Re: Question about Committee Membership and Sociocracy
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 08:48:29 -0700 (PDT)
> On Apr 24, 2018, at 10:56 PM, Chris Terbrueggen <christopher402 [at] 
>> wrote:
> Greetings, At CohoMadison, Reach committee members are working on a
> committee proposal to define our governance structure and decision-making
> process using consent.

I hope you are basing this on what you are already doing or close to doing. 
Spending much time on a policy for a process you haven’t implemented can hold 
you back rather than help you on. Many people do have experience in other 
organizations so they have a sense of what decisions need to be made but keep 
things flexible enough that they can be changed.

> A question came up about membership and when does a member have a right to
> object to a proposal in the consent process.

Rather than asking when do they have a right, think instead about what are 
helpful objections and what are obstructing objections?

The second edition of We the People which is greatly expanded says in part:

> An reasoned objection is a statement that a person’s domain would be 
> negatively affected by the proposed decision.
> Would the proposed policy negatively affect the circle’s ability to 
> accomplish its aim?
> Would it produce new and equally troublesome difficulties?
> Is the objection based on known facts or conditions, not fears or negative 
> expectations?
> Would the proposed decision conflict with other policies or bylaws that are 
> outside the circle’s domain of responsibility.
> An objection is not a veto but rather, the beginning of an exploration.

It isn’t a legal question. Anyone watching White House inspired politics right 
now can see how hopeless the law is at actually correcting negative actions. 

A better focus is on asking questions and exploring the issues. Once the 
objection is stated, it becomes the responsibility of the group to examine it 
to determine how it might be resolved in ways that would move the proposed 
action forward or backward or whether it applies at all. Focus on the logical 
argument, but especially in cohousing the domain also includes the person’s 
ability to move forward with a feeling of optimism and energy. So better to 
list some conditions that a person might consider in determining if their own 
objection is really important in this decision — or is it really that they 
didn’t get coffee this morning?

> Are there co-housing organizations that have said members should attend two 
> or three committee
> meetings before having the right to object to a proposal?  How do we define 
> consistent membership and participation on a committee?

Again this comes down to sensibleness not numbers. The process of making a 
decision in a team meeting is probably not so formal that anyone needs to keep 
count. It’s also highly variable. I’ve been living in my community for 17 
years. Any committee I join, I will have more information than anyone in the 
room who has been here 3-5 years. It has  been very helpful to us when a 
non-profit finance expert moved in and helped us relax about our budget being 
exact and never going over in any category. That was from minute one.

Team meetings are rarely so formal. Unless there has been upset due to lack of 
clarity, consent is usually clear at the end of the discussion. If someone were 
to come to a meeting and be disruptive or objecting without knowledge, have a 
buddy in the room who takes them aside or out of the room and explain the 
situation, ask them to listen longer or go have coffee and talk it over.

I was going to say I can’t remember a new person influencing a decision by 
objecting in the first meeting, but that’s not true. If a new person seem to be 
unreasonably influencing the decision, the decision is more likely to be 
dropped until the next meeting rather than actually dealing with the issue. Not 
really effective socially or operationally — everyone feels better but the 
decision was not made and there was no movement forward on everyone having the 
same understanding of the issue.

You quoted the Bylaws, which made me very happy, but it is important to note 
that unless you are in a Supreme Court hearing, people don’t talk that way or 
operate that way on a day to day basis. In a court room the stakes are often 
very high — life or death, even — and the fact that you are in a courtroom 
indicates there has been major conflict somewhere. In that instance, it is 
helpful to have ground rules and objective process. But if you operate that way 
everyday, especially when you are a room full of people who got home from work 
at 7 and got to a meeting at 8 and still have paperwork to do before going back 
to work at 8:30 in the morning, reading the rules can take up too much time and 
energy. Unless there is a standing conflict that you are trying to sort out, 
meetings can be more relaxed. Supreme Court Justices don’t even talk to each 
other, I hear.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
Coauthor with John Buck of
"We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy” 2nd Edition
Print: ISBN: 978-0979282737
Digital: ISBN 978-0979282720

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