There are a surprising number of decisions to be made in community. The huge majority of communities use collaborative decision-making processes. Traditionally, consensus decision-making has been the standard for cohousing. Sociocracy is a more recent and increasingly common approach.
Whatever approach a community chooses, there are some key elements that are essential for high-functioning communities.
Decision-making processes must be clearly defined and communicated. Every member of the community should have access to the documents that define the decision-making process, and explaining the process should be part of new member orientation.
Many decisions should be delegated to smaller groups. No community can function if it takes a consensus of 50 people to decide which roof repair company to hire or whether to have a May Pole gathering. Like all decisions, this delegation should be clearly defined and communicated.
It should be clear who gets to participate in your decisions. Do renters participate or only homeowners? What about someone renting a home for the summer? Is participation limited to those who have attended an orientation or training, or is everyone welcome? Is there an age at which children begin to participate?
Determine how and when decisions should be revisited. No one wants to have the same conversation meeting after meeting when a decision has been made recently. On the other hand, decisions that will last “forever” can make it hard to come to agreement.