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Democratic method to be experimented at the BOB meeting in Cerbère: GAP (Group-Assembly Process)


Democratic method to be experimented at the BOB meeting in Cerbère: GAP (Group-Assembly Process)

(Amendments to the proposal are welcome until the 15th of september. )

Discuss, Propose, Decide, Act collectively

(GAP: Method by "consensus" with heavy emphasis on group process)

Decisions can be taken by a minority, by a majority, or collectively: by consensus (and not false consensus!). We choose the method of discussion / decision by consensus because it is the most democratic.

With this approach we collectively shape proposals taking into account the informations and concerns from each person. Achieving this requires preparation, participation, intellectual effort, good faith of each person, trust and a basic agreement on a preliminary or common goals. The consensus does not negate conflicts of ideas (which is the fuel for thinking better) or power, but deals with them collectively and wisely.

The proposed method addresses the problem of unfruitful debates in assembly and the exclusion of shy people in large groups, suggesting a heavy reliance on ephemer working groups - what we call workshops - and highlighting some roles division and the use of hand signals. Two phases are predominant:

The PLENARY (or Assembly) It is NOT a place for debate, but has five functions:

  • Dissemination of crucial information and results from workshops in a clear, concise and objective manner
  • Collection of concerns
  • Validate or not by consensus (using hand signals) results from workshops
  • Send back workshops at work when there is no consensus (or when the debate begins). Any person making an objection is committed to further improve the proposal in the workshop concerned
  • Identification of topics of workshops

The WORKSHOPS welcome debates

They discuss topics; They develop proposals; The workshops are open to participants interested in or affected by decisions or themes.

Stages of GAP

1 - Call. The facilitator calls for the meeting and supports the choice of script, time-keeper, vibe-watcher. Roles rotate.

2 - Formation of the assembly. Presentation of the method if necessary.

3 - Sharing information from previous meetings. Useful information are shared succinctly and only once. Tasks already identified are shared. Previous workshops present their results.

4 - Definition of objectives.

5 - Choice of new workshops. Their goal should be modest and non-competing. Decide how much time is dedicated to the next workshops' phase.

6 - Formation of workshops: small groups around each issue. 5 TO 10 people per group is ideal, it makes sense to divide large groups, very small groups are not a problem. A clearly defined and near-by space is assigned to each workshop.

7 - Workshops. A rapporteur is appointed. He/she is responsible for reporting the workshop results in plenary. Workshops debate.

Proposition Workshop: this workshop lead to a "consensus proposal". Five minutes before the end of the workshop, the proposal and title is written by the rapporteur and then presented at the plenary.

Discussion Workshop: This workshop develops a reflection. It contributes to the collective awareness by reporting in plenary a short summary of agreement and disagreement, reflections mentioned, key ideas, reversals and contradictions. Restitution is made in the workshop before being made in plenary.

A wide variety of tools (rounds, brainstorming, small papers, theater, games, for / against, exchanges between workshops, redivisions ...) can used in workshops.

8 - Back to assembly. Workshop participants return to plenary at the scheduled time.

9 - Proposition Workshop: the proposal is read by rapporteur in the plenary, a few clarifying questions can be made by facilitator. Only one proposal is made on each problem, the meeting is not a place of choice between alternatives. Proposals from workshops become decision if there are only agreements or only concerns that can be easily solved. Concerns that cannot be easily solved lead to the creation of a new workshop.

Discussion Workshop: The rapporteur read the report and answer a few questions or requests for new workshop.

Other tools for decision/discussion can be chosen by consensus (theaters, for/against, studies, invitation of specific experts, majority decision, drawings, open-space ...).


10- At the last plenary, the next themes and facilitators are identified.

A report is produced from material provided by the scripts and the rapporteurs. Sometimes a collective reporting can be achieved through an Internet wiki system. It is important to separate personal opinions and more objective inputs and take care and give representation to non-internet users.


FACILITATOR (in plenary)

He / she is responsible for the assembly to achieve its objectives in the allotted time, while remaining inventive to propose as soon as possible the best method. He / she calls the meeting, calls for the allocation of roles, facilitates the process of defining objectives / information sharing / discussion / proposal / decision or rejection of the workshop proposal but does not interfere with its opinion. He / she summarizes the results staying sober in words.

He / she assists in the process by suggesting some tentative themes of workshops (sometimes after a workshop). He / she deems when a debate is too involved and offers discussion workshop on the topics. When workshops are offered, he / she helps to assess the importance and ease of themes, and helps identify similar themes to group them.

He / she shall calls rapporteurs. Each proposal from the workshops, collecting the final title, the proposal made in sentence form, and if necessary a clear summary of the argument, he / she asks if there is consensus, and incorporates small amendments in new proposals.

RAPPORTEUR (workshop)

He / she notes down debates, and separately identified and the final title of the workshop and the proposal or summary of the discussions. He / she reports the key arguments and final proposals to the plenary.

