Jamaica Plain Cohousing, Boston Massachusetts Deci

Intro message from:
Diane Simpson  7/10/05 daveanddee@verizon.net
See thread in Cohousing-L archives
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Hi Tom,
You will need a backup procedure no matter how well you think consensus
works going into this process. Consensus works very well for simple
decisions or for decisions in which you have a lot of time to craft a
proposal. It works horribly for decisions like "What twenty-five items
shall we cut out of the budget?" or "Which shall be our primary goal:
affordability, handicapped accessibilty, diversity, sustainability, or
preserving open space?" In development you face a lot of complex
decisions that are thrown at you all at once. I would choose "door
number three." Below is our condominium decision-making process which
borrowed heavily from Cambridge Cohousing when we started out. Now I am
passing this knowledge on to you. I hope you will read it carefully and
discuss it in your group.
Best of luck!


Section 3.1 Consensus Process

In keeping with the cohousing community goals of the Condominium, it is
the intention of the Association to make as many decisions as possible
by a consensus process and submitting matters to voting only when
consensus cannot be reached or when required by law or by Master Deed
or this Declaration.

The Association may expand the participation in the Consensus Process
to include tenants and additional residents of Units where the law, the
Master Deed or this Declaration do not otherwise require.

Attached to this Declaration as Appendix I and incorporated by
reference herein is the JP Cohousing Consensus Process, a document that
sets out the purposes, goals and procedures for the decision making

Notwithstanding any other provision of the By-Laws, a Unit Owner may be
excluded from a portion of a meeting or decision-making process
discussing litigation or potential litigation where the Unit Owner is
or may become a party to litigation involving the Association.


1.	Background

	A cohousing community is a community of equals ? no matter how diverse
its Members may be in age, background, education and abilities.  But
rarely does a group of people behave as if they were all equal.  The
more we and our group can learn about making decisions as equals, the
better we will be able to make those decisions.  In view of this, we
have adopted consensus as the cornerstone of our decision-making
process.  Consensus is a process in which participants work together to
craft a final outcome that can be supported by all of them.   It allows
for healthy discussion without exclusion, and maximizes the creative
energy of the community.  We use consensus for making decisions
believing that in order for members of the community to feel
wholeheartedly connected to the community and fully invested in
community life, they must feel themselves to be part of a
decision-making process in which their input is respected and valued.

	Consensus is an exciting, egalitarian method of working toward a
commonly accepted decision that can be supported by all, not just a
majority. Everyone?s viewpoint and thoughts are valuable, and our life
together will be diminished if we do not have the benefit of everyone?s

	We each recognize that part of acting as a community of equals
involves acting respectfully toward one another.  This involves
recognizing that there are ways of disagreeing without making the
individual who has presented an alternative viewpoint feel that they
are being personally criticized.

    a.	Regarding Decision Making

	We subscribe to the following guidelines:

A good decision is made when everyone agrees to it.  Therefore, voting
is not the best way to make a decision.  We will seek Consensus first,
reserving voting for a last resort.

Making decisions by Consensus does not necessarily mean that everyone
is in complete agreement ? but rather that a solution is found that all
participants can live with or are at least willing to try.

A real Consensus comes only after open expression of any differences
and a look at all the alternatives.

We will make certain that quiet participants have the opportunity to
speak and we will discourage monopolizing the discussion.

We will pay attention to strong disagreements, since these often lead
to creative solutions and can otherwise undermine a decision if not
adequately addressed.

We will encourage those who oppose a proposal to frame their opposition
in terms of a principled objection (that the proposal is not in the
best interest of the group) rather than in terms of personal preference.

We will strive to hear and understand what everyone is saying and to
make ourselves fully understood.

We will take notice when agreements are reached too easily and ask if
everyone has really participated.

We will acknowledge each other?s contributions and the group?s progress.

We will acknowledge the personal stakes we have in an issue, and try to
understand where strong feelings are coming from.

We will state tentative Consensus in concrete question form, assure
that we have agreement, and not take silence for an answer.

     b. 	If We Have Difficulty Reaching Consensus

We will try to avoid falling back on ?majority rules?.  We will each
stick with ?What can I live with?? in seeking a compromise.

