There are an infinite number of ways that your group can approach decision-making. The process you choose will impact who can have a say and how easy it is for different people to get involved.
Different approaches will be appropriate in different circumstances and your group may even use different methods at different times. A very new group might temporarily use one approach and then as the group grows discuss and decide together what process it will use into the future.
Whatever approach you take it is important that you are clear about the process you will be using and that everyone understands how the chosen approach works.
Consensus decision making: a group using consensus is committed to allowing everyone potentially impacted by a decision to be involved in crafting a solution that everyone can actively support or at least live with. Consensus works well when people really engage with what others are saying and are creative about finding win-win solutions. Advantages of consensus are that people feel more respected and so more connected to the group. Consensus decision-making does not necessarily mean that everyone agrees. There are variations between groups in the way that consensus decision-making is implemented. The disadvantage of this approach can be the time and effort needed to develop a proposal that nobody is so strongly against that they will stand in the way.
Voting: the issue is discussed, and then a vote is taken on a proposal. If a majority agrees with it, it can go ahead. Some groups require two thirds (or more) of the group have to vote in favour. Advantages of voting are that it can be quicker to reach a decision than consensus. Disadvantages are that not all members’ good ideas and needs might be taken into account.
Hierarchy: a committee, or individual leader, is chosen to make decisions on behalf of the group. This can be an advantage if most members don’t want to be involved in the decision-making or running of the group. It can lead to a lack of communication and understanding by members of what is going on. It can also lead to all the work being done by a very small handful of people. Regularly electing new leaders can help avoid some of these issues.
Who will be involved in each decision?
Many decisions will need to be made in running a seed saving group. They will range from the very simple though to much more complex – eg. whether to supply tea or coffee at meetings to potentially developing a strategic plan.
Obviously some decisions can be easily delegated. Having clear guidelines about what can be done to ‘just get on with it’ and what needs to be brought to the group for decision-making will help your group be more effective.
Things to consider:
- Could the whole group decide on guidelines or broad agreements and a smaller group work out the details?
- Does the decision affect people who don’t come to meetings? Can you get their input in another way?
- Are there particular people who are more affected than others and should take a lead in the decision-making?
What process does your group use? What is good about it? What could be better?