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The Upper Limits of Consensus

Laird's Blog -

A reader posted this comment in response to On Being a Fundamentalist, my blog of June 17:

What about larger groups and communities? I think of consensus as working well in smaller, focused groups. Could a group of a hundred or more use consensus to make decisions?

That's a good question. I don't have much experience with groups larger than about 60-75, but I know consensus can work at that size. Beyond that you're pushing against certain limits that are worth exploring:

A. Sensory Limits
In particular, there are questions about how well participants can hear and see each other. You obviously have to be able to receive information in order to be able to work with it.

As the group gets larger it gets harder to hear across the circle. Of course the acoustics of the room are also a factor, but even under ideal architectural conditions you need to account for the possibility of compromised hearing, the incidence of which increases greatly once you have members north of 50. And it's more than just getting the words right; it's also getting the tone and inflection right, as those have meaning as well and are part of the richness of live communication.

While the Occupy Movement did some notable work three-four years ago, where they used human amplification to have the speaker's words repeated to people outside of hearing distance, that's a stretch to sustain on a regular basis. The most common solution, by far, is using a PA system to amplify voices. The technology of this is sufficiently sophisticated these days that you can even get a system where the sound gets directly transmitted to people's hearing aids. Pretty nifty.

As a professional facilitator, I encounter an increasing number of groups of 40+ members that regularly rely on an amplifier and microphone to help members hear. While I think this is mostly good, there are some complications to take into account:

—You tend to need at least two microphones and maybe three to make this work, otherwise there's a constant time lag to move the microphone around. 
—Multiple mics means runners, which means the facilitation support team needs to grow in size, taking more people out of the conversation.
—You have to be careful that the mics don't get too near the amp to avoid squealing feedback.
—It usually takes a while for participants to get the rhythm of turning the mics on and off, and holding them an appropriate distance from their mouth.
 —For those who struggle feeling safe or comfortable speaking in large groups at all, adding a microphone compounds the issue: it's too much like a performance—about which they have anxiety independent of any nervousness about what they have to say. 
—Depending on the quality and location of the amp, augmented sound can sometimes be more difficult to hear than unaided voices.

Switching over to sight, sometimes eyesight degrades with age, just as hearing does (and sometimes participants forget to bring their glasses). Some of this can be addressed by giving careful thought to chair alignment that supports good sight lines, avoiding back lighting, and securing decent illumination in the meeting space.

The key things to protect are the ability to see adequately any visual aids (such as power point projections or flip chart pages) and to see people faces and body language, as there is considerable nuance conveyed through non-verbal expressions.

B. Squeezed Air Time
With more people in the meeting, it's a mathematical surety that there will be less time for each participant to speak.

Thus, great care must be exercised in determining what topics come before the plenary, and how to structure the consideration so that they're handled efficiently, as well as inclusively. In general, larger numbers translates into fewer topics that can be covered in the same amount of time.

The other dial available to groups for adjustment is increasing the volume of delegation—pushing more work down to managers and committees, so that less needs to be handled in plenary. You might reasonably require subgroups to make decisions in open sessions by consensus, where the number of participants will be a good bit smaller than in plenaries.

C. Participant Discipline
Just as larger numbers put pressure on agenda planners to be on the ball, there will be pressure on participants to be that much better disciplined about when to speak. I advise that the Participant's Mantra be: What does the group need to hear from me on this topic at this time?

That sentence contains a wealth of checkpoints where a thoughtful participant might realize that it's prudent to refrain from speaking, because the thing they thought to say is not on topic or at the right place in the conversation. If group members get proficient at applying that set of screens I believe they can accomplish a lot even with high number turnouts. [For more on the mantra, see Consensus as an Unnatural Act.]

D. Representative Consensus
Last, it's worth considering what can be done with the concept of representational decision-making, where the final authority is no longer the group as a whole, but rather a special enclave comprised of representatives.

Some interesting work was done in this regard in the context of the anti-nuclear demonstrations of the '70s and '80s (such as the Clamshell Alliance). As I understand it, the fundamental political unit was the affinity group, which everyone at the demonstration had an affiliation with. I'm not sure what the size parameters were for affinity groups, but I'm guessing it was something in the 12-18 range: small enough that everyone could be heard, yet large enough to have a decent diversity of viewpoints. 

