Why This Booklet?

There are many collectives that claim to operate by consensus when they have, in fact, only adopted a few aspects of the process while overlooking its fundamental core: equality, respect, mutual acceptance, and an open forum for the exchange of ideas. For instance, a group might look to consensus primarily as a means of voting on proposals -- declaring, as a result, that all decisions must be unanimous -- while it fails to encourage or allow the free expression of opinions. In that situation, consensus has been subverted. Rather than being a means to ensure that everyone's voice is heard, consensus becomes a coercive tactic to shore up the power of a self-appointed elite.

In other instances, consensus is not deliberately abused but simply falls prey to vagueness and misunderstanding. For example, group members may believe that if everyone cannot agree on a particular outcome for a given situation, then the proposal that was made to deal with that situation should simply be dropped, and the issue remains unaddressed. Consensus should encourage a resolution to which all members can consent, not a form of resignation, for lack of unanimity, that leaves the status quo intact.

Collectives that use consensus often rely on the assumption that the process is intuitively understood by the participants. A group might function quite well without studying the process too closely, until a problem occurs and the group's collectivity, or sense of working together, falls to pieces. Attention to process is never more important than in times of crisis, but by the time a rift has occurred, it's usually too late to cobble together a set of procedures for the collective to follow. In most cases, the unequal group dynamics that derail a collective during difficult circumstances have been at play since long before the problems became obvious.

Our aim is to shed light on some of the imbalances and related power struggles that are often hidden under the cloak of consensus. We are doing this in order to help group members correct such problems as they strive for true democracy and equality.

Please send your comments and suggestions to: collectivebook@yahoo.com.


BOOK I:
"Is This What Consensus Looks Like?"

BOOK II:
"Is This the Just Society We Want to Model?

BOOK III:
"Some
Solutions?"

[Why This Booklet?]
[Introduction to Consensus]
[The Particular Vulnera-
bility of Collectives
]
[Power Sharing]
[Red Flags to Guard Against]
[Ploys To Subvert Consensus]
[The Problem With Politeness]
[The Need For Kindness]
[Creating Pariahs]
[Respect for Differences]
[Personal vs. Group Issues]
[Micro-Managing Behaviors]
[Skepticism is Healthy]
[There's Hope]


[A Model for Justice?]
[The Dearth of Due Process]
[What About Free Speech?]
[Cruelty]


[Codifying the Collective Process]
[Relinquishing Control of Projects and People]
[Staying True to the Mission]
[What’s a Lone Person to Do?]


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