Demonstrating effective consensus decision making with groups of 200+ people has the potential to change the way people look at collaborative thinking and self-governance. We consider this as an invaluable component of Highest Good society creation and this page outlines a structure for implementation and maintenance. It is copied almost verbatim and with permission from Jack Reed’s book, The Next Evolution. You can also visit our Consensus Decision Making Page for more small-group consensus specifics and the details of how One Community will be phasing in this model.
This page contains the following sections:
A note as you read this page: It is important to be aware that the ability and consciousness necessary to effectively do consensus is so much more than just meeting-skills tools and consensus protocol and techniques. Consensus at it’s core is about creating safety in communication, it’s about Loving, and 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 focused on this and, to our knowledge, unique in this respect and its depth with learning the overall process through this focus.
Specifically exposing the myth that cooperation means compromising our own self-interests is part of One Community’s Highest Good society approach, global transformation methodology, and open source sharing goals. We have the ability to create abundance for all, to choose to lift everyone, and by so doing more sustainably and positively meet our own long-term emotional needs. This also means having other happy and successful people around us so we can all share and appreciate each other’s successes.
With everyone having input into the process, many might think that it would 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 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.
Jack Reed – The Community Planet Foundation
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 “Essence Hubs” and “Focus Hubs” are where the key issues of guiding the Community are explored and decided. Essence Hubs address the broader and more general workings of the Community. Focus Hubs collaborate on the focus areas which deal with the work and planning of the twelve specific focus areas and their related questions of how we live together.
To prevent special interest groups and individual personalities from taking control, everyone belongs to both an Essence Hub and at least one Focus Hub. The members of these hubs will rotate on a set schedule or whenever 10% or more of the Community desires it. Additionally, and in support of maximum transparency, the information about what is happening within the Community will be available for everyone’s access and review on Community-linked computers so everyone can be informed about all Community proceedings and activities.
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.
Each aspect of the operation of the Community falls within one of these Focus areas, and most of these Focus Hubs would have more than one group of up to 12 people in each. Each person would belong to one of these, chosen based on 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 to provide input for all of these areas, smaller groups are organized for initial discussion of issues in a 12-person collaborative format. These 12-person groups are called Essence Hubs.
Essence Hubs are the residents’ basic support group as well as being a collaborative format for initial discussion of issues affecting the Community. Again, each Hub would have up to 12 people with a mix of Focus Hub people in each one. 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 is comprised of the following 4 groups. Everyone belongs to an Essence Hub and a Focus Hub and all members (unless they choose not to) rotate through the position of acting as a representative in the Main Hub and Management Forum.
Something requiring action within 24 hours, or until an emergency committee can be formed (whichever is less):
Q: Where can I learn more about your other values and how you use each of them in your organization?
Click the icons below to be taken to a complete page for each value:
Q: Where can I get more information about your philosophies for world change?
Please take a look at each of these additional pages: (click icons)
Q: What happens when you have more people than available hubs?
The number of hubs is increased to include all people while keeping the number of people in any one hub at a maximum of 12. In the case of Focus Hubs, this means that there could be more than one hub for each area of focus.
Q: Will every decision be made by consensus?
No, the consensus process outlined on the Consensus as a Core Value page and above will be used to identify which decisions should be made by consensus and which decisions are better made by groups or individuals. These groups or individuals will be chosen by consensus based on objective qualifications for their role.
Q: Where can I learn more about the basics/foundations of consensus?
Please see the Consensus as a Core Value page.
Q: What about disputes and other decision situations where dramatic emotions may become involved?
This is one of the reasons why specific training and screening are essential. In disputes situations or situations where emotions have become involved, the consciousness for The Highest Good of All has been forgotten or put aside. This can also be described as people no longer coming from “The Loving,” or “involving their egos,” or “running an agenda.”
