General Assembly Supports an Alternative Decision Making Process – Consensus

The following proposal passed General Assembly, On April 21, 2012.

Need:   The current GA process is centered around written proposals. This conflates “decisions to be made” with “solutions to issues” – the only way to raise an issue in the GA is to have a solution ready in proposal form. Furthermore, the requirement of written proposals has a potential for discrimination along class, level of education, and native-speaker lines. To be more inclusive and to facilitate better decision making, a new process is necessary.
Proposal: A new process for decision making should be created. This process would exist in parallel with the current process – that is, this would be a new process that would exist in addition to the old process, which would still exist. It would be up to the proposer to decide whether to use the new process or the old. The process follows:
  1. A Proposer will raise an issue requiring a decision to be made. They will say why they felt a decision needed to be made, and offer a solution if they have one
  2. The process will then enter a “understanding” round in the full assembly. People will offer points of information and clarifying questions to understand the issue at hand.
  3. The assembly will then break into facilitated small group discussions to hash out what the issue is and what possible solutions could be. Notes would be taken. Groups will try to come to consensus – small groups can come up with new ideas and solutions and amend them as they go.
  4. When the break-out groups return to the full assembly, they’ll report back. Every significant thread of discussion should be reported to the GA, with an aim to making sure all serious concerns are heard so they can be resolved.
  5. Discussion would continue in the full assembly. If at this point consensus is emerging the facilitator will reflect it and check if we’re ready to move to consensus.
If it comes time to check for consensus, consensus process would proceed like this:
Every member of the assembly would register via hand signals one of three options: voicing for, standing aside, or voicing against. A voice FOR means that you support the consensus . A stand-aside means that you have concerns that prevent you from supporting the consensus, but these concerns are not significant enough to make you want to stop consensus from proceeding. A voice against means you have serious concerns and would not be willing to let the consensus.
If there are no voices against and at least one voice in favor, the GA has consensus. If not, we can attempt to resolve concerns to try to achieve consensus, or back up and return to discussing the original point of discussion, either in small groups again or in the full assembly; additionally, if it seems to be the sense of the GA, we can table the discussion entirely.
Coming to consensus does not necessarily mean that discussion ceases. Some issues will require several different decisions be made. Some discussions will be resolved quickly in one session; other discussions will take place over multiple sessions.

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