The Business of Living HereThe Business of Living Here
Meetings, Decision making, our HOA / Condo Association, Fiscal policies, and more
Meetings & DecisionsMeetings & Decisions
For our meeting schedule, check the calendar on the home page.
We use a color-card system to help our discussion and consensus process.
We have many roles during the meetings. One or two people arrive first to set up the room. Our facilitators guide the presenters and the rest of the group through discussion and decision process. A notetaker and an action-item recorder help us keep track of everything. One person volunteers to be a process observer, and keep an eye on the emotional temperature of the meetings. Our residents, prospective members and visitors all participate in the discussion, but only residents participate in decisions.
Under some circumstances, we make decisions outside of meetings, using our Urgent Decisions process. Members who will not be at a General Meeting can proxy, per these guidelines. We also do have the ability to fall back to a 3/4 vote if we are unable to come to consensus on an issue in a couple of meetings (we have not yet needed to vote).
Color CardsColor Cards
We use color cards as a tool for reaching consensus, and to help organize our discussions.
If you have any questions about the cards or the meeting process in general, please feel free to talk to someone on the facilitation team.
|Blue||Comment: I have a comment or opinion.|
|Yellow||Question: I have a question or need clarification.|
||Answer: I can provide clarification, by providing information that I feel is pertinent to a question raised.|
|Orange||Acknowledgement: I appreciate your contribution made to the group (thank you)!|
|Red||Process: I have a process observation (e.g., discussion is off-topic).|
|Green||I agree with the proposal.|
|Yellow||I have a question that must be answered before I make a decision.|
|Blue||I am neutral or have some slight reservation.|
|Orange||I have a serious reservation but will not block consensus.|
|Red||Block: I am against the proposal and feel it would be bad for the group.|
Decisions between MeetingsDecisions between Meetings
When a member (Associate or Resident) determines that we need to come to consensus on an issue between general meetings, he or she will bring the issue to Steering. Steering is responsible for invoking and tracking this process, and may delegate to the initiator or someone else to do some of the steps below.
If a decision has been determined to be time-critical by Steering and may need to be taken to a vote between meetings, additional steps apply as noted. Time-critical decisions that need to happen during meetings are addressed by the Time Critical Decisions policy.
Wording for the proposal will be determined and communicated to all members first electronically, including the timeframe required for the decision and whether the decision is time-critical. Members are responsible for answering the poll, including whether they are abstaining. Members who have opted out of decisions between meetings may answer the poll, but are not required for the 75% threshold
If the decision is time critical, each person will be asked to both give a card and to give their vote in case of a fallback to vote.
A sign will be put up on the front door of the common house indicating that there is a decision between meetings in process, the proposal wording, and the deadline. In addition, Steering (or delegate) will try at least one other way (phone, knocking on doors, etc) to reach each and every member who has not opted out of decisions between meetings. People who submit cards by phone or in person will have their answers entered for others to view.
Based on the comments and cards of others, members can go back and change their cards until the decision closes.
75% of members who have not opted out of decisions between meetings must provide a response in order to close the decision. If a third or more of the responses are orange cards or if there are any red cards, the decision does not pass.
If a time critical decision does not pass, we then fall to a vote.
Decisions between meetings will be reported by Steering (or delegate) at the next General Meeting and added to the minutes at that time. The date of the decision in the decision log will be the date the result of the decision is announced.
Delegation & Power LevelsDelegation & Power Levels
In the team mandates, and in our discussion, we sometimes mention Power Levels. Here are the definitions:
Power Level 1: May ask that an issue come to plenary (at a minimum, everyone has this power, assuming the request meets the group-defined standards for what's plenary worthy).
Power Level 2: May bring a proposal to plenary. This would generally happen in the context of a team operating within their territory and where the factors that need to be balanced have already been defined by the plenary.
Power Level 3: May post a tentative decision which will become a group agreement if no one objects within a specified amount of time; the proposal need not come to plenary if concerns can be addressed outside.
Power Level 4: May make binding decisions on their own; they only have to announce the decision.