Each affinity group would select a representative to the decision-making council, and that person would be authorized to speak for the affinity group and make decisions that would be binding on it. In turn, the council of reps would make decisions by consensus.

While I don't know of an intentional community today that works with this form of government (there are not that many groups with 100+ members), there is an interesting variation underway now at Dancing Rabbit (Rutledge MO). That community made the switch two years ago to a Village Council in anticipation of getting too large for all-skate plenaries (the community, an ecovillage, aspires to a final size of 500-1000). 

In DR's configuration there are seven councilors with staggered two-year terms. There is a careful election process once a year where the whole community discusses slates of candidates to fill all the vacancies (councilors are permitted to succeed themselves once and then must step down), and then the slates that emerge from that consideration are voted on by all members in good standing, using instant run-off voting. The Village Council makes all of its decisions by consensus and all councilors are expected to represent the best interests of the entire community, not just to speak for a subgroup constituency within the village.

As Dancing Rabbit only has around 50 adult members now, they aren't yet pushing the triple digit ceiling that I was suggesting might be something of an upper limit for day-in-day-out consensus. Also, having lived there recently (November 2013-June 2015), I'm aware of some interest among members in tinkering with the Village Council set up. While it's too early to tell how well this concept will function for larger groups that want to maintain a spirit of consensus, this is a work in progress that's well worth tracking.

On Being a Fundamentalist

Laird's Blog -

A couple weeks ago I was attending the National Cohousing Conference in Durham NC when someone came up to me on the last day and asked, "Are you the fundamentalist?" I double clutched.

No one had ever asked me that question before and I was at a loss to understand where they were going, and why they thought that I might be their destination. More amazing still, it turned out that I was the fundamentalist. Apparently someone had described me as a consensus fundamentalist, and I didn't have to think very long before I could see the aptness of that label.

Consensus is the most common form of decision-making among intentional communities, and interest in community living is on the rise. Thus, consensus is getting more attention these days—all the more so because many groups struggle to get good results with it. 

Most problems with consensus boil down to a small list:

—Too much power in the hands of each individual. It only takes one or two contrarians to gum up the works for the entire group.
—Too difficult to work through complex issues when you need everyone to agree.
—Too many things need to be decided by the plenary; plenaries are bogged down by too much minutia.
—It takes too long to hear everyone's viewpoints on everything.
—Participants are not good at staying on topic, or avoiding repetition. Thus, meetings are not efficient.—Committee work is often trashed by the plenary.
—Paralysis in the face of a threat to block.

In general, groups respond to this package of unpleasant results in one of four ways: 

1.  They get so frustrated that they abandon consensus and try something else, perhaps majority rule.
There is an increasing call for trying to hold onto the spirit of consensus (a collaborative attitude) while relying on a different decision rule (some form of voting being the most popular alternative) to sidestep susceptibility to logjams.

2.  They keep banging away, essentially accepting that results aren't any better than they are. 
For many groups, even so-so results with consensus are seen as superior to the power dynamics and factionalism characteristic of majority rule.

3.  They find a work around. The two most common are:

—modified consensus (which allows a super-majority vote to decide a matter if concerns are not resolved after x number of meetings)

 —sociocracy (which is a highly structured approcah aimed at keeping the momentum going once the plenary takes up a topic, and at emphasizing solutions that are good enough, rather than laboring to find something optimal)

4.  They get motivated to learn how to do consensus well.

While I strongly favor Door #4, I want to explain how I got there. 

I've lived in intentional communities using consensus since 1974, and have been integrally involved in community network organizations (which also use consensus) since 1980—the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, 1980-2001, and the Fellowship for Intentional Community, 1986-present. On top of that, I've been a process consultant and consensus trainer since 1987. 

All of which is to say I've been to a lot of meetings and have tons of experience with consensus in the field. I know what it is and how to consistently get good results with it. As a consultant I am regularly asked to help groups navigate tricky waters using consensus and I repeatedly get positive results. 

Overwhelmingly, my experience tells me that the main problem with consensus is that groups seldom prepare well to use it and are then disappointed with what they get. The problem is not with the process; it's with practitioners not understanding the personal work needed to function cooperatively instead of competitively.

In fairness to the detractors of consensus, it takes hard work and a personal investment to unlearn competitive conditioning. Not everyone understands that when they join a cooperative group, nor is everyone up for the challenge when they do. But it can be done. I've done it myself, and I teach it to others.

