Consensus: Open Democracy or Functional Democracy

Gathers to analyze and address the relations between systems at different levels: the systems that emerge among us as members of the occupation itself, local and regional systems, and large-scale systems (national or international, for instance). We are committed to developing workable proposals for concrete action at all three levels. Our conversations aim to link the movement's practical and theoretical concerns together in the service of collective and individual growth.

Consensus: Open Democracy or Functional Democracy

Postby TheGreatRenewal » Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:58 pm

(See this in two columns)


* Everyone voices heard
* Everyone can constantly adjust their approval rating through hand signals
* Focus is much more on Ideas (macros) then on specific actions (mircros)
* Very little follow up
* Very little emphasis on tweaking things to achieve improvements
* Very little 'consensus' used in 'how-to' do what is consensed on. EX: People can consensus on 'no violence' in camp yet when violence occurs there's little understanding of how to prevent it in the first place, little experience with dealing with it and little ability from stopping the next episode.
* The decisions being made every day about small yet significant issues are usually made independently of the GA this leaves gaps and holes about 'how we do things'.
* There is an assumption that 'all decisions' should be made collectively without realizing that all aspects of Life are actually taught within the 'culture' either explicitly or implicitly.


* Functional democracy is based on broad involvement at individual 'interest' level. EX: Those interested in getting electricity throughout the site then come together. Consensus is used in these 'affinity' groups/committees. Those with the most experience can help teach/show people with less experience how consensus works.
* General involvement with the General Assembly would not involve everyone. Appointed 'spokespeople' from each group would attend. Members of the 'affinity' group would sit behind their spokesperson so they could hear whether that person is articulating their consensus well. This is also a learned experience.
* A Spokesperson is an important role: They must know how to articulate the consensus. They must put the 'issue' in front of them. They must only speak for their part of the process. EX: if they are speaking about 'electricity' then they need to leave the 'water' issue to that affinity group. If there is a need for these two groups to work together, it is acknowledged and sorted outside the GA.
* The majority of decision making occurs at the affinity group because they are the one with skills in that area. Any decisions are announced. If a decision is disputed by other 'spokespeople' then that discussion goes back to each affinity group to discuss and then either discussed between groups or in the next GA.
* There is a high level of learning, earning respect, trust in the appointed spokesperson, ability for gaining skills in consensus
* There is a high level of adaptability in the community. People with like interests work together which means cohesion of behaviors. People know they have a place to be heard and to add their skills. People know other skilled people are handling other issues and trust them. EX: Security, medical, peacemakers and other groups would work on the violence issue. They would announce to the community what they need for less violence to happen. They would figure out how to deal with it and do so. If there are penalties they would create a list that can be actualized and bring that to a GA. All the affinity groups would discuss these penalties and then have the Spokespeople represent their decisions.
* All aspects of 'how we do things' can be decided using functional democracy and this matters. What is the world we want? Is the site at Washington/Jefferson a true reflection of the world we want?


* There is some need in any community for a General Meeting to be held where everyone can come and discuss the little/big issues. Those issues are then taken into the appropriate affinity group and that person is invited to speak, join and work through an issue. If there more people want to join that specific group to discuss that issue then they should. The discussion should occur in the affinity group and spokesperson (with everyone in that group sitting behind ... that shows a high level of support) would articulate the solution.
* Most meetings in a functional democracy are led by the Spokespeople. EX: if Kitchen has a spokesperson only that person can speak. There can be a little bit of shared whispering if that person doesn't quite articulate what the group had decided but no one else in that group speaks at the GA. After the GA, the next time the group meets they confirm that every thing at that meeting was sorted, if not they work on the issue again.


At the Systemic Change meeting, Jerry introduced us to a very nifty way of 'voting' for ideas.

1) He had us break up into Affinity groups all discussing one topic ... 'curfew in camp'
2) The three groups came up with three ideas: A) If it's happy let it be B) Party all night C) 10pm noise curfew but feel free to go elsewhere to make noise.
3) He gave us 6 beans each. We placed 3 beans in the idea pot we liked, two in our next choice and 1 in our least favorite.
4) Although C) won 20 beans. A) won 18 and Jerry was a great leader and recognized that this was showing a preference for both.

Because we were at the end of the meeting we didn't take the next steps

1) Group A) and C) meet separately and come up with an idea (can't just say the same thing). EX: A) 'we'd like people to self-manage noise after 10 without curfew. C) We'd like to designate a number of off site spots where people feel comfortable to create noise.

Then these two ideas are presented to the larger group. The purpose is to find a 'compromise' that everyone likes.

One thing we discovered is that being Spokesperson can be quite difficult. It's important that the Spokesperson learn the skills to articulate the group consensus ... so that individuals in the group know they have been heard and they have a voice. We discovered in our meeting that we had to improve our ability to be the Spokesperson and we had to make certain no one else in the group spoke up. If something is not be said by the Spokesperson then quite whispering to the Spokesperson is important and they clarify at the moment.

I'll write more on: Teamwork, Leadership, We're all babies, Info Booth and some other topics

My hope is that if what I am saying from my vast experience in traditional communities rings your bell then start to implement these things. Our goal is to have a functional democracy. Just consider this. If the kitchen or engineering was run on open democracy would you be eating now? Or in such a comfortable camp? Functional democracies work ... and there's many reasons why. I'll discuss more of the little bits later.
Posts: 40
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:48 am

Re: Consensus: Open Democracy or Functional Democracy

Postby JerryB » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:09 pm

Good Post Wintergreen!

What I would like OE to develop is a management style that can be utilized everywhere, in business, and in government. I would also like to see something that would allow us to reach out to the rest of the community and allow everyone else to participate and be a part of the movement. I don't see how the consensus system can be used in these cases.

Well maybe if we had worker owned businesses, they could all get together and reach consensus on business decisions, but wouldn't all of that time be better spent doing the actual work? In the business world they handle that by having a "Boss" to make the business decisions and tell the workers what to do. In the political world the most powerful warrior would often rise to the top, and he got to tell everyone else what to do. Ruthlessness, cruelty and strength of arms are not really the best qualities necessary to run a country.

That isn't very democratic either. It would help if the workers could choose their boss, then it would be a representational democracy similar to our government, but as Camus said " One leader, one people, signifies one master and millions of slaves."

Even being able to choose a leader is not ideal, because the leader which is most popular or the best speaker may not be the best business manager or boss, because they need to make unpopular decisions and occasionally tell the workers to get off their butts and back to work.

With social media and the internet it may be possible eventually to have direct democracy. With good leaders perhaps they can allow the workers/citizens to make the important decisions. As Lao Tzu said: "The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, 'We did it ourselves."

The Occupy movement is leaderless because they distrust the current system of leaders who have become corrupt or let us down. But without leaders little gets done. Monday I will introduce a new concept in leadership that eliminates the negative aspects of having a leader but which is even more productive than current leadership styles. I would like to introduce team leadership that would be better than functional democracy.

The Occupy movement uses consensus because it is egalitarian but it wouldn't be applicable to our current form of government or in the business world. Team Leadership with preference voting would much better than the current political/business models and much better than consensus models.
Posts: 95
Joined: Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:20 pm

Return to Systemic Change Working Group

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest