How The Consensus Process Works

To maximize the democratic participation of the General Assembly.

CONSENSUS PROCESS is core to the grass roots democracy of the Occupy Movement.

For detailed descriptions and full background, please visit the following links:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/08/1022710/–occupywallstreet:-a-primer-on-consensus-and-the-General-Assembly

http://takethesquare.net/2011/07/31/quick-guide-on-group-dynamics-in-peoples-assemblies/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making

Below is a short summary and practical introduction to the consensus process used by Occupy LA.
These notes are based-on direct observation.  Any errors are my own and in no way reflect Occupy LA or Occupy Ventura —Kendra Gonzales, revised & edited by Natasya Katsikaris

1.  Facilitator opens meeting

2.  Committees or individuals present proposals

3.  Once a speaker has presented their proposal the Facilitator “takes temperature” which is a preliminary vote.

4. possible votes given by hand gesture:

NOTE:  Consensus vote is different than pure “majority rule”. Consensus uses  majorityrule democracy while also defending the rights of individuals so that no one is marginalized or tyrannized by “mob rule”.

1.  Agree (waving both hands)

2.  Disagree (flat hand sweeps across eyes – literally “I don’t see it”)

3.  Hard Block (arms crossed at wrists hands in fists)

4.  Point of Clarification (raise hand w/ 2 fingers extended)

Three other hand gestures can be used while someone is speaking:

a.  Talking in circles / repetition (like the “off-sides” penalty in football)

b.  Time – taking too long (make a T with your arms)

c.  Can’t hear you (hand cupped to ear)

**In LA they yell “Mic Check” but this does not apply to smaller groups

4.  If an item is “cold” i.e. most people disagree, it might be shelved for later.

5.  If there is general agreement, the process continues.

The Stack Keepers go to people who expressed Hard Blocks, or Points of Clarification and record these names.  Stack Keepers make sure that multiple people aren’t expressing the same block or point of clarification.  They also make sure that everyone gets a turn to speak who has a legitimate point of clarification or hard block.

6.  Points of Clarification might lead to a “Friendly Amendment” which is then voted-upon by method above to arrive at a final consensus on the matter.

7.  Nothing passes with a Hard Block.  Hard Block is reserved only for matters which might actually hurt the movement.  If the Hard Block appears to be of a more personal nature, the Facilitator might ask the person to consider changing to a “Disagree” to allow consensus (in cases where there is a clear majority on an issue).

Below are some general notes by Kendra:

After the Proposal is presented to the GA, the Facilitator “takes temperature”, a “stack” is formed of individual GA members to address the Presenter(s) with:

Clarifying questions – best to start with these first

Affirmations of the Proposal

Concerns on the Proposal

Presenters (and participants) attempt to resolve any concerns, then amend the proposal with any resolutions.

Facilitators test for any remaining concerns, or new concerns on the amendment.

At any time, the presenter(s) may ask those with concerns if they will “stand aside” and allow the decision to move forward.

If concerns cannot be resolved within the allotted time, the presenter(s) have the option of:

Returning the proposal to committee to address the concern(s)

Create an ad-hoc group of interested persons to resolve concern

Request additional GA session time

Use the voting option
When the presenter(s) choose the voting option, the following process is used:

Restate the proposal in its final amended form

Allow some time for GA to caucus on their vote

Voting commences


3 thoughts on “How The Consensus Process Works”

  1. Just to clarify, this was just an email I sent out to a bunch of folks who seemed interested in the same subjects. It hasn’t been formally adopted or anything, it was just intended to prime the pump. Thanks, Philip!

  2. I think that this is a brilliant idea and should definitely be brought up at the next GA.

  3. Beautiful!

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