SCRIPT (plenary, in the workshop the rapporteur acts as script)

The scripts take notes during plenaries.

TIME-KEEPER (he / she minutes plenary and workshops)

He/she feels responsible to meet the agreed time for discussion. He / she regularly announces the time. In the workshops, he / she warns of the imminent end of time.

VIBE WATCHER (scans plenary and workshops)

Strives to maintain a serene atmosphere. Observe how people talk. He / she is particularly sensitive to sexist behavior or other discrimination. He / she observes that the consensus is actually reached in watching for possible unexpressed problems. Gives his/her impressions after the event.

EXPERT (if applicable)

Comes amid debate, and is given more time to present an experience or knowledge. He / she makes some arguments then falls silent.

TRADUCTOR (plenary meeting and if necessary)

Translates directly to a small group or for everyone

TRANSMITTERS (in workshops)

Linking workshops, their role is to transmit information between workshops and coordinate workshops on related topics.

Everyone is responsible for the proper conduct of consensus and the atmosphere. Facilitator and vibe watchers can help but they do not remove from the other participants of the meeting the responsibility to reach consensus. Experience comes with practice.

SIGNS (to be used systematically in plenary and in workshops sometimes)

The signs are used by many groups. They enable not to cut each other's voice.

Agreement by waving hands: we can then identify at a glance the level of consensus that emerges gradually as proposals are made and concerns are expressed. They prevent the applause, and repeating ideas.

Index finger raised: to share an information or express a concern.

Two indexes risen: requests to brings-in a relevant and short information directly on the same topic, the request is not necessarily accepted by the facilitator.

Mill with the hands: means that the intervention drags-on. Widely used by time keeper.

T made with both hands: technical problem, not about ideas.

Proposals are being constructed, so we do not need a sign of disagreement, we need to express concerns

Point raised: block: "I leave the project or the meeting if my opinion is not taken into account." to be used to express that an important concern is not taken into account.

those that raise concerns, or block, have to take part in the corresponding workshop.

TIPS (for a good consensus and energy savings)

METHOD The most important is actually not the method, but the spirit in following it.

TIME BE IN TIME AT ASSEMBLIES AND WORKSHOPS. Multiply your time by the number of participants around the table, and you get the time that the meeting will last if everyone is talking as much as you. In other words, do not talk to please yourself, do not repeat what others have said and do not go into the details of your arguments. An idea is better expressed in a few words.

BREAKS Breaks create a calmer atmosphere. After a walk, a good meal or a game, the consensus process works much better. Omit a break can ruin or delay a decision process.

CREATIVE GAMES OR MINISITUATIONS To encourage the personal involvement and intellectual/practical ferment

READ BEFORE DEBATE Rather than starting at zero reflection, a text can sometimes be read and then worked in small groups.

ACTIVE LISTENING Active listening is more than waiting for the other to finish speaking. Do not contradict immediately, ask for better understanding, give space to those that are slower than you. Do not speak for others, speak for yourself.

COOPERATION In a consensus decision making, it is not about who wins or who happens to impose his ideas. It's about finding what you have in common (or different) and to cooperate. Avoid competition and let others inspire you.

IMPRESSIONS Tell how you feel and how you experience the behavior of others and ask questions about their needs.

LIABILITY Everyone is responsible for consensual decision-making. Where there has been previously agreed (on the assumption of a task by a person or group, for example), it must be possible without always being discussed again.

TRUST Trust the ability of small workshops to take concerns into account even if you take part in another workshop. We must consider the other as an attentive listener, and be yourself to keep motivating meetings.

POSTER Large piece of paper, to prepare proposals taking more time or express ideas that could not be expressed in plenary. Safety valve for long-time speakers

BASIC NEEDS In discussions difficult, go back to the basic needs of each of us can often make realize that views are not so distant.

PREPARATION Suggest plenary themes in a previous meeting allows them to ripen. A decision is better developed in several stages: information / discussion / decision, and take the time to let the leisure some minds less alert to contribute effectively.

TRAINING Set modest goals in the learning phase of the method. The method takes more time when experience is limited.

OBJECTIVE The aim of the workshops must be clearly defined. The workshop proposal seeking to establish the common denominator to reach a consensus on some points on a given topic ("consensus decision"). However the method can also be used to achieve diversity by identifying the variety of ideas in each workshop ("diversity dissensus"). This is the idea of ​​"brainstorming" ("brain storm") that can take large lists of ideas in a given area which can also be very helpful. But the goals should not be confused.

INFORMATION Information gathering in plenary (or workshop) is a crucial stage, it is important to be concise, and report data without trial known as objectively as possible.

in attachment, the method used in Gaillac in 2006, that serves as base of this proposal (it is in french)

decision_consensus_post_rencontres.doc45.5 KB
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