Changing Policies

A woman in the sociocracy discussion group at the cohousing conference asked about people who join being able to change policies. The group has a pet policy but the new person wants it changed. My response was that policies are always open for reconsideration. The answer was too short and I’m hoping she or someone one is on the list from that group to share this with her.

In sociocracy, all decisions are up for review on a regular basis, and sooner than planned if circumstance or information changes. With pet policies this can be very uncomfortable. People who are afraid of dogs or don’t want cats pooping in their gardens view those who insist on dogs running free and cats not being punished by being kept indoors as incompatible. Both sides want to put their foot down and once down, to keep it there.

Feet are put down for reasons. "I want this” is not the reason the decision was made (usually). It is made “because.” It’s the “because" that needs to be addressed, not the decision that dogs or cats are not allowed be outside off-leash.

A new person in the group, or wanting to join the group, who wants to change a policy, must address the objections that led to the policy in the first place. And have their own objections addressed. The process is one of finding solutions, not closing off options. Options will be closed off in either case, but they will be closed off for reasons, not a vetoing "I don’t want this.”

And consent is primary. You can’t join my group and change a policy that I’ve consented to without addressing the reasons the policy exists. When people join a group, they join as it is. Any changes come later. Otherwise it can become blackmail.

We had a new person join our almost 15-year-old community who wanted to change a lot of things. All good and well. We needed to refresh things a bit. But she didn’t want to hear about why things were the way they were. She just wanted to “start from scratch with no preconceptions.” The problem was that 85+ people all had preconceptions. Many had 15 years of preconceptions. And we liked most of them. If she and we wanted to change things, we would have to examine the "because" and the "why." She didn’t want to deal with that. She just wanted to tell us what would be better.

Things don’t just get the way they are for no reason. Passively or actively, people have consented to have them that way. Those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it.

So policies are always subject to change but the reasons for the current policy need to be understood and objections on all sides resolved before the policy can be changed.

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