Any member of Mosaic Commons Cohousing may request an exception to an existing policy. All exceptions will be submitted to Steering who may decide them, pass them to another team or bring them to the plenary. The expectation is that finances and physical plant issues will be referred to Trustees. Steering will tell the community about the exception and how it is being addressed.
Gatekeeping Plenary AgendasGatekeeping Plenary Agendas
Laird Schaub, Friday, January 25, 2008
Gatekeeping Plenary Agendas
I'm in Asheville this weekend, doing a CANBRIDGE series of workshops on cooperative group dynamics. This evening I presented key elements of consensus, and there's a new piece of theory that I've recently added to what I offer on this subject: how the agenda gets drafted for plenaries (meetings of the whole).
Group time is expensive. If you've got 20 in your group, a three-minute statement uses one hour of people time. So you want to minimize confusion about the agenda and make sure that all topics are queued up and ready to go. Here's my best thinking about how to do that:
Create a standing cmtee whose task it is to be the gatekeeper for plenary agendas. Caution #1: the composition of this cmtee may be delicate. It has to be large enough to be widely accessible to the group's membership; it has to be small enough to be able to function expeditiously. I'm think perhaps 3-4 people is the right number (that way, when someone is on vacation or sick, the cmtee can still function well). Caution #2: For this cmtee, don't simply ask for volunteers. The make-up of this group needs to be perceived as fairly balanced, to be well trusted.
Assuming you've selected a good representative group, their job is to vet any and all suggestions for what makes it to the plenary floor. Essentially they'll use three screens to do this. In sequence, they'll test for:
1. Is the topic plenary worthy? The cmtee should be acting on the group's behalf to make sure that all things coming forward are appropriate for whole group attention. That means the group will need to have a conversation about what's worth their time (so that the cmtee will have guidance about what the screen should be—you don't want them just making something up!). Hint: here are my suggestions about the kinds of things that might qualify:
o clarifying cmty values (both in general and how they are to be applied in a specific situation)
o establishing process agreements by which the cmty will operate
o determining mandates for cmtees that serve the plenary (as opposed to mandates for subcmtees, which will be determined by the cmtees they serve)
o relationships for neighbors, other organizations, and government
o changes to the cmty budget (excepting where that authority has been clearly delegated)
o evaluation of cmtees which serve the plenary
o membership process
o establishment of members' rights and responsibilities
o expulsion, or other involuntary changes to a member's rights and responsibilities
o anything for which there is no established cmtee or manager to handle it on behalf of the cmty (once it has been determined to be, in some sense, cmty business).
o court of last resort in cases where internal cmty disputes are not settled through other means
Note that it is not that unusual for some aspects of a topic to be plenary worthy and some aspects not to be. It's the gatekeepers' job to use discernment and help protect the plenary from inappropriate agendas. If something doesn't fit—in the Gatekeepers view—they should suggest where it should go instead (perhaps to a cmtee or manager with sufficient authority to deal with the issue at that level).
2. Is the topic mature enough? Has all the research you might reasonably anticipate being needed been done? Can it be posted sufficiently ahead of the mtg that everyone has a decent chance to look over the background materials? Does the presenter have their schtick together? Is the objective for the plenary focus clear?
3. What is the priority of this topic relative to others that have passed the first two screens? That is, there may be more topcis that are worthya dn mature than can be done in the time available for the next pkenary. Don't try to shoehorn a 3-hour agenda into a 90-minute mtg. Pick what's most important, most urgent, or been waiting the longest, and let the other topics wait for another mtg.
Note that the gatekeepers should not approach their job as the Agenda Police. Rather they should be problem solvers, helping members and cmtees to think creatively about what is a good use of plenary time, and what will help them get their needs met. They are seeking the intersection of the group's needs and those of the people petitioning for time on the plenary floor.
If there's dissatisfaction with the gatekeepers decision, there should be a right of appeal whereby unsuccessful petitioners can get plenary time to make a pitch for why they think their issue should come before the whole group and ovetunr the gatekeepers assessment. Note: this is not an opportunity for an end run to discus the topic; it's a chance to make one last attempt to have cmty support for topci about the issue at a later date. Don't confuse the two.
