On July 28, Yana Ludwig offered an FIC-sponsored webinar on Consensus Decision Making. As usual for anything that Yana presents, it was excellent. Here are some notes and highlights.
Sociocracy is a high-structure form of consensus decision-making. [I later attended a Sociocracy webinar and will post notes from that session when I get a chance.]
If you get the culture of your community right first, then the decision-making structure you choose is not as important. The converse is not true. In other words, even with a well-thought-out decision-making structure, if you have an incompatible group of community founders that don’t work well together, no decision-making structure is going to work for your group.
You want to develop a Sustainable Cooperative Culture, somewhere between an Extreme Competitive Culture and an Extreme Cooperative Culture.
What is consensus?
And what consensus isn’t…
In consensus decision-making, we are obligated to work to understand each other, not necessarily to agree with each other.
Not everyone is involved with every decision directly. You can consent to vote, and consent to delegate.
In consensus decision-making, you as an individual within the group have three choices: Approve, Stand Aside, Block.
Options for individual responses in consensus
Approve (or Agree to Consent): MOST responses will be this
Stand Aside: disagree for personal reasons or haven’t been present enough
Block: disagree for reasons tied to group purpose, group-held values, or group survival
When you block, the group can’t go forward. All it takes is one block, and it's back to the drawing board.
Logistics vary. Do what works for you.
Blocking MUST be a real option...or it’s not consensus.
Criteria and Process for Legitimate Blocks:
A block must always be about the group’s purpose, not your personal preferences.
Test: Can at least X# of folks see how you got there?
Repair: All blocks are painful but are absolutely needed. Tend to relationships.
Bubbles Before Boxes
Bubbles: Gather input - make sure everyone is heard
Boxes: Present proposal
Recommended Bubbles and Boxes Sequence
Some things to keep in mind…
Not everyone is verbal.
Not everyone thinks fast on their feet.
NO “bubble popping” in the bubbles phase!
Having power without being a part of the process is not good.
Good consensus topics (“plenary worthy”)
Plan your meeting agenda carefully. Consensus needs time--don’t put too much in the meeting.