Decision-making and Consensus

We are a non-hierarchical, consensus-based group for organizing actions around fighting car dependency. Anyone can take the initiative to plan an action, and everyone is encouraged to do so. We also try to rotate who takes on the responsibility of organizing any particular type of action.

Because we're a large group, we have split into several sub-groups focusing on different problems, actions, or other tasks that need doing. We try to avoid any one person being involved in everything. These groups operate more or less independently, keeping the overall values of the group in mind.

What does consensus mean?

When should you ask for consensus?

If you are doing something under the name SSR, you should always be doing it with other people. You don't always have to tell everyone, and sub-groups (e.g. Vision Zero) will make decisions on their own.

It does mean that what you are doing should be in line with our values and generally not be something people would be upset if they found out you were doing. If you're doing something new, especially if it's working with a new external group, taking new risks, or adopting a new political position, you should get more feedback.

What does getting consensus look like?

Usually, it looks like talking about what you plan to do and getting feedback and iterating on it. If we're making a public statement, for instance, it looks like making a doc with a draft of the statement and having other people help write it, usually ending up with something better than any one person could write. For an action, it means people bringing their various experiences and backgrounds to come up with a plan that will go as smoothly and effectively as possible.

What if we disagree on something, though? Usually we try to talk through it. We try to understand where the concerns are coming from and if there's a way around them. This is in contrast to a voting based system, where a simple majority can ignore any issues that anyone might raise. It's everyone's job to try and reach a consensus, where everyone is satisfied that their point of view has been heard and taken seriously. The goal of this process is to work together to figure out the right thing to do, rather than having anybody's opinion "win" or "lose".

There are also different levels of disagreement. There might be actions that are not for you, that you might choose not to become involved in. If you're the sort of person who ends up being involved in everything, it might mean putting more trust in others to make good decisions. Usually it's best for the people who are actively participating in an action to make the decisions, since they are the ones with skin in the game. It's worth bringing up issues around unexpected risks, issues of ethics and inclusivity, and our values, but otherwise your level of opinion-having should be proportional to your level of action-doing.