Fortunately, you don't need everyone to do that work, just enough of the group to set a tone and to consistently steer the group gently, but firmly back onto a constructive path if dynamics turn tense or combative.

If you are a group that wants to learn how to use consensus well, you have two main leverage points at your disposal:

A. Understanding and committing to culture change
This means taking in at a deep level that the group does its best work only when all input is welcome, which means creating a container in which disparate viewpoints are not just allowed; they're encouraged. The members of the group need to energetically (not just intellectually) embrace the advantages that different ideas bring to the consideration. When the expression of doubt or disagreement is quashed or punished (think eyeball rolling, withering looks, and tightened voices), the whole group loses. Think of it as hybrid vigor.

Creativity and collective magic do not thrive in a battlefield where a tug-of-war mentality obtains (every inch in the direction of someone else's idea is an inch away from yours). When you are a stakeholder on an issue, the challenge is shifting from a sense of combativeness (to promote your idea above those of others; let the best idea "win" in an environment of vigorous debate) to one of curiosity (hoping that others can enhance your idea, or advance your thinking)—because the prime objective is a good decision for the group; not that you look good. If you are not a stakeholder, then you are well poised to safeguard the process, helping bridge among factors to produce the most balanced proposal.

While it is not so hard to describe the theory of cooperation, it's serious business learning to act that way in the heat of the moment, especially when the issues cut close to the bone.

B. Investing in skilled facilitation
An alternative approach is to develop a cadre of facilitators who are able to remind the group of the way it meant to function whenever it strays, bringing all parties back from the rigidity of bunkered positions into the softer place where everyone is on the same side, trying to uncover the best plan forward in light of all that needs to be taken into account.

 Skilled management of the process can address many of the bugaboos about consensus that I mentioned above:

—Outliers are worked with by making sure that their right to be heard and taken into account is paired with the responsibility to extend that same respect and courtesy to others. It's not OK to insist on the right and neglect the responsibility.

—Good facilitators are able to break down complex topics into digestible smaller chunks. While the group may not be able to get the whole thing in its mouth in one bite, eating smaller portions usually does the trick.

—On the ball facilitators will make sure the group is deliberate about what work is attempted in plenary, insisting that topics be handed off to managers or committees once all the plenary-level considerations have been addressed. They will also encourage the group to delegate authority to subgroups so that minor, routine items need not require the plenary's rubber stamp.

—While everyone has the right to speak, that does not mean everyone has something to say. Further, if another member has already said what you intended to, it is enough to add, "So-and-so speaks my mind," which takes less than five seconds. Good facilitators will encourage people to speak on topic, to the point, and to add their input just once.

—Skilled facilitators will not allow work to be handed off to subgroups prematurely; they'll insist that the plenary provide clear guidance for what's wanted, so that the work that returns is more likely to be honored.

—Savvy facilitators will know how to handle blocking concerns. Instead of backing away from them, they'll lean into them—to make sure they understand the interests that underlie that reaction, to check to see that they're a reasonable interpretation of group held values, and to work with them as a key factor that a solution needs to take into account.
 • • •If advocating for old-fashioned consensus as the best way for cooperative groups to make decisions makes me a fundamentalist, then bring on the long frock coat. I already have a beard and a steely visage.

Nel cuore di Bruxelles nasce un polo di cohousing per migranti - Il Sole 24 Ore

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Il Sole 24 Ore

Nel cuore di Bruxelles nasce un polo di cohousing per migranti
Il Sole 24 Ore
Una casa per rifugiati, migranti Ue e cittadini di Bruxelles, sta prendendo piede in una traversa di Avenue Louise, la via delle boutiques nel cuore della capitale europea. Entro il 2016 sorgerà un polo economico, culturale, spirituale, al piano terra ...

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Cambridge co-housing project opens its doors – would you share a house with ... - Cambridge News

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Cambridge co-housing project opens its doors – would you share a house with ...
Cambridge News
Then the K1 cohousing project could be just the ticket – as well as helping to solve the city's housing crisis. The innovative proposals at Orchard Park in the north of the city will see around 40 different homeowners come together and create their own ...

