The day I consented to a proposal I hated

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It was yet another Thursday morning 7.30am – our weekly support circle meeting in Sociocracy For All with 3 staff people present. We were all stretched thin.

The last few months had been a phase of wild growth, and although exciting and wonderful, the constantly evolving roles and processes had been wearing on us. It felt like we were asked to grow up every day a bit more. The pace had increased so much that all our focus was on consolidation – it was our fourth year since starting this organization, growing from a “pop and pop shop” operating in their living room to 120 members worldwide and more of everything. That’s why the 4th year had been declared a theme: to make it easy for others to replicate what we had done, and to consolidate what felt like too many moving parts before what we projected for year 5: the grand expansion!

The proposal on the table that Thursday morning was to move all passwords for all the dozens of tools we were using into a unified account. It was reasonable and it was necessary. And I knew that at the speed I was going back then, it would inadvertently increase the chaos. I was using a different system than everyone else, and things like that just never go smoothly. And locking oneself out of IT tools when things have to move so fast was something I was not looking forward to. One team member had worded the proposal and brought it to our meeting. In our usual sociocratic process, the proposal was read and understood. We then proceeded to the typical reaction round. My other team members had already given their reactions, and it was my turn. Sometimes we call it a “quick reaction round” but what I was giving was not quick! It was more a 5 min rant. I was scared of being slowed down by password chaos. I hated that the tool of choice wasn’t the one I was used to. There were so many pieces that upset me, I can’t even recall them all! I completed my rant and our facilitator moved to the consent round. One team member consented. It was my turn. Naturally, I consented, prompting our third team member to almost jump off his chair in surprise! Hadn’t I just expressed at length how much I was against the proposal? He was even tempted to object in my place.

Why did I consent to the proposal that I hated? Because I knew it was necessary. Because I knew that in this case, making a choice – almost any choice! – would unify our efforts and would bring us closer to reaching our aim of “Providing SoFA infrastructure and administrative systems so that there is ease in running the organization”.

What had organically grown was not easy. So while I had personal feelings about the proposal and what it meant to me, I knew that in the long run, the proposal would benefit my circle. I could have objected to make it safer but I knew, I was completely capable of carrying it out without harm – it just wouldn’t be fun. But running a circle isn’t always about fun. In my facilitation classes, I teach that for consent/objections, the question on the table is not “do you like the proposal” but “do you think this proposal will contribute to achieving the circle’s aim?”. That was a clear yes. And that’s how I, whole-heartedly, consented to a proposal I hated!

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I think this is one of the key elements of spirit of consent - being able to see and prioritize the aims.

It’s not always easy, but I think having them explicitly defined certainly helps!