Once they crafted a draft agenda, the gatekeepers should turn their work over to the Facilitation Team for determining who should run the mtg, in what order topics should appear, and with what format they should be addressed. I'll discuss how the Facilitation Team should approach their work in my next blog
Ground RulesGround Rules
- When in doubt about the process, the facilitator decides.
- Use the Color Cards.
- Stay on topic.
- No side conversations.
- Speak for yourself, and allow others to speak for themselves.
- Be succinct.
- Avoid repeating a point or idea that has already been stated by yourself or others.
- Listen for understanding before you react.
- Ask questions rather than make assumptions — if confused, ask!
- Emotions are okay, aggression is not.
A proxy is a way of participating in a consensus call when you're not at a meeting. A proxy must be given to someone on the Facilitation Team — telling a friend or partner is not sufficient for a proxy.
You may proxy when we are deciding on a policy or other document where the wording has been finalized and sent out in advance, and we don't expect further discussion in a meeting. For example, if we have a final copy of a contract and we only need to take cards to get official approval after having worked through people's comments and concerns, you could proxy on that decision.
If there is a decision where there will be substantial discussion before the final wording is established and consensus called for, you may share your concerns with the group via email beforehand or by sending along something to be read on your behalf. You may not proxy a card in this situation. For example, if we're discussing a draft of a policy for which we have options of different approaches, a proxy would not be appropriate.
If the discussion leads to a decision that you don't feel you can support, you should raise the issue for further discussion at the next meeting, per our initial Organizing Agreement.
People who know they will be missing a meeting and who want to address a topic that will be discussed at the meeting are, as always, welcome to discuss it via email beforehand.
We require that people participating in a consensus decision in the group be up-to-date on the issue at hand. While this is less of a factor for people showing blue or green cards on an issue, the expectation is that someone holding a red or orange card on a question will be informed enough on the issue that s/he can speak effectively to his/her concerns, so that the group can address them.
It's important for all of us to remember that consensus decision-making is a process, and something that doesn't work for someone in the group can usually be reworked in such a way that everyone can come away happy. We encourage everyone to start discussions with a flexible frame of mind!
Red Card and Plenary Decision MakingRed Card and Plenary Decision Making
The intention of this policy is to make the red card a part of our process rather than a stop to our process. This agreement and the criteria it names are intended to be flexible, but outlined so everyone can know how to engage the process.
Please assume that all participants are competent and of good will.
Please assume that the community both values and is committed to having those who disagree with proposals help seek mutually acceptable and workable solutions.
The goal of the red card process is to make it so that people who believe that a decision is not in the best interest of the community can stop that decision. Use of a valid red card blocks a proposal. It is expected that those stopping the decision will work with the proposers to resolve any issues, usually in time for the next meeting of the plenary.
The second time the same, perhaps revised, proposal comes to the plenary, if there continue to be valid red cards around the same issues, any member, including the facilitator, can call for a decision on whether the group is deadlocked. If a deadlock is declared, the decision on the proposal proceeds to a vote, to be held at the next scheduled meeting of the plenary, or at a special meeting, depending on urgency. The agenda for the meeting will highlight that a ‘Community Vote’ will take place. Cohousing proposals require a 75% majority of those present to pass.
HOA decisions will follow the voting policies outlined in sections 4.1, 4.2, 5.9.3, and 5.10 of the Mosaic Commons Declaration of Trust:
At each pass, people using red and orange cards will be given the opportunity to choose to stand aside rather than block the decision. To stand aside is to say that you have an individual objection but a willingness for the community, having heard your objection, to move ahead. Stand Asides do not block. People who stand aside are not exempted from the results of the decision. There are circumstances where Facilitation may decide that we have not really come to consensus and the issue will be referred back to the proposer(s).
Valid Red Cards
After the person who used a red card explains their objection, the facilitator calls for a second member to affirm their reasoning to help make sure that the community's interests are upheld. This person does not have to AGREE with the block, just agree that the reasoning is valid.