Lighting a Local Economic Fire

Laird's Blog -

Consider these trends:
 
1. There has been sustained, increased interest in community living the last 25 years
Since 1990, with notable spikes in 1990-95 and 2005-07, the Fellowship for Intentional Community has been tracking the volume of inquiries about community living and the number of new community starts. Interest is up and has remained so for a generation. While there are many factors that combine to make this happen, one in particular is affordability. People are worried about how to make their lives work on their own (or as nuclear families) and are increasingly interested in experimenting with the sharing characteristic of community, to create a better quality of life without having to chase as many dollars.

To be sure, what this looks like is all over the map. For some groups it's how to leverage assets to have access to an even better range of amenities by virtue of joint ownership (things like a swimming pool, hot tub, woodworking shop, exercise room full of barbells and equipment, or even a space to entertain 20 in one sitting. 

For others it's how to minimize their carbon footprint and pioneer models of high quality living on a shoestring budget (read low resource consumption).

For others still, it's about being able to age gracefully in place, without counting on your children or the government to provide a safety net.

2. Marketplace turbidity
It is much harder than ever to predict the health of the economy, which means uncertain job security, as well as uncertain retirement funds. Here are three sobering factors that contribute to this:

a) In the global economy, more and more jobs are being outsourced overseas, where wages are much lower. There is no reason to think that this won't continue, unless energy costs get high enough that overseas transportation of goods is prohibitively expensive. Given that it's considered political suicide to allow energy costs to spiral upward, don't look for this mitigating circumstance to save domestic jobs any time soon.

b) We are going through unprecedented automation of jobs as we enter the age of robotics. This is not just about spot welding on automobile assembly lines, robots are expected to soon make inroads in traditional low-paying service jobs such as flipping burgers at fast food restaurants. Fewer and fewer people can expect to find decent full-time employment, or perhaps employment of any kind.

c) In conditions where it's an employer's market (too many workers lusting after too few jobs) wages and benefits are driven down. I have a close friend who's a philosophy professor. Recently he got bumped off tenure track—not because his performance reviews were poor,  but because the university could get away with it. Now he's employed as adjunct faculty, where they pay him half as much for the same work and can avoid offering tenure. His future as a professor is murky.

3. Boomers are retiring
Social Security is running out of money, and it's scary contemplating if the government will be able to accommodate the bulge of Baby Boomers entering retirement age with fewer younger workers contributing to FICA. Can we count on that money being there when it's needed? As a Boomer myself, I'm questioning that.
 • • •So what does this add up to? 

If we want to get ahead of the curve (rather than just take our chances on surviving being buffeted about by macro-instabilities) we need to be thinking about what we can do to take care of our own economic needs at the local level. We need to be thinking about how we can create fair exchanges that meet real needs and about which people feel good in the delivery.

I think this is going to mean:

o  Local resilience
We need to be engaging on this at the level of people we know, who understand that we are in this together. When economic exchanges are not faceless (such as buying a book through Amazon), it matters that both parties feel good about the exchange, because everyone depends on good relations and a solid reputation for repeat business. (Hint: it doesn't matter whether it's barter, working for wages, or offering a service—the principle remains the same.)

o  Value-based part-time work
People don't necessarily need full-time employment if commuting is minimized or eliminated, and barter substitutes for cash purchases. What people need is enough work, and work that they feel good about delivering—because its aligned with who they are, and what they want to be known for. Work like that is not so draining. People get out of bed in the morning looking forward to it.

o  A little help from our friends
We need to be thinking about how to help people start and succeed at local businesses—not just for their own economic viability, but to create jobs for non-entrepreneurs as well. Everywhere there are people who have learned to be successful in business and we need to harness that skill to help guide others in developing sound business plans, and to be savvy about managing money. We need to make the shift to think of additional local businesses as a strengthening of the local web, rather than as competition for limited local dollars. We either succeed together, or go down together.

In short, we need to be real communities.

Tarheel Transition

Laird's Blog -

As a process consultant, almost all of my work involves traveling to the client and engaging with them in situ (much better than asking the group to travel to my situ).

Since hanging out a shingle as a process consultant in 1987, I've called Missouri my home the entire time, which afforded me the witty opener, "I'm from Missouri, and I've come to show you." OK, maybe it's not the funniest of one liners, but it was serviceable… until today.

I'm now a North Carolinian.

