I've been working at consensus process decision-making since my days in the SF Women's Studies Collective back in the 1970s. A few years later when Reclaiming Collective was formed, I found myself working with people with as strong a commitment to the process, except that experience and writings about it had proliferated in the meantime. When my then-coven, Holy Terrors, first joined the Covenant of the Goddess, its members were also committed to consensus process. So it's clear that this is my preferred method of collaboration.
Now that things -- Reclaiming (no longer a collective, per se), CoG and other groups -- have expanded, I'm wondering how effective consensus process can be. Can we still operate that way? It will be a challenge for the recently birthed BIRCH (Broader Intra-Reclaiming Council of Hubs). BIRCH folks have the advantage of having had good training and consistent experience with the process. It seems that in CoG in particular some matters, such as the annual choosing of National Board officers, have devolved into voting. I don't like it. It fosters a competitive spirit that threatens to erode the trust and solitarity so carefully and lovingly nourished over a period of many years. Is there a better, more satisfying way to accomplish these necessary organizational business matters? I keep hoping there is.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the last year or two. I’m not sure I have any answers. I do know, however, that I was tremendously favorably impressed by how well folks at the Dandelion Gathering in May used consensus process so effectively.
On the plane to Starwood — a Really Fabulous experiment in temporary counter-culture community, BTW (more about Starwood anon) — I read a book called Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. I was inspired to read it based on an interview with him I found on the Charlie Rose show while channel-surfing late one night.
On the strength of Blink, I plan to read his earlier book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Although TTP is not about consensus process, I'm hoping that Gladwell's thinking will inform and inspire me to feel better about the future of consensus on a larger scale.