[theforum] Can't get on steering, finance or sysadmin

Martin Burns martin at easyweb.co.uk
Sat May 22 16:47:29 CDT 2004

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On 22 May 2004, at 20:24, Paul Waring wrote:

> Joel D Canfield wrote:
>> What if eight people vote, and it's a split? What if there are four
>> viable options, and no clear 'winner'? Who says 'all other things 
>> being
>> equal, I choose 'B' because they're all good'?
>> What happens in the above scenario (yours) is that two very good 
>> options
>> get lots of support, and we go back and forth about it, and since 
>> we're
>> all equal, no one has the group-granted authority to make a ruling.
> That's one of the problems you encounter with democracy. There are two 
> simple ways of solving it:
> 1. Have a chairman (yes I do realise this is like steering before 
> anyone points it out) who has a say only when the vote is tied. I'm 
> not too keen on this generally because sometimes the chairman 
> (depending who it is) can dominate the discussion and be a bit too 
> harsh on those of opposing opinion. If we had someone like the speaker 
> in the House of Commons, who is unbiased and prepared to lose their 
> right to vote except in the event of a tie, it could work, but I've 
> had bad experiences with this in the past when the chairman has got a 
> bit power-crazy and started telling people to be quiet just because 
> they don't agree with them.
> 2. If you have 4 options and there is no obvious winner (i.e. there is 
> a tie between the two favourites), you eliminate the option with the 
> lowest support and vote again. This way, if your option doesn't get 
> selected at least you can vote for your second choice instead.

Sadly, practical democracy doesn't work that way - it's more like 
consensus politics. Look at the number of issues that the UK government 
doesn't actually put to Parliament, not because it wouldn't win the 
simple numbers vote, but that it wouldn't get enough support to make it 
happen, or by doing so it would lose support for other issues.

To get anything done in a voluntary organisation, you not only need to 
get the majority of people supporting it, you have to get almost 
everyone else at least prepared to work with the decision. You not only 
need to win the vote, you also need to win the consensus, otherwise 
you're undermined in your efforts, by either action or inaction.

Bear in mind, this is the voice of 20 years' experience working with 
vol orgs, in both paid staff and volunteer capacities.

- --
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