Re: Risk Management
From: David Heimann (
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2017 07:36:48 -0700 (PDT)

See comment between the line markers below:

David Heimann
Jamaica Plain Cohousing

Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2017 09:25:19 -0400
From: R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]>
To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Risk Management <was: Re: Marketing question ...>
        seeking examples
Message-ID: <36EE469A-8EC2-44A2-90B2-38F18F49395B [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain;       charset=utf-8

My general experience with the consensus process is this: For any proposal X, a few activists / advocates really want X to happen; most people are OK with X; and a few people have concerns or objections to X. Objections can be risk / fear driven, or personal preference driven, or community preservation driven; no matter which, all objections start out as legitimate and important.

The job of a properly run consensus process is to close the gap between the proposal and minority opposition. Closing the gap is a two-way street involving both (1) identifying and mitigating defects in the proposal, and (2) relieving the anxieties, or modifying the views, of the minority opposition.

Sometimes, proposal X ?fails? because dialog reveals that it has unsuspected and unavoidable bad consequences for the community. But more often, consensus ?fails? due to a combination of two factors:

(1) Even after weeks or months of sincere effort on all sides, the gap(s) cannot be closed. Maybe it?s because some of the opposition is immune to information. But just as likely, the last hold-out or two have core values or preferences that are unmodifiable ? e.g., they simply cannot agree to the new pet policy because they do not have, and do not like, pets.

And (2) the methodology in use stipulates that nothing can change until everyone is happy. In other words, the community has pre-agreed that the only acceptable outcome of the consensus effort is unanimity. Widespread participation in improving the proposal, elimination of as many objections as possible, and enhanced buy-in are not by themselves good enough; unanimity is essential, or else X can?t happen. This begs the question, What?s best for the community, really? The status quo? Or, a change strongly desired by some, and acceptable to almost everyone else?


Re: (2) -- Not really. It's "everyone agrees with the decision (thumbs-up) or can live with the decision (thumbs-sideways)". That's quite a bit different than "everyone is happy".

[At any rate, that's the way we do it at JP Cohousing and the way I understand consensus (and sociocracy for that matter) to operate.]


Which cycles me back to my assertion of origin: We are convened in cohousing, at least in part, to help each other get what we want. Viewed through this lens, irreconcilable objections to proposals should be very, very rare.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

On Jul 12, 2017, at 8:02 AM, Liz Ryan Cole <lizryancole [at]> wrote:

If you (and others who have posed along those lines) can figure out a way to 
write about this (perhaps  Risk Management is the right subject line), without 
exposing anyone to embarrassment, I think it would be incredibly instructive 
for anyone on this list.  Perhaps it needs a separate subject line?  Perhaps 
one could already find a great deal using the Archives (which I confess I have 
never figured out how to use)

My question is...How can one or a few people, using uninformed or very poorly 
informed fear, keep their community from moving forward on something.  Philip?s 
example is fear based, but not fact based, resistance to electric cars. Ann?e 
example is a glass blowing kiln (and I have no facts about those safety 
concerns).  Is this a misunderstanding of/misapplication of consensus?  or does 
living in cohousing, at least the communities that use consensus based decision 
making, have to mean (as some potential members fear) giving up making science 
based decisions (as an example) when one or more members have beliefs that make 
them discount data in favor of other factors?

I understand that this is a huge topic.  Perhaps we could begin by simply 
sharing other examples of communities that have struggled with these decisions. 
 One example I think of? what if someone in a cohousing neighborhood or 
community decided they didn?t want to have their children immunized?

thanks   liz

Liz Ryan Cole
lizryancole [at]
Pinnacle Cohousing
Loch Lyme Lodge
Lyme, NH
Home 802.785.4124
Work 802.831.1240
Lodge 603-795-2141

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire 
to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.?
? E.B. White

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.