Re: Consensus decision making
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2008 08:40:59 -0700 (PDT)

On Aug 11, 2008, at 10:57 AM, Racheli Gai wrote:

I don't understand why you claim that, and in what way working by consensus is even possible if there are no limits on what counts as legitimate grounds for blocking.

then the community has a right to decide to move on, overriding the
objection. This isn't at all the same as "ignoring" an objection.

Why call one objection an "objection" and another a "block." What is an "objection" and what is a "block"? My argument is that once you go down this road, you are not working toward consensus but toward majority vote. One person's "frivolous" is another person's "serious."

What happens to the person is over-ridden when the rest of the group pretends the group is still using consensus decision-making? Is the decision to exclude this person? Then why not take up that decision directly? Too difficult?

My point is that this process is one of redefining consensus and pretending it is still consensus.

I think that when we talk about "commitment", it needs to be a two- way street, which includes people's commitment to treat the process seriously, not to try to get their way no matter what.

I think this is true which is why I am questioning whether consensus is a good decision-making method when people can join a group or remain in a group without a commitment to a common goal.

How can consensus be meaningful without a common goal?

One alternative would be to use a form of preferential voting which is less divisive and more representative of everyone's preferences than majority voting. Robert's Rules of Order describes it as more representative than majority voting.

Defining alternatives for preferential voting can be a very positive process and the lack of common goals or frivolous treatment of the decision-making process avoids arguments or belabored discussions.

In preferential voting, the result should represent the first or second choice of all the voters, depending on the number of alternatives and the degree of variance in the goals of the voters.

My favorite method is the "five stars" ranking of alternatives. It allows me to vote for all the alternatives equally -- stating no preference between them, or to rank two equally and the others lower or higher. Most situations have several alternatives and for each person some of them maybe equally acceptable.

Defining alternatives also allows the person who is on the fringes of the group to participate in the defining of alternatives and thus to "have their say" without dominating the process.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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