We make community decisions through a consensus process. Like all things at N Street, our consensus process is an evolving framework that we update to fit our changing needs. Here is the most current version of our process, passed in June 2019.
Decisions by consensus:
The goal of our consensus-based decision making process is to govern with the support of
community members in an efficient and friendly manner. The process uses thoughtful discussions, is inclusive and welcoming of all members’ perspectives, and attempts to reach a decision that can be agreed upon by all. The process fosters compromise and progress while maintaining an equal voice among all members. However, in the rare case when consensus is not possible, and after a block resolution process, a decision can be made with a 66.67% super-majority vote.
Absentee block: When any member(s) notifies the community of their opposition to a proposal within two weeks of the publication of the meeting notes via the N Street listserv.
Abstention: A voting member who abstains on a decision is removed from the total when
determining if the 75% majority threshold has been reached.
Block in a meeting: When 75% or more of voting members are in favor of a specific proposal, one or more of the opposing voting members may “block” the decision from being implemented by starting the “resolution meeting” process (see below).
Blocker(s): Any voting member(s) not in the 75% or greater majority who wants to use the
resolution meeting process to find a compromise all can live with.
Consensus: Agreement without significant opposition to a decision.
Proposer: A person or people on a committee who takes responsibility for advancing a
Resolution meetings: Meetings held as part of the blocked resolution process.
Proposals and decision process at a community meeting:
Outcomes of a proposal
When a proposal is made and decided on at a community meeting, possible outcomes are:
● If no voting member opposes a proposal at a meeting, it passes but an Absentee Block
(see below) can stop the proposal from being enacted and send it to the resolution
● A block occurs when 75% or more of voting members at a meeting support a proposal,
and any member in opposition wishes to instigate the “resolution meeting” process.
● If less than 75% of the members at a meeting support the proposal, then the “meeting
resolution” process is not triggered. The proponents can come back to a future meeting
with a revised proposal.
Blocking a Decision:
Any voting member may block a decision at a meeting or within two weeks of the posting of the meeting notes. Members are encouraged to announce any absentee block as soon as possible. The blocker(s) then makes contact with the proposer(s) in order to schedule a first meeting where the proposal and concerns are clarified. If the blocker(s) decides to withdraw their block, the proposal passes. If a resolution can be made at that first meeting, the amended proposal is brought back to the next community meeting. If the parties still disagree, the blocking resolution process is initiated (see below). If a decision from a community meeting is not blocked within two weeks, the proposal passes.
Resolution Meeting process:
The blocker(s) must be willing to schedule and attend at least three resolution meetings within a two-month period in an attempt to resolve the situation. The purpose of the resolution meetings is to see if the opponents to the proposal, the proposer(s) and any interested members can develop a compromise. One of these resolution meetings must be held within one month after the meeting at which the proposal was blocked.
● If the blocker does not attempt to organize a first resolution meeting within a month of
the distribution of the meeting notes, then the item passes by default.
● If the proposer does not cooperate with the blocker to schedule the meetings, the
decision in support of the proposal is withdrawn and the proposer needs to put the item
back on the community meeting agenda.
Within the resolution meetings, possible outcomes include:
● If a compromise is reached, the resolution meeting members write up and circulate the
new proposal. The proposal will be given priority at the next community meeting.
● If no compromise is reached after three meetings, the proposal can be brought by either
party to the next community meeting for the super-majority vote. However, as long as
both sides want to keep working on a mutually acceptable solution, as many block
resolution meetings can be scheduled as desired.
When the proposal is brought to the community meeting after the block resolution process fails to reach a compromise, the “final” proposal will be voted on. A 66.7% (⅔) super-majority vote is required to pass the proposal.
● A quorum of at least 10 people is required to be present at this final meeting.
● Once the final supermajority vote occurs, the results are not subject to an absentee
Appendix 1: Strategies for building consensus
Consensus achieves an acceptable resolution, one that can everyone can support, even if it is not the favorite of every or even any individual. A proposal changes and adapts until it becomes one that all can live with it. Some suggested strategies for building consensus include:
● Use N Street Guiding Principles and Goals as a framework for a proposal.
● Before the meeting, have discussions with potentially affected community members. Most proposals should go through a committee whose participants think through the
ramifications of a proposal.
● Come to community meetings open to changing a proposal as alternative perspectives
are brought forth.
● Value dissent as it may provide important information and lead to a better solution.
● Consider abstaining from the decision in the interest of community progress.
● Quickly acknowledge any self-interest one has in the outcome of a proposal.