CoLab Decision Making and Policies

In order to work effectively together we need to make decisions and we need to have a sense of how our work and decision making sits in the context of a bigger whole.

In the CoLab we are developing and experimenting with different ways of doing that.

Currently, the CoLab practices consent decision-making.

What is consent decision making?

Consent decision making is a particular way of making decisions. Effectively, it goes something like this. When something is being put forward for decision making people are asked: Do you object? (they are not asked 'do you agree?' like in consensus decision making). Only if people actually object is a decision negative. When people do not object they are indicating that they can live with what is being proposed and things can go ahead.

You can see some further information about consent decision making below (in policy 4) and, if you are very interested in understanding it in more detail, you can read this document (provided by Sociocracy for All).

Where we take decisions?

All our work is online, and so we need different online tools to get all the jobs done. Day to day discussions happen on ‘Slack’, video meetings on ‘Zoom’, we coordinate our workload on ‘Trello’, create our docs on ‘Google docs’, and take policy decisions on ‘Loomio’. All of these tools allow different sized decisions to be made.

We make the really big ones on Loomio. So far we have made five big decisions on Loomio, and I’ll talk you through them.They form the core aims, approaches and principles of the CoLab. We call these policies and they apply to the whole CoLab.

CoLab policies

Policy 1: Adoption of sociocracy

There are other approaches to governance and decision making, but Sociocracy came up again and again in conversations, in responses and in the emerging work of permaculture and related networks (European Permaculture Network, Children in Permaculture project, Transition, Eco-villages, etc). Other approaches are available, but we have chosen Sociocracy, and feel confident that once we have learnt the core skills, it will run quietly in the background (through our collective working practice), so that we can focus on the exciting stuff - making permaculture happen big time!

All sociocratic policies have a ‘date agreed’ and a ‘review date’. It’s all about ‘good enough for now and safe enough to try’ - like our decision to use sociocracy!

Policy wording:

The Permaculture Co-Lab uses sociocratic principles to structure its organisation and decision making processes. Training and resources will be provided to ensure participants are able to learn about and use sociocracy effectively.

Policy 2: Vision, Mission, Aims

Policy 2 frames our collective decision making. All the people that work in the CoLab are working towards the same vision and mission, although we will often be working on very specific aims with that broader vision. The VMA statement will be reviewed regularly.

Policy wording:

The Vision, Mission and Aims (VMA) give direction to all the activities, groups and projects within the CoLab. All working groups and projects are working towards achieving one or more aspects of the VMA.

Vision: A healthy, peaceful and socially just world in which we care for the earth, each other and future generations, in harmony with nature.

Mission: To work together to enhance the coherence and effectiveness of local to global permaculture networks both formal and informal.

- To provide a collaborative and convivial online space in which to work towards the Co-Lab’s vision and mission;
- To identify opportunities to enhance the coherence and effectiveness of local, regional, national, continental and global permaculture networks;
- To research, assess and provide information about the current state and extent of permaculture thinking and practice and its strategic context to enable effective planning, project design and network development;
- To identify and mobilise resources that support participants to nurture existing initiatives and develop new eco-social enterprises, projects and initiatives that address identified challenges, or add additional value to permaculture networks;
- To communicate with permaculture networks and allies to ensure wide understanding of the CoLab and active participation from around the world; - To make effective links between permaculture and allied networks that enhance our collective work towards our shared visions;
- To work towards a multi-lingual platform that enables wide participation from across the worldwide permaculture community;
- To work towards eliminating racism, patriarchy, the class system and any other manifestations of the oppressive society (aka the Patrix) that present major blocks to healthy and diverse participation in both the Colab and the wider permaculture network.
- To provide and document existing training and learning resources to enable people to participate and work effectively together;
- To use and document the process of CoLab development to actively learn and unlearn organisational development processes suited to complex multi-layered networks.

Policy 3: Making proposals

The key to understanding p is that different teams work on different things, and it is clear what each team is doing. In sociocracy each team has a ‘domain’ that describes their scope of work, what the team is working to achieve, and how it relates to the CoLab’s overall aims. This reduces duplication and wasted effort, and means each team knows who else to talk to.

Policy wording:

All proposals relate directly to achieving the CoLab’s Vision, Mission and Aims. Proposals become policy when they are consented by the relevant team processing them by using the consent decision-making process. Any member of the CoLab can suggest a proposal for any other team.

It is important that all proposals provide:

- clear and relevant background context and information,
- a clear and concise statement of what the proposed policy is,
- a date when the policy will be reviewed if the proposal achieves consent.

Policy 4: Consent Decision Making

Good enough for now, safe enough to try is the spirit of this. The practice involves developing proposals, checking for consent and/or any objections, using objections to strengthen the proposal, until the proposal is ‘good enough’  for everyone. It doesn’t have to be your most favourite thing ever (it might be), but you can live with it. Paramount objections can stop proposals.

We did learn to recognise tension, to talk about it, and to resolve it consciously as soon as we can. It's hard, but well worth the effort. People make better decisions together when they can talk openly and without stress.

Policy wording:

The Permaculture Co-Lab uses consent decision making. Consent decision making is a methodology with a specific meaning and practice.

You can read a short summary about consent decision making and how to create and support an enabling decision making culture on the website.

Policy 5: Scope of the CoLab

The CoLab is as big or as little as we make it. There is no coercion, no one telling anyone what to do, no group setting policy for the whole permaculture world. Instead there is an experimental online space for collaboration.

Policy wording:

The Co-Lab is open to the opt-in participation of individuals, teams, groups, enterprises, networks and organisations whose focus is primarily the development of permaculture systems and solutions.

Its geographical scope is global, and its scope of work is defined by the Vision, Mission and Aims. Participating members agree to work in line with agreed policies and towards our shared vision, mission and aims.

The CoLab only makes decisions for itself. It is not a decision making body for the wider permaculture network.

To IPC India

We are finally ready! In a matter of days, IPC India will be underway, and the next phase begins - using the CoLab to develop real projects that can enhance the effectiveness and coherence of local to global permaculture networks. The rules are clear, we have a system that can evolve, and a space to work together when we aren’t in the same room. I think there is an enormous appetite to work together now with many new collaborative projects emerging. I’m very excited about this next phase and hope you will join us!

Andy Goldring, 14th November 2017