Agreements and Consensus - Dandelion

Tags: Dandelion, Consensus, Government, Decision-making

Agreements and Consensus DN-A3

Agreements and Consensus DN-A3

Dandelion operates by means of agreements. When a person visits or joining, they commit themselves to abiding by the agreements that exist at that time, and they eventually, once they become full members, have a full and equal part in developing new agreements or changing old ones through our consensus process. (The By-laws also provide for decisions by a majority of the full members in cases where consensus cannot be reached, but in recent years this has not arisen.)

Consensus is easily misunderstood or misinterpreted, which can cause some difficulties when people who are not very familiar with the process begin using it. Most importantly, consensus decision-making is a creative process with many options, one of which is unanimous agreement. Often, however, unanimity does not occur, and the process provides various other constructive ways of dealing with the different points of view. One fundamental principle of consensus is that "if consensus (that is, in this case, a new agreement) is blocked and no new consensus can be reached, the group stays with whatever the previous decision was on the subject." This quotation is from the article of consensus process that is part of the package that every prospective member is asked to read and become familiar with before joining Dandelion. This means that whatever agreements we have in place, stay in place unless or until they are changed by our communal process of consensus.

To say that our agreements stand until they are changed by consensus is simply a statement of fact about the way things work here; it is not someone' s personal opinion or preference, but rather a fundamental element of community living at Dandelion. Let's explore for a moment what it would look like if this were somehow not the case. For example, take our agreement that all income received by a member during membership (with the exception of money earned and used during a member's earned vacation time) is community income. Suppose it were not true that our agreements stand until changed by community process. Then we might have a case where a new member ( or an old one, for that matter) could decide " I want to earn my own money, so I won't be part of that agreement any more". If they also misunderstood consensus process, and thought that the agreement no longer stood because they personally no longer wanted it, then they could theoretically go out and earn their own money, and keep it for themselves, and assert that they were not breaking any agreement. According to that reasoning, the original agreement would no longer exist, simply because one member no longer agreed with it.

If our agreements ceased to exist the moment a member disagreed with them, then effectively, everybody could do whatever they wished regardless of what had been worked out as agreements. In reality, there would no longer be any agreements about anything. This is not community. The community has agreements and it needs them; each one has been worked out in response to a need identified by the group at one time or another, and they have been agreed to by consensus process over the years. Our agreements are as much a part of Dandelion as our land and buildings are; they hold us together and identify us and our way of life even though individuals may come and go. This is one of our strengths. That body of agreements is what every incoming member agrees to when they join, and they can be changed only be the same communal consensus process that brought them into being.

If a member wants an agreement changed, they try to accomplish the change through our consensus process. If they do not succeed (i.e. if there is not community consensus to change it) then the original agreement stands and the person disagreeing must still abide by it. Of course, they have the choice of continuing to try to get it changed, or even of leaving the community, but as long as they are members they must respect the agreements we have.

Our agreements exist to safeguard our equality, to promote cooperation, and to help our lives together run smoothly and enjoyably. They are not written in stone, but nor can they be disregarded, nor changed without everyone's agreement. We value this control that our agreement give us over our lives together, and we value our equal involvement in creating and maintaining the agreements we share.