Re: Risk Management
From: Philip Dowds (
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2017 09:04:46 -0700 (PDT)
OK, fair enough:  “Everyone happy” may be a colloquial over-simplification.  
But and however …

What’s this thumbing thing?  Thumbs up, down and sideways (yea, nay, and 
abstain) is, in my view, just voting in disguise.  The real consensus and 
sociocratic methodology is to identify, examine and resolve reasoned or argued 
objections (sometimes called “paramount objections”) until there are no further 
objections, at which point the proposal is adopted.  Maybe some “like” it, most 
“can live with it”, and a few are just tired of the process — but whatever the 
reason, the group has accepted the proposal by unanimity, or in solidarity, or 
however one wishes to phrase it.  No vote ever occurs … unless, maybe, the 
group acknowledges that the status quo is not really the best outcome when the 
proposal is in the tolerance range of all but a few (unreasonable??) members.


> On Jul 13, 2017, at 10:36 AM, David Heimann <heimann [at]> wrote:
> See comment between the line markers below:
> Regards,
> 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.
> Thanks,
> 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
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