General Assemblies – A Lesson in Patience

This evening I had the privilege of attending a General Assembly for Occupy Barrie.

Much of the media attention for the Occupy movement has focused on public protests and the aggressive way that some jurisdictions have responded.

However to me the most interesting aspect of this movement is its decision making process, which centres on the idea of consensus.  For someone used to board rooms, or company meetings, or parliamentary votes, this process must appear slow, unfocused and repetitive.  There is no ‘show of hands’, no chairman, no binding rulings.  Any individual can speak, and everyone is listened too.  A few basic mechanisms exist to ensure order, and a set of hand singles are used to indicate points of order, agreement or disagreement, and speakers running over their allotted time.

It became very clear this evening that ‘efficiency’ and ‘consensus’ are two very different goals.  This is not the way to quickly and decisively take action.  But I suspect that that is not the point.  I have a feeling that if the Occupy movement has any lasting legacy, it may well be that it introduces an entire generation to this alternative method for making group decisions.