Re: Moving back from concensus?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2020 16:29:57 -0800 (PST)
> On Dec 15, 2020, at 2:28 PM, Mariana Almeida via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
> [at]> wrote:
> 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.

Do you spend time clarifying the purpose of the decision? What are we trying to 
accomplish? Sometimes preference ranking can be a good way to clearly indicate 
preferences without a few people dominating with negative influences. Unless 
all of you are going in the same direction, as you have discovered, consensus 
doesn’t work.

> 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. 

It is possible to use many of the best practices of sociocracy for discreet 
parts of decision-making to improve whatever process you are using. To hawk my 
own book, _We the People_  that I coauthored with John Buck, has many 
strategies for clarifying goals and breaking decisions apart so you can tryout 
part of a proposal — consent for 6 months or a year for one part of it. Feeling 
some success and progress works wonders. 

Doing rounds is very important so each person can explain their thoughts. Often 
when a person hears 30 people in a room disagree with them, they agree to try 
the new proposal.

Include a reevaluation date so everyone knows this decision isn’t forever. 
Sometimes people have such a hard time reaching consent that they don’t ever 
want to make that decision again so they say policies are set in stone. If you 
think of policies as fluid and subject to change when they aren’t working or 
you have new information they are not so hard to accept.

On Wifi, TV in the common house, etc. Sometimes our members have said, "Okay, I 
will pay for this for at least ___ months so we can test it and people can see 
if it is helpful.” If the group decides then that they want to keep it, the 
person is reimbursed for those months.

We finally got a pet policy by calling the office of animal control and asking 
what the law meant for condominiums. The response was that if we allowed dogs 
to roam freely on the property and they bit someone, the Association would be 
held liable. Not the individual owner. The individual owner was prevented by 
law to allow the dog to wander without control. But if we gave permission on 
our land, we were liable. No one was willing to take responsibility. Our bylaws 
state that we are a law-abiding community. So that was that. From now on, I 
call the city first and find out what our legal options are.

Grandfathering works wonders. Many of us did not want outdoor cats — some for 
the safety of birds, some for the safety of cats, and some so the cats wouldn’t 
poop and pee in the tot lot or flower beds. Unresolvable for years. Finally we 
grandfathered in the 5 outdoor cats we had and said no more. It worked very 
well. We soon had no outdoor cats.

There are a number of ways to approach these decisions —if people want to. If 
they don’t, then you need another decision-making method. Stasis is not 
healthy. Things are always changing. If they aren’t getting better, they are 
getting worse.

(That sounds like a lecture because sometimes that helps.)

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
Co-author of Sociocracy: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy. A Handbook for 
Understanding and Implementing Sociocratic Principles and Practices, Updated 
and Expalnded Edition

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