Re: Moving back from concensus?
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Mon, 14 Dec 2020 16:00:16 -0800 (PST)
Sharon — After thirteen years living at Cornerstone, my experience is this:

The official rules may appear to allow an organized minority to ram something 
to a hasty and premature conclusion despite the misgivings of many.  But in 
practice, this doesn’t happen.  Most of my friends and neighbors are very wary 
of pushing too hard, of demanding a result that would rupture relations in the 
community.  Despite our efforts to “streamline” the consensus process, we still 
have a latent culture of, “Nothing new can happen, nothing can change, until 
everyone likes it.”

There’s definitely a downside to the high level of deference extended by the 
majority to the minority.  The downside is all the proposals that never get 
proposed.  Only the most courageous, most determined and most persistent are 
willing to bring a “hard” proposal into plenary.  Thus we have rules we no 
longer follow, but cannot change.  And good ideas we never try.  Yes, I know 
that some consensus professionals maintain that if you invest enough time and 
good will, you can always find the compromise that everyone can “live with”.  
But that investment of time and empathy may be unaffordable to many ordinary 
members — the ones who are unwilling to meet each week, month after month, to 
find a place to build a bicycle shed.


> On Dec 14, 2020, at 4:15 PM, Sharon Villines via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
> [at]> wrote:
>> On Dec 13, 2020, at 2:43 PM, R Philip Dowds via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
>> [at]> wrote:
>> So officially, it’s a maximum two month, three plenary process.
> These kinds of limits make be uncomfortable. The objective of consensus is to 
> find a solution that works for everyone, not just some. How can anyone know 
> how long that will take? With limits to discussion it is very easy for 
> someone delay the decision until is forced to a vote. Limits create 
> opportunities to manipulate the process — to game the system.
> If there is extensive good faith discussion at the beginning, before the 
> proposal comes to the full membership, gaming the system might be avoided.
> But also as Philip says, decisions not made can also be paralysis which must 
> also be avoided. Moving forward if only by an inch is important the life of 
> the group.
>> Please keep in mind that consensus is a process, not an outcome.  That is, 
>> consensus is a series of steps performed in an environment of attitudes. 
> It seems to require constant reminders that consensus isn’t just a vote; it 
> isn’t just what happens on the final day when you declare consensus (or try 
> to declare consensus.) The consensus process and ultimately the decision 
> starts when the question/problem/suggestion is raised. The whole process is 
> the decision.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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