I once worked with a cohousing community on revising their decision-making policy, with which many members were frustrated. It was seven pages long and I found it difficult to understand despite multiple readings; each community member I asked described it differently. Some bemoaned the fact that they could never get anything done because the process was so ponderous; others said, “It’s clear and easy, and it works great!” Even those who didn’t think the policy itself was a problem could see that their inability to agree on what it actually meant was a problem.

While this was the most extreme example I’d ever seen, many community policies share some of its flaws: too long and wordy; vague and/or open to too much interpretation; difficult to remember. How do our agreements get so convoluted? As we attempt to achieve consensus, we try to accommodate every possible contingency or exception and make everybody happy. We throw in lengthy statements of purpose and quibble over subtleties of wording.

During a three-hour meeting together, we started from scratch and created a new policy not unlike the original, with a few exceptions: it fits on one page; it is written in extremely simple language; the modular, bullet-point format makes it easy to amend.

In my next post, I’ll show you how to do it.