Direct Democracy Process 101

6 thoughts on “Direct Democracy Process 101”

  1. the video stops working after 18 seconds.

  2. Riversong said:

    The process tools and facilitation roles that Occupy has developed can be effective, if not efficient. But it can be dangerous and self-destructive for a movement to profess the mythology of “leaderlessness”. A lack of formal leadership, which would allow accountability, almost invariably results in an informal leadership cadre or competing cadres with no accountability.

    I would recommend to those who haven’t, a reading of the classic 1970 essay by Jo Freeman of the early-modern women’s liberation movement, “The Tyranny of Stucturelessness”.

    As Hilary Wainwright wrote in Zmag, Freeman described how “this apparent lack of structure too often disguised an informal, unacknowledged and unaccountable leadership that was all the more pernicious because its very existence was denied.”

  3. Riversong said:

    Secondly, the most common misuse of the consensus process is by the mistaken inclusion of the ability of one person to “block” an otherwise consensual decision.

    Among Quakers, it is understood that the voice of Spirit may come through one or many, and as such it is imperative for all to listen well to the lone dissenter to discern whether the lonely voice carries a fundamental message for the group.

    Among political activists, it’s far more likely that the lone dissenter is acting from ego or ideology than from Spirit, or simply being a provocateur intent on disrupting process and preventing the group from taking action.

    No one has the ability to block a group decision, since consensus is not meant to empower the individual as individual, but to transform the individual into one who seeks the highest good of the group, the action, or the movement. Granting inordinate personal power undermines the ideology, purpose and goals of the Occupy movement.

    If the term “block” is even to be used (and I, as one who has worked with and taught the consensus process for 35 years, would recommend that it be eliminated from our lexicon), it should be used in the passive sense: “it appears that this decision is blocked at this time”. That shifts the power from the dissenter to the group.

    [I’m not sure what the word or character limit is for these comments, so I’m going to attempt to post, in another reply, a checklist on consensus that I wrote ten years ago.]

  4. Riversong said:

    Consensus Decision-Making
    A Path to Collective Consciousness

    Robert Riversong
    Written October 15, 2002
    Revised April 8, 2012

    In Native American talking circles, they say:
    “We just speak until there is nothing left but the obvious truth.”

    Consensus decision-making process is a method of nurturing the spirit of a group by surrendering one’s ego or self-interest to a higher purpose. It is not a method for maximizing individual autonomy but for optimizing group solidarity and effectiveness.

    What consensus is not:
    • democracy as we know it – the tyranny of the majority
    • a selection among alternative, competing proposals
    • a method of compromise
    • a forum for egotism, manipulation, or power over
    • a quick and easy way to get to a group decision

    What consensus is:
    • a respectful hearing of all perspectives
    • a safe space to voice concerns
    • an enterprise aimed at the highest good of the group
    • a process by which a group mind emerges from individual input
    • a way to synthesize various ideas or perspectives into a uniquely new outcome

    What consensus requires:
    • skillful facilitation and “vibes-watching”
    • a close-knit group with a clear common purpose, vision or values
    • that everyone who wishes to speak gets a chance to do so
    • that everyone truly listens to those who speak (rather than rehearsing a rebuttal)
    • that the facilitator (or someone else) recognizes an emerging synergy of ideas
    • that each participant discerns whether the consensus is in the best interest of the group
    • that only those with profound concerns voice their objections (avoid nit-picking)
    • that the group try to satisfy the objections or incorporate opposing ideas
    • that those with strategic objections decide whether they can stand aside (agree to disagree) for the sake of the group
    • that those with deep moral or philosophical objections discern whether they should leave the group
    • that a proposal gets “blocked” (not “is blocked” – on one has veto power) only when someone believes that it violates the foundational values of the group, and the facilitator recognizes the violation or the group is inclined to agree.
    • that a group consensus can be overturned or altered only by another group consensus

    Note: A “fall-back” procedure to majority, or super-majority vote, may be required as a stepping-stone while a group develops the ability to work through to consensus, but should be recognized as a violation of the goals of consensus decision-making and harmonious group process.

    • Riversong said:

      Sorry for the typo “on one has veto power” obviously should be “no one has veto power”.

      Why isn’t there an edit function to allow the correction of such typos?

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