We will state points of agreement along the way. This helps group
morale and may lead to agreement on principle.

We will ask those who disagree to suggest alternatives.

We will try to get unstuck by using humor, taking a break, sitting in
silence, changing seats, screaming together, stretching, etc.

We may postpone the decision or send the proposal back to committee for
more study.  In the meantime, more information can be gathered and
tempers can cool.  Everyone will have time to reflect on options.

We can resort to voting when Consensus cannot be reached, but this
option will be saved for a last resort.  If people are forced into
decisions they do not agree with, they are less likely to fully
participate in the community.  However, in the case where a decision
cannot reached by Consensus, then the decision may be made by a
Majority Vote. We expect that in such situations group Members will act
responsibly, employing common sense, trust, and good will for JP
Cohousing as a whole.

2.	Proposals for Consensus

	A proposal for consensus must be initiated by one of JP Cohousing's
established committees or task forces or its Managing Board. The word
?committee? when used in this document shall include the Managing
Board.   If there is a new item, a member can suggest the formation of
a new task force.  Ideally the committee involved will achieve
consensus on the proposal.  However, if a committee is unable to
achieve consensus on the substance of a proposal they may bring
alternatives to the general meeting by appointing members to present
each alternative.  The members will then discuss the alternatives and
attempt to reach a Consensus.

	The introducing committee will inform the Coordinating Committee when
it is ready to put the proposal on the agenda for the next general
meeting. The Coordinating Committee cannot refuse to put a proposal on
the agenda, although they can suggest changes and a process for the
discussion, and within reasonable limits to postpone consideration due
to lack of time at a particular General Meeting.

	A proposal must be presented in writing.  It normally consists of a
text proposal, an optional implementation section, and a rationale. A
table or graph is insufficient. Ordinarily, a proposal will be
considered during at least two separate meetings.  At the first meeting
the proposal is considered for discussion.  At a subsequent meeting,
the proposal may be submitted for consensus. Committees may bring
issues to a meeting of the members for brainstorming, without a
proposal.  However, this should not be construed as the first
consideration of a proposal.  If the final proposal needs to be
consensed quickly, it must be considered under the Rapid
Decision-Making Procedures described in Section 5.

	The introducing committee must provide the proposal to the
Coordinating Committee and then to the membership in a timely manner.
If modifications are made to the proposal, the introducing committee
must notify all members about the modifications in a timely manner as
well.  Minor modifications of the proposal may also be made during the
meeting at which the proposal is consensed. In this case, the submitter
of the proposal is responsible for distributing the final text of the
proposal in a timely fashion.

	75% of the Members need to agree before revisiting a decision that has
been reached by consensus.

3.	Consensus Procedure

	Once a proposal has been introduced, the facilitator of the meeting
will lead the members in a discussion of the proposal.  When the
thoughts and concerns of all members have been voiced, the facilitator
(or another member) may attempt to state the evolving consensus and
call for a ?straw poll? (a preliminary vote) to get an early sense of
the members? positions on the subject under discussion. A straw poll is
not binding, and is not a group decision.  It is just a sense of the
positions of those present.

	Some proposals may be more appropriately considered under procedures
different from our ordinary consensus process.  In such a case, the
introducing committee must include a specific proposal for the special
procedures to be used, and the procedural proposal must be consensed
before any decision is made on the substantive proposal itself.

	Discussion should continue to try to resolve any member concerns.
Facilitators should be encouraged to assist in the emergence of
creative solutions. In particular, changes that would satisfy any
dissenting member(s) without dissatisfying the majority should be
sought.  It is the responsibility of the entire group to try and figure
out solutions -- it should NOT be left to dissenter(s) and/or the
facilitator alone.

	E-mail is appropriate for discussion of an issue prior to a meeting of
members, but not for the actual reaching of consensus.  It is not an
open or clear means of communication, and is not available to all.  See
separate guidelines for the use of e-mail.

	A meeting where a quorum of members is present or represented by proxy
may act by achieving consensus on a proposal. If, at any meeting, a
quorum is not present or represented by proxy, the meeting may continue
with the consensus procedure and, if a consensus of those present is
achieved, then some members present may be appointed to later make a
reasonable attempt to notify enough households in good standing in
order to have their proxy votes to achieve quorum. If a quorum has been
achieved through such additional proxy votes, with a majority of
affirmative votes and no dissenting votes, a consensus will be deemed
to have been reached on the proposal.