I piled what I could fit into a compact one-way rental Tuesday afternoon and drove away from Dancing Rabbit and into a new adventure. I'll be trying to reinvent myself in the coming months. Here's what I have in front of me:

1. Consulting/Teaching Transition
Though my work has been steady in recent years (unlike almost everything else listed below), I'm increasingly interested in handing off to others what I've learned, which means shifting purposefully from doing to teaching. The tricky part is that demonstrating what I can do is the main way I generate students, so there's a balance point. [For details about the facilitation trainings I'm offering currently, see my blog Facilitation Trainings on Tap from March 22, 2015.]

The context of my work has always been nurturing cooperative culture, as distinct from the dominant, competitive culture. Increasingly, my work comes in two flavors:

a) Process ConsultingFor the last 28 years my main focus as a consultant has been cooperative group dynamics. Mostly I've worked solo, but occasionally I partner up. Now, moving in with Joe and Maria, we'll be discussing whether it makes sense to form a process collective. They have both parlayed their experience (which includes being students of mine in the two-year facilitation program I run—but don't misunderstand; they were already the main facilitators in their respective communities before I met them—I was polishing diamonds) into occasional facilitation gigs in the region and would like to do more. Though neither has left their day job (yet) it may be a way to accelerate their facilitation careers and at the same time accomplish more of the handing off that I'm seeking.

Auspiciously, Joe & Maria worked with me to conduct sold-out pre-conference workshops (one on Facilitation & Leadership, and another on Conflict) at the recent National Cohousing Conference in Durham (May 29-31) and both were well received. In the days ahead we'll discuss what more we might do together.

b) Economic Consulting
In recent years I've gotten steadily more interested in opening a second front, turning my attention to the poor stepchild of sustainability: cooperative economics. For this, my primary partner is Terry O'Keefe, who lives in Asheville NC. While still 3.5 hours away by car, that's a helluva lot closer than Missouri.

We also did a packed-room workshop at the cohousing event, and it also was well received. Flushed with that experience, Terry and I need to cook up what's next in our efforts to light a fire among cooperative groups to take a pro-active interest in supporting their members having more economically sustainable lives.

While we're not sure what the business model is for our being fairly compensated for this work, we're both entrepreneurial by nature (read risk tolerant) and can't help ourselves from testing the market.

2. Home Transition
One of the casualties of Ma'ikwe's decision in Feb to end our marriage was that I no longer had a home. To be sure, I could have remained at Dancing Rabbit—both the community and Ma'ikwe were fine with that—but DR was Ma'ikwe's home before it was mine and it's too tender for me right now to be operating under her shadow. 

So I'm trying something new. I'll be experimenting in the coming months with what I can create with Joe & Maria: three people who care deeply about community, social change work, right livelihood, and leading an examined life. It's a great foundation. While I went through a period of wondering what the existential reason was for my being tested in this way, I've now worked myself around to being eager for the chance.

One of the larger unknowns for me is what I'll be able to manifest relative to connection to the Earth. Slowly, over a process of decades, that became an essential element of what made Sandhill Farm (a food-centered community) my home, and now I've moved into a house that does not include a garden. Maybe I'll wind up doing some canning from farmer's market surpluses in July and August. We'll see.

Chapel Hill is a great location for securing locally grown wholesome food, and there's a great local co-op (Weaver St Market) but I haven't been so removed from my food in over four decades. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

3. Partnership Transition
Obviously a huge shift happened for me when I lost my partner. I think being away from DR will make it easier for me to process my grieving to the point where I can again be open to a new relationship. I don't feel any hurry, yet I also don't want to be afraid to get back on the horse—despite suffering a nasty fall.

Among other things, I am blessed with many good friends (who have provided wonderful support for me the last four months) and I don't feel lonely or lacking in emotional depth in my life. My scars will heal and I'll get to the place where other women will be interesting again.

4. Health Transition
It has been an incredibly long haul trying to recover from back strain that originated in early October and persists to this day. But I'm determined to recover all that I can of my health and mobility. 

One of side benefits of my new digs is that I'm on the third floor and climbing two flights of stairs after pouring a cup of coffee is both aerobic and good for my right knee, which is still not 100% after I hyper-extended it in September 2012.

I am just about well enough to restart a regular (if gentle) yoga practice, and I'm looking forward to that.

5. FIC Transition
The year is about half over, and that also marks the halfway mark in training my two main successors in Fellowship administration: Aurora DeMarco as our Development Director, and Sky Blue as our Executive Director.

