Tag Archives: Decision making

Check out kaiconfusion.wordpress.com for other great posts about the Panya Project, Permaculture and alternative ways of being …

Life With Nature

Table of contentsIMG_3581

  • VOLUNTEERS
  • DAY TO DAY LIFE
  • MEETINGS AND DECISION-MAKING
  • MANAGEMENT AND TASKS
  • COURSES AND PROFIT SHARE
  • THE CHALLENGE
  • ACTIVITIES
  • LINKS/ RESOURCES

Written by the author of
www.beetroot. wordpress.com
currently (2012)  working at the Panya Project. Photos and editing by kaiconfusion.

In the last four posts I have tried to introduce into important practical aspects of alternative and sustainably living. In this 5th post Mich
and I, are trying to introduce in how we can live together and how such life can be organized which is just as well a very important aspect of sustainably living, again at the example of the Panya Project and this time the community.

In Permaculture there are three core values:

  • Earthcare – recognising that the Earth is the source of all life (and is possibly itself a living entity- see Gaia theory) and respecting her accordingly.

View original post 1,486 more words

Advertisements

Consensus Decision Making at the Panya Project

The new decision making process that we’re currently using at the Panya Project has shown to be effective and save us a lot of time that used to be spend in useless and tiring conversations. Below is a describtion that serves as a guideline during the process.

We are using hand signals for each of these options, so that so that a quick overview on the groups standpoint is possible.

Consent with people

We’re trying to use consent in all our decision making at the Panya Project. When a proposal is made by the facilitator we make a round to find out people’s feelings and concerns. For the proposal to be accepted a maximum of two group members can stand aside (this is the case in our usual group size of 6 to 10 people; if there are less, 2 seems one to many). Standing aside means that you don’t agree with the decision but you won’t block it either as it seems as if the majority agrees and you want what is best for the community. People who stand aside express their concerns to the group and those who agree with the decision get a chance to express themselves as well – this might change the picture, more people agreeing or standing aside, in a second round. If more than two people stand aside, the decision can’t be made and the proposal has to be reformulated to match the groups needs.

If one person is strongly opposing a decision, he or she can block it. Not in every group that uses the consensus decision making process blocking is an option. Blocking needs to be properly understood and in many amateur groups it isn’t: we’ll block a decision ‘once or twice’ in a lifetime, when we truly believe it will harm the group/community.  If we’re the only person blocking we might ask ourselves a second time what is best for the group as everyone is of different opinion and, if a solution can’t be found, we might even consider leaving the group. However, a block as well as standing aside are options that have to be respected as valid choices; reasonable concerns must be addressed.

Why do we use consent decision making rather than vote?

We want to create win-win situations. Even this little insight is capable of changing the group’s attitude. In a vote decision we’re not trying to find an optimal solution or an optimal formulation of the proposal, we just let the majority chose ‘yes’ or ‘no’, create two sides, separation. In consensus we’re listening to concerns and reservations and try to adjust the proposal to fit everyone’s, and even more important, the group’s needs. A concern is coming up for a reason and a decision taken is strongest and most powerful when concerns are eliminated. The result we mostly go for is however rarely ‘ this is the optimal choice for everyone’, but more often ‘everyone can live with this’ or ‘this is the best for the group’.

Here is a short step-by-step guide for the process:

1. The facilitator gives a proposal to the group and announces a first round show of hands;

2. Handsigns are used to show people’s position:

    • a. two hands up shaking means ‘I fully agree’;
    • b. one hand up shaking means ‘ I agree but have reservations’;
    • c. two hands up with palms facing to the group means ‘i stand aside’, or ‘don’t agree but I can live with it’;
    • d. showing an X with the arms indicates a very severe disagreement and ‘blocks’ the decision from being made.

3a. Everybody agrees, so the proposal is accepted;

3b. Space is created for reservations to be expressed and addressed if necessary and possible. The proposal is either accepted as it is or with adjustments;

3c. Everyone has the right to express his or her concerns, reservations, toughest and feelings. If there is a maximum of two people standing aside the proposal is either accepted as it is or with adjustments. If there are more than two people standing aside, the proposal is not accepted, the group can however adjust the proposal addressing the concerns of the group and start the decision making process again;

3d. A block is stopping the decision from being made. The concerns of that person must be addressed is one way or another.

In this regard, consensus or consent IS NOT unanimity, which leaves groups often in frustration and endless discussions. Consent is building solidarity to take out collective strength and the best of the group.