Although the group may choose to do otherwise, we have typically
indicated our positions as follows:

A ?thumbs-up? indicates agreement with the proposal as stated or

A ?thumbs-sideways? indicates an incomplete agreement or a desire to
modify the proposal, which does not rise to the level that would cause
a member to block consensus.

       A ?fist? indicates a serious reservation about the proposal, not
enough to block consensus but enough to demonstrate significant
discomfort.  A ?fist? voter should be considered a dissenter for the
purpose above of aiming to satisfy the concerns of a dissenting member
(i.e., the group must aim to satisfy the concerns of all dissenters).

A ?thumbs-down? indicates a strong, principled disagreement with the
proposal, which leads a member to block consensus on the proposal.

	It is important to recognize that it is incumbent upon members to use
thumbs-down judiciously within the consensus process, remembering that
choosing to block a decision is a very serious action and should only
be undertaken for principled objections.  However, when a member
strongly believes that the fundamental interests of the group are not
being served by a particular decision, a thumbs-down may be used as a
vote of conscience, even if unpopular.
	Once the issues involving a proposal and potential solutions to
disagreements about it have been fully discussed, and if the proposal
has been considered before or Rapid Decision-Making Procedures are in
effect, then the facilitator will submit the issue to the members for
consensus by calling for a final consensus decision.  If there is then
a majority of thumbs-up and no thumbs-down, then the proposal is
adopted as the group?s consensus.  If there are thumbs-down or there is
not a majority of thumbs up, then the proposal will be referred back to
the introducing committee for reconsideration and possible revision,
unless Rapid Decision-Making Procedures are in effect.

4. 	Majority Vote Procedure

	We are committed to the consensus process and recognize that a
Majority Vote is to be used only to break a deadlock on a proposal that
must be resolved by the group and for which consensus has proven to be

	There are only two circumstances in which a Majority Vote may be used:
(1)	A proposal has been submitted to the members for consensus on two
separate occasions without achieving consensus. In this case, the
proposing committee may try to resolve differing points of view and
bring the proposal back for consensus at a later time, may give up
consideration of the proposal, or may call for a majority vote process
to begin at a subsequent meeting.  A majority vote may be taken at any
meeting only if the possibility of a majority vote was specifically
included in the notification for the meeting.

(2) 	The use of Rapid Decision-Making Procedures has been called for,
and a majority vote is necessary under those procedures.

	Once a majority vote has been called for as described above, a simple
majority of the members in attendance must first agree that the
proposal is pressing enough to initiate a majority vote process.  A
quorum of members must either be present at the meeting or represented
by proxy.  To be valid, a proxy must be given specifically for majority
voting situations, and apply as described in section 6. Additional
proxies may not be requested once the meeting has begun.

	If the above agreement has been obtained, further votes will be taken
on the proposal itself.  In a majority vote, each household has equal
voting power, unless voting by percentage interest is required by law.

	In order for a proposal to pass by majority vote, at least a quorum of
equity members must be present or voting by proxy, and 75% of these
members must vote for the proposal.  For the purposes of these
percentages, abstentions do not count as votes cast.

	Each household may split its vote among its members in any way it
decides.  Fractional votes will be counted.

5. 	Rapid Decision-Making Procedures

	If the Managing Board (or Coordinating Committee) agrees that because
of time constraints or financial considerations a decision must be made
more quickly than ordinary procedures allow, it may implement any of
the following four Rapid Decision-Making Procedures appropriate to the
urgency of the circumstances. If any three members of the Managing
Board agree that implementing these procedures cannot wait for the next
Managing Board meeting, they may act in the same fashion.

	If any of these procedures are implemented, the participants must
recognize that they cannot be used to circumvent the consensus process,
and that they must be used in good faith to make the decision that the
group would most likely have made if the normal procedure had been
employed.  In addition, the decision taken and a justification of the
use of the rapid decision-making procedures must be communicated to the
entire membership as soon as possible.

