More About Decision Making
What about all of the various issues
that are bound to come up among and between
those of us that reside on the land?
How will everyday decisions be made,
and who will make them?
If there is one initial landowner/investor
who has already put more time, resources and energy
into the project than anybody else,
will they ultimately be in control,
making all of the decisions on their own?
There are several important things to consider
when thinking about a small group decision making process,
and an added element when there is one or only a few founders.
The first consideration is the group's vision.
The people who were present during the very first days,
during the "idea stage" were able to create the originating vision.
Now that it has been created,
the rest of the project is channeled through that structure.
The original vision does not change.
This enables everyone who joins the project to know in advance what they are agreeing to.
It allows both prospective and established residents to rely on
the general focus that is presented at the outset.
It is each newcomer's responsibility to decide
if their interests and goals are aligned with the established vision.
If the newcomer resonates with the fundamental tenets of the project,
cooperative process can then ensue.
This is why it's critically important to thoroughly read through
and make sure that you are in complete agreement with
the "Knowing More About Our Vision" page, as well as this page,
the "Knowing More About Membership" and "FAQ" pages.
An element to be aware of when one or a few founders
has already put in significant investment to purchase and develop property, for example,
is that they have particular financial, legal and practical liabilities that only they are responsible for. There is a prominent risk that the landowners have been willing to take and maintain,
that others who join at a later time or with lower buy-in investment do not have.
Because of this, essential decisions relating to property/infrastructure value, use and maintenance; financial solvency; liability; safety; regulatory compliance; and the like
would be decided upon by those who have significantly invested in it.
In every day operations, these relate to things like rent/membership fees,
administrative organization, budgeting, use of buildings and changes to the land,
guest policies, service hour tasks,
and other constructs that make running the project go smoothly.
The landowners may welcome input and suggestions from the other participants,
but the ultimate decisions would be theirs.
This would not be the case for "lifestyle" issues that have the potential to vary day to day such as:
When will we share meals together?
Shall we call a meeting to discuss a special topic?
How do we arrange for animal care? Childcare?
What will we grow in the garden?
Shall we create a collaborative art project?
What livestock do we want?
Should we host a neighborhood get-together?
What type of leisure activities would we like?
How do we attend to each other's needs?
How do we deal with somebody breaking an agreement or not doing their part?
There are a plethora of issues and choices that will come up both immediately and over time.
These are the decisions that are made through a more collaborative procedure.
Sometimes, "hybrid" decisions are made where the residents decide specifics
within basic procedures already established.
For example, one choice is that each resident decides their weekly volunteer service priorities
from a list generated by the landowner.
Another example is that residents decide if they will have their guests carry out service hours for extended stays, or will they, as host, cover for them with a monetary or service contribution.
At this point we are evolving our decision making process. We primarily use NVC and are aspiring to use consensus when appropriate. The landowner often solicits feedback and ideas for things under their domain.
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~ About Non-Violent/Compassionate Communication ~
An excerpt from the NVC Academy's free 30 day course:
"Why do people find value in learning NVC? Most of us are hungry for skills that can improve the quality of our relationships, to deepen our sense of personal empowerment or simply help us communicate more effectively. Unfortunately, most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand and diagnose; to think and communicate in terms of what is “right“ and “wrong“ with people. At best, the habitual ways we think and speak hinder communication and create misunderstanding and frustration. And still worse, they can cause anger and pain, and may lead to violence. Without wanting to, even people with the best of intentions
generate needless conflict.
NVC helps us reach beneath the surface and discover what is alive and vital within us, and how all of our actions are based on human needs that we are seeking to meet. We learn to develop a vocabulary of feelings and needs that helps us more clearly express what is going on in us, and understand what is going on in others, at any given moment. When we understand and acknowledge our needs, we develop a shared foundation for much more satisfying relationships. Join the thousands of people worldwide who have improved their relationships and their lives with this simple yet revolutionary process"
~ * ~
"Marshall Rosenberg provides us with the most effective tools to foster health and relationships. Nonviolent Communication connects soul to soul . . . It is the missing element in what we do.” - Deepak Chopra, author, How to Know God and Ageless Body, Timeless Mind
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~ About Consensus ~
In her book, "Creating A Life Together", Diana Leafe Christian
emphasizes the importance of each group member becoming trained in such a process,
lest the group be swayed into a structural conflict derived from an uninformed
"pseudoconsensus" besieged with dynamics that are destructive to the group.
Diana quotes process consultant Rob Sandelin as saying,
"If even one person in your group doesn't fully understand consensus - don't use it".
Diana shares eloquently:
" Consensus generates an entirely different dynamic among meeting participants than majority-rule voting. With the latter, competing factions usually try to win converts to their position by criticizing the other position and creating an 'us versus them' atmosphere. But consensus creates an incentive for supporters of a proposal to seek out those who disagree with them and really try to understand their objections - and to reform the proposal to incorporate the other members' concerns. . . . Consensus is not a compromise, which weakens everyone's interests, but a creative meta-solution, which, ideally, strengthens everyone's interests.
Because the consensus facilitator draws out the ideas and concerns of each member and doesn't let the more articulate or energetic members dominate, consensus empowers a group as a group. Majority-rule voting usually rewards the most aggressive members
but disempowers the group as a whole.
Done well, consensus can transform meetings from overlong, frustrating, draining sessions that go nowhere and elicit people's worst behaviors, to spirited, stimulating events where everyone's ideas are valued and the group comes up with surprisingly creative and workable solutions. In a well-trained group with good facilitation, using consensus can elevate the consciousness of a group. It's not just a decision-making technique, but a philosophy of inclusion, drawing out the ideas, insights, and wisdom of everyone's "piece of the truth".
But it's not a panacea and it won't work in every situation.
To get the full power and impact of this process, certain elements must be present . . . . . "
> Because all have participated in its formation, everyone has a stake in implementing decisions.
> Consensus significantly lessens the possibility that a minority will feel that an unacceptable decision has been imposed on them.
> Proper consensus safeguards against ego/adversary attitudes, uninformed decision-making, "rubber stamping" of decisions, coercion, self-interested positions, mistrust, and half-hearted agreements."
Diana goes on to outline the elements within an organization that are essential
in order for consensus to be advantageous and effective,
and presents modifications and alternatives to this process
when using those would be a better choice.
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Presently at Ingenium we are meeting with Peter Cohen,
a certified NVC/Compassionate Communication practitioner
who is also skilled at group consensus process.
Prospective members who are actively involved in the integration/application process
attend several sessions with us before moving onto the land.