Decision Making by Consensus

We make most decisions at Dancing Rabbit using consensus. That means that the group works hard to take everyone’s concerns and excitements into account when we are making decisions; we work to listen well and be creative in finding solutions that everyone can (at the very least) live with. This doesn’t mean that everyone agrees about everything. The promise of consensus is listening to each other and engaging in the process of decision-making. Individuals can stop the group from moving forward if their concerns are based on a group-held value; because we give this power to individuals, we also ask them to be thoughtful about their input and take responsibility for helping find solutions that can work for everyone. For more about consensus, we suggest this book: Building United Judgment.

Operating by consensus means more than just running our meetings in a certain way: there is a noticeable cultural difference within consensus groups, with more focus on trying to stretch to meet others needs, deep listening and collective care for the commons, and less on winning support to get enough votes to pass something. New residents at Dancing Rabbit are asked to go through basic consensus training, and all members are encouraged to keep developing their skills over time. Consensus also relies on having a certain degree of shared group values and part of how we ensure enough values alignment is through our Membership Selection process.

Our consensus process is always evolving, but at the foundation of our consensus culture is that individuals always have a chance to voice their opinions and concerns, and no decisions are made until everyone agrees.

Sound painful? Honestly, sometimes it can be, but we find that decisions reached in this way are usually much higher quality decisions. Consider that in a majority-rule voting system, decisions can be made in which almost half of the people affected by it completely disagree with it. Now that’s painful!