Creating a decision making structure/practice in a new intentional community
I worked up the following notes for a for a presentation to a group forming a community and beginning to struggle with their decision-making process. -- LynnwoodBrown - 22 Oct 2005
The Road Ahead (there ain't no shortcut)
Groups almost inevitably go through these stages. It helps (a little) to recognize it.
The Four Stages of Community Formation - based on Scott Peck's model
Pseudo Community - aka Forming, the honeymoon.
Conversion - aka Norming, "If you'd just see how reasonable my position is..."
Chaos - aka Storming, hell, "we've failed"
True community - Performing, "He may be a basturd, but he's our basturd."
Your decision-making process is where rubber meets the road - where this will play out. That's why it's so important.
"We're all mature adults who have done a lot of self-work therefore we'll be able to just talk things through."
Flaw is that you've forming a new entity, the group, that has it's own life
Lack of established/known/trusted group structure & process is possibly the major cause of anxiety and conflict. More than the content of the conflict(s).
Decision-making in community is different
Decision-making in a community setting is different than most other context (work, business, etc)
The social dimension versus task dimension takes on a bigger role.
This discussion does not presume what decision making process your group will follow. Applies equally to consensus and robert's rules.
It does assume some level of respect for minority positions - i.e. recognizing that winning-at-all-cost will not likely create a place where you want to live. Fill in with your favorite condominium-association-from-hell story.
Consensus versus consensus - could be the formal Consensus Decision-Making Process (big C) or simply a commitment to come up with solutions that mostly work for everyone (small c).
Aside - Consensus DM really can work very effectively with small groups.
Making everyone feel OK all the time (being run by emotions)
In communities, it has two equally important aspects:
The formal decision-making process
The informal problem-solving processes throughout the community.
The effectiveness of the decision-making process
Recommendations for accerating development of your structure/practice of decision-making
Formalise your decision-making process
Explicitly lay out how proposals are developed, communicated and ultimately decided.
Clarify what is a proposal.
What committees/groups should it go through first.
Think about the informal ways ideas/proposals are mulled, tossed around, refined.
Think about ways that anticipated minority/counter positions can be included early on.
Select a decision-making model (i.e. how decisions are made in the meeting) and follow it as consistently as possible.
This is easier in RR because it is so familiar. I.e. Make a motion, second it, discuss, etc.
Because Consensus DM is less familiar, takes a little more effort to practice it consistently until it becomes habit.
Create distinct settings/times for task-oriented (head) meetings and social-oriented (heart) meetings
E.g. Separate business and community meetings
Alot of trouble/stress/conflict comes out of mis-match or intrusion of these two conversations.
Running rough-shod over peoples feelings in the name of "efficiency"
Reasonable (vs rational) discussion being hijacked by emotional outburst.
Helps create space for both modes exist by itself and not be measured by standards of the other.
Create an informal conflict-response plan
Identify levels of conflict and possible responses.
Keep responses appropriate to level.
Be cognizant when you need to go to next level. Jumping to higher level too quickly can exasperate situation.