Proposal: Lowest Committee First

Lowest Committee First

Conflict Resolution Flow
& Lowest Committee First: An Introduction

One of the first guidelines of working well in the consensus process is honoring the input of everyone in the group. We each have a little piece of the puzzle that we bring to our community and its decisions, in the hope that others bring their pieces, and fit them together. We try to balance recognition of everyone’s unique contribution with the awareness that not every meeting can be a venue for discussing just anything – that certain subjects or certain truths are probably better handled in one forum, not another, and that we reserve the right to make decisions as a group about what the best forum is.

Commonly, with people working together in trust and the commitment to hear each other fully, the desire is to get the largest audience possible for a certain topic, which often enough works against the topic’s getting a full hearing. Many ideas and situations are best worked out from a root perspective, first discussing informally, then bringing it to smaller groups and decision-making bodies, and finally, if necessary, to the most encompassing group. Often, ideas can be validated and approved, and the best discussion had within the smaller bodies, without needing to take up time at the highest level of decision-making.

The following proposals are to encourage us in Nomenus to make use of personal conversation, small groups, and sharing information and truths in intimate circles before jumping directly to, say, Great Circle to deal with ideas, discussions, and conflicts. This is meant to be more of a guiding perspective for viewing our entire consensus process than absolutely prescriptive of how to do every little thing.

Lowest Committee First

So you have an idea for the Sanctuary and/or Nomenus? Great. We love hearing each other’s inspirations, brainstorms, worked-out plans, and more – that’s the way we grow. Working within consensus, the best way to get to a point that everyone can agree to support or approve your idea is actually to talk about it, a lot. Talk to individuals, talk to groups, post things on discussion groups, call a little circle to get feedback. You want to have a lot of feedback from the people in the community, whom the decision concerns. It’s much more likely that way to get approval: people need time to get to know what they’re agreeing to.

Conversely, one of the most important things we can do in the community when hearing a new idea is to give coherent, comprehensive feedback. Be thorough in trying to understand your reaction to an idea; fill in the context for the idea if you think not everyone has it; don’t say no immediately! We want to encourage others’ inspirations while still giving them valuable feedback. They’re not going to run off and do it immediately just because they brought it up; they brought it to the group because they want to hear what you all think.

Once you feel you’ve had enough discussion to get a sense of what others think, you may be ready to start a few different places:

1.) Your own initiative. Maybe, after checking in with a few people in the know (it’s important to get a few perspectives; one person may not have the complete read on the situation), you’ve been told that you should just go ahead and do it on your own. Those situations tend to be for smaller projects, things you don’t need a lot of personal or financial or energetic support for, that don’t change the landscape much (literal or metaphorical). People in the know might be caretakers, committee point people, officers, long-term sanctuary residents or other community members.

2.) Make a plan. Everybody loves to see a plan. If you can think about some contingencies for what you want to do (how much it will cost, how much help you need, what the effect on others might be), and maybe even write them down, you’ll be ready to tell everyone what they need to know.

3.) On the land: Land Meeting. If you’ve talked with a few people, and they tell you to bring it up as a discussion, this is the first place to start. It’s a chance to see everyone in the community and give them all a chance to weigh in. You’ve already had some preliminary discussion with people, so hopefully many of them will already be aware of the major considerations involved. Get feedback, reshape the proposal if necessary. People may ask for a more well-developed plan sometimes, but this is not saying no; it’s simply asking for more complete information before being able to say yes or maybe-something-else. This step is for projects that effect the physical and/or energetic land, and/or the community that lives there; Land Meeting generally approves spending up to $100, though this is variable depending on the scope of the project; you can ask for support from people or a bit of money if you need it. This meeting is directly applicable only to residents and visitors at the Sanctuary; if you don’t live there, feel free to skip this step.

4.) Committee Meetings. The current committees of Nomenus are Building, Communications, Gathering, Finance, Fundraising, and COTL, though these committees often dissolve and new ones form as the need appears. COTL is standing, and discusses the membership in the Community On The Land, as well as other things that are going on at the Sanctuary that the larger Nomenus community needs to know about. All members of the community on the land are required to attend, in person or by phone; all others attend at their option. COTL approves purchases up to $500. The other committees generally act as advisories to CoCo, as well as supervising and discussing consensed work within their purview. Small projects within these groups are approvable, but larger projects are often referred to CoCo to get consensus. The Finance Committee generally approves and disburses the particular funding only for projects already agreed to.

5.) Coordinating Council (CoCo). CoCo is the monthly meeting that overviews all the work being done within Nomenus. There is an e-mail list for Nomenus members involved with CoCo; this e-mail list is actually the best place to initiate organization-wide discussion about a project or idea, before it comes to the actual meeting. Gaining access to the e-mail list is easy, and people can always ask a member to post information for them. Most items discussed at CoCo required some homework and/or informed discussion beforehand, because of their typical scope; we simply don’t have the time at meetings to introduce completely new topics, inform ourselves about them, make necessary changes, and then decide on them. CoCo deals with policy, finances, and large initiatives. It can approve spending up to $1000.

6.) Great Circle. This is our semi-annual business meeting, taking place over two or three days, in the summer at Wolf Creek Sanctuary, and in the winter in a rotating West Coast location (generally Seattle, Portland, San Francisco Bay area). Items for discussion here are almost exclusively about major changes: long-term planning, large expenditures, policy changes. Great Circle can approve changes in Nomenus bylaws; it approves caretakers for the sanctuary and officers for the organization, and has the power to remove members. There is often time set aside for discussions of topics that may not come to decision there, but have important ramifications for the organization; however, time is often limited in these discussions, and they are usually best started somewhere else.

7.) Special Meetings and the Emergency Decision Committee. This is really the end of the line for Nomenus process. Special meetings may be called to discuss a matter of importance to the entire membership, that cannot wait for Great Circle, and can’t be handled by CoCo for whatever reason. The bylaws call for ten percent of the current membership petitioning the corporate secretary for the meeting; the entire membership must be notified at least fourteen days in advance of the meeting; and at least 40% of the current membership must attend for it to be binding. A special meeting has the same general powers as Great Circle.

The Emergency Decision Committee exists to deal with time-sensitive matters that may arise. These matters may include “a firm externally imposed deadline, because a major opportunity is very likely to be lost if action is not taken sooner, or because a situation has arisen which is very likely to impact the organization, its members, or its property negatively and requires very prompt action.” The EDC consists of the CFO, both secretaries, and three members who are appointed at Great Circle once a year. There are also three alternates appointed, in case one or more people are not available for the meeting.

Edited by jphartsong on May 7, 2011 5:44 pm