WG/Facilitation/C.T. Butler Workshop Notes

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majority voting as the source of minority problems in america


it inherently creates winners and losers; as small as 51%

ALL minorities exists because a majority "wins" and establishes power

ideas don't have to be good, only the advocates have to be good at it


current system rewards dominator's behavior, neglects cooperators



so the system was practical once up on a time, but doesn't work anymore!






goal: listen to every voice and determine what is the largest common denominator of their voices, then build upon that!


consensus is not ht eLCD, that's just where you start; you notice commonality

use that camaraderies to build understanding and communication and empathy

then through the process ppl will stop trying to "win," realize that we're in this together and have things in common, and then will seek to understand one another's motives and ideas

disc ideas causes one to move


it's about cooperating with one another to find the best possible answer, NOT to find the most powerful answer with the largest majority


in order to hear every voice you have to be cooperative. it's habitual to shut down disagreeing voices, must shift behavior and overcome that to achieve consensus.


when you act cooperatively, the system should support you; when you act competitively, the system should discourage that.


before you make a decision in consensus there must be some amount of buy-in / agreement by everyone. block/objection = we will NOT move forward if someone has a strong objection and would be excluded if we were to do so.


CT suggests that block does not = strong concern; you should absolutely hear and encourage minority concerns and reservations. individuals should not BLOCK the process, though they should have the option to withhold consent. if individuals withhold consent, the group must then decide if their objections are based upon their core values. if so, then block and the group should not move forward; if it's an individual preference, then the group should acknowledge that consent is withheld.


remember the whole goal of consensus is to discover what is best for the group. the only way to now is to hear from everybody and to encourage everybody to think what is best for the group…not what I want.

(note how this is counter to American individualism)


  • CT discusses examples of blocks, Tulsa Symph Orch consensus process*


Handout: Blocking in Value-based Consensus


Q: what about large-scale consensus and does it conflict with representational structure?


A: not in practice, there are techniques that exist. but it in purist terms, consensus demands direct (not representative) democracy. see "Consensus for Cities;" a large group can function via direct democracy and consensus if structured properly. need to learn how to work in small groups (~8) or affinity groups to make decisions. they choose someone to be their "spokesperson;" that person does not have the power to make decisions unless their affinity group says so. they really act as a liaison, not a representative. requires some finessing to make sure the AG gets their consensus heard.

side note, representative democracy is an oxymoron! our represent, one of the big reason why occupy have that is that the president said he was going to do that he didn't.


here to advise you on how to deal w/ problems that arise in consensus. so; 1. consensus is possible, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. 2. i t takes intentional organizinghin, training ,and teaching in order for it to work .


Q: does consensus exist in nature?

A: yes! darwinian theory is flawed. cooperation is generally more sustainable than domination / survival of the fittest. scientists are aware it's possible; my research shows that the human brain works by cooperation, by consensus not voting.


Q: training? what if we are illiterate, scientifically or actually?

A: I have taught this to my 5 year old son, by age 6 he could facilitate meetings. but most of us are taught from an early age to embrace competition, we have to overcome this. you have to practice it 24/7 to understand it. this model has the structure to interrupt privilege and prevent oppression from occurring like it normally would. of course, ideally, we would consciously learn how to overcome our socialization in order be more cooperative.


Q: how can this model interrupt privilege?

A: I don't have time to teach you this model, just the philosophy and values behind it. the basic idea is that we as individuals get a stimulus and give a response (stimulus-response). in decision-making groups, someone will raise a point; the first person to raise their hand gets called on and voice their usually confrontational response. structurally, if one person speaks their mind and the following speakers attacks them verbally, the first person will be shut down and pushed out. even if the following speaker offers constructive criticism, the first person will have their mistakes pointed out and will be disinclined to speak again.

so, what if the structures was instead (stimulus-…pause…-discuss)? we need to create an environment for all voices to be heard. whenever ANYone says anything, the immediate next response should be someone else saying what they want to say, then the next person, then the next, etc. There is a time in the model for back-and-forth, but it should be at the very end after voices are heard.

ideas should not "belong" to people. break that over-culture concept of domination and property. in this model, you put your ideas into the circle and they become the group's idea. so instead of a debate, you have a creative interplay of ideas, that's how you find the best possible idea. this is a GROUP decision making process, not a voting model; we should be trying to hear people, not which way they vote.


