What about all of the various issues
that are bound to come up among and between
those of us that do reside on the land?
How will everyday decisions be made,
and who will make them?
If there is one initial founder
who has already put more time, resources and energy
into the project than anybody else,
will they ultimately be in control,
making all of the decisions on their own?
There are several important things to consider
when thinking about a small group decision making process,
and an added element when there is one or only a few founders.
The first consideration is the formation of the group's vision.
No matter how many people are involved at any project's genesis,
it is those people who are present during the very first days,
during the "idea stage" that are able to create the originating vision.
Once such a vision is created, the rest of the project is channeled through that structure.
It is each newcomer's responsibility to decide
if their interests and goals are aligned with the basic vision.
If the newcomer resonates with the fundamental tenets of the project,
cooperative process can then ensue.
This is why it's critically important to thoroughly read through
and make sure that you are in complete agreement with
the "Knowing More About Our Vision" page.
(Which can be accessed Here)
An element to be aware of when one or a few founders
has already put in significant investment to purchase property, for example,
is that they have particular financial and legal liabilities that they are responsible for.
There is a prominent risk that the founders have been willing to take and maintain,
that others who join at a later time or with lower buy-in investment may not have.
Because of this, essential decisions relating to property value and financial solvency
would be decided upon by those who have invested in it.
The founders may welcome input and suggestions from the other participants,
but the ultimate decision would be theirs.
This would not be the case for everyday, or "lifestyle" issues
that effect everyone in the group.
When will we share meals together?
What are the weekly work priorities?
What will the pet policy be?
How do we deal with somebody breaking an agreement or not doing their part?
There are a plethora of issues and choices that will come up
both immediately and over time.
These are the decisions that need to be made through
a more collaborative procedure.
At this point we are actively researching the best decision making process options.
Many sucessful organizations utilize some form of consensus.
In her book, "Creating A Life Together", Diana Leafe Christian
emphasizes the importance of each group member becoming trained in such a process,
lest the group be swayed into a structural conflict
derived from an uninfomed "pseudoconsensus"
besieged with dynamics that are destructive to the group.
Diana quotes process consultant Rob Sandelin as saying,
"If even one person in your group doesn't fully understand concensus - don't use it".
Diana shares eloquently:
" Consensus generates an entirely different dynamic among meeting participants than majority-rule voting. With the latter, competing factions usually try to win converts to their position by criticizing the other position and creating an 'us versus them' atmosphere. But consensus creates an incentive for supporters of a proposal to seek out those who disagree with them and really try to understand their objections - and to reform the proposal to incorporate the other members' concerns. . . . Consensus is not a compromise, which weakens everyone's interests, but a creative meta-solution, which, ideally, strengthens everyon's interests.
Because the consensus facilitator draws out the ideas and concerns of each member and doesn't let the more articulate or energetic members dominate, consensus empowers a group as a group. Majority-rule voting usually rewards the most aggressive members
but disempowers the group as a whole.
Done well, consensus can transform meetings from overlong, frustrating, draining sessions that go nowhere and elicit people's worst behaviors, to spirited, stimulating events where everyone's ideas are valued and the group comes up with surprisingly creative and workable solutions. In a well-trained group with good facilitation, using consensus can elevate the consciousness of a group. It's not just a decision-making technique, but a philosophy of inclusion, drawing out the ideas, insights, and wisdom of everyone's "piece of the truth".
But it's not a panacea and it won't work in evey situation. To get the full power and impact of this process, certain elements must be present . . . . . "
One community, "Sowing Circle", outlines the reasons why
they chose to use consensus decision making:
"Consensus creates and strengthens a spirit of trust, cooperation, and respect among the Partners: > By incorporating the clearest thinking of all Partners, consensus increases the likelihood of new, better, and more creative decisions.
> Because all have participated in its formation, everyone has a stake in implementing decisions.
> Consensus significantly lessens the possibility that a minority will feel that an unacceptable decision has been imposed on them.
> Consensus safeguards against ego/adversary attitudes, uninformed decision-making, "rubber stamping" of decisions, coercion, self-interested positions, mistrust, and half-hearted agreements."
Diana goes on to outline the elements within an organization that are essential
in order for consensus to be advantageous and effective,
and presents modifications and alternatives to this process
when using those would be a better choice.
Presently at Ingenium we are meeting with Peter Cohen,
a certified NVC practitioner who is also skilled at group concensus process.
These meetings are open once per month to those who have joined our MeetUp group
and who are involved with the project as a whole.
Come and join us!