Decision Making Process

The process we use to make decisions is consensus-minus-one*.

Working Definition of Consensus:

A group decision process which actively seeks and considers the opinions of all members in an open atmosphere and arrives at a decision that best satisfies everyone’s preferences and feelings without anyone feeling an unacceptable level of conflict. 

(see Blocking section below for the “minus-one” part)

Process:

In order to come to a decision, we will follow this process.  There should be at least a week’s notice before any meeting.  If there is a time-sensitive decision, a team must adopt the topic and can call a meeting with less notice, but should be more pro-active about connecting with all members.  Any meeting heading towards a decision should have a presenter, a facilitator, and a note-taker.

1.  Call a meeting via email to introduce and discuss a topic.   Meet and discuss.   It is really important that all interested parties can make the scheduled time, and if not, the meeting should be rescheduled.  We encourage people to find ways to participate if they cannot be there in person (e.g. Skype).   If there are still members who cannot be there at the first meeting, and want to be part of the discussion, that should be a priority when scheduling the next meetings.

2.  Draft a proposal and send to the community via email.  Call a second meeting, making every effort to include all interested members or at least talk to them/get input ahead of time.  Meet and discuss, addressing concerns and questions, and revising the proposal as needed. 

If no concerns remain, the proposal has not changed, and a quorum is present or has given consent ahead of time (see below), there could be a call for consensus and a decision could be made at this second meeting.

If those conditions are not met, continue the process at the next community meeting.  Either the whole group will agree on revised language for the proposal, or a small group will take feedback from this meeting and work on revisions.  Then the revised proposal will come to another meeting (called specifically for this purpose or the next community meeting) to call for consensus.

3.  When a call for consensus is made, members may do the following:

  • consent
  • consent with minor reservations
  • stand aside
  • block

“Standing aside” means the member may disagree with the decision but will allow the group to go forward with it.  This is, in effect, a decision by the individual to release his or her concern in favor of the group’s interest.  This person is bound by and required to help implement the decision unless a specific exception is made. 

To reach consensus, a quorum is needed.  (see below for details)  If everybody consents (even with minor reservations) or stands aside, the decision goes forward.  If anyone blocks, it is put on hold until the blocking process happens.  (see below)

Quorum:

For all decisions, 7 out of 13 households must be represented.  For legal or financial decisions, we are counting households by owners.  For other decisions, the household could be represented by renters.

If members cannot attend a meeting, they are able to give their consent ahead of time.  This must be witnessed by the whole community, via email, or in person.  If the proposal is revised, this consent is no longer valid. 

Members cannot block a decision via email, but can request postponement if they cannot make it and have concerns about the proposal. 

Blocking:

In consensus, blocking should not be done lightly, but should be well thought-out.  It should be in the best interest of the community, not the individual.  One should block a proposal only based on some concern, truth, or understanding, so that one cannot in good conscience let the decision go forward.  Blocking is serious and should be done with utmost respect and consideration for all members of the group.  It should never be a surprise, and threatening to block is unnecessary and unhelpful.  Only those who count in the quorum can block a decision. 

(we would like to include extra information about blocking, including various expert perspectives, in some kind of appendix, but not in this actual process document)

*Consensus-Minus-One:  If only one person blocks, they have two weeks to find another member who agrees with their position.  (note:  this is another person who agrees with the content of their block, not simply their right to block)  If they do not find anyone else, the decision goes forward. Their block does not stop the decision from moving forward.

If they do find someone, the decision is blocked and the expectation is that the dissenters are responsible for helping to seek a solution, as follows:  

Those blocking the decision are required to have three meetings within a six-week period with whomever presented the proposal and any other interested parties.  A facilitator may be helpful but is not necessary. The function of this small group is to:

  • clarify the concern, by respectfully asking questions of those blocking, to understand underlying needs, feelings, reasons, and issues
  • all those present can also clarify and share their own needs, feelings, reasons, and issues
  • each member of this group can explore the options available with an open heart and mind, remembering that this may be difficult for those blocking and can be an opportunity for deep learning for each person
  • bring back new creative options to the whole group

Hopefully this will lead to some way the group can move forward.  If it does not, then the block stands, no decision is made, and life goes on.