Moon Units and Marbles

How many decisions do we make in a lifetime? Individually, we make decisions constantly, from minute to minute. Decisions are choices to do or think or be something. Decisions just for and about myself are usually easy. “I will paddle the river today.” Or, “There’s something burning on the stove ~ put it out!” Nothing further is necessary.

Mutual decisions between two people might require some negotiation or compromise. The ease of making decisions together is one of the indicators of a good relationship to me. It’s one of the happy things that I first noticed about having Woosi, Dirk, and Josie in my life. The level of friction involved in decision making was low to non-existent.

Now, start adding more people to the decision-making mix and, no matter how like-minded the people may be, the process gets more intricate. Notice that I did not say “more difficult.” With good, smart, and well-meaning people such as I’m blessed with decisions still happen, but it may take some time for all of us to feel heard and consent to whatever is under discussion.

The four of us are creating an intentional family. And, being the good, smart, and well-meaning people that we are, we want to make decisions that include all of our perspectives. Over the course of 2015/16, we spent many weekend meetings working on a document that outlines the agreements that we want to live by ~ our Bylaws (we thought we were headed towards forming an LLC, however we ended up with a Trust and LLC ~ another story for another time).

It was an especially amazing thing to work through this with Josie, Dirk, and Woosi. I had researched various community agreement documents over the years. The books Creating A Life Together (by Diana Leafe Christian) and Creating A Line Family (by Richard Gilmore and Elon De Arcana) are full of sound advice. I had even begun a skeleton draft of Bylaws.

When we four sat down to seriously work on our agreements document, two things became quickly apparent: we are smart, and the four of us are smarter than any one of us. How, then, do we work all of this into a set of agreements that we want to live by here at CopperMoon?

For myself, I remember reading a magazine article about a group of women who kayaked the Inside Passage from Alaska to Washington. Within this wonderful article full of sea kayak adventure was a unique group decision process. In any decision that affected the group, they would listen to the most cautious voice. This is brilliant! If we are trying to paddle 15 miles to Point X and one of us is worried about the weather or how they are feeling, then they are likely not going to be able to put forth the effort needed to reach the goal. Let’s listen to that. What can we do? What is possible?

The same attitude applied to our work on agreements. I may think that I know all of the ins and outs of proxy voting, for example, but listening to the most cautious voice pointed out flaws or concerns in our work time and time again and the final result is much better for it.

Over 17 pages, we covered Organization, Membership, Credits, Proxy Votes, Changes to Bylaws, Board of Directors and Officers, Meetings, Conflict Resolution, Finances, Leaving the LLC*, and Dissolution of the LLC*. There is work in here, such as decision making or our officer positions, that I am certain exists in no other community anywhere and I am incredibly proud of how it all came out.

One highlight from our Bylaws is the combined systems of CopperMoon Credits and Decision Credits. We prefer the terms Moon Units and Marbles, respectively (’cause that’s how we roll!). CopperMoon Credits, or Moon Units, is our way of defining each of our investments of life energy in CopperMoon and determining the overall ownership. Life energy is a term I learned from Your Money Or Your Life (by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin). It is a tidy term that includes everything from manual labor to money to gifts. That all starts with your life energy. Each of has invested tons of life energy in CopperMoon, some more than others, and we record that and compute ownership of CopperMoon Community Trust based upon that investment.

Decision Credits, or Marbles, are also based on our investment of life energy. This is our way of creating a fair playing field if we are forced into using our Last Resort Decision Process. Someday, some critical issue might elude all of our skills at negotiating consent and we would have to put that issue to a vote. Well, a straight up majority vote ~ one person, one vote ~ does not make sense because of our different levels of life energy investment. A person with more investment and who cares more about the issue at hand can to have a greater say in this issue. Our system starts with the percentage of Moon Units each person owns. That becomes a pool of Decision Credits, or Marbles, and each of us has a different number of Marbles. Marbles get used whenever a Last Resort Decision vote is taken.

Now here is the brilliant part. The Marbles used in a vote get *redistributed* after the vote. This keeps the system charged up and we will never run out of marbles (if you ever want more details about this, just let me know).

Recently, Woosi created a graphic of what our group decision making looked like to her. This is based on techniques that we learned from the Context Institute‘s Bright Future Now network and from We The People, Consenting to a Deeper Democracy (by John Buck and Sharon Villines). This book is a guide to Sociocratic principles and methods.

CopperMoon, CARC, CopperMoon Advanced Retreat Center
Decision Making At CopperMoon (click on image to embiggen)

It looks incredibly complex, right? Well, in practice, this covers about every part of our decision making process. Sometimes, the decision we make is as simple as, “What’s for breakfast?” ~ “Brussel sprout hash!” Other times, nearly every part of this diagram gets used. Input, options, constraints, proposal, discussion, modification of proposal, discussion leading to a decision which is within the range of tolerance for all of us.

We’ve learned other lessons along the way. It would be crazy-making for all of us to have to be part of every decision that happens around here. There are activities here at CopperMoon, such as gardening or website design, that I just trust Dirk or Woosi or Josie to handle. I’ve told them so and they know it. We’ve built spots into our family meeting agenda to hear about these activities. So, if I have an opinion about something I can get my two-cents in.

The point of all this is that a group of people trying to do something together must learn how to make decisions together. This is a dynamic evolving process and we’ll learn more as time goes on. We’ve paid our dues and have put in due diligence to form a foundation which we can use to accomplish just about anything.

I find this fascinating, both the subject and the process, and I’m excited about the work we’ve done. Does this sound interesting to you? What would you like to hear more about?

*Remember, we thought we were forming an LLC but ended up with a Trust (and for very good reasons).

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