[Imc-strategies] Can you explain Consensus+trust more explicitly?
john at conflictresolver.com
Wed Mar 2 15:06:41 PST 2005
I thought I'd reply to your question to the whole list, since answering it
raises some imc strategy issues in general.
As a bit of background, I've been involved with Indymedia in one form or
another since April of 2000, doing both local Indymedia work and then also
some global process work. Right now I'm one of the moderators on
imc-process and I do work on an indy newspaper in DC.
A lot of this stuff you might already know, but I didn't want to assume
Most or all collectives, following the IMC principles of unity, operate on
some form of consensus for the general decision making. Unfortunately, just
like the act of voting doesn't make a country a "democracy", the act of "any
one can block a decision" really doesn't create a meaningful culture of
Paradoxically I've seen some nasty situations where the strict process of
consensus, badly applied, really is destructive and counter to building any
culture of consensus in collectives.
If you're looking for procedural options for giving you more choices in
consensus (some alternatives when a block comes up, etc.), you might want to
dig up some of the writing by C.T. Butler
(http://www.consensus.net/ocaccontents.html) or take a look at the formal
process followed by the War Resisters League.
One of the interesting discussions that came out of the last NCOR (Nat'l
Conference on Organized Resistance) was that a large number of us folks who
are normally huge advocates of good process and consensus discussed how
jumping to consensus models or treating process as the sole way to "save" a
group was turning out destructive for a lot of activist organizations and
networks. If you'd like a really provocative read partially along those
lines, there's Andy Cornell's essay on "Who Needs Ends When We've Got Such
Bitchin' Means" (http://colours.mahost.org/articles/cornell.html).
That isn't to say ditch consensus. Just the observation that consensus and
process alone can't be the sole answers, and they can't save people from
Regarding conflict resolution, you might want to check out
docs.indymedia.org. There's been some general conflict resolution material
that's been posted there. Several collectives have instituted a mediation
policy. The idea is that, when two or more folks in the collective seem to
be at each other's throats or just generally embroiled in such a grave
conflict that it prevents the group as a whole from moving forward, one of
the folks or the collective as a whole can ask for mediation to be tried.
Conflict resolution has gotten popular enough that there's often a person or
two in the group or that someone knows who has some mediation training. If
not then these days there's often lots of community mediation resources to
My really controversial opinion is that, ultimately, individual collectives
and the network as a whole also need some mechanism for arbitration when
there's a conflict that all efforts at mediation fail to resolve. Right now
I don't know of any collective that has that mechanism. I do, however, know
several collectives that, without it, have spiraled into a mess they
couldn't get out of (split collectives, disbanded collectives, and
collectives that once were vibrant but now are pretty much ghost collectives
with just a handful or small clique of people left). I make that
recommendation of having arbitration as a list-ditch option after having
done lots of work as a professional mediator and being a big fan of helping
find ways for folks to resolve their conflicts without needing to resort to
arbitration whenever possible.
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