Kategoriarkiv: Quakers

Experiences from the Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting 2017

The purpose of this post is to share some of my experiences from the Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting (June 29—July 2), which was held at Nordiska Folkhögskolan, Kungälv, Sweden.

I’m very interested in the Quakers method of making collective decisions and have written about it here and here (in Swedish).

Here is my review (in English) of Michael J. Sheeran’s book Beyond Majority Rule: voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends. Sheeran spent two years (1973—75) conducting interviews, reading, and observing the actual decision-making of the Friends. He is convinced that the Quakers have something of first importance to share in their method.2 I am so too!

Here is also my review (in English) of A Quaker Approach to the Conduct of Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment, which has grown out of a decade of experiments employing Quaker processes of communal discernment in research.1 The book itself is an example of collaborative work.

Nordiska Folkhögskolan, Kungälv, Sweden.

The Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting started and ended with meetings for (silent) worship and decision-making. The clerks3 from the Nordic countries welcomed all participants at the start, and functionaries for the Yearly Meeting were elected. The epistle4 was reviewed and approved at the end of the Yearly Meeting. Each Nordic country had, in addition, their own decision-making meetings. I participated in the meeting of the Swedish Friends.

The theme for the Yearly Meeting was ”Am I my brother’s keeper?” The theme was explored in a talk by a Finnish Friend (in no less than four languages). Her conclusion was that Cain and Abel, in the biblical Book of Genesis, represent two sides of each human being, and each society, in patterns of active and passive violence. Several workshops were held on the theme.

Participating in the Yearly Meeting was an experience on many levels. My focus here is on the decision-making. The primary reason why I wanted to participate was to observe the actual decision-making, but sitting in silence together with others during long time influences you more than you might think.

Initially, I viewed myself as an observer, but I realized after a while that it was an impossible role. A Swedish Friend expressed it as ”a Friend of Friends is a Friend.” And a Friend from Great Britain told me that you are a participant in the decision-making meeting simply by being present. Interestingly, he had experiences of making decisions in meetings with a thousand participants.

Two clerks guided the decision-making meeting of the Swedish Friends. The clerks passed a candle between themselves to show the meeting who was the active clerk. The clerk kept the meeting in silence by looking down, and invited people to speak by looking up. Participants who talked stood up. The point is that only one person can stand up at a time. The minute of each item was prepared before moving on to the next item.

One of the agenda items had to do with the approval of new members. I was sent out together with other non-members during that item. I was later told that the meeting had become particularly interesting at that time and that the clerk had handled it really well. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to see it myself.

It was decided at the final meeting that the next Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting will be held in 2020. As already mentioned, the meeting epistle was also reviewed and approved. I got the impression that the presiding clerks were relieved that it went so smoothly. The meeting ended thirty minutes ahead of time.

The key takeaway for me is that the Quakers show that it’s possible to make collective decisions. A prerequisite, though, is the following: ”We act as a community, whose members love and trust each other. […] As a […] community, […] we have a continuing responsibility to nurture the soil in which unity may be found.”4

The theme which was explored is, in my view, related to the sharing of decision-making power (or lack thereof). The desire to have power over people, to force our view on them, leads to violence. The places to begin applying the skills and generosity to avoid violence and to resolve conflicts are in our personal relationships, our workplaces, and wherever decisions are made.

1 Gray Cox et al., A Quaker Approach to the Conduct of Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment (Quaker Institute for the Future, 2014), p. ix.
2 Michael J. Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends, p. ix.
3 The clerk (ombud in Swedish) guides the meeting. The clerk has to discern the ‘the sense of the meeting’ of each item and prepare a minute. The final decision about whether the minute represents the sense of the meeting is the responsibility of the meeting itself, not of the clerk. See Clerks – Quakers in Britain (accessed 2017-07-03).
4 The epistle (epistel in Swedish) is a letter sent by the Yearly Meeting to all other Yearly Meetings. See Epistle (Quaker) – Wikipedia (accessed 2017-07-03).
5 Britain Yearly Meeting, Quaker faith & practice (5th Edition, 2013), Chapter 3.02.

Good order as an organizing principle

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to explore Lloyd Lee Wilson’s notion of Quaker good order.1

Lloyd Lee Wilson writes in his Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order that gospel, right, or good order is an organizing principle by which Quakers come to a clearer understanding of their relationship to all divine manifestations, and the responsibility of this relationship. Here is my book review.

Good order
Good order is the order that exists in every part of the universe. It is the right relationship of every part to every other part. Good order includes the ability to meet specific needs of a specific situation and time. Interestingly, good order is also an organizing principle by which we come to a clearer understanding of our relationship with others and the whole of nature. It is our responsibility to live in a manner that is in line with good order.

Good order is effective in the present moment. It is also possible to discern good order in every situation. Good order is discerned by centering down, listening, and feeling out. The process is intuitive rather than intellectual. Intellectual explanations cannot capture the essence of good order, or the means by which it is perceived. Descriptions can only point toward the experience.

Practices followed ritualistically cannot ensure good order. What is required is an underlying desire to be in good order. The individual must find out what is good order on her own. Aliveness and coherence are gained by keeping close to good order in each circumstance. What is required is a personal centering down into the Life which guides us.

We cannot see anything with clarity until we have faced ourselves with sensitivity and honesty. Our ability to discern good order is closely related to how we feel out our own self-worth. Our deepest values and aspirations reside below both reason and emotions. Outward actions both reflect and shape our inward condition. Inward changes make new outward behavior possible.

I think that discernment of good order is generally available to all human beings regardless of their religious beliefs. Any group can, for example, search for unity provided there is trust. I believe, furthermore, that good order is related to deeper generative order for organizing. A particularly interesting example of communal discernment of good order is the Quakers’ approach to decision-making.

1 Lloyd Lee Wilson, Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order (FGC QuakerPress, 2007, first published 1993).

Book Review: Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order

Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson address facets of (Conservative) Quaker faith and practice. Here is a summary of the book together with some conclusions. I’ve chosen to focus on the Quaker vision of good order, waiting worship, faith community, meeting for business, and leadings and discernment.

Gospel, Right, or Good Order
Gospel order, right order, or good order is the order that exists in every part of the universe. It is the right relationship of every part to every other part. One might say that good order is an organizing principle by which Quakers come to a clearer understanding of this relationship and the responsibilities of that relationship.1 It is the responsibility of Quakers to live in a manner that is in line with good order, even if it means to be in conflict with prevailing norms, values, and laws.2 This has kept Quakers at the edge of human understanding of right relationships.3

Good Order in the Now
Quakers believe that good order is effective in the present moment,4 that it’s always breaking into our lives now.5 Quakers also believe that every person is capable of living in good order. This means that it is necessary for each person to be seeking, trying to discern good order in every situation. The choice whether or not to do so is up to the individual.6

Quakers have discovered and developed a number of practices which are useful in this process of discovering what action is in keeping with good order in a given circumstance. However, it should be remembered that the practices by which Quakers discern good order is a very small portion of good order itself.7 The practices that Quakers follow will not ensure good order if they are followed ritualistically, without an underlying desire to be in good order. Meanings have to be transmitted along with vocabulary.8

Waiting Worship
Early Quakers understood how important the use of language is. The words we use to express our understandings also shape our understandings. The inadequacy of language led Quakers into waiting worship.9 The fundamental means by which a Quaker meeting, or an individual, discerns good order is by centering down, listening, and ”feeling out” what is good order. The process is spiritual, or intuitive, rather than intellectual.10

