Decisions [to Make, Already Made And Not Even Up For discussion] |TOP|
Question: Mr President, your speech was both sincere and frank. I hope that you understand my frank and direct question. In the 1990s Russian experts actively helped Iran develop missile technologies. Iran now has advanced medium- and long-range missiles that would enable it to strike Russia and part of Europe. They are also working towards placing nuclear warheads on these missiles. Your country has made efforts to negotiate with Iran on this issue and supported the UN Security Council resolution to prevent Iran from carrying out such a policy.
Decisions [to make, already made and not even up for discussion]
Question: I understand your sincerity and I hope that you will accept our sincerity. First of all, about arms control. Who needs a new arms race? I want to point out that the USA has not developed a new strategic weapon in more than two decades and that you recently tested the Topol-M missile, and that it is already deployed in silos and on mobile installations. You criticised the USA for unilateral actions and said twice that military actions can only be legitimate if they receive UN approval. The USA is carrying out military actions in Iraq and in Afghanistan according to UN decisions and today in Kosovo the majority of troops are supporting peace-making operations in this country.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men have a chance to make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer. The decision should be made after getting information about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening. Men should not be screened unless they have received this information. The discussion about screening should take place at:
First impressions can be long-lasting, and they are usually based on a thin slice of behavior. Before you even start teaching, your students will have already made some decisions about you, so it is important to understand what those impressions are based on and how to manage them.
Inexperienced instructors sometimes make the mistake of lecturing at the students for a few weeks, then try to have a discussion when the first big unit of the course is finished, only to be surprised at the lack of student participation. This is because students have already been socialized to just listen in the course.
The ground rules of a group discussion are the guidelines that help to keep the discussion on track, and prevent it from deteriorating into namecalling or simply argument. Some you might suggest, if the group has trouble coming up with the first one or two:
By definition, in consensus no decision is made against the will of an individual or a minority. If significant concerns remain unresolved, a proposal can be blocked and prevented from going ahead. This means that the whole group has to work hard at finding solutions that address everyone's concerns rather than ignoring or overruling minority opinions.
Many of us experience very little control over our lives in the wider world, with decisions being made for us by managers, benefits agencies, the police, politicians. The rewards this system promises are mostly about mobility within the hierarchy: getting a promotion, buying status by owning different stuff. And we're encouraged to compete with each other and scapegoat whoever is beneath us in the pile, instead of questioning why there isn't enough to go round in the first place.
In addition, our ability to come up with creative, win-win solutions is often severely limited by the options available. Adopting consensus doesn't remove constraints like unjust economics and laws. For example, a group of people could try to take more control over their lives by deciding to get a house together, and make decisions about how they live by consensus. Even if they managed to make their internal decisions as equals, an unjust society still limits what decisions they are able to make. For example, in many parts of the world, a lack of social housing, profits made by landlords and banks, and crackdowns on squatting can make it very hard to find anywhere to live at all.
Consensus is based on the democratic principle that people who are fundamentally affected by an issue should be involved in making decisions about it. This means it can take some thought about who needs to input into a meeting. Sometimes this includes people who aren't part of the group. For example, a social centre might talk to the neighbours before setting the timing for a noisy DIY project. By contrast, often decisions can be made by a sub-group because they don't fundamentally affect everyone, e.g. the publicity group could be left to decide the colours of the posters.
Agree the remit of the discussion: What decisions need to be made by when? What are the key questions? Can you break complex issues into smaller chunks to tackle one by one? Who needs to be involved in making the decision? For example do you expect to make a fully detailed decision at this stage, or do you want to agree some principles and leave the fine details to be worked out by a smaller group?
Especially in larger organisations it is common to have a last resort voting option, in case blocks cannot be resolved. This tends to only kick in after a lot of effort has been made to find a solution, e.g. the issue has been discussed at several meetings without resolution. It often only applies to important decisions and usually requires a super majority (such more than 75% or 90%) for the proposal to pass.
Addressing deeply ingrained inequalities is an ongoing process which can be painful and frustrating, but the rewards are better decisions and more genuine liberation and connection to each other. However, a group should try hard to ensure that the people who are already most dis-empowered by society don't end up doing most of the work in tackling a group's power dynamics.
Trust and morale quickly break down in a group where decisions are made and not implemented. On the other hand, 'checking up on people' can leave them demoralised. Here are some tips for being accountable to each other:
Check you all have the same understanding of decisions taken. Concrete examples usually make for clearer communication, e.g. if you decide the food for your events should be 'ethical', you could each give examples of food you think fits this criteria.
When working in large groups and organisations it becomes even more important to think carefully about which decisions need to be taken by whom. In any organisation decisions are usually easiest and best made by the people directly affected by them. Make sure that you are not dealing with questions in a large group that can and should be dealt with by a sub-group.
Decisions made by everyone together need to be given enough time for true consensus to be achieved. Fewer decisions made well together are better for true flat decision-making than lots of decisions rushed through too quickly.
The seven stages for reaching consensus are the same as for small groups, but the techniques you use for each stage may differ. Some stages may happen with everyone together, but where possible use small groups to enable in-depth discussion and participation. Below we give an introduction to some tools that can work well to facilitate consensus in large groups. Usually a combination of processes is needed for smooth and successful large group consensus.
Proposals for the members meetings are usually generated by teams, and then taken to a members meeting. There are a number of pre-meeting steps to ensure that proposals already take into account a wide range of views before being taken to the full membership. This includes circulating issues for feedback and pre-meeting discussion sessions where people can ask questions and feed in additional concerns and ideas. If a proposal does not reach consensus in the members meeting, it can either be withdrawn or a workshop is arranged for those most in disagreement to resolve differences and suggest an amended proposal. At the time of writing (spring 2017) Unicorn have a rapidly growing membership, and are exploring new methods to maintain high levels of engagement.
Each group sends a delegate (or 'spoke') to the spokescouncil meeting, where all delegates present the breadth of ideas and concerns of their groups. The spokes then come up with proposals that they think might be acceptable to everyone and take these back to groups for more discussion and amendments. This process is repeated until agreement is reached. The power to make decisions remains with all members.
In some situations such as mass actions you might have more than 20-40 small groups. In this case you can add more tiers, where each spokescouncil sends a spoke to a second or even third level spokescouncil. This can work for many thousands people, e.g. 9000 people involved in the blockade of a Castor nuclear waste transport in 1997. With this number of people it becomes even more important to think carefully about which decisions need to be made by everyone and which can be left to individual groups. Often the tiered spokescouncil mostly acts as a channel for information and consultation rather than being used for actual decision making.
Radical Routes is a UK wide mutual aid network of around 40 member co-ops. Decisions are made by consensus using a delegates' meeting structure. The network comes together in Business Meetings four times a year to make a variety of decisions, including dealing with proposals by member co-ops to the Radical Routes loan fund.
Draw up a realistic and fair agenda. An ideal agenda covers all the important and urgent issues, but is short enough that there is space for relationship-building and being relaxed. Prioritise what you want to discuss in what order, and then appoint a facilitator to help you stick to it. When new topics arise they can be noted down to be discussed later - unless there is a strong reason why they need to be decided before the items already on the agenda. It is crucial that everyone is able to input into the agenda, and has enough information to participate in discussions. If someone feels they had no control over what's on the agenda, it wouldn't be surprising if they spent a lot of time talking 'off topic'.