In these situations 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 and subjective perspectives. Then, if clarity is still needed between the parties involved, the disputes are settled by the following flexible options, always bringing in loving and creativity:
This system is flexible with each situation, and the parties involved can choose the options. Also, everyone in the Community belongs to both an Essence Hub as well as one of the Focus Hubs. While the Focus Hub involves more of the work being done in the 12 areas, there still is a group support that takes place there, and, if there is an issue where one is lapsing from that consciousness of The Highest Good, it will be obvious to the group. However, the Essence Hubs consist of a group of up to 12 who are a real support system for each of those members. This is really where individual issues will be seen, and, if the issue cannot be dealt with within the group, then it goes to the Dispute Resolving Format and then, if still no progress, to the Expand Hub for possible dismissal.
Q: What happens when a decision needs to be made and it is clear just one or two people are determined to block the decision?
Full-consensus decision making, once achieved, will come with a two-step emergency procedure. Step 1 of this process will be the option for any individual to call for a 90% majority vote to end discussion if it seems all points have been heard, all options explored, and complete inflexibility exists in a small enough minority that a 90% majority vote can be achieved. If a 90% majority vote is achieved, then a second 90% vote can be taken to make a decision. If both of these 90% votes succeed, a decision will be made in accordance with the will of the 90% majority.
This system eliminates the possibility of any obstructionist individual(s) from blocking a decision while also assuring we maintain our commitment to the values of consensus described on the Consensus as a Core Value page. It does this because the first 90% vote requires that at least 90% of those involved in the decision are in agreement that all ideas have been heard, all options have been explored, and ending further discussion is an agreed upon good idea. The second 90% vote is then still required to see if enough agreement exists to actually make the decision. If either of these 90% votes fails, discussion continues as needed or the decision is tabled for later discussion.
This 90% majority vote can also be used to keep things moving by moving for agreement on part of a decision, to elect a committee to make the decision, to elect to do more research, etc. etc.
Q: How will this all work when you have more than 144 people… meaning more than 12 Essence and Focus hubs and thus more than 12 representatives to go into these final collaborative groups?
At this point, most of the 12 areas will be made up of more than one hub. For example, the “How Do We Nourish Ourselves Hub” covers all those involved with growing food, acquiring food preparing food, and anything else about food. Lets say that up to 60 people are involved with those areas. That would mean that this FOCUS area would have 5 or 6 different Hubs (possibly organized by the different jobs — i.e. growing, preparing, etc.). Those 5 or 6 groups would collectively have one person (with knowledge of the breath of what the entire Focus Area was doing) represent them all in the Management Forum. Other focus areas will also likely have multiple groups of up to 12, especially the health area: How Do We Vitalize Ourselves? and the How Do We Enrich Ourselves which includes people working and gaining income from outside sources (i.e. there may be people who live in the Community and either work outside of work from their homes).
Let’s say that there were 480 residents who were involved in the consensus process. (There may be other provisional residents who live there and not yet involved in the process and there may also be very young babies and children not yet ready to be involved.) So, there could be 40 groups of 12 Essence Hubs with each of those Hubs having one member in the MAIN HUB, which consists of 40 people. Now 40 may be an unwieldy number to do full-on consensus, but the decisions coming to the MAIN HUB are not the mundane everyday kinds of minutia. These are major directional and policy issues that have been well researched, brainstormed, discussed, and formulated — probably by a smaller representative group. Also, there is flexibility here, with the MAIN HUB having several options which may include its members breaking into smaller groups (i.e. 5 groups of 8 or 8 groups of 5, etc.) and then coming back together with those representatives presenting for their groups). If there is some uncertainty as to the decision being made by the MAIN HUB, they can also have their representatives back to their Essence Hubs at a later time because maybe more creativity is needed to craft a better decision. Being that the Community consensus participants have been trained, screened and have the maturity to hold the consciousness of The Highest Good of All, the consensus process itself holds the keys to making this a workable process. When there is a real stuckness, that’s when there might be hidden agendas present (we all have them), and the consensus process has tools such as the Hidden Agenda and the Truth vs Stuff exercises.