Good Order in the Situation
Quakers go about answering the question ”What is good order in this situation?” by listening to the Inward Guide. Intellectual, or rational, explanations cannot capture the essence of good order, or the means by which it is perceived. The individual must find out what is good order on her own.11 Good order includes the ability to meet specific needs of a specific situation and time.12 We gain strength, clarity, and harmony to the extent we keep close to good order in each circumstance.13 This is why Quakers try to feel out carefully for good order in each decision, and to follow faithfully given promptings and leadings.14

Quakerism is a gestalt of the community, not the individual.15 A gestalt is an integrated structure which can neither be derived from the parts of the whole, nor considered simply as the sum of the parts.16 A solitary Quaker is an oxymoron.17 A shift to the Quaker gestalt requires inner transformation. It involves a new way of seeing the world and a new understanding of how to move in it.18

Change in Values
When we begin to seek out the root causes for the problems in our world today, we are soon confronted with the need for a society-wide change in values. It involves a new understanding of how we are to live and act in relationship with each other and the rest of nature.19 In order to preserve and sustain the Life which we have been given, it is necessary to sustain and build up the gestalt which guides and nurtures us in our daily lives.20

Creativity and Relationship
The fundamental meaning of any creative act lies in dedicating ourselves before the act rather than after it.21 In this way, we dedicate ourselves in totality and avoid the temptation to hold back some part of our person. As we know ourselves more fully, we are also able to offer ourselves more fully, and thereby enter more deeply into relationship. The only hindrance in this relationship is our unwillingness to accept it fully and openly.22

Knowing Experientially
The signs of true leadings can only be known experientially, not intellectually. A written description can only point toward the experience.23 The responsibility for finding the Truth must be undertaken with the greatest love and tenderness, and a high sensitivity for leadings and guidance.24 The most convincing argument one can humanly give is the simple testimony of one’s own life.25

Promptings and Risks
We all feel promptings and urgings, but being faithful to those promptings feels risky. Those risks include the risk of embarrassment, failure, success, scorn, change, and vulnerability. Success and failure often feel equally risky.26 Personal change is risky. Self-revealing makes one vulnerable.27 The apparent risk of being successful comes when we don’t want the responsibility, or the higher expectations that other people place on us.28 We may also evoke scorn of people who feel threatened or even insulted by our words. This emphasizes the importance of staying close to one’s promptings, making sure not to add or take away from our message.29 For nearly everyone, change is scary. Our current life is known and therefore seems safer.30

Discernment is not automatic. We need to learn it individually. We can also help one another discern as a community. There are three aspects to discerning: observation, dialogue, and testing through experience. If there is harmony in the perceptions of the individual and community, one gains confidence in the validity of the leading. It is very important to help one another.31 Nurturing and encouraging each other to take on the risks of being faithful is vital. It’s necessary to cultivate being open and vulnerable with one another, and to protect that openness and vulnerability with appropriate behavior.32

Quakers decision-making is based on the belief that there is a good order, and that it can be discerned by human beings who seek it out. Quakers experience is that all persons will perceive good order in a given situation when all seek for it, and that the community can come into unity in any decision.33 The task is not to find a decision which all can approve, but a decision where all is in unity. What is required for reaching unity is a personal centering down into that Life which guides us. The process is one of spiritual discernment.34

Meeting for Business
Those Quakers who are not present at a particular meeting for business cannot afterward criticize its actions and decisions, for they were not present. Likewise, those who were present cannot afterward criticize, for they (presumably) did feel the unity. On the other hand, it is very much in order to revisit a decision, to see whether new insight or guidance may change the meeting’s perception.35

Role as Clerk
The clerk has a role to play in helping the meeting find its proper pace and rhythm, by proposing trail minutes, by pausing between speakers, and by proposing worshipful silence when that seems best. If there is a rush to make a decision, it is likely that the right issue has not yet been articulated. The purpose of the meeting is not to make a particular decision, but to discern what is best for the group and this time.36

Sense of the Meeting
As the meeting considers a particular decision one can feel the ”sense of the meeting” accumulate around a particular course of action. From time to time it happens that one, or a few, Quakers are uneasy with the direction in which the meeting seems moving. When this happens, it is important to allow as much time as necessary for all present to feel right about the contemplated decision.37 Sometimes a decision must be postponed for several meetings before the community can reach true unity. The postponement is a continuing of the communal search for discernment. Faithful listening enables greater understanding, and results in better decisions.38

Standing Aside
After listening to the concerns and insights on all sides of a question, there may still be a Quaker who cannot unite with the decision. In this situation a Quaker may wish to ”stand aside” allowing the other Quakers to move ahead. This is never done lightly by any Quaker, and is never accepted easily by the meeting at large.39 For the meeting, allowing an individual to ”step aside” from a decision is to confess failure to reach true discernment. It is far better to be uncomfortable for a while longer in the hope and expectation that a third way will be opened.40

Tyranny of One
A particularly frustrating condition of disunity is when an individual Quaker cannot, or will not, unite with the discernment of the rest of the meeting, and refuses to ”step aside” in order to allow the meeting to move forward. It is easy for such a Quaker to paralyze the meeting, and this must be avoided. In extreme situations of this sort, it is permissible for the clerk to declare the general sense of the meeting in spite of the unresolved opposition of the individual in question. When this situation begins to develop, it is important for Quakers to find ways to help the Quaker in question to feel more trusting of others in the community.41

Unnecessary Speech
When Quakers are in good order, those who speak are simply expressing what others have already felt. The aim of each individual is to help the meeting to hear and to be faithful to the Presence in the midst, rather than to persuade the meeting to adopt one’s own plan of action.42 One should not repeat what has already been said. Unnecessary speech will delay the meeting in its search for unity.43

It is important to compose and approve minutes at the moment unity is reached. Human memory is short and plays tricks. The clerk has the responsibility of composing the minutes. The gifts of clerking the meeting and writing minutes sometimes seem to make conflicting demands on a clerk’s attention. The presence of a recording clerk generally frees the presiding clerk to attend to the meeting itself. When the meeting has come to a sense of unity on a particular decision, it will return to a period of worshipful silence while the clerk formulates and writes down the minute. It is most important that this time isn’t used to discuss other items, since the clerk needs a supportive atmosphere.44

Clerking a meeting for business requires considerable discernment. The influence of the clerk is indirect but substantial. The clerk may never speak to the specific content of a decision under consideration, but has a great influence on the ability of the meeting to achieve discernment.45 The clerk has the responsibility to help the meeting discern the light, but should not to attempt to provide the light.46

The Quakers’ method of decision-making places much power in the hands of each individual. This requires a great deal of trust on the part of all involved. Each individual need to trust that the meeting as a whole is operating with integrity, and the meeting must trust that individuals who express misgivings about a particular course of action do so only from the highest of motives.47

We cannot see anything with clarity until we have faced ourselves and our own condition. Seeing other people’s conditions as they are, or events as they will be, begins with seeing one’s self as one really is with sensitivity and honesty.48 Forgiveness is not something we do, but something we accept. When we have accepted forgiveness, personal dedication is quick to come.49 Our deepest values and aspirations reside below both reason and emotions.50

Outward vs. Inward Change
Outward change and societal reformation are not possible without inward transformation. The true problems are in the hearts of human beings, not in their surroundings. Until there has been an inward change, all our attempts to change outward behavior are doomed to be revealed as false.51 Harmony, community, equality, and simplicity point to inward changes that make new outward behavior possible.52

