Re: Question about Consent Governance
From: David Heimann (
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2018 12:33:08 -0700 (PDT)

Hello Everyone,

Practically every time where someone raises a significant objection to a proposal or situation, emotions will rise to the fore and, even after all is said and done, hard feelings will remain. After all, some people may now be facing risks they did not themselves or the community to assume, some people may be feeling blocked from taking proper care of their children, some people may feel that others are now getting a free ride, some people may feel that other people hijacked a crucial meeting, and/or other sore feelings. Just because the objection has been resolved or bypassed in some way, shape, or form, doesn't mean that the community can simply move on. Hard feelings can persist for months or years and pop up again in the most inopportune circumstances.

We have tried and are trying various means to address and resolve such hard feelings:

* Having a workshop or discussion on the subject during our annual Community 
Life Workday.

* Having a community conversation, listening circle, or healing circle on the 

* Having individuals work the conflict with each other with the assistance of our Conflict Prevention and Resolution group, or having an individual work the conflict they are having with a committee at a (possibly facilitated) meeting of that committee.

* Having people discuss the matter informally at community meals and social activities or while "around the campus".

Some of these have worked wonderfully well, others less so. However, they have all worked much better than ignoring the emotions and trying to sweep them under the rug. As we mature as a community, we see what works better when, and try new approaches as appropriate. To my mind, it's working.

David Heimann
Jamaica Plain Cohousing

Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2018 07:37:27 -0400
From: Patti Lautner <lautnerp [at]>
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Question about Consent Governance
Message-ID: <7F7AEABC-4EB2-4BEF-AD9E-8CF7FAE7767C [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain;       charset=utf-8

The important piece that seems to be missing in the story described by Philip 
is the REASON for the block. In a true consensus model, a block may only happen 
if the blocker can show that they are protecting one of the community?s 
commonly held values. The blocker must describe convincingly to the plenary 
that it is in the best interest of the community to block and that the common 
value must be protected above what might seem like popular opinion. If the 
blocker can not convince the community that the decision goes against a common 
value, then the block is simply not allowed. Even mature communities like ours, 
(13+ years since move in, 18 years since starting), need to be reminded 
occasionally that conensues means to give permission, not total agreement, and 
that blocks may only happen to protect a commonly held value.

We have our values list lovingly displayed in our common house and we confirm, 
ratify, and consider changing this list annually at one of our retreats.

I would love to discuss more should anyone want to reach out.

JPCohousing Boston

Sent from my iPhone

On Jul 17, 2018, at 7:17 AM, Dick Margulis <dick [at]> wrote:

The issue Philip identifies is what had our group in nearly complete paralysis 
for a couple of years, trying mightily but unsuccessfully to move forward using 
formal consensus.

Sociocracy set us free.

Strip away all of the specific procedures and processes and structures of 
sociocracy and just focus on the concept of consent that it embodies:

1. The proposal belongs to the circle with the authority to act on it, not to 
the individual or circle that brings it.

2. The proposal includes what amounts to a sunset clause: when will we review 
it to see if it's working as planned or needs further tweaking, and by what 
explicit criteria will we make that judgment?

3. To decide whether to object, you ask yourself whether the proposal is safe 
enough to try and good enough for now, whether it is consistent with agreed 
community values, and whether you can live with it. You don't ask whether the 
proposal is perfect, because you know we will revisit it later (see number 2).

4. If you don't have a reasoned objection but still feel that something is 
amiss that needs to be resolved, the circle's job is to help you put your 
finger on the problem and articulate it so that it can be examined in light of 
those decision criteria. If your initially inchoate objection has been 
developed into a reasoned objection, then more work is needed on the proposal 
to resolve that objection, and good for you for bringing it. If not, then the 
facilitator will likely ask you to stand aside.

The better we get at using sociocracy--especially the better we get at 
internalizing number 1, above--the more efficient our meetings become and the 
faster we can get to a decision on a proposal. And the active listening 
involved in number 4 has kept us honest: people who are not necessarily very 
articulate nonetheless feel heard; we've had any number of instances where a 
little niggle that's bothering one quiet person has resulted in major reshaping 
of a proposal once the group teased out the real nature of the objection.


On 7/17/2018 6:26 AM, Philip Dowds via Cohousing-L wrote:
So here?s the issue, really:
Let?s say a controversial proposal has arrived at plenary.  The whole community 
has faithfully followed its formal consensus process.  After several months of 
hard work, inside and outside of plenary, the proposal has been significantly 
modified, and now almost everyone feels his/her concern or objection has been 
adequately addressed.  Except, maybe, for one person.

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