Monday, January 9, 2012

Adapting Consensus Process to Work in Cohousing Communities

Many cohousing groups are drawn to the values inherent in consensus decision-making. We want inclusive, collaborative discussions that generate widespread agreement. Unfortunately, the formal consensus model handed down from the 1970’s has often failed to be effective in modern cohousing communities. Long, frustrating meetings, power struggles, and an inability to make progress is too often the result. Participation declines, and the goals of consensus are unrealized.

Fortunately, there is an alterative. As each group is unique, it makes sense that an effective consensus process should be adaptable enough to be effective in any group that uses it. Larger, diverse groups with limited time for meetings need a way to keep true to the values of consensus. But they also need a way to make the process efficient enough that people continue to joyfully attend meetings.

Consensus-Oriented Decision Making (CODM) is a new model for using consensus process that is ideal for use in co-housing communities. In seven steps, it guides groups to truly collaborative decisions with maximum levels of agreement. And each group can decide what level of agreement is sufficient to move forward with a decision.

My new book, Consensus-Oriented Decision Making (New Society, 2011), describes the CODM model and the many adaptations that may work for your co-housing group. It guides facilitators and participants in how to avoid adversarial debate (the real opposite of consensus) and how to co-generate proposals that meet the needs of all stakeholders as much as possible. As someone who has lived in intentional community for 25 years, I am very happy to offer this resource to my fellow communitarians. Find it at

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