The Ecovillage Sieben Linden

I started off my ‘Wanderjahr’ in the Ecovillage Sieben Linden in Germany, taking part in the Ecovillage Design Education by the Global Ecovillage Network and Gaia Education. Following is some information about the village that we got on our first day. As I ll find time to work myself through my notes I ll post more information about the stuff we’ve learnt.

The idea of founding an ecovillage was formed in1989. In1993, aproject centre was bought where the core group stayed for four years before buying land in Sieben Linden. Today the village has around 120 to 130 citizen, of which 40 are children.

The village started off to ideally and experimentally be organised in different neighbourhoods around interests like healing, family, radical community living (Club99 inSieben Linden). People were able to move between the different neighbourhoods if they found themselves more attracted by a different interest groups. The size of 24 to 30 people in a neighbourhood would enable intimate relationships between the people. This concept should give the community a structure of different integrated support circles. This has not fully worked out and even though the concept of neighbourhoods still exist in Sieben Linden, individual places and homes start coming up.

The village Sieben Linden is a settlement cooperative. People that come and live there and want to become members of the community will pay their share, so that the community owns the land together. Ownership makes the people stay and see the land as “theirs”, making them recognise their responsibility. The fee to pay is around 12.300 Euro. The same amount is paid back to the person on departure, even though often it isn’t returned all together. There is a small loss to the one who leaves as the inflation rate is not integrated. A solidarity systems is available to help people that want to join and don’t have the money, so that individual solutions with loans can be found. Houses are built by individuals or groups with individual freedom whenever money is there. This makes the village designs an organic process and for some a bit chaotic.

The decision making in Sieben Linden started out with consensus decision, based on the ideal that the community should listen to all. As the group was small in the early years, having around 20 to 30 members, this was possible. As the community grew, this process became tiring, leading to a lot of “I can go along with that”, lukewarm agreements between the members. The solution that the community found was to combine decision making with building trust and organise the community in different delegations, the five elected councils of Sieben Linden: the landholding cooperative, the educational association, the building cooperative, the self-sufficiency council and the social council. These councils meet to take decisions in their field. This year in September a sixth council shall join them, the visionary council, consisting of elders and being a sort superordinate council to unite the other ones. The vision part represents for the villagers, next to the appropriate decision making process and the trust building, the third leg of a strong forward moving community. Today, decisions need to be fully agreed upon by 2/3 of the community members. Every individual is however able to step into his/her power and call out a veto. He/She has then two weeks to organise meetings and find more people to agree with the veto.

Most projects that break up, in Sieben Linden but also in other communities, do because of personal conflict. Therefore, some of the members of Sieben Linden use the non-violent communication method of Marshall Rosenberg to make themselves transparent.

Of the approximate 80 grown up members of the community, 50 persons are earning most of their money in being involved in the seminars inside of the village. There are approximately 4000 visitors every year. A lot of people earn additional money through giving seminars and consultancy related to community and ecovillage design outside of Sieben Linden. Other income are craft and building, 10 to 15 people working in this field, mostly in the village but also outside. Beside that there are subsistence workers in the village like the gardeners and the firewood collectors. The people from Sieben Linden pay 150 percent of the normal price for food that comes from inside of the village to be able to pay the gardeners higher wages.

In Sieben Linden, there are different gardeners that use different techniques. 70 to 80 percent of the vegetables that are eaten in the village are grown there. Reconsidering that there are 4000 visitors each year that eat from the same foot, 70 to 80 persent self-sufficienci is a lot. However, there are no grains or wheat grown. There are tunnel houses to grow tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants. Some gardeners have started to sell wild herbs and export their produce to restaurants and hotels. Every toilet in the village is a compost toilet, which doesn’t use water, so that the gray water is much less polluted than in most settlements. A reed bed system is cleaning the gray waters back to a drinking quality. This cleansed water is however used for the garden and will charge the groundwater again. The houses in Sieben Linden are mostly built of clay, wood and straw.­

Sieben Linden has a small commercial area where noisy businesses, such as woodcraft and electric engineering, are executed. There is a small household cash that villagers pay everyday for the community food and facilities.

A forest kindergarten exists, with two educators and 15 kids.  It is the wish of the villagers to start a free school for primary education somewhere in bicycle distance to the village to also attract children from the larger region. The kids that go to secondary school go by bus to the nearby town,30 kmaway from Sieben Linden. This gives them the opportunity to get out of the rural area and come in contact with the larger society.

It is the vision of Sieben Linden to become a settlement for 250 to 300 people. However, the villagers are well aware that the moving towards that goal should rather be a slow process so that the community and the resource use can follow in a sustainable way.