Harmony is part of the essence of good order. However, there is something about the nature of human beings which seems inevitably to separate us from one another. We seem doomed to live in conflict, even with the people we love most, and with the earth on which we live. The problem results from people thinking that they are separate from other people, and from their environment generally.53 Peace is not simply a denunciation of the violence that is war, but is a more fundamental change which makes war irrelevant.54

All the forces which act to destroy community are present, no matter how much we struggle against them, for example, jealousy, mistrust, covetousness, and all the rest. What redeems the community is commitment to love anyway.55

To be equal does not mean that we are identical or that we should act as we were all the same. The Quaker understanding of equality is that individuals are outward different, but equal in their essence.56 No person has reason to feel superior to others.57

We are pushed and pulled by a myriad of wants, needs, demands, fears, and desires. The simple life is one in which there is always time to remember the deeper purpose behind each task, and to be thankful for each moment of the day. The life that has room to listen and to be thankful is simple, no matter how outwardly busy it may appear.58

The process of keeping open to leadings is close to the heart of the Quaker experience. How we respond to the idea of being led, and to the actual leadings, is closely related to how we feel out our own self-worth. In times when we feel worst about ourselves, we also are about as responsive as a rock.59 Quakers have adopted the view that the inner and outward are being integrally related. Outward actions and activities reflect our inward condition, and what we do outwardly shapes and changes our inward condition.60

There is a continuity of direction and purpose in the leadings that are given to a particular individual. Our perception, or failure to perceive, this continuity is an aide to the discernment process.61 All leadings are reflections of the Truth. The Truth is, furthermore, perceptible to all who truly seek it. This means that the authenticity of any leading will be perceptible to any community who seek to discern it. When a leading will have significant impact on one’s life, it is good order to ask the community for help in discernment of good action.62

Lloyd Lee Wilson’s book is about (Conservative) Quaker faith and practice in general.  I learned a lot. The author is quite concerned about protecting the Quaker gestalt. His view is that external influence regularly has proven to be damaging to Quakerism.63 This leads me to my greatest difficulty with the book. Wilson shares many profound insights, but sometimes I find his views to be too conservative. Try to protect Quakerism from external influence and it loses its vitality.

Wilson emphasizes, on one hand, that discernment of good order in the present situation lies close to the heart of Quaker experience. But he mistrusts, on the other hand, the individual’s ability to choose his/her own beliefs.64 And he distrusts the individual’s ability to discern what s/he needs to learn next.65 I find this contradictory. Wilson seems to trust the faith tradition more than the individual.

From time to time, I also find Wilson’s language awkward. Wilson uses the historic Christian vocabulary of Quakerism. He is fully aware that this may inhibit communication on the deepest levels with people who are unfamiliar with Quakerism, but he still insists on using that kind of language.66 The problem lies with non-Quakers who are inhibited and don’t accept the authentic experience of Friends.67 I find this view simplistic. Wilson seems to value traditional language more than the ability to communicate.

I believe that all human beings have the ability to discern good order. Any group can, for example, search for unity regardless of religious beliefs provided there is trust. I believe, furthermore, that the good order mentioned throughout the book is related to the deeper generative order for organizing, which I’m exploring in this series of posts. A particularly interesting example of communal discernment of good order is, again, in the Quakers’ approach to decision-making.

1 Lloyd Lee Wilson, Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order (FGC QuakerPress, 2007, first published 1993), p.10. Please note that the page references are to the ebook version converted to A4 paper size.
2 Ibid., p.11.
3 Ibid., p.12.
4 Ibid., p.12.
5 Ibid., p.13.
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid., p.14.
9 Ibid..
10 Ibid..
11 Ibid..
12 Ibid., p.15.
13 Ibid..
14 Ibid..
15 Ibid., p.18.
16 Ibid., p.16.
17 Ibid., p.18.
18 Ibid., p.19.
19 Ibid., p.20.
20 Ibid., p.21.
21 Ibid., p.24.
22 Ibid., p.25.
23 Ibid., p.27.
24 Ibid., p.29.
25 Ibid., p.45.
26 Ibid., p.46.
27 Ibid., p.47.
28 Ibid., p.49.
29 Ibid., p.50.
30 Ibid., p.51.
31 Ibid., p.53.
32 Ibid., p.54.
33 Ibid., p.77.
34 Ibid., p.78.
35 Ibid..
36 Ibid., p.79.
37 Ibid..
38 Ibid..
39 Ibid..
40 Ibid., p.80.
41 Ibid..
42 Ibid..
43 Ibid., p.81.
44 Ibid..
45 Ibid..
46 Ibid., p.82.
47 Ibid., p.83.
48 Ibid., p.88.
49 Ibid., p.89.
50 Ibid., p.90.
51 Ibid., p.93.
52 Ibid., p.94.
53 Ibid..
54 Ibid., p.95.
55 Ibid., p.96.
56 Ibid., p.97.
57 Ibid., p.98.
58 Ibid., p.99.
59 Ibid., p.100.
60 Ibid., p.102.
61 Ibid., p.104.
62 Ibid., p.106.
63 Ibid., p.22.
64 Ibid..
65 Ibid..
66 Ibid., p.42.
67 Ibid..

Quaker decision-making in a secular context

The following quote (in italics) is an example of collective decision-making in a former Soviet country after the fall of the Soviet Union:

… I [Leonard Joy] was charged to support a team created to manage a process for the redesign of the public sector. … I chose to act as would a clerk in a Quaker meeting. The team included former government officials and a member of the secret police. … they could not contain themselves from argument, … interrupting for their voice to be heard.

They acknowledged that this was not productive and accepted my clerking authority, which now required them to open their meetings with silent worship. Of course, I did not call it that. I asked them to center themselves in their role in search for the greater good. …

I also asked them to speak only when acknowledged by the clerk—which, of course, I called “the chair.” I further asked them not to present arguments against one another but to each contribute what they understood that was relevant to the decision. I emphasized that we should use the ego to serve the task and not the task to serve the ego.

I further explained the aim of coming to unity and the value of that in securing ownership of the outcome. In my role as chairman I gave periodic reports of what seemed to be agreed, what seemed to need further resolution, and what I sensed that this would take, inviting contributions on these matters.

We made small posters and stuck them on the wall—prompts to remind us of what was now required of us. … Indeed, the value of the new practice was readily seen and it became adopted with pride. The team members set out to spread this culture in the meetings they were calling in the different branches of the administration …

–Leonard Joy1

1 Gray Cox et al., A Quaker Approach to Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment, pp. 40–41.

Related post:
Book Review: A Quaker Approach to Research

Anteckningar från ett kväkerskt beslutsmöte

Jag är intresserad av hur man kan ta vara på en grupps kollektiva kunskap och intelligens. Kväkarnas sätt att fatta beslut är unik. Metoden har även har studerats akademiskt. Här är min recension av Beyond Majority Rule (på engelska), som bygger på Michael J. Sheerans doktorsavhandling.

I februari 2014 gick jag en kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod. Här är mina intryck från kursen. Sedan dess har jag tänkt att det skulle vara intressant att få vara med på ett beslutsmöte. I januari 2017 fick jag slutligen tillfälle att vara med på ett av kväkarnas lokala beslutsmöten i Stockholm. Det möte jag var med på hålls månadsvis.

