Social Consensus: How Do We Reach a Consensus
This page is copied almost verbatim and with permission from Jack Reed’s book, The Next Evolution. It describes the consensus process and what is involved when deciding to work together to reach a consensus. This page is about how to perform consensus when working towards groups of 200+ people; you can also visit our Consensus Decision Making Page to see how we will be phasing in this model.
It is important to note that the ability and consciousness necessary to effectively do consensus is so much more than just meeting-skill tools and consensus protocol and techniques. Consensus, at it’s core is about creating safety in communication, it’s about Loving, it’s about realizing our collective oneness and having a maturity of consciousness to look beyond our own perspective and care about The Highest Good of All. So often, when we are not in consensus, it can be less about the issues than it is about unresolved issues within the group and within one’s own self. By creating the atmosphere of safety, we can explore and resolve those issues both within ourselves and with others. The consensus training One Community offers is unique in that respect and in its depth with learning the overall process.
UNITING FOR CONSENSUS
In a Highest Good approach to living together, we can create abundance for all. Then our self-interest is achieved with having happy people around us who can really share and appreciate our successes. We must expose the myth that cooperation means compromising our own self-interests. Remember that the Systems Theory tells us that all things are interconnected. We can either choose to continue to go for the immediate gratification, which later can work against all of us, or choose to lift everyone. We call this latter approach ‘’enlightened self-interest” because it encompasses the fact that we are all interrelated and it is the only approach which will even work for us individually over time.
With everyone having input into the process, you might think that it may take too long to make decisions. While that may be true at times, the long-term benefit is that time is actually saved by making much higher quality decisions instead of having to continuously work to correct poor quality decisions that didn’t include the needs of everyone and the environment. As people gain trust in and experience with uniting for consensus, the process gets faster and faster without loss of quality. Also, because of the participatory nature to reach a consensus, it’s difficult to work consensus with more than twelve people in a group. Therefore, for our Community to work consensus in a group of what will become more than 200+ residents requires an innovative approach. Perhaps the best way to share that solution is to just quote Jack Reed’s Community Planet description:
HOW DO WE REACH CONSENSUS?
Perhaps the most essential question for Community living is “How do we reach consensus?” We decided that in our Community we would all have a direct role in the ongoing decision-making. The key to doing this is that all residents belong to hubs of about a dozen people. In addition to being a support group, these resident hubs are where the key issues of guiding the Community are explored and decided. There are also twelve focus areas which deal with the work and planning of the twelve questions of how we live together. People working in the same focus area also form a second grouping of hubs called Focus Hubs. To prevent special interest groups and individual personalities from taking control, we have a set of checks and balances. With everyone belonging to both a resident hub and at least one Focus Hub, the Community has the benefit of many perspectives. Also, all the information about what is happening within the Community is available on Community-linked computer so everyone can be informed about all Community proceedings and activities.
Since everyone who joined the Community has shared the vision and agreed to the guidelines of the Community, there is already a strong basis for consensus. However, when differences of opinion do occur, we value the importance of working to resolution so we can all move forward in cooperation and a greater oneness.
ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS FOR HOW DO WE REACH A CONSENSUS
• By creating a positive atmosphere for people to communicate and participate.
• By involving everyone in the decision-making.
• By encouraging the natural leadership of each person.
• By making participation in decision-making creative, spontaneous and fun.
• By supporting and assisting individuals in reaching their personal goals.
• By making decisions that support the Community affirmation.
• By creating decisions where everyone wins.
• By keeping the guidelines dynamic, flexible, and simple.
• By listening to the truth within each other and responding with kindness, consideration, and loving honesty.
LARGE-SCALE CONSENSUS :: 12 FOCUS AREAS
In Jack’s work with the consensus process and Community training to reach a consensus, he has come to see that 12 is the magic number for consensus meetings. More than that and he has seen things become exponentially more difficult. Hence 12 is a number that permeates his model for large group consensus making. Here are the 12 focus areas that cover all foundational aspects of how a Community operates.
1) How do we share our abundance?
2) How do we interact with our environment?
3) How do we reach a consensus?
4) How do we beautify our environment?
5) How do we enjoy ourselves?
6) How do we enrich ourselves?
7) How do we coordinate what we live to do?
8) How do we nourish ourselves?
9) How do we vitalize ourselves?
10) How do we communicate?
11) How do we bring forth inner wisdom?
12) How do we expand our Community?
Each person would belong to one of these Focus Groups, delineated by their area of contribution to the Community. The team that coordinates and organizes the decision making process itself is #3 above. To allow for the consensus process with large groups providing input for all of these areas, these smaller groups are organized for initial discussion of issues in a 12-person collaborative format. These 12-person groups are called Essence Hubs and Focus Hubs (one for each area above) where consensus is achieved before sending representatives to meet together as a Main Hub and Management Forum. Every member of the community belongs to both an Essence Hub and a Focus Hub.
The Main Hub and Management Forum is comprised 100% of representatives of the Essence Hubs and Focus Hubs respectively, and they meet to combine and collaborate on the ideas reached by consensus of each of their respective Essence and Focus Hubs. Non-representative members of the Essence and Focus Hubs then continue to participate by communicating with their representative, through the use of technology, as the conversation continues to achieve consensus of the complete group.
