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decision-making models
For the better part of a year I've been involved in a process to build a housing cooperative. We're to the point where we've been approved for a mortgage and have a closing not-quite scheduled for the 17th of December, but out bylaws haven't been officially adopted yet in full. We've adopted Articles I-IV, but tonight got hung up on Article V which details the decision-making process.

In April we adopted a decision to use consensus (votes to approve, approve with reservations or abstain allow an action to go forward while any vote to object blocks the action) whenever possible but to fall back to majority voting when consensus fails. We've never had to fall back on majority voting and have more or less been acting as though that fall-back wasn't there. In fact, Article V that we looked at tonight doesn't have that fall-back at all. It allows for mediation if consensus fails and ultimately for arbitration if the mediation fails.

We were 7-1 to adopt the article as written (we didn't vote, but it was clear where people stand). One person see consensus as wonderful when we're all getting along and believes even with a majority vote model we'll mostly act by consensus. He doesn't see consensus as a realistic way to solve conflicts when something really gets stuck, however.

It's a paradox in a way because if his proposal was in effect, we would simply vote for the consensus proposal and he would lose. If the consensus proposal was in full effect (it is, I suppose), then he has the power to block a decision. Which he did. Or maybe he didn't. Maybe the rest of the group was not willing to force the issue. If we did force the issue, he's in the position where he can approve with reservations or he can scuttle the entire co-op.

Very interesting. Anyone have any relevant experience to share here? We're meeting again Wednesday night to give it another go.

categories: co-op housing