On the first pass a valid use of a red card is one where
The person using the red card argues that the proposal is not in the best interests of this community as a whole:
The content does not further or protect Mosaic Commons’ values, mission, practices, or vision.
The process used to develop the proposal conflicts with Mosaic Commons’ values, mission, practices or vision.
For content objections, the person using the red card has been involved in some way with this discussion before this meeting - either online, at a past meeting, or in conversation with one of the proposers or team members presenting. If the proposal has come to the plenary for first discussion and decision in a single meeting, the discussion in the meeting counts as involvement.
After the person who used a red card explains their reasoning, one member of the plenary affirms the validity of the reasoning with respect to #1 above.
On the second pass a valid use of a red card is one where
The person using the red card argues that the proposal is not in the best interests of this community as a whole - it does not further or protect Mosaic Commons’ values, mission, practices, or vision.
The person using the red card
has been involved in the revisioning process.
is red carding for a new reason because of changes to the proposal (and has not been involved in the revision process.)
After the person who used a red card explains their reasoning, one member of the plenary affirms the validity of the reasoning with respect to #1 above.
Time Critical DecisionsTime Critical Decisions
From time to time, we will be faced with the need to make a decision in a single meeting, without taking it to several meetings before falling back to a vote. This policy is intended to be used only for those time-critical decisions.
The team or presenter for a given item should make an announcement to the trustees in response to the call for agenda items preceding that meeting. The group will be asked to consense on the time critical nature of the decision and a discussion deadline time at that meeting. If we do not reach consensus on the decision in question by that time, we will follow our voting procedure to decide the question at that meeting. The facilitators may decide that we are close to consensus on an issue, and may push back the deadline to accommodate that, before falling back to a vote.
Note from the construction phase: "If we fail to consense on falling back to a vote, do not have a quorum, or for any other reason fail to make the decision, we will accept any and all impact of the lack of a decision, and not hold our professionals responsible for it."
If no consensus can be reached on a proposal after consensus has been called for at each of two consecutive meetings, with at least eighteen hours between such meetings, the proposal may be deemed deadlocked.
At the end of the second meeting or at any subsequent meeting, any Member or Associate can call for a decision that the proposal is deadlocked. If a Quorum is present and a 3/4 Majority of the votes cast agrees that the proposal is deadlocked, a vote shall be taken at the next meeting.
When the vote is taken, if a Quorum has submitted votes and the proposal is approved by a 3/4 Majority of the votes cast, the proposal shall be accepted. Proxy votes count in figuring the Quorum and in tallying votes.
Guidelines for Voting
Consensus/voting (in the event that consensus cannot be reached on a given question):
A. When dealing with decisions pertaining to organizational and administrative structure, finances, acquisition and disposal of property interests, and legal concerns of the Group, each Member Household shall be entitled to a single vote.
B. When dealing with decisions regarding present and future living matters in the cohousing community such as social activites, rules and regulations, committee membership, and other community tasks, all participating individuals (Members and Associates) shall have individual votes.
In the event of a disagreement as to whether a particular matter belongs under subsection a or b above, the particular decision will automatically be considered to fall under subsection a.
HOA / Condo AssociationHOA / Condo Association
Current Mosaic Trustees
Current Mosaic representative on the Sawyer Hill Board of Trustees
Mosaic Commons is set up as a condominium and governed by our Condo Documents, below. All homeowners are part of our homeowner's association, Mosaic Commons Condominium Trust. Unlike a traditional condominium, we are a cohousing community. Residents and owners are therefore active participants in managing our community. Mosaic Commons cohousing makes decisions by consensus at monthly meetings, and on our community mailing list.
Sawyer Hill Documents
- Master Deed of The Sawyer Hill Condominium, Book 43600, Page 301
- Condominium Site and Floor Plans (8 Sheets), Plan Book 872, Plan 54
- Declaration of Trust of The Sawyer Hill Condominium Trust, Book 43600, Page 337
HOA Voting ProcessHOA Voting Process
From the Mosaic Commons Condominiums Trust - Declaration of Trust as of July 25, 2017 - this does not supersede the actual language of the declaration.
Section 4.1 Beneficial Interest; Vote.
