Consensus or Sociocracy

Drop Cap Letter QWe are 3 months into starting a cohousing community in western MA. We will soon be discussing how we will make group decisions. Consensus and sociocracy seem to be common strategies in cohousing and other intentional communities. Which do you recommend?

"Consensus or Sociocracy?" Is the Wrong Question

(But there are no dumb questions. This one is a very good question and one we hear frequently.) Sociocracy and consensus are not opposite things.
  1. Consensus is a decision-making method.
  2. Sociocracy is a governance method.
  3. Sociocracy is a governance method based on consensus decision-making.
Sociocracy establishes a structure within which to make policy decisions (the planning and leading) and operations decisions (the doing). Policy decisions are made by consensus. Operations decisions are made by the leader of the work group or as the circle decides. The circle can also decide to use consensus for day-to-day decisions, or the consent of 2-3 … Continue Reading ››

Biography of Kees Boeke

Cover of Dutch Biography of Kees BoekeWell-received biography of Kees Boeke in Dutch by Daniela Hooghiemstra, a noted Dutch Biographer. Available from Description De christen-pacifist Kees Boeke (1884- 1966) wordt wel ‘onderwijshervormer’ genoemd maar hij beoogde niet minder dan de stichting van een nieuwe wereld. Toen de poging om die gemeenschap te stichten mislukte, besloot Boeke een school te stichten waar de ‘nieuwe wereld’ van de grond af opgebouwd moest worden. Deze unieke school kreeg na de Tweede Wereldoorlog een prominente leerling: prinses Beatrix. De koninklijke aandacht leek de kroon op zijn werk, maar luidde ook het begin in van de ondergang van Kees Boeke en alles waar hij altijd in geloof had.

Collaborative Collective Cooperative

Ornamental Capital Letter CCollaborative, collective, and cooperative are words often used interchangeably. When I hear them I wonder which one the speaker or writer means. I use them interchangeably too, sort of giving equal time to all of them. I have a preference for cooperative because it seems to have fewer political overtones than collective, and collaborative reminds me of clabber. It sticks in my throat.

The Problem with Dictionaries

The dictionary definitions of these three words don't help very much because they tend to give each as a synonyms of the other, particularly collaborative with collective and collective with cooperative. Remember when dictionaries told you which word was correct? They might have been too proscriptive but at least they preserved the precision of language. There is great value in language becoming new with inventive applications and combinations that play off the original, but smushing words together with no regard … Continue Reading ››

One Name = Conquer Google

Google LogoI was searching my name on Google this morning as the quickest way to find my own website. I shockingly  discovered that for sharon villines there are more than 52,000 results. Then I was reminded by my associates on [email protected] to search on "sharon villines". A big difference: 6,390. Still a lot. Some are duplicates but that's a lot of websites. (Another day I have to find out what they are.) Then I checked sociocracy to find out how many results there were: 32,000+. Certainly up from 12 in 2002, but still not stellar. (I keep a running count of Google hits, the Google Count.)
Searching on Villines produces 346,000 results. That includes a lot of people and a lot of genealogy links. (We research genealogy because there are so few of us. And all … Continue Reading ››

Definition of Consensus Decision-Making

This is the standard definition of consensus used since the 1960s and 1970s, and probably before. It was published in 1981 in United Judgement: The Handbook of Consensus Decision Making by the Center for Conflict Resolution.
The goal of consensus is a decision that is consented to by all members. Of course, full consent does not mean that everyone must be completely satisfied with the final outcome—in fact, total satisfaction is rare. The decision must be acceptable enough, however, that all will agree to support the group in choosing it.
This handbook was printed in typescript and circulated in various forms years before publication and is considered one of the classics. It was reprinted in 1999 by the Fellowship for Intentional Community and is available from their bookstore. They also have other books and reprints from Communities Magazine on consensus decision-making.

Cohousing Meal Programs and Leadership

Some successful cohousing meal programs require participation by either cooking, preparing, or cleaning once every few weeks. (No one is required to eat.) But other communities that require participation in meal support still have meals infrequently. A successful program averages 3-4 meals a week and their success is often attributed to  organization and leadership. This statement is typical of those programs:
We have a "meals boss" role, the Scheduler. Meals usually a major reason for joining cohousing. A major difference between our community and others is the Scheduler role. We have people who don't want to ask other people to be on a meal team, and we have people who are afraid they won't be asked to be on a team. The scheduler assigns people to meal teams, relieving the pressure of asking others and the risk of rejection.
The meals Scheduler takes everyone's schedule, preferences, and roles they like  (cook, assistant, clean-up), and creates the schedule for the next … Continue Reading ››

Addressing Emotions: Laird Schaub on Sociocracy

Laird Schaub's blog is Community and Consensus. In his Monday 18 August 2014 post, “Critique of Sociocracy,” he presents his “reservations” which are deep and well-stated. Some are quite justified and others misunderstandings. Just like anything else, it’s easy to get the wrong information. This is the second of several posts addressing the points I think are valid and those that are at least partly in error.

Emotional Input

EmoticonsOne of Laird Schaub's criticisms of sociocracy is that it  "does not address emotional input." I think this depends partly, at least, on what one defines as "emotional input." One person's input can be considered personal and overwrought and another's perfectly logical depending on who is doing the interpreting and labeling. But let's assume we are talking about objections that … Continue Reading ››

A Deeper Democracy

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