Beslutsmötet är ett medlemsmöte, men jag fick ombudets tillåtelse att vara med som observatör. (Den person som leder beslutsmötet kallas ombud.) Ombudet inbjöd mig också att vara med på andaktsmötet som hölls innan beslutsmötet. Mellan andakts- och beslutsmötena ingick en fika med kaffe och smörgås. Jag fick intrycket att andakten och den gemensamma fikastunden ingick i ombudets förberedelse inför beslutsmötet.

Kväkargården, Stockholm.

Beslutsmötet inleddes med en runda bland deltagarna. Jag valde att presentera mig själv helt kort och berätta varför jag var där, men flera personer var personliga i sina inledande kommentarer.

I detta fall var mötesformen relativt informell eftersom det var ett litet beslutsmöte. Jag la märke till att var och en diskret vände sig till ombudet innan hen talade. Vid ett tillfälle blev den person som talade avbruten av en annan person. Ombudet ingrep då så snabbt att jag knappt hann märka vad som hände. Vid ett annat tillfälle bad ombudet om ”framkallningstid”, vilket är en stund av tystnad. Återigen hann jag knappt lägga märke till vad som fick ombudet att agera, men jag förstod att ombudet ville dra ner på tempot och bjuda in till eftertanke.

Då och då försökte ombudet sammanfatta vad som hade sagts. Om någon tyckte att ombudet inte riktigt hade förstått så fortsatte samtalet. Så småningom bad ombudet om tystnad för att skriva ner beslutet. Ombudet tog påfallande god tid på sig, men det visade sig att formuleringarna verkligen återspeglade det som hade sagts på ett bra sätt.

Jag noterade också att besluten i sig hanterades varsamt. Ett av besluten berörde t.ex. en icke närvarande medlem. Mötet såg i detta fall till att beslutet inte onödigt begränsar denna medlems framtida handlingsutrymme.

Mötet avslutades med en runda. Jag valde att passa.

Efter beslutsmötet blev jag ombedd att dela med mig av mina intryck. Det som gjorde störst intryck på mig var användningen av ”framkallningstid”, samt att ombudet tog god tid på sig för att omsorgsfullt formulera besluten.

Jag upplevde också att samtalet löpte fritt, men att det ändå var disciplinerat.  Vid detta möte satt deltagarna hela tiden. Vid större möten med fler deltagare ställer sig den som talar. Poängen är att endast en person kan stå åt gången.

Till sist vill jag rikta ett varmt tack till ombudet för att jag fick vara med! Det var en ny och intressant erfarenhet, som har gjort intryck.

Principen för samtycke i sociokrati bygger på kväkarnas beslutsmetod. Jag ser likheter och skillnader mellan kväkarnas sätt att fatta beslut och sociokrati. I båda fallen inleds och avslutas mötet med rundor, men i ett sociokratiskt beslutsmöte används rundor hela tiden.

I sociokrati presenteras först ett förslag, som sedan följs av fråge-, reaktions- och beslutsrundor. Personer som är ovana vid sociokratiskt beslutsfattande brukar blanda ihop dessa rundor, t.ex. genom att ge reaktioner under frågerundan, eller rentav genom att börja göra invändningar, fast formulerade som frågor, under frågerundan.

En annan skillnad som jag har sett i den praktiska tillämpningen är att kväkarna med sin ”framkallningstid” medvetet drar ner på tempot när det börja ”hetta till”. I sociokratiska sammanhang har jag sett hur en erfaren sociokrati-konsult tvärtom har ökat tempot när det har kommit invändningar. (Troligen har det skett omedvetet?)

Ytterligare en skillnad är att kväkarna söker efter mötets mening, medan det i sociokrati snarare handlar om att hantera invändningar. Det är en subtil, men viktig skillnad. Principen för samtycke i sociokrati skulle lika gärna kunna kallas principen för inga invändningar.

Relaterade inlägg:
Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod
En historisk tillbakablick på kväkarnas beslutsmetod
Att lyssna till livet i allt
Om att arbeta

Relaterade inlägg (på engelska):
Book Review: Beyond Majority Rule
What Wikimedia can learn from the Quakers

Book Review: Beyond Majority Rule

Beyond Majority Rule: voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends is the publication of Michael J. Sheeran’s doctoral work in the Dept. of Politics at Princeton University. He spent two years (1973—75) conducting interviews, reading, and observing the actual decision-making of the Quakers. Sheeran is convinced that the Quakers “have something of first importance to share in their technique of reaching a viable resolution of their own problems” (p. ix).

Knowing, respecting, and trusting each other
A prerequisite is “having a group of limited size who know and respect and trust each other” (p. ix). The members of this group must “be willing to listen to each other with open minds, to learn from each other and be willing to feel into the shaping of a decision” (p. ix). Among common blockages are having “a fixed and unchangeable mind as to the outcome”, the unwillingness “to lay aside pressure tactics to force an early decision”, and not following the Quaker caution “to use as few words as possible and as many as are necessary” (p. x).

The Presence in the midst
Central to the Quaker understanding of unity-based decision making is the idea that there is “that of God in every one” (p. 3). Quakers do not begin with a theory. They begin with an event in which, ideally, “the presence of God is experienced by each person as part of a group experience” (p. 5). A meeting is “covered” or “gathered into the Life”, when the group is aware of “the Presence in the midst” (p. 6). Richard Vann wrote already in 1683 that “even one person out of harmony with the meeting could prevent it from accomplishing anything” (p. 6).

Advice rather than regulation
Friends are chary of “binding the spirit” by regulations (p. 47). Instead, they provide “advice rather than regulation” (p. 47). Meetings always “begins with silence and closes in silence” (p. 49). If the meeting is properly carried through, there may emerge an “openness not to my wishes and my designs and my surface preferences but [an] openness to the deeper levels … where the problem may be resolved in quite a different way than had ever occurred to me” (p. 50).

Decision-making principles
There are “a number of factors which seem characteristic of Quaker decision making” (p. 51):

  1. unanimous decisions—no voting;
  2. silent periods—at start of meeting and when conflict arises;
  3. moratorium—when agreement cannot be reached;
  4. participation by all with ideas on the subject;
  5. learning to listen—not going to meeting with mind made up;
  6. absence of leaders—the clerk steers but does not dominate;
  7. nobody outranks anybody;
  8. factual-focus—emotions kept to a minimum; and
  9. small meetings—typically limited numbers.

These factors, or principles, are explored in the book in an attempt to bring the reader beyond a “superficial comprehension” (p. 51). While doing so, Michael J. Sheeran puts the focus on “two central and subtle matters: the nature of unity in a decision and the systems of belief which seem to underlie successful use of the method” (p. 52).

Group searching together
A point of pride about Quaker decisions is that they “occasion the emergence of … a higher synthesis of individual ideas” (p. 53). The goals of Quaker decision making are “different from those of majority rule” (p. 54). The proposals made at the beginning of a discussion are “usually seen … as starting points, not as finished products unsusceptible to modification” (p. 54). In Quaker decision making, it is not only presumed “that each participant seeks the best solution”, but it is also presumed “that the group, by searching together, can reach such a … solution” (p. 55). Attitudes contrary to this searching together suffers “subtle but sharp sanctions” (p. 55). The attitudes demanded of Friends is one of “openness to one another’s ideas —the ability to put aside pet notions in favor of the next person’s insight” (p. 55).

