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Compassion, Compromise & Cohesion

Did I say how awesome our core founders are? Back when I was away with the fairies, just going with the flow, not knowing what an awesome journey I was going to go on and how much I was going to learn; Kathrin was flying off to Germany to attend a course she had found on Systemic Consensing. She used her own hundreds of Euros, trusting that we would be able to make it back in some way. Some how she knew how important this would be for our new school. Kathrin even volunteered to help the course instructor with the setting up of meals and cleaning the venue to get a bit of a discount, even though she is not the type that is comfortable sleeping away from home. Now she has brought the course material back to us, and other local community organisations, even translating it from German to English, which proves to not always be an easy task; and helping each group come to decisions through a process which is much more progressive and holistic, in our opinion, than the more accustomed majority voting where people’s needs and values are often overlooked.

Systemic Consensing is a decision-making tool that could be used under different types of governance, but unlike majority voting, everyone’s values, wishes, and needs are considered. Everyone gets a voice.

Systemic Consensing takes the path of least resistance. Sometimes when using this tool in our meetings, it is interesting to see how even when a decision may seem obvious it is agreed upon; the end agreed-upon consensus is quite a different feeling! It is a call for celebration! Another thing that is called to my attention is that through the process of Systemic Consensing, a lot of questions arise that were previously thought to be understood!

(To learn more check out this previous Blog: Resistance is Valuable)

I loved learning something new and understanding something that I had originally seen as complicated and frustrating. I loved how it goes right along with what I am practicing in my personal life which is how to value all my feelings and to 'fully feel' them. I have a habit of skimming over my feelings; not trusting my gut; leaving it to the louder voices to make decisions; thinking and believing that they know best.

But not any more!

It’s a good example of when something seemingly so subtle can end up having such a huge impact! I can really see how this process would give children and young adults self-esteem by having their voices not only heard and valued, but being put into practice.

I also love this new outlook I am gaining that resistance and conflict is to be valued and sometimes even celebrated as it can be an opportunity for growth and evolution for a whole community or even a society. It also goes right along with other systems we are putting into practice such as Non-violent-communication, Emotional Literacy, and Transformative Justice.

I am looking forward to using this decision-making tool and putting it more into practice in our group and in the school, supporting myself, my loved ones and our communities to become more empowered, confident, and responsible contributing members of our societies.


Hi, it's me: Kathrin ;-) Thank you Becky for your wonderful words!

As promised in the last Systemic Consensing (SC) Blog, today I will walk you through some of the specifics of an SC-process and how it leaves room for everyone's voices to be heard and feelings to be acknowledged:

SC is based on the insight, that the lesser a suggestion is rejected by the group the more needs have been considered. Let me rephrase that - lower resistance to a suggestion, means more needs have been considered. Think about it: If my needs are not met, I feel resistance. If my needs are met, I feel OK.

Following the SC-principle, a group is therefore looking for the solution with the least resistance. (Sounds familiar? If not check out this Blog: Resistance is Valuable.)

Once a creative smorgasbord of suggestions has been collected, each suggestion is rated according to these resistance values:

As you can see SC allows you to value your feelings whilst making a decision

and taking everyone's suggestions into consideration, achieving the closest possible outcome to a consensus.

Let’s look at an example:

As we can see the suggestion

'Order what you like and we eat together'

has the least resistance points, marked green. This reflects the most sustainable solution for the group. It also doesn't stop Sue and/or Sam from preparing some food.

Remember 10 means: "This does not work for me." 0 means: "I can live with this."

The focus is on the group not on an individual or a majority achieving their favored goal.

However, for this approach to work, you need you to shift your mindset towards compromise, compassion, group cohesion and solidarity.

Another interesting and integral part of Systemic Consensing you can see here is the “Passive Solution” - with the highest resistance points marked red.

The Passive Solution is always listed as an option.

It describes how things are when everything remains as is, or when the group does not make a decison right now. The Passive Solution…

  • … allows for an unknown unfolding;

  • … describes the “as-is”-state;

  • ...can describes the consequences of not making a decision right now.

The “Passive Solution” provides answers to the following questions:

  • How sustainable is the status quo?

  • How much time and energy is the group willing to invest into a decision-making process?

In the example above you can see that the “Passive Solution” has the most resistance within the group. It reflects, that it's important for the group to eat together and seeing that might be a motivator to find a solution where they can eat together.

The SC process assumes that everyone has good reasons to say no.

We want to find solutions where everybody’s needs are met, even if that means the situation remains as is for now, because the status quo is better than any other solution the group can come up with. It reflects the need to look for more information, inspiration, help or support - or simply reassures the group that there is no need for change.

For all my German speaking friends out there: The “Passive Solution” keeps us from “verschlimmbessern” a situation (losely translated: “to improve something for the worse”).

By always testing for the “Passive Solution” we make sure the group doesn’t agree on a suggestions that is actually worse than what the situation is right now.

It can provide a lot of relieve or a sense of security, because there is always that option to fall back on; It opens up space and time for thought, creativity, listening to each other and checking in with your own needs and worries.

Combine this with the rating procedure...

0 = no objection

10 = strong objection

9-1 = according to your gut feeling

...and you have a system that works for people who need something tangible or visual to make up their mind AND it works for people who need to listen to their instincts, their gut, when making a decision. This process can be broken down to work for a wide range of abilities and needs. At school we most often use hand signals and a rating system of 0-2:

0 - hand on chest = no objection

1 - one hand in front of your body = signals little resistance and/or uncertainty

2 - both hands in front of your body = strong objection

Systemic Consensing allows us to acknowledge our feelings.

There is no need for giving in or holding back and having to leave meetings unhappy.

The SC-process helps to resolve tension and has a binding effect on groups - because the group wins, together!

I like to think of Systemic Consensing as a "Conflict-Transformation-Vehicle".

More to come, brrrum brrrrum!


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