Sharon Villines's blog

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.

An Inclusive Culture of Support

Rather than teams focusing on support for aging in place, I think it would be better to have a team focused on (1) what all community members need and (2) extending our notions about the abilities of all individuals to support others. Just because people are aging doesn’t mean they have more needs than anyone else.

Neighborly Support vs Health Care, Co-Care Agreements

I include below a list of things that neighbors can and should not do for neighbors with who need support or health care. One of our residents put this together when we another resident needed more than we could provide and the family was not stepping in. In another instance, the community stepped up for what was expected to be a short term of support that extended to several years. Supporting the resident also became supporting family members who come to help. Meals for one or two became meals for four or five. It was unsustainable and created feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

Your Community's Purposes: Vision, Mission, Aim

Most values statements are so vague that pretty much anyone would be willing to endorse them. Values statements mean nothing unless they are connected to a vision, mission, and aims. The same organization can say we value environmentally friendly products and processes and mean entirely different things. I'm sure there is an executive at BP that can tell you they are one of the most environmentally friendly multinational corporation on the planet. And always have been. Committing to Mom and apple pie isn't going to energize and focus your community.

What Is a Block?

The problem with "blocks" is usually (1) lack of a common or well-defined aim and/or (2) avoidance of using a more appropriate decision-making method, like preference rating or majority vote. Unless the group can meet all the conditions necessary to use consensus, "blocks" will occur as the result of trying to use a decision-making method that is not appropriate.

A Clean Decision-Making Process

One of the ways the principles and methods used by sociocracy speed up decision-making is going directly to objections instead of discussing the proposal. The proposal should state the perceived advantages or reasons why a decision is needed. The presenters will also have presented the issues and options they considered. After clarifying questions, there is usually no need to hear arguments in favor or to repeat the discussion that has taken place in the team or in previous membership meetings. The following process produces a decision most effectively:

Stocking Kitchen Appliances & Stuff

Off my usual topic of governance but this was a response to a question from a new community that I thought might be helpful to all new communities, and some settled ones. What should we buy of the kitchen? A new community will have lots of donations, particularly if they put out the call for things as people anticipate downsizing. People who haven't moved in many years will have lots of extra stuff. Look for "Professional Quality" or "Professional Grade" to find the best products for large group cooking. Find a store that chiefly sells to designers, contractors, building managers, and architects because they will have a full line of products and will be more honest and knowledgable because their business is volume and return customers. Don't expect the tableware to match. Design a place where appliances can be both stored and used.

Consensus or Sociocracy?

Question: We are 3 months into starting a co-housing community in western MA. We will soon be discussing how we will make group decisions. I don't think we have to reinvent the wheel on this one. Consensus and sociocracy seem to be common strategies. Which do you recommend?

Sociocracy and consensus are not opposite things. Sociocracy is based on consensus decision-making.

Consensus is a decision-making method.

Sociocracy is a governance method.

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