Release from fear and reluctance to express one’s ideas
Michael J. Sheeran emphasizes that “those who dread the effects of candour in a Meeting are not giving that Meeting the opportunity which it needs to realize all the possibilities of its group life” (p. 55). “Release from fear, from shyness, from reluctance to express one’s ideas” is given high priority by the Friends (p. 55). Opinions should always be expressed “humbly and tentatively in the realization that no one person sees the whole truth and that the whole meeting can see more of Truth than can any part of it” (p. 56). “Tentativeness and an artless willingness to face the weaknesses in one’s position rather than to paper them over with distracting allusions” are equally important, and “sanctions against unacceptable rhetoric are subtle but effective” (p. 56). Friends “emphasize the importance of encouraging every participant in a meeting to feel that his or her contribution will be received with appreciation” (p. 57).

Emotions are difficult
Friends sometimes have difficulties in revealing “their own inner feelings or to seek out ways of speaking which will let people know—in a non-rhetorical manner—the depth of their feelings” (p. 57). As a result, “the emotional dimensions of topics sometimes do not get the frank attention they deserve” (p. 57). However, it’s important to remember that Friends are “not opposed to emotions, [and] not opposed to their having an important bearing on decisions” (p. 58).

Being face-to-face, acceptance and mutual respect
The need for “openness” has some direct corollaries. The method is “harmstrung whenever participants cannot be face-to-face” (p. 60). Another corollary is that the topics which a group can successfully deal with are “normally limited by the strength of the bonds of respect for one another” within the group (pp. 60—61). The emphasis is on “acceptance of one another, mutual respect, avoidance of the manipulative conduct …, and one’s dependence on searching together with the group for better conclusions than anyone alone could have attained” (p. 61).

Unity is not unanimity or consensus
One major difficulty is that “no conventional term adequately expresses the phenomenon of decisional agreement in a Quaker meeting” (p. 63). Some describe all decisions as “unanimous on the grounds that any objecting member could prevent action”, but this is misleading since it “implies that all participants are satisfied when a decision is reached—a point hardly true of many Quaker decisions” (p. 63). Other speak of “consensus, thereby underscoring that the bulk of those present agree even if one or two objectors remain”, but this is misleading too (p. 63). Michael J. Sheeran emphasizes that “Quakers are simply not satisfied to know that even the overwhelming majority are in agreement” (p. 63). Given this verbal difficulty, the term used by the Friends is “unity” rather than “unanimity” or “consensus” (p. 63). Another early Quaker term used was “concord” (p. 63), which is Sheeran’s preferred term.

At least two stages of discussion
There are at least two stages of discussion in the decision-making. The “preliminary stage follows initial presentation of both the problem and its possible solutions” (p. 64). At this point, “participants often ask questions of the person who has made the presentation, offer tentative alternatives to the proposal, and even find themselves more in the posture of brainstorming than of making serious judgments” (p. 64). Remarks contrary to the proposal “are taken to be exploratory” (p. 64). The transition from “the preliminary to the serious phase” is normally informal (p. 64). An individual will “offer a suggestion—perhaps a rejection of the basic proposal for a novel reason—and then sit back to see what response the idea draws from the group” (p. 64). Such a statement “does not involve personal commitment to the idea”, but is “a testing of the waters” (p. 64). The ability to “differentiate tentative from serious and ambiguous remarks” is important for all participants, and especially for the clerk, whose “duty it is to read the group and decide whether there is serious objection to the general direction in which discussion is moving” (p. 64).

The tide may or may not build
As Friends begin “to speak their serious conclusions, the tide will build” (p. 64). Listeners who find a speaker’s remarks match their own will follow his or her words with “I agree” or “I can unite with that” or “that speaks my mind” (p. 65). Sometimes “several currents are running in the tide, pulling the meeting in two or more directions”, and sometimes there may be “no tide or current at all” (p. 65). In either of these situations, the discussion continues until a conclusion emerges, at the “suggestion of the clerk or some other participant”, or that “there is agreement that no conclusion can be reached for now” (p. 65). If the tide is running in a particular direction, the clerk is expected “to make a judgment that the group is now ready for agreement and to propose a tentative minute … as the clerk understands it from listening to the discussion”.

Objections to a proposal
Each group member has “two quite different questions to ask” when the clerk proposes a minute (p. 65). First, does the proposed minute catch the tide of the discussion? If the answer is no, then this opinion is expected to be raised. Discussions follows such an objection, with various Friends “stating how they respond to the minute as an expression of the group’s will” (p. 65). Then, the clerk “rephrases or withdraws the minute if necessary” (p. 65). Michael J. Sheeran observes that “it is often the case that one person’s statement of misgivings leads others to reassess their judgments, giving more prominence to matters they had initially dismissed” (p. 66). If a person still can’t agree, the group is unable to proceed. However, Sheeran also observes that “the realities, fortunately, are much more subtly adapted to the complexities of human disagreement” (p. 66)

A whole spectrum of objections
There’s actually a “whole spectrum of dissent available” in Quaker decision making (pp. 66—72):

  • I disagree but do not wish to stand in the way
  • Please minute me as opposed
  • I am unable to unite with the proposal
  • Absence

Even if deliberate absence “signifies deep disagreement with a proposal, it does not necessarily block action” (p. 70). The group is expected “go ahead at once if the objector follows the typical approach of stating his or her unease but affirming a desire not to stand in the way” (p. 71). The same is true “if he or she asks to be minuted as opposed, although it seems that the group will proceed in much more chary fashion” (p. 71). If the individual simply is “unable to unite, the group will normally delay action” (p. 71). Michael J. Sheeran notes that “the group’s willingness to delay is a function of the apparent importance of the objector’s objection” (p. 71). The group’s readiness to delay “also depends on its respect for the objector” (p. 71). A third factor is time. “The more urgent the matter, the more highly regarded the objector needs to be” (p. 71). “The relative significance of each factor depends in each situation upon the entire set of relationships existing at a given moment within the group under consideration” (p. 72).

The religious dimension
The religious dimension of a meeting can run a spectrum “from the merest formality to an extraordinary quality very significant to the decision being taken” (p. 82). “Truly worshipful decisions tend to occur in situations of high risk”, but the occasions “when such dramatic religious depth is called for are not common” (p. 83). The typical meeting oscillates between “a superficial and a rather profound religious tone” depending upon the topic under discussion (p. 84). Michael J. Sheeran observes that “decisions at the religious level … tend to draw greater acceptance from those present” (p. 84). One Friend said that “decisions based on human considerations are fine, but they’re not enough for sacrifices of really important things like family and friends and life goals.” (p. 84).

Same vocabulary with different meanings
Michael J. Sheeran found that Friends language is ambiguous. “Everybody seemed to use the same vocabulary but with different meanings” (p. 85). But, when Sheeran “reflected on the atmosphere and the tone of his interviews instead of the words that were exchanged”, he found that “the experience itself [of the gathered meeting] was what counted” (p. 87).

Strengths of Quaker leadership
Quaker leadership demands “the intertwining of traditional basic leadership skills with a peculiar skill at reading the sense of the meeting” (p. 99). The most important duty of the clerk is “to judge the sense of the meeting” (p. 95). In doing this, “the clerk is likely to consider the general reputation of the leading speakers for each viewpoint, the extent of information and experience each brings to the topic, the apparent conviction beneath a remark, and other intangible factors” (p. 95). “The opportunity to manipulate is obvious” (p. 96), but Sheeran notes that “abuse of power seems curiously rare” (p. 97). “The great caution clerks feel about abuse of power came out frequently in the interviews”, with the most experienced clerks “appearing most chary of abuse” (p. 98). Of fundamental importance is that “Quaker theory sees the clerk or other leader as servant of the meeting, not its director” (p. 100). The clerk’s role, as mentioned previously, is to “articulate the unity which he or she discovers and to facilitate the formation of that unity” (p. 100). The good clerk “knows whether people are saying what they really think” (p. 100). Michael J. Sheeran refers to this phenomenon as the ability to “read” the group (p. 101). He even goes a step further and wonders whether it’s perhaps “a weakness, given our theory that leadership is still needed” (p. 103).

