Post the Fourteenth or Why Consensus Decision Making is Better

con·sen·sus

[kuhn-sen-suhs]

noun, plural -sus·es.

1.majority of opinion
2.general agreement or concord; harmony.

The Consensus Decision Making process is one in which everyone involved is equal and has equal voice. Every voice is heard and every angle is considered. Consensus is not majority rules. It is a process in which all people agree on a course of action. There is compromise and agreement so that all individuals are satisfied. True consensus takes into account all historical factors of racial, queer, class, agist and ableist oppression and addresses that history so that the process is truly egalitarian.

My dream is that all organizations and decisions that involve communities are reached using this process. My dream is that through this process we can finally make decisions for ourselves and our community. My dream is that we can truly empower ourselves to not only advocate for ourselves but also to take action ourselves and for ourselves. My dream is as we embrace consensus we can create a truly equitable world.

As many of you know Out Youth is in a state of civil war due to the abrupt and painful termination of one of the most beloved members of the Out Youth Family. This was done without our consent and without us being consulted. It was done brutally and without compassion. I think the biggest reason for this is the agist, ableist, classist, and racist nature of the non-profit industrial complex. The organization is structured in such a way that the Board of Directors have absolute governing power, they make and change policy and budget without any accountability to the community they serve. Moreover, they elect themselves. They are self-perpetuating. Sounds a lot like an authoritarian oligarchy to me.

The Board of Directors does not take into account the thoughts, opinions and experiences of the youth, staff, interns and other volunteers. The reason for this is the subtle forms of power that they have and the very overt forms of oppression that they wield. Because they are adults, have class privilege (since you need to be able to either give or raise $1000), are mostly white and are mostly able-bodied they can write off or ignore the subtle ways they oppress the community they serve. For example, they have their board meetings at a location that isn’t Out Youth, they have it at a location that isn’t accessible and most of all they don’t make it a point to recruit and let everyone know where and when the meetings are.

The most obvious way, however, is that in order to be a part of the Board, in order to have a vote, in order to have any say in the direction of Out Youth, you have to be able to contribute monetarily. In order to be a part of the Board, you need to pay. And that makes it inaccessible not only to young people (which they serve) but also a whole slew of other people who can’t afford to pay. It says to young people that their thoughts, opinions, experiences and voices are of no consequence.

And their privilege allows them to not see ANY of that.

Which is why I think it is so important to introduce and inform them of consensus. I think that the first step in making Out Youth sustainable is to incorporate the process of consensus in all decision making processes. From the budget to programming to who gets hired to who gets fired. By keeping focus on consensus we can all get adequate representation and it keeps things like this from occurring. It will prevent organizations, families and people from being ripped apart by disagreement and ineffective leadership because it puts power in the hands of everyone. If we share power than no one is left out in the cold.

Moreover, it would check and inform folks with privilege of their privilege and lead to a more equitable world.

It has to start with us.

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About witchymorgan

I'm a 22 year old womanist, sex positive, pansexual, polyamorous, queer, bruja, transwoman. Social justice activist by day, social justice activist by night. Fun! View all posts by witchymorgan

5 responses to “Post the Fourteenth or Why Consensus Decision Making is Better

  • Donna

    Morgan – This is so well-thought out and well-written!!! Bravo to you!!! You’re really doing this and I am so impressed. If the BOD does not recognize this as a manifesto, they are blind… keep that energy flowing!!!

  • Gerald

    Seattle may be the perfect city for you! Most everything there is done by consensus – which has its own set of frustrations. I do not believe that “all” are satisfied by a consensus process but certainly the majority is. If this country were run by consensus, we would still have segregation in marriage, no gay rights, DADT, only property owners could vote, etc.

    The disenfranchised are free to form their own organization. Whoever pays the piper, generally calls the tune. At least there is an organization to complain about, which is a small consolation.

    • witchymorgan

      You are right that consensus definitely has it’s draw backs but I believe that true consensus would take into account all those forms of power and oppression and make sure that those who are oppressed are given the equal voice that they deserve. Consensus would reduce all these problems because it gives power to all, especially those who have been historically oppressed. Consensus that doesn’t take this into account is not true consensus.

  • Lisa

    Thanks, Morgan! Consensus decision-making is collaborative, cooperative, inclusive, participatory, democratic, just, and necessarily creative.

    Groups as disparate as Quakers and Japanese companies use consensus decision-making. It’s unity without uniformity. It’s the agreement AND the process of getting to that agreement. And what could be more empowering and transforming!

    There’s a reason The Knights sat at a Round Table.

    Some complain that the consensus decision-making process is unnecessarily time consuming. But that is actually time spent in the process of community building. The most recent hierarchical decision by the board has not only consumed an enormous amount of time, but has cost energy, donors, focus on the mission, and priceless good will. The youth deserve better and have every right to expect it.

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