Q: isn't education the underlying theme here? not just in the background, but in literacy in general?

A: yes, I'm in favor of education, but in terms of hearing all voices…I believe consensus is the great equalizer. no matter how uneducated, uninformed, broken, w/e, it's still a voice and they still have a right to say it.

(CT tells a story about handling an inebriated interloper in Baltimore)

(moral: all who respect/participate in the process should have their voice heard)

so we need to develop a system that not only allows for all voices, but educates all voices in how to be heard.


Q: what about the voices that cannot or will not speak up?

A: (CT tells another story)

when you're asking for diversity; keep in mind that people who look alike (age, gender, skin color) rarely have the same monolithic viewpoint. the real problem w/ a lack of diversity is that it's imperative to create a safe space. the people who are already privileged in society will be the first to feel safe. but if we are able to create a truly safe space where everyone's voices can be heard, THEN we'll be able to have real diversity. the people who are safe and involved and active will need to invite "outsiders" in order to achieve diversity and openness.

look, if you have a purpose (we sorta do) and values (glue that holds us together), then all you do is compare every single proposal against these P&V, regardless of how much or how many people like it. conversely even if everyone likes it but it's against the P&V, then don't.


(CT suggests there be two separate GAs)

ideally, any decision should pass as long as it's in accordance with the P&V and there aren't any strong objections to it. it shouldn't matter how popular an idea is.


Q: but who decides if it's in accordance?

A: good question, too hard for me to say right now. it may look impossible, but if you follow my method (see the flowchart), it should be clear whether or not it is. all you have to do is consent to the values first. the group should do this.


Q: what about the schism between 24/7 campers and the rest?

A: (acknowledges that it exists, returns to an earlier Q)


Q: (comment on hand signals serving as a voice in place of voting; some Q buried in there.)

A: goes on to Affinity Groups, on the importance of everyone being involved at the smallest level in order to make decisions. there is a model for a way to retain voices and have small group discussion within a larger (General) Assembly.

if you have a a proposal for Occupy Boston, and you bring it to a small working group…you probably have no chance of reaching it at the GA. so obviously it helps the whole process if you try it out at a small level! this is efficient!

of course, there is the pushback that individuals want to claim and put ownership on their ideas; we have to overcome those old ways of thinking. the lineage and the power of ideas shouldn't matter anymore, because we're in this together.

remember that it's not necessarily a good thing to have a single charismatic leader with good ideas; decentralizing is important, avoid tyranny and concentration of power.


Q: why do you ask Q before having small group disc at a GA?

A: conceptually it's important to have a baseline so that we can all work together to discuss proposals.



concludes with: I am a long time activist, and I think what you're doing is awesome and that I want to make it better. I am an anarchist! I want no power over anything of yours. Plug for his cause, the importance of grassroots fundraising, etc. Be back at 3p!

goal: to deepen and broaden the concept and skills of facilitating

the Role of the Facilitator

leadership capacity, but not a Leader role does not require powerful, well-connected, wealthy, charismatic, etc. people this model allows anyone access to the leadership role

it's a Good idea to take the least experience among you and have that person facilitate occasionally. shows commitment to the idea that it is only a Role. everyone should self-facilitate, the facilitator should not force people into their roles. so the role should not require skill, the group should facilitate itself.

typically in society, we choose ppl w/ experience in a skill and train them more to make them better at it, but this way only a few learn. if you instead focus on raising the least experienced into the role, then the group as a whole will become better at it. andthis is a step towards true egalitarianism.

diff between process and content. normally, the WHAT and HOW of things are inseparable and influence one another. these values of inclusivity, progressiveness, egalitarianism, etc., are often present in the content of our generally liberal movement. BUT it's not as easy to understand that the process should follow the same rules, too. it's common sense that changing the rules mid-process is unfair and illegitimate. we have to follow the same set of rules during a meeting for it to work, even for "anarchists."