Weaknesses of Quaker leadership
Quaker leadership “provides great support to the goal of reaching unity on divisive questions” (p. 104), but it has weaknesses too. The most obvious problem is that “there is no guarantee that individuals with the ability to read the community accurately will also excel in the basic organizational skills required for running a meeting” (p. 104). Given the “spectrum of possible combinations of strengths and weaknesses” there are “quite different styles and emphases in various Quaker groups using the same fundamental procedures” (p. 104). Another problem is that the individual who can discern the unity “quickly exercises an influence that is subtle and pervasive” (p. 105). Thus, “the person who comes to the meeting with a solution in his back pocket might wait until the group seems ripe for the idea instead of proposing it at the outset” (p. 105). The speaker’s preparations in advance may then be confused with “an inspired reading of the present level of agreement of the assembly” (p. 105). The group has little defense against such manipulation.

In a fundamental sense, Friends decision making ”presuppose that participants are in community” (p. 115). Participants need to be willing to say what they really think, listen to each other, and be willing to make decisions work out successfully. Michael J. Sheeran’s book is recommended reading for everyone who is interested in how to move beyond majority rule into group-centered decision-making.

How Quakers make unanimous decisions

Don Miller (left) and Jim Rough (right)

Here is a video where Don Miller explains to Jim Rough how Quakers have been making unanimous decisions for 350 years. Don says Quakers reject the idea of consensus.1

1 Don Miller, Quaker Process (#125) at 7:44, The Jim Rough Show, Port Townsend Television, 27 August 2010.

Related post (in Swedish):
Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod

Om att arbeta

Kväkargården, Kristinehovsgatan 6, Stockholm

Lördagen den 24/10 hölls en retreat om att arbetaKväkargården i Stockholm. Frågor som vi berörde var: Vad är arbete och vad betyder vårt arbete för oss? Hur kan vi förhålla oss till arbetsro och arbetsstress? Hur finner vi vårt rätta arbete, som ställer oss i ett meningsfullt och innerligt förhållande till livet?

Vi var sex deltagare som under dagen växlade mellan gemensamma samtal och tid för egen eftertanke. Dagen leddes av Torbjörn Söderquist, som också delade ut några texter om att arbeta. Här är några citat:

  • … då ni arbetar, älskar ni i sanning livet, ty att älska livet genom arbete är att vara förtrogen med livets innersta hemlighet.1
  • Ett utslag av arbetsoro är arbetsjäktet. … Så snart innerlighet är med i en människas arbetsförhållande råder icke jäkt hur snabbt hennes arbetstakt än må vara …2
  • Möjligheten ligger i att varje person gör ur en fri vilja vad som han blir kallad till i överensstämmelse med sina styrkor och förmågor.3
  • Vissa jobb är skitjobb i den meningen att löner och villkor är skit. Andra jobb är skitjobb i den meningen att de inte bidrar ett skit till världen.4
  • Skitjobb hjälper ingen ur skiten.5

Detta var första gången som jag deltog i en retreat. Jag tilltalades av formatet där gemensamma samtal ur tystnaden varvades med samtal i mindre grupper. Vid samtalen två-och-två talade den ena personen medan den andra lyssnade, och sedan bytte vi. Vid samtalen tre-och-tre hade vi minimöten för klarhet där en person talade om hur hen har det på arbetet, medan de två andra ställde klargörande och öppna (icke ledande) frågor, och sedan roterade vi. Under dagen fick jag några frågor från de övriga deltagarna som jag har tagit med mig hem som ”gåva” att fundera vidare kring.

1 Kahlil Gibran, Profeten, 1923.
2 Emilia Fogelclou.
3 Rudolf Steiner, Den fundamentala sociala lagen, 1919.
4 Roland Paulsen, DN 2015-06-04.
5 Roland Paulsen, DN 2015-05-29.

Relaterade inlägg:
Att lyssna till livet i allt
Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod
En historisk tillbakablick på kväkarnas beslutsmetod
Anteckningar från ett kväkerskt beslutsmöte

Att lyssna till livet i allt

Kväkargården, Stockholm

Tisdagen den 19/5 var jag på en samtalskväll på Kväkargården i Stockholm. Temat var ”Hur kan jag leva ett hållbart liv? — Att lyssna till livet i allt”. Samtalet skedde på kväkerskt vis, dvs. i rundor med tid för tystnad och eftertanke. Kvällen leddes av Anneli Örtqvist och Torbjörn Söderquist, som skapade ett öppet rum för samtal. Jag uppskattade att rundorna inte styrdes, utan att var och en gavs utrymme att falla in i samtalet när det kändes rätt. Frågor som vi berörde var: Hur kan vi se och höra ”livet”? Hur kan vi låta det blomstra, utan att det sker på någon eller någots bekostnad? Och, vad är mitt eget livsrum? Det var mycket lärorikt och berikande att få ta del av de övriga deltagarnas reflektioner och tankar. För min egen del har tankarna dröjt kvar kring mitt eget livsrum. I vardagen befinner jag mig i en massa olika rum, men vilka rum är livsrum, dvs. rum för liv? Tanken slog mig att samtalskvällen i sig var ett livsrum! Jag lämnade samtalskvällen fylld av liv.

Relaterade inlägg:
• Jag har tidigare gått en kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod. Metoden bygger på att var och en i gruppen ges livsrum, så att ett gemensamt beslut ska kunna växa fram. Det leder till bättre beslut och är också bra för livet i gruppen!
• I en gästblogg på #skolvåren har jag skrivit om mina tankar kring vad som får människor att blomstra i företag/organisationer. Frågorna under samtalskvällen gick djupare! Att lyssna in livet i allt är en förutsättning för blomstrande människor, och blomstrande företag/organisationer, tänker jag.
Om att arbeta var en retreat som hölls på Kväkargården den 24/10 2015.
Anteckningar från ett kväkerskt beslutsmöte innehåller mina iakttagelser från ett beslutsmöte på Kväkargården den 15/1 2017.

What Wikimedia can learn from the Quakers

Sue Gardner has written three blog posts on what Wikimedia can learn from the Quakers. Gardner is interested to see what values and practices the Quakers and Wikimedians share, and whether there are things the Quakers do, that the Wikimedians might usefully adopt. There is a reading list about Quakers in Gardner’s first post, an elaboration on the following practices in the second post:

  • Everybody who’s part of the movement shares responsibility for helping it succeed.
  • Nobody gets to sit on the sidelines and watch things fail.
  • Setting the right tone is critical for success.
  • Sometimes you have to kick out difficult people. Maybe.

Finally, there is a summary of expected behaviors of meeting attendees, clerks, and committees in Gardner’s third post.

En historisk tillbakablick

Jag är intresserad av kväkarnas beslutsmetod och har tidigare skrivit om den här. Metoden är intressant eftersom den är djupt demokratisk och bygger på ett sökande efter en slags enighet vid besluten. Nyligen läste jag boken De gnostiska evangelierna av Elaine Pagels och slogs av likheterna mellan kväkarnas synsätt och de gnostiskt kristna från de första århundradena.

