Re: Risk Management
From: Philip Dowds (
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:02:24 -0700 (PDT)
Sharon —

The variations are endless, and here’s part of Cornerstone’s:

  —  Quorum.  For a plenary decision, it’s minimum 14 households out of 32.  We 
have a minimum because we don’t want situations where big decisions are made by 
thin attendance, and more generally, we are always trying to encourage as much 
participation as we can get.  We do confirm that, at the moment we determine 
there are no further objections, we have at least 14 households represented.  
This is not really an issue, since most of our plenaries are attended by a 
couple dozen households.
       While no requirement for quorum might help distill down plenary to just 
those who really care … sometimes people don’t know what they care about until 
they’ve dialoged for a while.  Sometimes people *should* care about things they 
are ignoring.  If an issue affects and interests only a small subset, maybe it 
does not belong in plenary, maybe it should go to committee.

  ––  Consensus.  The main goal is always the resolution of all objections, at 
which point the proposal is adopted (the incautious might say, Adopted 
“unanimously").  The process, at this point, does not recognize abstentions or 
stand-asides; the only question of importance is, Do you have an objection?  
Concerns that do not rise to the level of objection are logged into the minutes 
as things to watch out for.  But if resolving all objections is impossible 
(which it is, sometimes), then one of two things happens:
  —  (1) The proponents withdraw, and the proposal is abandoned.  Maybe the 
proponents have been convinced that the proposal has serious unfixable 
problems, or maybe they don’t want to keep pushing their friends and neighbors 
on a matter controversial, or whatever.  In any event, the proposal runs out of 
gas.  Alternatively …
  —  (2) The proponents call for a super-majority vote.  The vote succeeds if 
(a) the plenary meets quorum; and (b) yeas equal or exceed 75% of those 
choosing to vote.  Objection is by individual, but voting is by household.  If 
24 households are in the room (no proxies, no mail-ins), and 4 households 
choose not to vote, and 15 of the 20 voting households vote “yea” (the other 5 
being “nay”), then the proposal is adopted.  This approach ensures that 
abstentions are not automatically weighted to either side of the tally.

Mostly, we resolve all the objections.  Voting is very rare, but not quite so 
rare as proponent withdrawal.  What we don’t have is data on is how many 
proposals are never even initiated, because for some, the process is seen as 
too arduous and challenging.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

> On Jul 14, 2017, at 10:58 AM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at] 
>> wrote:
>> On Jul 14, 2017, at 9:20 AM, Philip Dowds <rphilipdowds [at]> wrote:
>> Maybe we should have a new word for this kind of outcome, like “unobjectous”.
> In sociocracy the definition of consent is "no objections.” 
>> But … What’s this Stand-aside thing?
> It’s a vestige of parliamentary procedure — those eligible to vote can say 
> yes, no, or stand aside. Stand asides are counted with the majority, though 
> they are often negatives. Like a soft objection. If we have more than 2-3 
> stand asides we usually go back and reconsider. If the reasons are known and 
> are not really objections we may leave them. The reasons are recorded in the 
> minutes.
> Sometimes people don’t want to go on record as having consented as a positive 
> act when they haven’t examined the issue enough to know if they have 
> objections. We have one person who is so strong in his principles that if he 
> hasn’t studied the issue, he stands aside. 
> If people are listed in the minutes as having attended and a stand aside 
> isn’t recorded, the assumption is that they consented. 
>> When everything else fails, I’ve been known to stand aside by leaving the 
>> room, and subtracting myself from the participating quorum.
> We have these often. People don’t want to be on record as consenting or 
> aren’t affected by the decision.
>> I note you do not include “quorum” in your definition set …
> We have a 51% quorum, so consent is all of the 51% including stand asides. I 
> am in favor of having no quorum in consent decisions for two reasons:
> 1. No quorum allows people who are affected or concerned with an issue to 
> discuss it and decide. Others by their absence are assumed to consent. People 
> who can’t attend a meeting in which a discussion is scheduled can ask for the 
> issue to be delayed for a later meeting.
> One community reports that no quorum brings out more people to a meeting 
> because they are afraid a decision will be made without them. 
> We sometimes can’t get issues on the agenda for discussion or decision 
> because “no one cares” so we won’t have a quorum. Well, 8 may care very much 
> and be directly affected, so it is important to discuss the issue. Otherwise 
> you have majority rule by default.
> 2. “No objections” on the part of all present is a much higher than 
> traditional bar. In parliamentary procedure, if the quorum is 51% percent of 
> a those eligible to vote, 51% of those present and voting can carry a 
> decision. 
> If a quorum is met with 25 people and 5 people do not vote, 11 people voting 
> yes carries the decision. That would be only 11 of the 49 people eligible to 
> vote. Stand asides usually count with the majority. So of the 11, a number 
> could have been stand asides and counted with say 6 yes votes, depending on 
> the provisions of the bylaws.
> If everyone affected by a decision, or cares about the outcome, consents to a 
> decision, in practical terms that would be all that would be required to 
> execute the decision.
> On bike storage for example, if the community has set a policy that bikes can 
> be stored in this area on a first come first served basis, bikes must be in 
> good condition because they are visible, etc., then the bike owners can 
> decide amongst themselves by consent how the bikes will be parked within 
> those parameters. 
> In each case, as long as the meeting has been properly announced and no 
> member has asked for a different date because they can’t be there, is a 
> quorum relevant?
> No quorum allows more issues to be discussed and decided by engaged people, 
> not those who are there and playing solitaire just to get a body count. We 
> even allow people who come to be counted for the quorum to leave. The quorum 
> is assumed to be present for the whole meeting unless someone calls for a 
> count.
> Our bylaws set Robert’s Rules as the default when our bylaws are silent on an 
> issue so sometimes that is the guide.
> In sociocracy the aim is to create harmony which is best produced by ensuring 
> that no one has objections that would prevent them from working harmoniously 
> if the proposed action is taken.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> “There can be too much truth in any relationship.” — Violet, Dowager Countess 
> of Grantham
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