The beneficiaries of this Trust shall be the Unit Owners. The beneficial interest in this Trust shall be divided among the Unit Owners in percentage of undivided beneficial interest appertaining to the respective Units as set forth in the Master Deed. Notwithstanding the beneficial interest in this Trust, each Unit will be entitled to one (1) vote unless otherwise specified in the Master Deed, this Declaration of Trust or the Bylaws.
Section 4.2 Each Unit to Vote by One Person.
The beneficial interest of each Unit of the Condominium shall be held and exercised as a Unit and shall not be divided among several owners of any such Unit. To that end, whenever any Unit is owned of record by more than one person, the several owners of such Unit shall (a) determine and designate which one of such owners shall be authorized and entitled to cast votes, execute instruments and otherwise exercise the rights appertaining to such Unit hereunder, and (b) notify the Trustees of such designation by a notice in writing signed by the record owners of such Unit. Any such designation shall take effect upon receipt by the Trustees and may be changed at any time and from time to time by notice as aforesaid. In the absence of any such notice of designation, the Trustees may designate any one such owner for such purposes.
Section 5.9.3 Notice of Certain Matters; Quorum; Majority Vote.
Whenever at any meeting the Trustees propose to submit to the Unit Owners any matter with respect to which specific approval of, or action by, the Unit Owners is required by law or this Declaration of Trust, the notice of such meeting shall so state and reasonably specify such matter. Unit Owners shall attempt in good faith to reach a consensus of all Unit Owners in attendance before putting any matter to a vote, and if such a consensus is reached, the decision shall be binding and recorded in the minutes of the meeting. If a consensus is not reached, the matter may be proposed to the Unit Owners for a binding vote. Unless otherwise specified in this Declaration for a particular kind of decision, all matters shall require the approval of sixty-six and sixty-six one hundredths percent (66.66%) of all present Unit Owners at any duly called meeting at which a quorum is present. There shall be a quorum at any meeting of the Unit Owners if there are eighty percent (80%) or more Unit Owners present. Each unit shall have one vote to be deisgnated in accordance with Section 4.2.
Section 5.10 Notice to Unit Owners.
Every notice to any Unit Owner required under the provisions of this Declaration of Trust which may be deemed by the Trustees necessary or desirable in connection with the execution of the Trust created hereby or which may be ordered in any judicial proceeding shall be deemed sufficient and binding if in writing addressed to the Unit Owner and delivered to the Unit Owner's inbox in the Common House, delivered postage prepaid to such person at his or her address last appearing on the Trustees' records if other than the Unit or else mailed and delivered to the Unit at least seven days prior to the date fixed for the happening of the matter, thing or event of which such notice is given. Each Unit Owner shall have the responsibility of providing the Trustees with the correct name and mailing address of the present Unit Owner to whom they desire notices to be mailed withing sixty (60) says of acquisition of the Unit or from time to time when there are changes in the Unit Owner's name and mailing address, as to which the Trustees shall have no duty of inquiring beyond their records. Unit Owners waive any objection to the adequacy of notice regarding any particular meeting by attending the meeting.
Trustee's Fiscal PoliciesTrustee's Fiscal Policies
The trustees, as managers of both HOA and CoHousing budgets, will follow these fiscal policies:
1. Each team is authorized to spend their budgeted allocations within their mandate without needing additional approval. Trustees should be notified in advance of any single expense over $500, and teams need to work with trustees on timing/cash flow if they anticipated spending over $1,000 in a given month.
2. The community will consense on all expenditures from either the HOA or CoHousing capital reserves [except as explicitly allowed by 2a. and 2b. below]. However, before going to the community HOA reserve requests should come to trustees for their recommendation. (CoHousing Reserve Requests will be handled first by Common Resources)
2a. Planned Reserve Spending, HOA - The trustees can authorize spending out of the HOA reserves up to the lesser of $10,000 or 10% of current reserves. Such spending must be on items outlined in the most recent reserve study conducted by the community. Whenever possible, the trustees will notify the community at least 3 days in advance of such expenditure. In any event, the trustees will notify the community within 30 days of each such expenditure, via email and/or a regular report at a General Meeting.