  	The Rapid Decision-Making procedures are listed here in order of
increasing needs for urgency:

	a) 	Single Scheduled Meeting.  If time allows, the decision will be
made at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the members, discussing
the proposal and attempting to reach a consensus in only a single
meeting.  Members must be notified by at least two different
notification methods that an emergency decision will be made at the
meeting. If announced in the call for this meeting, a majority vote
process may be used if consensus cannot be achieved.  If possible, the
full text of the proposal should be provided when the meeting agenda is
sent to members.

	b) 	Emergency Meeting. If the situation allows for a delay of 2 days,
the members of the Managing Board will schedule an emergency meeting
and notify members of its time, place, and agenda by at least two
different notification methods.  If possible, the full text of the
proposal should also be provided at this time.

	In either of the meetings (a) and (b) above, all aspects of the
consensus procedure described in section 3 will be followed.  Every
attempt must be made to insure that all members present obtain the
information they need to make a decision.  If consensus proves
difficult, a proposal may be submitted to the members for consensus
several times during the same meeting.  If consensus is not achieved
after two attempts, the meeting will break for members of the Managing
Board to caucus to consider calling for a majority vote.  If the
Managing Board calls for a majority vote, all aspects of the majority
vote procedure described in section 4 must be followed.

The following are provisions added to our rapid decisionmaking process
as a backup to parts 5a and 5b.

	c) 	Contact Members. If it is not possible to achieve a quorum at an
emergency meeting or three members of the Managing Board agree that the
decision must be made without a 2 day delay, the members of the
Managing Board will develop a proposal and attempt to notify all the
members by at least two different notification methods.  If the
Managing Board gets responses from enough households to constitute a
quorum, and there are a majority of affirmative votes and there are no
dissenting opinions, then the proposal will be adopted.

	d) 	Managing Board Decision. If the members of the Managing Board are
unable to contact enough members to constitute a quorum, or there exist
dissenting votes representing less than a majority of those contacted,
or there is insufficient time to even attempt to contact all the
members, then the decision may be made by the Managing Board.  A good
faith effort must be made to contact all Managing Board members.  At
least four (or a majority if said majority is less than four) Managing
Board members must participate in any such decision.  The Managing
Board must first attempt to reach consensus among its members.  Failing
a consensus, a majority vote may be taken.  In any case, the members of
the Managing Board must seek a decision that follows the will of the
majority of members while attempting to address the concerns of the
dissenters.  In making such a decision, the individual members of the
Managing Board must be guided by their good faith belief in what the
entire community would decide were there time to fully employ the
Consensus Process.

  	Note: E-mail discussions may take on a magnified role in some
rapid-decisionmaking processes.  In the case of a rapid decision that
is being made without the benefit of a meeting, it may happen that some
Member does not have access to e-mail at that time, and thus hears
about the proposal only via the phone.  Such a Member may ask to make
reasonable arrangements to see any e-mail discussion about this

6. 	Proxies

      	The purpose of proxies is to allow us to make decisions even when
a quorum of members are not able to attend a meeting.  They should be
used carefully and thoughtfully, not as a substitute for participating
in discussion--especially in a majority-voting situation.  Proxies may
be used to express absent households' viewpoints on an issue.  They
cannot be used to block consensus, since absent households cannot
explain their positions nor work toward an acceptable compromise.  They
can be used in a Majority Vote situation as part of the discussion of
views, but will not be counted as votes cast if they would cause a
Majority Vote to pass or to fail which otherwise would not.  Proxies
not counted as votes cast will still count towards quorum.

      	The use of proxies requires that members have been properly
notified.  It is the responsibility of an absent member to communicate
orally or in writing to an attending member that they would like to
submit a proxy.  If a proxy is given, but the member actually attends
the meeting, the proxy is not in effect during the time the Member is

      	There are three types of proxies available:

	(a) 	Absentee Proxy
A household may submit an absentee proxy for one or a series of
meetings. Each absentee proxy reduces by one the count of households
used to calculate Quorum. (If, for example, we have 30 member
households and three households submit absentee proxies for a
particular meeting then the quorum for that meeting will be based on 27
households. Therefore, the quorum would be 14, i.e., more than 50% of
27.  If four households submit absentee proxies the quorum would also
be 14, i.e., more than 50% of 26.  Absentee proxies may be used in
majority voting situations.