George Fox, som var med och grundade kväkarna på 1650-talet, var en radikal visionär. Fox var sannolikt inte förtrogen med den gnostiska traditionen, men gjorde liknande tolkningar som gnostikerna.1 De gnostiskt kristna kritiserade den framväxande kyrkliga hierarkin. Vid en tid då ortodoxa kristna i allt högre grad skilde mellan prästerskap och lekmän, betonade gnostikerna principen om strikt jämlikhet.2 Bland gnostiska grupper ansågs kvinnor vara jämbördiga med männen.3 Gnostikerna betraktade alla lärosatser enbart som försök att nalkas sanningen.4 De ville stå fria från ritualen och vägrade böja sig för den kyrkotukt som biskopar och präster utövade. Sett ur den ortodoxa kristendomens synvinkel betraktades den gnostiska ståndpunkten som en skymf. Med tiden drog den ortodoxa kristendomen en klar linje gentemot dem som ifrågasatte läran, ritualen och den kyrkliga hierarkin.5 När kyrkan i allt högre grad blev en institutionell enhet mellan åren 150 till 400 började dess ledare behandla sina motståndare allt hårdare. År 367 utfärdade t.ex. Athanasius, ärkebiskopen i Alexandria, en befallning om att alla ”kätterska” tendenser skulle rensas bort.6 En eller flera munkar gömde då gnostiska handskrifter i en lerkruka som hittades av en bonde 1945. Eftersom det är segrarna som skriver historien, ger dessa handskrifter en ny förståelse av kristendomens tidiga historia. Den gnostiska kristendomen blev till slut helt undantryckt av den ortodoxa kristendomen, som under 300-talet fick den romerska kejsarmaktens stöd.7 De gnostiska grupperna överlevde endast några hundra år.

Jag tror att det synsätt som ligger till grund för verklig demokrati troligen alltid har funnits, men oftast som undantryckta strömningar. Det är t.ex. först under de senaste 100 åren som samhället har demokratiserats. En demokratisering sker också i våra företag och organisationer, även om det än så länge handlar om begränsade underströmmar. Här är t.ex. ett exempel från W.L. Gore & Associates där företagets VD väljs av de anställda. Och här är tio principer för demokrati i organisationer som har tagits fram av WorldBlu.

1 Elaine Paigels, De gnostiska evangelierna, stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1998, s. 245.
2 Ibid, s. 102-103.
3 Ibid, s. 127, 135.
4 Ibid, s. 198.
5 Ibid, s. 203-204.
6 Ibid, s. 207.
7 Ibid, s. 244.

Relaterade inlägg
Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod
Att lyssna till livet i allt
Om att arbeta
Anteckningar från ett kväkerskt beslutsmöte

Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod

I februari 2014 gick jag en kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetodKväkargården i Stockholm. Syftet med kursen var att ge en förståelse för metoden. Jag ville gå kursen eftersom kväkarnas sätt att fatta beslut är unik. En fråga som intresserar mig är hur man i beslutsfattandet kan ta vara på en grupps kollektiva kunskap och intelligens. Dessutom bygger principen för samtycke i sociokrati på kväkarnas beslutsmetod. Metoden handlar varken om majoritets- eller konsensusbeslut, utan om att uppnå en slags enighet kring besluten. Metoden har också studerats akademiskt. Här är min recension av Michael J. Sheerans bok Beyond Majority Rule (på engelska). Boken bygger på Sheerans doktorsavhandling om kväkarnas sätt att fatta beslut.

Kursens innehåll
Dagen inleddes med att vi berättade vilka förväntningar vi hade på kursen. Därefter fick skriva ner våra egna svar på fem frågor kring: 1) viktiga egenskaper man behöver ha som ombud, dvs. mötesledare; 2) vilka golvets, dvs. mötesdeltagarnas, uppgifter är; 3) om alla måste vara överens för att ett beslut ska kunna fattas; 4) om det är viktigt att tala med inlevelse; och 5) hur ombudet väljer vem som ska få ordet. Efter en stund av tystnad gick vi vidare och samtalade kring vad som gör ett beslutsmöte bra respektive dåligt. Resten av dagen ägnades åt beslutsmötets yttre struktur, tid och plats, organisation, inre struktur och atmosfär, samt specifika situationer som ett ombud kan ställas inför. I slutet av dagen gick vi tillbaka och tittade på våra egna svar på frågorna och reflekterade över det vi hade lärt oss.

Bra och dåliga beslutsmöten
Kortfattat kan man säga att ett bra beslutsmöte präglas av tillit, delaktighet, disciplin, lyssnande, gemenskap och förmåga till syntes; medan ett dåligt beslutsmöte präglas av ohövlighet och av att man inte lyckas komma framåt (se bilden nedan). Ord som återkom flera gånger under dagen var gemenskap, lyssnande, tillit och saklighet. Besluten blir bättre om det finns gemenskap. Att äta tillsammans är t.ex. bra för gemenskapen och påverkar kvaliteten på besluten. Tillit innebär att gruppen lyssnar med öppenhet. Saklighet är viktig, dvs. retorik och känslomässiga utspel bör undvikas.

Vad gör ett beslutsmöte bra resp. dåligt?

Organisatoriskt är kväkarna indelade i en lokal och nationell nivå (se bilden nedan). Lokalt hålls månadsvisa andaktsmöten. Nationellt hålls ett årsmöte, där beslut fattas om gemensamma angelägenheter för hela organisationen. Årsmötet pågår under flera dagar. Årsmötet utser ombud, arbetsutskott, och nomineringskommitté. Uppdragen gäller för en bestämd tidsperiod. Samfundsrådet kan betraktas som ett extra årsmöte som pågår under en dag. Årsmötet och samfundsrådet är öppet för alla medlemmar. Icke medlemmar kan delta efter samråd med ombudet. Årsmötet och samfundsrådet utser kommittéer. Beslutsmöten kan hållas av alla andaktsmöten och kommittéer.

Lokal och nationell organisationsstruktur

Beslutsmötets struktur
Ett beslutsmöte har en grundläggande struktur som består av ombudet och golvet. Ombudet (eng. the clerk) leder beslutsmötet. Golvet (eng. the floor) utgörs av övriga deltagare. Är det ett litet mötet sitter man i en cirkel. Är det ett större möte sitter deltagarna vända mot ombudet. Ett möte kan ha flera ombud. I Storbritannien kan det vara tusen deltagare på ett årsmöte, och då har man flera ombud som arbetar tillsammans. Hur ombuden fördelar arbetet mellan sig varierar. Det är viktigt att ombudet förbereder sig i god tid före mötet. Ombudet behöver t.ex. ställa sig frågor kring vilken information som behövs, vilka som behöver vara föredragande, vilka som är närvarande, och vad mötet behöver för att beslut ska kunna växa fram organiskt. Det är också viktigt att mötet äger rum på en utsatt tid och plats. Ett stort möte inleds vanligen med en andakt på 20-30 minuter för att ge deltagarna möjlighet att samla sig i tystnad. I ett litet möte inleder man med fördel med en lägesrunda. Under mötet gås dagordningen igenom. Ärenden introduceras och föredragande kallas fram så att mötesdeltagarna kan ställa frågor. All nödvändig information behöver göras tillgänglig. Det är viktigt att deltagarna inte pratar i munnen på varandra. Ombudet visar att inlägg välkomnas genom att se upp mot de närvarande. De som vill ha ordet ställer sig antingen upp eller ger på annat sätt tecken att de vill tala. Inga talarlistor används. När en person har talat färdigt kan ombudet ge inlägget möjlighet att sjunka in genom att se ned en stund. Denna tystnad, som även kallas framkallningstid, är viktig.

