Re: Moving back from consensus?
From: Bryan Syverson (
Date: Sun, 13 Dec 2020 13:37:01 -0800 (PST)
About 7 years ago, we here at La Querencia Fresno Cohousing had a painful
and difficult experience with consensus on a relatively minor proposal:
installing a new path. The difficulty was focused on two families whose
objections would shift from meeting to meeting so that accommodating their
concerns in the proposal became impossible. Eventually, it became clear
that one of the families was using consensus as a way of "blocking" the
decision without making the commitment to actually block the decision. Lots
of hurt feelings and bad blood.

Because of that, we underwent a rewrite of our decision-making policy to
allow for 66% supermajority vote if, after 3 meetings, concerns could not
be addressed and the decision was deadlocked. (I'd be happy to send you a
copy of our policy if you'd like to see it.) We have lots of caveats in the
process about how the decision should be important enough to override
consensus and that it can harden conflicts and compromise the community. In
other words, use of supermajority was supposed to be a big freakin' deal.

By the way, not once since we approved the new policy have we used it! I
should point out, however, that the difficult couple moved out 3 years
later. From what I understand, they moved out due to a job change out of
the area. In other words, neither that one particular decision nor the
change in the policy were a motivating factor for them leaving. In fact at
our last meeting we reached consensus on a proposal to pave that
once-contentious path without concerns or anyone standing aside; consensus
worked beautifully! (The other family, in fact, moved out within a year
because they couldn't stand the lengths we were going to.)

So my advice is to first search for the reason that consensus isn't
working. We as a community tortured ourselves to try to accommodate folks
who refused to be accommodated. If, like in our situation, there is one
household that is driving everyone nuts perhaps there's an easier process.
Does the problem couple have another couple that they are particularly
close to? If they can get them to commit to a compromise or even fessing up
that they're blocking the decision, that might help. Our problem couple
were not well integrated in the group so that wouldn't have worked for us;
they always felt like we were teaming up on them.

Good Luck
-Bryan Syverson
President, La Querencia HOA

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