A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

Learning Consensus at Earthaven

by Diana Leafe Christian


“This is harder than I thought!” exclaimed Ohbeeb. She was in front of the room practicing facilitating a meeting. She was saying, “Excuse me; would you like to get on the stack?” to another participant who was having fun pretending to be mildly disruptive.

It was our annual weekend workshop, “Earthaven Governance & Consensus, and Introduction to Facilitation,” held in the Council Hall November 20-21.

I continued to coach Ohbeeb, who practiced this phrase several times, interrupting the person who was acting disruptive.

“You need to hear yourself saying this phrase, over and over,” I said,  “until you create new neural pathways.” Ohbeeb practiced stopping the disrupter several more times until she began doing it quite well.

We hold this workshop once a year for people on our membership track. This year’s participants included Troy, Norm, Ohbeeb, Carly, Liz, Susan, Evelyn, and Curt.

Saturday was about consensus, and included Earthaven’s governance process (our Orbos, committees, and managers), and consensus essentials — strong agendas, well-crafted proposals, skilled facilitation, trained participants, evaluations — among other topics.

Sunday was an overview of the facilitation process, and time for practice. This is where we got to see

people’s acting abilities, since when someone practiced everyone else played the role of meeting participants — often hilariously.

Jonathan, as guest instructor, described the process of facilitating complex topics.

People gathered in small groups to practice creating proposals. They described what they’d like to change or improve about Earthaven, and we noted which of these ideas fell under Earthaven’s governance and could be addressed by a proposal, and which would not be governance but addressed by a private project. People in small groups practiced creating and presenting proposals, and the whole group gave feedback.

In the “Name the Member” game, people called out the name of Earthaven members and I described what official roles each member has played in the community, the committees they’ve served on, and the projects they’ve initiated or managed, plus other myriad ways they’ve contributed to Earthaven. New folks always seem impressed by our governance, and the many ways our members have given and served Earthaven over the years.

Several participants told me the workshop because gave them a much better sense of Earthaven’s governance and how they can participate. “It shouldn’t be called a consensus training,” Art said after the 2009 training. “It should be called, ‘How to Become Empowered at Earthaven’.”


 Earthaven member Diana Leafe Christian is an internationally known ecovillage activist, author of Creating a Life Together and Finding Community (New Society Publishers), and publisher of Ecovillages newsletter. Click here for her website.


Consensus, council hall, Diana Leafe Christian, facilitation, governance, orbos, proposals, training

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