Community, using consensus and majority rules.

Originally written for the River Falls Journal Blog – Community Justice, Resotrative Justice

In restorative justice we use consensus.  This means we make space for everyone else and come to agreements that work for everyone.  It is really hard to imagine that this works.  I myself have been surprised by how the process is successful.

Majority rules means that a few people are left unhappy.

To compromise means each side wins a little and each side loses a little.

How do we build healthy community relationships when people are unhappy or have lost a little, despite winning a little?  Is it even possible?

I have had experiences in community building.  A classroom community of children is able to come together and maintain priorities of respect, responsibility and fair-mindness.  My nieces school has signs posted about the Wildcat Way and lists these 3 values.  Then in the classroom the teacher would ask students “Sam, are you thinking?”.  This question allowed student to find and experience their own redirection of behavior.  When we self-govern, at any age we are stronger in community.

The Constitution of the Unites States gives us great freedom and great responsibility.  I believe we have the tools and space needed to use consensus in our daily lives.  Using consensus in community is not easy.  Consensus calls on us to really examine ourselves.  Can we make room for the needs of others?  Can we meet our own needs without violating the needs of others?  These are the things you ask yourself, while you self-govern and be a good community member.

I was taught a technique/group exercise, by Kay Pranis, Circle keeper and author of Doing Democracy with Circles.  The exercise has left people feeling like they wanted to bolt from the room.  Some groups simple put the manipulative’s away, frustrated, the group agrees not to create anything.  A fellow Circle training was going to make a t-shirt “I survived the driftwood experience”.  Kay uses driftwood.  My point here is that consensus is not easy.  Consensus takes time and we live in a fast society.

Restorative Justice uses consensus where people prepare and come together over crime or conflict.  I have been amazed how once we take turns speaking, people find a common ground, a place of agreement.  We all have many, many experiences and perhaps yours are very different from mine.  I have room for your experiences, I use consensus on a regular basis.  I have been on both the giving and receiving end of other people making room for my views and values.  It makes you feel good and part of a bigger picture.  The picture of community where everyone is respected and everyone is important.