THE DECISION-MAKING STRUCTURE OVERVIEW
• Essence Hubs – Each resident belongs to a small decision making support group.
• Main Hub – one resident from each of the Essence Hubs participates in the Main Hub on a rotating basis.
• Focus Hubs – Each resident belongs to at least one of these hubs. There is at least one hub for each of the twelve focus areas. These Focus Hubs make up the entire working structure of the Community.
• Management Forum – Representatives from the twelve focus areas make up this group.
- Deal with Community essence issues and the generalities of the working of the Community.
- Each resident belongs to one of these small decision making groups
- Must contain a diversity of Focus hub members (so that no Essence hub becomes polarized)
MAIN ESSENCE HUB
- One resident from each of the Essence Hubs participates in the Main Hub on a rotating basis.
FOCUS HUBS (1 for each of the 12 focus areas)
- Deal with the specific details of how to implement the vision and direction of the Essence Hubs (through the Main Hub).
- Are support/coordination groups for accomplishing the work within the Community.
- Each resident belongs to at least one of these hubs.
- There is at least one hub for each of the twelve focus areas.
- These Focus Hubs make up the entire working structure of the Community.
- Representatives from the twelve focus areas make up this group.
COORDINATING IT ALL AS LARGE-SCALE CONSENSUS MODEL
- Community decisions are coordinated at the Main Hub Essence Hubs
- The ideas, questions, and suggestions the Community considers can be generated by either the Main Hub or the Essence Hubs. The information exchange and decision making is therefore a two-way process. (As opposed to decisions coming down from the top.)
- Community/social consensus is reached by unanimous agreement of the Main Hub members after those members have received the unanimous agreement of their own Essence Hubs.
- To aid the Community in uniting for consensus, a communication system is available which allows anyone in the Community to address the Main Hub while simultaneously the proceedings of the Main Hub can be shown to all the Essence Hubs.
- When the Main Hub meets to make decisions that concern all residents, the Essence Hubs meet at the same time. Through the use of technology, each Essence Hub is able to communicate with their Main Hub representative, and each person also has the capability to address the whole Community, if needed.
- Main Hub has the final say on all decisions.
- Management Forum coordinates the efforts of the twelve Focus Hubs in implementing the Community plans and activities.
- Management Forum and the Focus Hubs work under the direction, guidelines, and budget passed by the Main Hub.
BIG PICTURE DECISION MAKING PROCESS
- Management Forum proposes and presents an Annual Vision to the Main Hub.
- The Annual Vision can also come from the Essence Hubs. “Annual Vision Time” starts a week-long conference/event where everyone gives input through their hubs. (Sounds like fun, sort of like a party with a purpose.)
- The Management Forum works on the practicality of the Vision.
- Main Hub decides upon an Annual Vision to establish a direction and budget for the year(s) to follow.
- The Main Hub may change the vision/budget at any time when the conditions warrant.
THE HUB GROUP MEETING FORMAT FOR SUPPORT
- Create a harmonious atmosphere at the start of each meeting by doing a centering process and having a time for personal sharing so each person is heard and supported
- Give everyone the experience of being listened to and understood.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
- Decisions are unanimous
- Each resident is a member of both an Essence Hub and at least one Focus Hub so there is a duality of perspectives.
- There is an Annual Vision and Budget with allocations to each focus area.
- The Management Forum reports to the Main Hub on a regular basis and a monthly financial statement goes out to everyone.
- All transactional and meeting notes are Community accessible on computer or other media
- An accountant(s) (in the “Consensus” Hub) monitors the Community expenditures.
- Budgets may include one-time (one check, one item, and/or one payee) spending limits above which one must get approval from the Main Hub.
- Leadership is rotated in all hubs
CONSENSUS DISPUTE RESOLUTION FORMAT
- Win/Win resolutions are encouraged.
- Personal responsibility is encouraged by looking within first with the consciousness that we create, promote or allow everything that happens to us. (Taking personal accountability for our lives.)
- If clarity is still needed between the parties involved, the disputes are settled by the following flexible options, always bringing in loving and creativity: a. Between the parties involved, b. With an agreed upon third party, c. Within the hub(s), d. By the Main Hub. This system is flexible with each situation, and the parties involved can choose the options.
- Immediate situations (something requiring action within 24 hours, or until an emergency committee can be formed (whichever is less):
- The Main Hub chairperson calls the Management Forum chairperson, and they gather the expertise they need to deal with the situation.
- Other Emergencies: * Main Hub chairperson declares an emergency and: ** Notifies residents of the situation. ** Calls an emergency committee (rotating Main Hub representatives on a predetermined rotation basis).
- Emergency committee then finds short term solution(s).
- Short-term solutions are actions to be taken, within a one week period, necessary to maintain the health and welfare of the Community.
- The committee recommends long-term solutions to the Main Hub.
- The committee’s authority ends upon resolution of the emergency by the Main Hub.
- Main Hub or Management Forum may, by a simple majority, override the decision that there is an emergency. (This is not an exception to the process of unifying for consensus, but rather it prevents immediate action on the part of a person(s) who has been acting without consensus process in perceived emergency.)
- There are designated successors in case people for either the “Immediate” or “other” emergencies are not available.
- There are set maximums of money that can be spent for each type of emergency
- The committee’s authority extends to the short-term solution, and they will make a full report of procedures, expenses, etc. to the next Main Hub meeting.