Current members of community have joined without having had to agree to a clear mission statement and common goal. Some have not undergone a well-organized, incoming membership process, and some do not have an interest in the training workshops offered within Windsong.
There are often no clear steps of the consensus process being followed with a proposal or issue.
Fears around the following concerns continue to create anxiety and disharmony within meetings and certain community interactions:
not being heard and/or validated when sharing openly with a yellow/red card
the threatening “red card” blocking proposals from moving forward
tyranny of the minority
tyranny of the majority
facilitators can feel unsupported in their efforts and are often standing alone without a community voice to back them up when conflict arises
When even one person with voting power in community doesn’t fully understand how consensus can work, it can create disharmony and structural conflict in the decision-making process and community as a whole.
History of this issue:
Concerns that arose during and after the DLC workshop/Tree’s Consensus workshop, which prompted us to revise our current policy to better meet the needs of our unique community. The steps below needed to reach consensus will be placed in the hands of the facilitation team to use either as a flipchart or post on the walls in the common house during community meetings.
Steps of the Consensus Process
Step #1: Introduction to Issue
Why are we discussing this?
History of the issue
Goal for this item at this particular meeting
Offer as issue or proposal
Step #2:Clarifying Questions - Questions of understanding only
Bring out diversity of ideas, concerns and perspectives
Deal with the bigger picture before getting into details
Note agreements and disagreements on general direction and the underlying reasons for them - discuss thoroughly
Step #4:Establish Basic Direction
What would best serve the whole?
Sense of the meeting
General or philosophical agreement; agreement in principle
Step #5:Synthesize or Modify Proposal
Note agreements and disagreements on specifics and the underlying reasons for them – discuss those underlying reasons and needs
Generate ideas to address and resolve concerns
Evaluate potential solutions
Synthesize proposed ideas/solutions or come up with new ideas in the supportive atmosphere of the meeting
Stay aware of how much detail the whole group really needs to go into vs. passing to committee
Step #6:Call for Consensus
Re-state proposal clearly
Ask: “Are there any remaining unresolved concerns?”
Official decision point: use structure for clarity, such as Agree, Stand Aside, Block
Check to see if all parties genuinely consent
Note taker to read back decision to the group
Record: decision, tasks, timeline, implementation
Steps 1 – 5 in the Consensus Process require the following:
Green card: express opinion on the issue
Yellow card: have a question about the issue or can clarify something on the issue
Red card: can be used to clarify process issues, but NOT block content
NOTE: To avoid using a red card to signify a block at this point, use action or discussion methods other than cards to assess energy or opinions around the proposal.
Steps 6 – 7 in the Consensus Process require the following:
Green card: go ahead with proposal (in agreement). When seeing a need, the facilitator or a community member can ask for the level of energy held with green carders (holding card high/med/low)
Yellow card: serious concern with the proposal, but is not willing to hold the community back if all other members are in agreement (standing aside) (see section on yellow card concerns
Red card: blocking the proposal. At this stage in consensus process, the person or persons must feel that the proposal would have an overall negative impact for the group which 1) outweighs the perceived benefits from the proposal itself and/or a consensus agreement on the matter or 2) crosses group’s core principles and feels responsible to stop it (see section on red card concerns)
a yellow card is to be taken very seriously, as it signifies a lack of support and can drain energy around the proposal. The goal of consensus is to either bring a proposal to the point where all can agree to and support it, or to understand clearly why this cannot happen, and assess whether the proposal should be dropped. Sometimes, either putting a proposal away for a while or dropping it altogether is a successful outcome from the consensus process.
attention red carders: the following are not valid reasons to block:
To get your way or because you prefer a different proposal, or no proposal
To fulfill your personal moral values or how you want to live
Tradition; because things have always been done this way
Because the proposed action doesn’t fit your personal needs (or finances)
Because you’d have to leave the group if the proposal passed
Yellow cards in the Consensus Process include the following:
Discuss: “what would you need to change your yellow card to a green?”
Once the yellow card holder has expressed his/her concerns and is listened to and understood by the community, the community can agree to go back to Stage 5 and make amendments to the proposal or propose another course of action.
The facilitator can make a second call for consensus.
If there are still yellow cards after the second call for consensus, the facilitator (with the support of the community) can request to either:
halt the process completely if no agreement can be reached.
request that the yellow carders work with the committee/presenter before the next community meeting to resolve their concerns. If there are more than two yellow cards, the facilitator can decide to halt the process depending on the nature of the yellow cards
pass the proposal on the grounds that the yellow carder(s) will continue to work on the foreseen challenges with the presenter/committee outside of the community meeting and have everyone in agreement.
if concerns are felt to be irresolvable, if agreed upon by those displaying yellow cards, the proposal may be passed with the yellow carders’ concerns recorded in the minutes.
Red cards in the Consensus Process include the following:
The facilitator and community has attempted consensus on the proposal in Step 5 - 6 of the Consensus Process. If the red card(s) still stands, the person(s) will be expected to:
continue ongoing discussions/meetings with committee/presenter outside of the community meeting to work on amending the proposal with everyone in agreement. The possible solution(s) are to be brought forth to the following community meeting. If:
at that meeting progress has been made, but consensus can still not be reached, the process may continue.
during this process, a month elapses with no progress being made towards a solution, the community may decide to:
utilize voting fallback (see Defining Voting Fallback)
decide to drop the proposal, or
set the proposal aside for a period of time
in the event that a decision is time-sensitive, critical and can be described as an emergency, the facilitator (with community support) can, within the same meeting as the first:
call for consensus or
resort to voting fallback for the proposal to move forward immediately to meet the issue’s time-sensitive constraint
Defining Voting Fallback
Voting fallback is defined as 95% green cards
For example: if there are 40 members at a meeting and two individuals continue to red card the proposal, it could be passed providing there are NO yellow carders. For 95% consensus to apply here, it would mean that 38 of the 40 people attending would be holding a green card.
relying on voting fallback is considered a last measure, and must never become a common occurrence. For voting fallback to be used, the presenters must demonstrate that they have taken all possible measures to avoid having to resort to this.
if there are amendments to the proposal which come out of meetings with red/yellow carders, the changes must be brought back as an amendment for a new call for consensus, with the modified proposal being clearly restated. If the concern focuses on aspects of implementation not outlined in the proposal, these implementation details may be added without the need for a further community meeting.