Re: Moving back from concensus?
From: Martie Weatherly (
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2020 10:17:57 -0800 (PST)
Fascinating discussion about the challenges of consensus. 

I think the biggest pitfalls are not learning about or putting up with too much 
minutiae in meetings and not tightening up the consensus process so that it 

Bryan said it perfectly on another post about his community that "tortured 
ourselves to try to accommodate folks who refused to be accommodated."

I am taking on in 2021 supporting Hassle Free Consensus that Sticks for 
cohousing communities. Check out my website as I update it. Glad to continue 
this conversation at any time!

Martie Weatherly
Frederick, MD

Consensus Coach
301-538-6811 cell - text is best
martiew319 [at]

-----Original Message-----
>From: Mariana Almeida via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
>Sent: Dec 15, 2020 2:28 PM
>To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>, R Philip Dowds <rphilipdowds 
>Cc: Mariana Almeida <missmgrrl [at]>
>Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Moving back from concensus?
>This struck a nerve, Philip: "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." This 
>is also my experience with consensus in Berkeley Cohousing after 17 years. 
>Consensus creates conditions where the most conservative opinion is the one 
>that wins out. Inertia settles in. Long standing logjams happen. Only the most 
>determined people can get a proposal through. 
>Witness: one year to get an online calendaring system to be agreed to and 
>used. Five years (or was it 7?) to get a seismic improvement approved. Three 
>proposals to get wifi in the common house and adjoining units. 
>Policies that never made it: pet policy. We have no resale policy. No work 
>share policy. No associate member policy.
>People burn out (hi!) Nothing new gets done. People ignore the rules because 
>they don't fit the circumstances anymore. We can't hope to get new rules out 
>without blood, sweat, tears and so much talking. 
>I have longed for something new and learned all about sociocracy. But to 
>change from consensus, I'd have to devote way too much time. 
>Berkeley CohousingAgenda committe and Common House Committe.
>    On Monday, December 14, 2020, 04:00:18 PM PST, R Philip Dowds via 
> Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]> wrote:  
> 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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