How do we take and document our decisions

Hello! Big topic :slight_smile:

Our pledge says the following:

For the decisions that concern more than one Open Food Network Affiliate, or the broader community, the given process should apply:

* Someone opens a thread on [ and share about the situation, the tension, and the proposal he/she asks the community to decide upon.
* The person who opens up the thread is in charge of facilitating it and asking specific people to contribute, or can ask someone to facilitate.
* In particular, the facilitator needs to make sure the people/partners impacted by the decision are asked to contribute to the discussion.
* If a consensus or a consent emerges from the discussion and no one objects, the decision is taken through “lazy consent”. This means that we will assume agreement in the absence of any objection.
* If no consent can be reached, then a vote can be called. In that case, every Affiliate has one voice, and a decision requires ⅔ of support to be adopted. [NB. Voices of other Members to be considered on a case by case basis e.g. depending on the issue] 

Which I think is a very good base and works in most cases :tada: However as we grow OFN global starts to have more and more decisions to make and we need to go a step further in our decision process to help us take decisions with the least pain. This is why I’m opening this topic: I think there is material to document a bit further our decision process for OFN global.

A few issues I have encounter people saying:

  1. “we don’t know who are the people impacted by the decision”
  2. “we are afraid decisions are being made without us”
  3. “we read discourse posts but at the end we don’t know if a decision has been made”. I heard this one often. I think we do this, but there are a lot of topics where only a few people participate, so they never reach a conclusion. Let’s call this problem the 3bis : “we have unresolved questions”.
  4. “if a vote needs to happen between people who are not representing instances, how does it work? Who gets a voice, who gets more weight?”

Some ideas on decision involving several circles

I’m dumping ideas here taking into account that we are structuring ourselves in circles. Aside from chats I had with @Thomas this has not been discuss anywhere before if I’m not mistaken - so please consider these as ideas everyone can heavily martyrize.

1: As long as the decision is involving only one circle, this circle can decide on its own how to make that decision and where to store it

(of course we should aim at reducing the numbers of tools we are using but that is another debate :smiley: )

I’m proposing this in order to simplify a bit the process to start and especially because I think our problem space is more about how to take decisions when several circles are involved.
It’s only solving partially issue number 1, but I feel like it is easier to first ask: should I check my proposal with only my circle or is this more global?

2: if the decision involves several circles, at least 2 people need to facilitate the proposal

I’ve noticed this during the recent Reactive Reals vs React discussion. It was great that Lynne step up to hold the “business” proposal while Matt was facilitating the tech proposal.
Maybe we can build a best practice around this and always find a representative in each circle impacted? The team thus formed would work on a proposal to bring to the global community for final decision.

3: Introducing time frames & deadlines

This was introduced in a presentation @Thomas gave at a global hangout. I’m re-introducing this idea here because I feel we need to anticipate a bit our decisions so we have time to discuss them. This means writing up some rules to give an idea of how long the community has to reach a decision.
Something like:

  • no decisions involving several circles can be made in less than 48 hours (to solve issue number 2 I’m even tempted to say a week… also for timezones reasons and for post like the one I’m doing right now on a Friday night :grin: )
  • In Open Food France & CoopCircuits we organize our decisions timeline like this:
  1. A post is shared and people can start commenting / asking questions - D
  2. People are asked to give their opinion starting at D + 8
  3. A decision is made at D + 16

What do you think? It means that discussions are open during 2 weeks in which people can also make amendments / different proposals. If it is a bigger decision that needs a longer process it can of course be made. It’s just a generic approach.

4: Always conclude something after the deadline

I might be completely naïve, but I’m under the impression that if no decision were made on some topics it was either because there was no rush, either because we had lots of decision at the same time and the facilitator got lost.
I think that in these cases, time frames are helping: after the post is open for 2 weeks we can either left it open for another period of time or take some time to properly document that no decision was made because [reason]. - Hoping this can help on issue number 3.

5: Create a list of handles to ping

I don’t think it’s a good idea to start thinking about tools for decision making process before agreeing on our decision making process :grin: . So in the meantime, in order to help on issue number 1, how about we create a list of handles per circles so that we just need to copy paste these handles in our discourse posts? I’ve also seen that the group feature of discourse can generate handles, but I haven’t dig deeper at this stage.

And re voting I absolutely have no idea how to define voting, but I agree it is very interesting to define it before needing to vote on something. Indeed votes only occur if we need to reach a decision and no consent is emerging.
For example in France, if we need to use a vote, people working for OFN or using OFN services/softwares have more weight in the voting process than other people. But how to introduce this within OFN global circles? Do we say each circle has 1 voice? And to start, each circle has equivalent weight?

haha I almost feel like I should have made 1 discourse post per idea… I hope this is readable!