For example: "We will be living and working in Antarctica for the next
three months. Therefore, please remove us from quorum until October

	(b) 	Voting Proxy
A household may ask another member to convey its viewpoint on a
specific proposal being considered at a general meeting.

A voting proxy counts toward Quorum.

A voting proxy may be used as a "thumbs-up", "thumbs-sideways", or
?fist? on a proposal being submitted for ordinary consensus or under
Rapid Decision-Making.  If the voting proxy is used as a ?fist? the
household should state their objections to the proposal.
-   	A voting proxy may be used as an affirmative or negative vote, or
an abstention, in a majority-voting situation--but the proxy must
specifically state that it may be used in such a situation.  If not
specified, a voting proxy may only be used for ordinary consensus or
Rapid Decision-Making.

For example:  "I will be out of town on Saturday, so I have given Jane
my proxy in favor of the proposal to paint the pavement of the Jackson
Street parking lot slime-green.  If this proposal comes to a majority
vote, I vote yes."

	(c) 	Assigned Proxy
A household may assign its voting rights to another member for one or
more proposals or one or more meetings.  The chosen member may use his
or her judgment about whether to vote the proxy in an affirmative or
negative manner, or to abstain.

Assigned proxies count toward Quorum.

    		- 	Assigned proxies may be used as a "thumbs-up",
"thumbs-sideways?, or ?fist? on a proposal being submitted for ordinary
consensus or under Rapid Decision-Making.

For example: "I will be on a top-secret mission for the next 6 months,
so I assign my proxy to Elizabeth for all matters during that time."

7. 	Definitions
	The following terms shall have the following meanings when used herein:

	1. 	?Consensus Process? means a process of group decision-making in
which participants work together to craft a final outcome that can be
supported or accepted as a group decision by all members.  It is not
synonymous with ?majority rule? or ?unanimity?.  ?Consensus? is the
outcome of this process.

	2.	?Submitted to the Members for Consensus? means that a proposal was
brought to a Meeting of the Members during which a consensus decision
on the proposal was attempted.  The initial discussion meeting for a
proposal does not count as a submission, nor do any subsequent meetings
where discussion of the proposal takes place but no consensus decision
is attempted.

	3. ?Majority Vote? means a decision made if consensus is not
possible, using the Majority Vote Procedures. The term ?Majority Vote?
always refers to the procedures described in section 5 of this document
that may involve voting requirements more than 50%; while the term
?simple majority? always has the ordinary dictionary meaning of a
number greater than one-half of the total.

	4. 	?Quorum? means more than 50% of total Households In Good Standing,
rounded up to the nearest integer (i.e., a simple majority), less any
Households, which submit absentee proxies.

	5. 	?Notify? means to provide relevant information to each Household
by means of email, fax, phone, mail, hand-delivery to their residence,
or in person.  A good faith effort must be made to allow adequate time
for the information to be received by each Household by the specified
notification deadline, whichever notification method is used.  Any
Household may request that email not be used for them, in which case an
alternate means of notification must be used, attempting to meet the
specified notification deadline as nearly as feasible.

?Managing Board? means the Board described in the Declaration to which
this Exhibit is attached.

	7.    ?Member? means any Unit Owner.

		8.     ?Household? means the entity composed of all members living in
a single

	9.     ?Coordinating Committee? means a committee, if any, established
by the
                         Association to coordinate items for General

On Sun, 9 Jul 2006 20:06:15, Tom Hammer wrote:

 From: Tom Hammer thammer302@yahoo.com
 Subject: [C-L]_ Backup procedure for decisions, and developers &
 To: cohousing-l@cohousing.org

 Our esteemed consultant, Ann Zabaldo, has instructed
 our group to write a prospectus to give to potential
 developers to help us in finding a developer who would
 be willing to work with a cohousing group such as
 ours--in an area of the country where cohousing is not
 well known. [snip]
 3) Do we stablish a true backup procedure such as 2/3
 majority vote and write it into our internal
 documents, and that way we can be totally truthful to
 a potential developer and bank? Then we would be bound
 to possibly using that backup procedure (and
 apparently, crippling the consensus building process
 during important decisions.)

 Tom Hammer
 for Concord Village