Re: Risk Management
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2017 03:15:57 -0700 (PDT)
I may not be up to speed on what others mean, but here’s what I mean when I 
concede “No further objections” and consent to a proposal.  I mean:
I understand the proposal.
It falls within my tolerance range.  And … here’s the kicker …
To the extent this proposal requires me to contribute, take action, or modify 
my behavior, I intend to cooperate.  (I think this syncs with your fourth 
paragraph emphasis on active commitment, rather than passive acquiescence.)
What I hope, of course, is that all others in my group are consenting in the 
same way.  If they are, I’m inclined to say that unanimity is the end result.  
But if “unanimity” is verboten, and the end result can only be described as 
“consensus” (which I normally use for the process, not the outcome), then I 
should avoid the word unanimity to forestall needless controversy.

Why would anyone consent to something s/he doesn’t “like”?  In your example of 
paragraph one, the answer is, Sometimes, some progress is better than none at 
all.  This is hardly unique to consensus; every year, elected officials cast 
dozens or hundreds of votes on this basis.  In many cases, they expect to come 
back later, and try to do better.  That’s how politics works.
      But what about someone who decides, Well, I hate this, but my name is mud 
if I keep on objecting, so I consent — and then continues to undermine and defy 
the substance of the proposal?  I would say that this person did not really 
consent, but rather, lied to his/her group.  I would argue that the voting 
process tends to encourage these kinds of deceptions, and consensus process 
tends to minimize them.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

> On Jul 13, 2017, at 8:44 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]> 
> wrote:
> I don’t agree. On Sunday we were making a decision that one person did not 
> agree with because she wanted the decision to go farther. She finally said it 
> was sometimes best to go the direction the horse was going and eventually she 
> might get where she wanted to go.
> She consented to moving forward with the decision, but she didn’t consent 
> that a narrow solution was best, as others did.
> A group decision is first a decision about whether I have any objections to 
> the proposed action. The second is that given all the circumstances — which 
> includes what others want and think — do I consent to moving forward. I might 
> still disagree and object but can live with it. At least for the time being.
> One reason not to confuse unanimity and solidarity with consensus is because 
> they have their own virtues and are needed for some kinds of decision needs. 
> The President of a group that uses sociocracy once said, I don’t want to hear 
> consent, I want to hear commitment. We all had consented to a proposal but 
> what she really wanted was commitment to fully support and work for it. She 
> wanted solidarity — not consent.
> Sharon

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