Hey, this is a very nice read. Thank you! :slight_smile:
I agree to everything you say - from 1 to 5!

The first question that came to my mind when reading 1 and 2 was:
Are the circles clearly defined, documented and communicated? If so, where?
I could only find drafts from the Global Gathering here.

Thanks so much Rachel - well said, and I’m so glad someone took the time to document!! I concur with the processes you suggest. But - I don’t really know how to apply decision processes right now because, I don’t think we have finished forming our circles (or at least the key ones).

For example, I think we are assuming circles exist and people are in them. But I don’t think this is clear - I don’t know which circles I’m in for example. I know I dip into slack discussions - but I never understood I was making decisions as part of a circle. More importantly - I’m not sure others understand I’m a ‘delegate’ to a circle and making decisions there on behalf of them.

If we have a kind of ‘gut’ or intuitive feeling about whose in what circles then it should be easy to just document this: Who the circles fist members? Then those members can document: what things will the circle make decisions about? and what is the process for joining the circle? . Then an invitation to join the circle could be clearly issued. From there, the circle will grow and can decide other things (who it will communicate with? what tool it will use? will it have zoom meetings?..)

I"m sorry if I am stuck and others aren’t. If circles and membership are clear to others - maybe just share your understanding?

I think, at least at this stage, we need to acknowledge that circles are living things and will not be started or finished. Many of our circles will likely change in membership often, particularly those mostly of unpaid team members, so I would suggest that at this stage we can use process rather than boundaries (as per Rachel’s post) to navigate without becoming rigid. We might need firmer boundaries in the future, but let’s not build preemptive fences in fear :wink:

If there is a circle that particularly worries you in the lack of visibility or knowledge you have about it, that would be a strong indicator that you see something others don’t. This is a gift and i would invite you to act to resolve the tension you feel. I encourage us to live like a wild organism - our emotions are our guides to act :wink:

This is the most needed thing right now. A kind of index of circles and handles, that can be updated by anyone(?) and includes handles on Slack and Discourse for anyone that wants to be notified of things going on within the circle.

As a proposal (and to ride the momentum) how about a google sheet linked from a pinned post both in Discourse-Governance and Slack-#global-governance? Something like this as a proposal. If the proposed Google Sheet looks useful to others I’ll invest an hour in setting it up properly and documenting how to use it.

I am really enjoying this post - thanks @Rachel :slight_smile: for starting it

I like the proposals. I agree with…

and wonder if we can use @lin_d_hop 's sheet (which I really like) to create the circles we feel we are part of (I have added country circles as a suggestion) and then add ourselves to the circles. We could also ‘invite’ other people to a circle as a ‘suggestion’ in that sheet. That person could then confirm the suggestion if they are happy to join.

I would really appreciate @DavieP 's thoughts on this post

[edited to include an extra step to support asynchronous decision work]
@Rachel thank you for this post! I think the process you outlined is a good one, especially in our asynchronous work environment. I would also love to hear about @DavieP’s thoughts.

One of our users who is familiar with sociocracy reminded me a while back that one thing that makes a circle a circle is that everyone is doing the same rather specific work, and shares a responsibility for the work of the circle getting done - a great example of this might be seen in the delivery train meetings. Other meetings are also really useful (indispensable really) like the monthly global update, but that doesn’t make the attendees a “circle”. I agree that a circle, once defined (by the work it does, maybe rather than the people), should have the power, ability, and responsibility to make decisions about how its work is done, which I guess is the principle of subsidiarity.

@Erioldoesdesign and I attended a workshop a while back, and we had a chance to practice the consent decision making process, which is a structured approach to creating a proposal that everyone is willing to try, and that ensures that all voices are heard. A description of the process and a real-ish time demo are below. :point_down: If you try this process in your circle, please let us know how it worked for you. If you would like to practice or review the steps we would love to support that for you. The process we learned and practiced requires a facilitator, which can be of course anyone who is willing to keep the conversation from wandering off. In general, the steps to consent (not consensus) process are:

…or, if you like numbered lists with more detail and a couple of more things to keep in mind:

  1. Designate facilitator/process steward and note taker
  2. Agree time boundary
  3. Agree and document who is part of this specific decision
  4. Invite a proposal
  5. Clarifying round (for understanding the proposal)
  6. Quick reactions (from everyone)
  7. Test for consent (agree, object, neutral)
  8. Gather concerns (each person states concerns that would block or states that they have none)
  9. Redraft the proposal based on concerns
  10. Write the new version up
  11. Test for consent again
  12. When all agree, publish and act on the decision!