2b. Planned Reserve Spending, CoHousing - Common Resources can authorize spending out of the CoHousing reserves up to $2000. Such spending must be on items outlined in the CoHousing Reserve Plan. Whenever possible, Common Resources will notify the community at least 3 days in advance of such expenditure. In any event, Common Resources will notify the community within 30 days of each such expenditure, via email and/or a regular report at a General Meeting. Common Resources will also follow the notification requirements of fiscal policy 1 whenever such spending exceeds those thresholds.
3. With approval from both teams concerned, trustees can authorize transfer of miscellaneous or other unspent funds of up to $250 from a team’s budget to another team which has or foresees to overspend their budgeted amount. Any transfer above this amount requires community approval.
4. In February of each year the trustees will present to the community a balance of the previous year's accounts with recommendations on how to allocate any previous year’s unspent funds.
Sliding ScaleSliding Scale
This process describes how households decide what their contribution to the cohousing group's costs will be.
It does not apply to condo fees, but is used for the cohousing group monthly fees. It can also be used for other expenses if appropriate.
The group will come to consensus on a cohousing budget.
The trustees will compute the average contribution needed from owner occupied households to cover the agreed budget.
For example: An average bid of $70 per household will fully fund this year's budget.
Each household decides on their monthly pledge level to the cohousing budget, with the minimum allowed pledge being 5% of the average bid required to fully fund the budget.
In this decision, households can be guided by how much they use community resources, and approximating how their income compares to other households. They can also consider whether they expect to make more or less money in the coming year. Further, they can freely decide to contribute as much as they feel comfortable with, in support of the less wealthy members of the community. The households indicate to the budget team of the trustees how much they will contribute.
The trustees determine whether total pledges fully fund the budget.
If yes, the trustees pass on the good news, and households are given the new monthly numbers. Pledge totals above that needed to fully fund the .budget will be brought to the community to decided on which, if any, additional items should be moved into the budget
If no, the trustees pass on the bad news. Households are informed of the gap and asked to reconsider pledge levels. (Step 3 is repeated.) If this fails, we move on to step 5
The trustees may regroup and propose for consensus a reduced budget to match the maximum contribution offers.
Sliding Scale (Original Decision)Sliding Scale (Original Decision)
The central idea of this agreement is that once a budget figure has been agreed on by the group, households can decide what their contribution to the group's costs will be. The decision will be supported by anonymous information that will help a household determine where on the economic spectrum it is located. If this process does not produce enough contributions, it can either be repeated or the budget can be rethought.
The group decides on a target figure (for monthly dues, consultants' fees, annual budget, etc.)
A committee receives anonymously an annual income figure from each household (e.g. the Adjusted Gross Income from last year's tax return).
The committee computes first the average contribution needed from all households to cover the target figure. Then a proposed sliding scale from 75% to 125% is computed. This sliding scale is published together with an anonymous graph depicting the economic variation among the households. The committee might indicate which contribution level roughly corresponds to which income level. Example:
|Average contribution needed||$4,000 (from 25 households)|
|Sliding scale:||$3,000 (75%) — $4,000 (100%) — $5,000 (125%)|
|Income distribution:||4 households||< $50,000 / year|
|11 households||$50,000 – $75,000|
|7 households||$75,000 – $100,000|
|3 households||> $100,000|
Each household decides on their own at which point on the sliding scale of contributions they want to be located for the budget period. In this decision, they can be guided by seeing how their income compares to other households. They can also consider whether they expect to make more or less money in the coming year. Further, they can freely decide to contribute as much as they feel comfortable with, in support of the less wealthy members of the community. The households indicate to the committee (still anonymously?) how much they will contribute.
The committee determines whether there are enough contributions to reach the target figure. If yes, the committee passes on the good news. Households firm up their commitment in some way and the process is over. If no, the committee passes on the bad news. First, households are asked to reconsider whether they might be able to contribute more. So, step 4 is repeated. If it still fails, the committee lets the group know that the budgeted figure will have to be reduced.