Ombudets uppgift
Ombudet har en viktig samlande roll och hjälper mötesdeltagarna att hålla sig till metoden. Förutom att fördela ordet har ombudet till uppgift att lyssna in och sammanfatta mötets mening. Rent praktiskt innebär det att ombudet speglar mötet genom att i ord formulera var mötet befinner sig och därigenom hjälpa mötet att komma vidare. Ett tecken på att ett ombud behöver ingripa är om deltagare börjar upprepa sig eller om mötet stannar upp och inte kommer vidare. I låsta lägen kan ombudet be om en stunds tystnad. Vid ett helt låst läge kan ombudet föreslå att ett beslut skjuts upp. Beslut fastställs genom stilla bifall. Ombudet antecknar då det beslut som har fattas. Mötet väljer sedan mellan att godkänna det som antecknats eller att bearbeta frågan ytterligare. Det finns olika grader av motstånd mot beslut. Om mötets mening är tydlig, men någon enstaka person har en annan uppfattning, kan ombudet fråga om personen ändå är villig att låta mötet gå vidare. En person kan också begära att beslutet blir uppskjutet till nästa tillfälle. Det är upp till ombudet att smaka på enigheten och lyssna in mötets mening. Ett ombud kan alltid samla mötet till beslut. Den enighet som söks i beslutsmötet är inte konsensus.

Specifika situationer
När det gäller specifika situationer kan det samlade mötet ibland hitta fram till en stilla klarvakenhet, ett genomskinligt, meditativt tillstånd där gemenskapen är känslig för vad ”kärleken begär”, som kväkarna uttrycker det. I mindre möten med få deltagare kan mötet ledas lite mer informellt, t.ex. vid fördelningen av ordet. En bra besvärlig Vän är en person som ifrågasätter, ställer sig i vägen, och utmanar mötet att inte dölja någonting. En dålig besvärlig Vän ställer sig också i vägen, men är inte konstruktiv. För ombudet är det en avvägning hur sådan Vän ska hanteras. Ett ombud behöver på ett hövligt sätt skydda mötet. Att vara ombud är en ledarroll. Inför ett beslutsmöte är det bra om ombudet påminner deltagarna att tänka på ord- och tonval i inläggen, att se inlägget som en bro mellan det som tidigare har sagts och det kommande beslutet, att bidra till en allsidig belysning av det kommande beslutet, och att tala till hela mötet istället för till enskilda personer.

Metoden förutsätter att deltagarna inte enbart är beredda att yttra sig, utan att de också är villiga lyssna och är öppna inför att se en fråga i ett nytt ljus. Metoden kräver att det finns tillit till varandra och till gruppens förmåga att hitta en väg framåt. Påfallande under dagen var hur kursledaren då och då bjöd in oss till stunder av tystnad. Det slog mig att tystnaden inbjuder till medveten närvaro under mötet. Tystnaden möjliggör det lyssnande (inåt och utåt) som är nödvändigt för att beslutet ska kunna växa fram organiskt i gruppen. Ombudets viktigaste roll är att leda och spegla mötet genom att i ord formulera det som växer fram.

Det finns mycket mer att lära. Fortsättning följer…

Här skriver Sanna Fogelvik om sina intryck från kursen.

Relaterade inlägg:
En historisk tillbakablick på kväkarnas beslutsmetod
Att lyssna till livet i allt
Om att arbeta
Anteckningar från ett kväkerskt beslutsmöte

Quaker decision-making principles

There are a number of principles which are characteristic of Quaker decision-making:

  1. Unanimous decisions—no voting
  2. Silent periods—at start of meeting and when conflict arises
  3. Moratorium—when agreement cannot be reached
  4. Participation by all with ideas on the subject
  5. Learning to listen—not going to meeting with mind made up
  6. Absence of leaders—the clerk steers but does not dominate
  7. Nobody outranks anybody
  8. Factual-focus—emotions kept to a minimum
  9. Small meetings—typically limited numbers

Michael J. Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule, p. 51.
Stuart Chase, Roads to Agreement, pp. 51-52.

What can we learn from the Quakers?

I am exploring the Quaker traditions. The reason for my interest is that the decision making by consent (not consensus) in Sociocracy is derived from Quaker practices. Furthermore, I think there are lessons to learn from how Quakers facilitate their meetings in general. The more I learn, the more fascinated I become! For example, here is What Wikimedia can learn from the Quakers by Sue Gardner. Note that Sue provides a reading list for those interested in learning more. And here is Martin Kelley’s review of Michael Sheeran’s ”Beyond Majority Rule”, which to some is the definitive guide on the Quaker decision making method. Michael Sheeran spent several years studying the Quakers for his PhD. There are two short videos on YouTube where Michael shares his observations on Quaker Traditions and Quaker Decisions.

Quaker-based decision-making

The principle of consent in sociocracy is derived from Quaker practices. The Quaker-based decision-making has a simple structure which allows for individual voices to be heard while moving the group towards unity (not unanimity). Key components are:

  • The belief in a common humanity and the ability to decide together.
  • Ensuring group members speak only once until others are heard.
  • Dissenters’ perspectives are welcomed.
  • The facilitator serves the group rather than acting as person-in-charge.
  • The facilitator articulates the sense of the discussion.
  • The facilitator discerns who is acting in selfish interest without concern for the group.
  • Ideas and solutions belong to the group.
  • Decisions belong to the group.

Reference: Wikipedia

Kväkarnas beslutsmetod

Principen för samtycke i sociokrati bygger på kväkarnas 350-åriga traditioner. Beslut hos kväkarna fattas inte genom majoritetsröstning. Istället nås enighet genom att man söker efter ”mötets mening”. I detta sökande är allas erfarenhet, förstånd och omdöme viktiga! Det innebär kväkarna har en djup respekt för individens integritet.  En grundläggande tanke hos kväkarna är att varje individ har tillgång till Ljuset. De är därför icke-hierarkiskt organiserade och saknar Ledare (med stort L).

Kväkartidsskrift Nr 1 2008, Vännernas samfund i Sverige: Frågor till kväkare.

Relaterade inlägg:
Kurs i kväkarnas beslutsmetod

The essentials of Quaker practice

Sociocratic decision-making by consent is derived from the Quaker tradition. Therefore, it’s interesting to understand how Quakers make decisions and why they do it that way. Here are the essentials of Quaker practice (adapted from Collective Intelligence and Quaker Practice by Leonard Joy):

1. There’s a desire for the common good
2. All voices are heard and listened to
3. All are respected including those affected by the decision
4. All interests are respected and cared for
5. Loving relationships are maintained
6. All are grounded in their own humanity
7. There’s sensitivity to interdependence
8. All speak out of the silence (the state of being personally grounded)
9. All address the facilitator not one another
10. All speak simply, not repeating what has already been offered
11. All speak one’s own truth
12. There’s commitment to air dissent
13. There’s authentic expression of feeling
14. Decision making is distinguished from ”threshing”
15. Necessary documents are prepared prior to meetings for decision
16. The facilitator offers the ”sense of the meeting”
17. The facilitator resolves difficulty in coming to unity
18. Decisions are made not by majority vote, nor by consensus, but by unity
19. There’s a structure to bring to bear the voices of many collectivities