The trainings have been going well and I'll be ready to turn over the reins at the end of the year as planned. While I'm sure I'll still be involved in FIC affairs in the years ahead (I represent an enormous investment in relationships, after all, and it would be a shame to squander that asset), I don't know yet what that will look like.

In fact, there's a lot about my life right now that I don't know about. It's an interesting time.

Undergraduate students enrolled in pilot summer program at Vermont Law School - vtdigger.org

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Undergraduate students enrolled in pilot summer program at Vermont Law School
vtdigger.org
They review the major themes covered in their course, participate in substantive discussions about environmental policy, review the basics of legal analysis, and visit relevant Vermont attractions, including a cohousing community that practices ...

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Getting Comfortable with Authority in Cooperative Groups

Laird's Blog -

In the context of group dynamics, I define power as the ability to get others to do something or to agree with you. In essence, it's influence. It can come from good or dubious sources, but it necessarily involves the cooperation of others. You don't have power in a vacuum, nor can you "empower" others (you can't give someone influence).

That said, you can (and arguably should) develop the leadership capacities of others so that they can grow into having more influence (by virtue of their having demonstrated that they know what they're talking about, that they'll do what they say they'll do, and that they take into account the views of others). In cooperative groups it makes total sense to invest in developing the leadership capacity of your members.

Today I want to focus mainly on the relationship of power to authority, which is when the group has explicitly delegated to someone (or some group) the ability to act or speak on behalf of the whole. [In this essay I'll use the terms subgroup, committee, and manager interchangeably.]

It's an important feature of effective delegation (which cooperative groups tend to struggle with) that groups make a clean handoff in this regard, which entails spelling out clearly (in writing, please) what the subgroup can decide on their own and when it needs to consult. When the handoff is fuzzy, there are problems. If the subgroup decides to be proactive (either because it believes its mandate can be legitimately interpreted to include the action, or because it cynically believe it's simpler to garner forgiveness than permission) there is the risk of push back from people who feel that authority was exceeded and power misused—especially when they don't like the decision.

Going the other, the subgroup may become timid in the face of ambiguity, risking irritating the plenary when it comes back repeatedly for permission in a CYA maneuver aimed principally at forestalling criticism, rather than emphasizing problem solving or efficiency.

Authority can be specific ("Examine the options within x price range and select the one that is expected to last the longest and have the least deleterious environmental impact.") or general ("Make decisions about managing the commonly owned physical elements of the community such that you are doing your best to balance three factors: a) benign ecological impact; b) least cost; and c) positive aesthetic value."). Sometimes subgroups have no authority to decide; they are only asked to propose.

In cooperative groups, authority resides with the plenary. However, the plenary is free to delegate as much authority as makes sense to subgroups or managers. The nuance is knowing where to draw the line. As a long-time observer of cooperative groups, I favor stretching to delegate to committees, either ad hoc or standing, as much authority as the group can stand (so that plenaries don't get bogged down in the minutia of what color to paint the Common House bathroom), but this only works well when the mandates are clear and complete. [See my blog of Feb 8, 2010, Managing Management, for a mandate checklist.]

I suspect that the reason cooperative groups tend to have trouble with delegating authority is that they suffer from a mistaken notion that because power ultimately rests with the whole (which is true), that the whole needs to decide everything (shoot me now). Concomitantly, they are cautious about trusting that members will wield power well, and are thus reluctant to give managers a long leash, or to authorize subgroups to act, excepting under very limited and well-defined circumstances.

Groups can get this wrong in two ways: 

a)  By being parsimonious in delegating authority, everything has to be run through the plenary and that gets exhausting (especially when it gets down to details that most members don't care about, and they feel trapped in conversations they'd rather skip).

b)  By distributing authority so widely that nothing of consequence happens in the plenary. While this is less common than a), I've seen it happen that the plenary gets weak (why bother to come?) and the committees become fiefdoms run by conveners. Not good.

The trick is finding the sweet spot in the middle, which requires being clear what plenaries are for and then being diligent about using them only for those things. [See my blog of Jan 25, 2008, Gatekeeping Plenary Agendas, for details about that.]

In conclusion, I want to briefly narrow the focus to a subtopic dear to my heart: the way that facilitator's are authorized to run meetings. Done properly, the facilitator should be allowed to direct the focus of the group in moments of confusion, but it is an abuse of power to push the group against its will, or to tell the group what action it should take in response to an issue. The facilitator can suggest—based on what they've heard—but they should not try to sell.

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