(anarchism should be about mutual aid w/o hierarchy.)

("no rulers, not no rules.")

SO if you don't like a rule, you have to either Follow it or Actively work to change it.

facilitator's job is to manage the process. they have to make things happen. NOTE this means that they should NOT participate in the discussion / content. they get the power of managing the process in exchange for giving up their contribution…unless they Explicitly step out of the role of the facilitator if they have something new and important to add.

summarizing (i.e., reformulating) is also important. also checking in to see if/when the group moves on.

side note: I have seen facilitators asking for permission to have permission to have permission…to step in…um, no. the facilitator should take the process by the horns and run with it. more efficient and better.

there should be a rule that you should NOT talk about process at meeting. do not debate or argue. just do it. also, do NOT make a decision with at least one open discussion.

you can't practically manage content just by following process. (what?)

remember, if you have concerns about process, do NOT discuss them at the GA.

(Greg: we've been doing is tracking/teaching process during GA…can you speak?)

sure. if ppl use POP incorrectly, you can use that as an educational moment. I encourage the facilitator to explain what's going on. ideally everyone should be trained ahead of time, but do educate at the time if needed. do NOT allow talk back. that's not what a GA is for.

in brief, I always say a facilitator should be saying one of three things

this is what we just did this is what we're doing now this is what we're about to do

regardless, this should NOT be your opinion at any point.

(tangent about CT's book)

disc: yes, it is a problem that this model doesn't scale very well. I've heard OWS is starting to use affinity groups / spoke models, that is essential and a good idea. "grammar school" method of everyone speaking leads to only the loudest/most privileged people. so, we have to reinstate the council/ring/circle method.

proposal that's been offered and had Qs on. take half an hour and see what happens. if they don't have consensus, list objections and issues raised. then, gather the circles and raise all of the objections to everyone. split off again, and have all AGs discuss issues and offer solutions. ideally, at least one AG will offer a solution that everyone can consensus on. they meet back in a fishbowl mtg, where liaisons from each group present their group's consensus (info, supports, objects, and amend?).

generally, it's okay to allow the small groups to facilitate themselves. parts of the facilitation team could help if they wanted, or the facilitators could in general circulate and check in. at the least they have to watch the time and monitor the space, and then facilitate the "fishbowl" as needed. they have to decide whether or not to test for consensus or go straight back to AG discussions or so on.

this REPLACES entirely the model of the proposer(s) taking possession of the idea and being the only ones able to modify or re-present their proposal. instead they should join the community and make an effort to spread themselves throughout the small groups in order to answer questions, provide input, etc.

this further means that there should NOT be any amendments offered at all, but rather every small group should offer its own version of their consensus on the issue. as long as the versions are not mutually exclusive, you should probably consensus on both. if they are, you'd have to break into groups and try and reach consensus on both in turn.

Q: what do you do if you get STUCK in a GA? A: well, remember, everyone here needs to be working off of a value basis. no one should be saying why they don't like it, but rather, why it is contrary to our values to do so.

…but yes, groups do get "stuck." it's typically from a lack of objectivity and creativity, from people being unable to address the larger issue at stake. it doesn't happen often, though. it's usually because of process problems.

CT on Blocks:

the group should block itself if a block is called and the group agrees that the block is based in the community's principles. otherwise, individuals should use their stand aside. that way that the proposal is passed but the register says "with this points xyz UNRESOLVED." so the result is the proposals passes for now and we abide by it, but only for now.

side note: common values…they exists, but they need to be identified. for example: "all voices need to be heard." it's a skill to be able to identify values. on that note, a temp check should search for resonance.

note: we are not skilled enough to have one GA when there should be two! the agenda of the activists is diff of the ppl who are living here, but they have a COMMON agenda, too. (also keep in mind that the assumption of consensus is that one has permission to take action. GA should not grant permission; if you are here and share our purpose/values, do it! we would rain you back in if there's a conflict.)

remember, guys, there shouldn't be a "why didn't they get the tents?" rather, it should be "why didn't WE get the tents?"