [at]>
is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
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--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------
I’ve copied and pasted the text of a document created by a
“Process Team” here at Arboretum Cohousing, Madison WI.  The team
brought drafts to our plenary several times before finalizing it and
we still consider it a living document:

Plenary Meeting Expectations and Roles
September 2015
(Includes member input from September 13, 2015 Plenary Meeting)

To make our community meetings, known as plenaries, as productive and
civil as possible, we embrace the following “living document” of
expectations and roles:

Decorum – While emotions might run high over certain issues, those
attending need to be respectful of others and not resort to personal
attacks in order to make their point.

Proposals - New proposals come through a sponsoring committee that
will develop the idea until it is ripe for discussion and a decision
in plenary.

Member Role –
Educate ourselves beforehand about an agenda item or proposal,
including reviewing minutes of prior meetings, in order to understand
the context of decisions and previous discussions on an issue.

Educate ourselves about the proper use of consensus cards.

Assist the consensus process by expressing our core concerns (or
interests) while being flexible how those concerns or interests are
implemented (the particular solution).

Wait to add input beyond our first comments until everyone has had a
chance to speak. Step up, and then step back.

Strive to understand views different than our own in order to make
sure all are heard.

If another member has already said what we intended to, it is enough
to signal our agreement.

Strive to focus on content rather than personalities.

Consider using a blue card if we are in a small minority, e.g. one or
two, who feel the proposal is a bad idea, but not harmful, to
acknowledge the wishes of the whole.

Use a red card only on rare occasions when we firmly believe that a
decision might cause long term harm to the community.

Be willing to share a rationale for a consensus card with the plenary
or the facilitator.

Show appreciation for the work of others.

Attend meetings with an open mind, setting aside preconceived notions.

Practice humility and forgiveness.

View the mic as a “talking stick.” Listen openly to the person
with the stick.

Bring issues to a committee for further development.

Facilitator Role –

Plan logistics, processes, and details for plenary meetings.

Keep the agenda moving by ending discussion that becomes redundant or
dominated by a few, encouraging members to speak on topic and to the
point, and encouraging quiet members to speak.

Use a variety of meeting techniques, e.g. discussion, visual display,
movement, small groups, reflection, stretch breaks.

Acknowledge member input that contains heightened emotion and slow
down the process while encouraging members to try to understand the
other’s point of view.

Break down complex topics into digestible smaller chunks that may move
to consensus.

Strive to understand blocking concerns and work with them as a key
factor that a solution needs to take into account.

Test for validity of a red card by asking group to respond.

Hand off developing issues/topics to committees or sub-committees for
further development. Ensure that guidance from the plenary is clear.

May suggest that a stalled a decision item in the plenary go back to
committee for further development.

Clearly state or restate the proposal and/or display the wording of
the proposal immediately prior to moving to consensus.

Board Role -
Determine timing of topics for plenary meetings, e.g. Is the issue
ready? Does the committee need to do more work? Will we have time at a
particular meeting or should the issue be deferred?

Determine if the issue/proposal is plenary worthy. Should a standing
committee decide?

Do we need an adhoc committee to form and work further on the issue
and/or make a decision?

Committee Role -
Solicit input and participation from members

Develop proposals for plenary

Alert board when proposal is ready for plenary

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