Re: Risk Management
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2017 05:47:32 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jul 14, 2017, at 6:15 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:
> What I hope, of course, is that all others in my group are consenting in the 
> same way.

This is what we have consented to:

Policy on Consensus Decision-Making Definitions

Clarifying Questions are asked to obtain more information about the proposed 
decision. For example: Does this include ... ?

Concerns are expressions of uneasiness about the possible results of a proposed 
decision. For example: I’m concerned about the effect on....

A Friendly Amendment is one that is perceived by all parties as an enhancement 
to the original proposal, often as clarification of intent.

Consensus means that all members participating in the decision have consented 
to it. Eligibility for participation in decision-making is defined in the 
Decision-Making Authority and Accountability Policy and in the Bylaws.

Consent means a member has no objections that would prevent them from complying 
with the decision.

An Objection means a member believes that the proposal is not in accordance 
with community policies and agreements. The objector must explain the objection 
so it can be understood and resolved. An objection must be resolved before a 
decision that requires consensus can be made. Resolving an objection is the 
responsibility of all members, including the objector.

Community Policies and Agreements include the Declaration, Bylaws, Policies, 
Guidelines, Mission, Values, Vision, community practices, and any other 
statements approved by consent of the Membership.

A Stand-Aside means a member:

        • (1)  has an unresolved concern but will allow the proposal to go 
forward and will comply with it, or

        • (2)  is neutral because they want to avoid a potential conflict of 
interest, or because the policy will not apply to them, or

        • (3)  has insufficient understanding of the issue to consent.

The number of members standing aside and their reasons for standing aside must 
be recorded in the minutes with the decision.

Unresolved Objections (sometimes called “blocks”) are those that remain after 
strategies for resolving them seem to have been exhausted.

> Why would anyone consent to something s/he doesn’t “like”?

I consent to things all the time that I don’t like. I even grit my teeth over 
some decisions. We had a choice of two cork floor colors for the CH. A few of 
us wanted a dark color that was in our view more sophisticated and would have 
been a design element, not just a floor. Others wanted a color that was most 
common. The Sears choice. Perfectly defensible in that it is common but nothing 
to write home about.

It was not unanimous. I don’t think anyone in the room would have said we were 

I expressed my objections and then didn’t raise them when the question was 
asked if there were further objections. Given the preferences of others, it was 
the best decision possible given all the restraints. I did not “like" the 
decision. I consented to move forward to boring tan and not take a spray can to 

>      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.

As above, I didn’t keep anything to myself. Everyone knew what I thought. One 
difference is that I thought this was an opportunity missed rather than a 
decision in which consenting would have exposed the community to liability or 

This is one place where it helps to make a distinction between “consensus" and 
"consent.” When people hear “consensus” they often assume it means what the 
dictionary says:

> general agreement.  "a consensus of opinion among judges"
> synonyms:  agreement, harmony, concurrence, accord, unity, unanimity, 
> solidarity; 

Like most dictionary definitions, it is a definition that gives all the ways 
people use the word. But like other specialized areas of study (like 
management, fine arts, etc) the usefulness in clearly stating the parameters of 
decision-making it isn’t very helpful. It’s even obstructionist itself. If the 
requirement of consent is "unity, unanimity, solidarity” very few decisions 
would be made. In fact if our members were unanimous on an issue, it wouldn’t 
have to come up for a membership meeting decision. It would have been announced 
in minutes or posted on email. No discussion required.

We still have a stand aside because we have members who don’t want to appear to 
be consenting when they know nothing about the decision or it doesn’t affect 
them. They want consent to be a YES. So they stand aside a lot. It doesn’t lead 
to any problems—it’s just their standard. A stand aside is in effect consent.

Maybe we need a “consent” which is no objections, and a “consent-plus” which is 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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