Re: RIP: Rob Woods Sandelin
From: Eris Weaver (
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2017 07:07:05 -0800 (PST)
In 1999, our forming community brought Rob in to lead a consensus
workshop for us. The work we did together was transformative for me
personally and for our community. There are a lot of things I could say
about  Rob, but the most profound is this story that I now share with
every consensus workshop I lead. Seventeen years later, I still tear up
EVERY TIME I tell it. 

Our community had identified a possible property: an old apartment
complex, with about 50% occupancy. Some of us saw this as a great
opportunity to move into cohousing NOW, at a relatively low price.
Others were not so keen on the idea - moving into a funky apartment in a
run-down neighborhood did not meet their dreams of a groovy green
project with lots of open space. 

We were totally stuck. No matter how much we talked, whenever we called
for consensus (we were using thumbs up, thumbs down at that time) we
came up about fifty-fifty. We were paralyzed - we just could not see how
to use consensus to make this decision. 

Rob said: "The reason you cannot reach consensus is that you are not
asking a consensus question.  When you each put out your thumb, the
question you are answering is 'Do I want to live on that property?'
which is an individual preference question. The consensus question is
this: 'Is it in the best interests of this community as a whole - would
it further the group's mission & vision - to purchase this property,

A moment of silence…and then EVERY thumb went up. 

This is the part of the story where I always tear up. I was totally
gobsmacked - by the profundity and simplicity of the re-framed question,
by the power of switching focus from self to community, by the
willingness of my community members to say "yes!" to a decision even
though it might mean them leaving. 

Whenever I'm facilitating a difficult conversation, trying to find a way
through to consensus, his words come to me. His good humor and insight
has rippled through my community to all the other communities,
nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses that we each influence.
The world is a better place for his having been here. 


Eris Weaver 

FrogSong Cohousing, Cotati, CA

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.