We hear that once people get used to the steps, consent can be an efficient and powerful tool for moving work forward. We also hear that especially at first, the wisdom of “good enough for now, safe enough to try” is an important thing to keep in mind.

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All - This is an exciting discussion and is helpful for clarifying global process (from my perspective in pursuit of the OFN narrative for fundraising). It would be really helpful to hear what you are thinking needs to change around managing global decision making meetings, documenting the decisions and ensuring that people are aware of them (as opposed to just having access to them - which I think are often two different things).

@Erioldoesdesign made a succinct and helpful page here with visuals from the training. An excellent overview and 5 minute read (plus a short watch/listen): Notion – The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases.


The lake of organization, structuration, documentation, timeline … = Process, lead to a structural problem: People (like me) struggle really hard, just to contribute.

My own experience is maybe not representative (but this is mine :wink:).
I want to help OFN, any way I can, I can give more time and “produce” more. But I don’t know how things should roll and decision-making is really the first step.
I’m soooooo happy @Rachel put it on the table (very clearly and smart, as usual, thank you Rachel)

I wish a clear decision here will allow me and many others do to more and make OFN and … extended organization.

In an ideal World decision-making and Circle organization are supported by a common (at lease shared) information structure. This point is really important to me and I commit to you this will be my next work for ONF as soon as this post deliver a decision (about how to make decision :wink:). Maybe you are interested to discuss it aside, please join the dedicated Slack channel regarding Tools for ONF

Just noting this resource here too: Templates / CommunityRule

oooh awesome! Now we can say we are a “do-ocracy” I think! :slight_smile:

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Somewhere between circles and do-ocracy…

People see things that need to be done and take initiative in driving work, ensuring the right people/circles are aware and have the opportunity to comment. It is the responsibility of the do-er to make sure process is followed to the best of their knowledge and that people are included, but in general no one gives ‘permission’ for things.

Not sure what is the rule of work in a do-ocracy.
On the other side Sociocracy (or Halocracy) are pretty well defined…

What iI read from you is: we miss a sharing tool to have all initiative documented.
Would that be a good first step to have any kind of governance?

@Thomas according to Eriol’s link, the rule for a do-ocracy is “Those who take initiative to do something in the group can decide how they do it.” We are very lucky that the do-ers are exemplary documenters - I am also aware that this may not always be the case, and that there is a knowledge|power dynamic that makes doing more or less successful.

In my mind, a tool supports a process - it doesn’t create the process. Until we have an agreement on both what we are doing in a circle/team/group/community and how we do it, I am not sure how a tool would help?

After years of working with consensus I really like the simplicity of the consent decision making process of Sociocracy.

I find the pattern approach of Sociocracy 3.0 very useful and their pattern on Consent Decision Making outlines the process. It is slightly different to the Sociocracy for All process but the principles are the same.

This works well in circles, teams and can be done in bigger groups.

Consent Decision Making
A (facilitated) group process for decision making: invite objections, and consider information and knowledge revealed to further evolve proposals or existing agreements.


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Thank you @DavieP! Like a similar conversation that would really benefit from your voice and experience, this model takes the preliminary step of defining and getting agreement on the driver (which I am understanding as a “problem” but maybe that’s inaccurate?). That makes so much sense!

Hi Luarie a driver is a little more than just identifying the problem, it is really the why - a driver describes in a statement what is happening and what is needed.

’A driver is a person’s or a group’s motive for responding to a specific situation.'

Identifying the driver ensures everyone is clear on why there is a need to make a decision or propose a change.

A simple way to describe a driver is by explaining:
• What’s happening…:
– the current situation
– the effect of this situation on the organization

• …and what’s needed:
– the need of the organization in relation to this situation
– the impact of attending to that need

Semi-related to decision making I was chatting with a friend around responsibility and the RACI model came up: The RACI Model | RACI Charts

Thanks everyone for your feedbacks! :heart:

As there was no opinions against what was shared here, the product circle put together a real proposal for particular topics (this post was not a proposal, more a brain dump :smiley: ), please have a look here: A proposal to better manage the ‘Community Feedback Pipeline’

As for this thread, a lot of good stuff was shared! Maybe we want to keep it open so that we can “store” all documentation/ideas related to decision making. Otherwise I would suggest we close this thread to avoid duplicate conversations.

Many feedback here were around making decision based on consent. Like @DavieP I’m really comfortable with lazy-consent. Although I never experienced it in super large communities, I personally don’t want to change this aspect of OFN for now. Yet if anyone feels this could be done differently I encourage you to create a new proposal. I would happily contribute to it :slight_smile:

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