Decisions Agreement

This agreement defines how formal decisions are made at Root Systems. It identifies a number of different types of decision-making protocols, and describes processes for participating in formal decision making.

Context

Root Systems is a network of highly autonomous individuals, teams, and ventures. As much as possible, we encourage people to make decisions for themselves.

Root Systems is also a network building shared commons, and pursuing shared aspirations, that call for collective agreements and commitments. There are a variety of situations where it is useful or necessary to make a formal decision as a group.

Decision Protocol: Consensus

For formal decisions, Root Systems uses consensus decision-making, a methodology with a specific meaning and practice. Consensus does not mean unanimous agreement or engagement from everyone on all decisions. The key concept is consent (you can live with it), which is distinct from agreement (it’s your preference or first choice).

Agreements

Formal decisions with everyone are only intended to be used when they will have significant impact on the wider network. This Decision Agreement is the core agreement from which all others derive their mandate.

In order to enable efficient decision-making, provide clarity to participants, comply with laws, and protect the network, certain formal decisions are delegated to specific people, groups, or processes other than a consensus decision. This delegation is an Agreement and they are documented in our Handbook. Decisions to change existing Agreements or create new ones are made by everyone in the network together.

Decision Tool: Loomio

At Root Systems, formal decisions are made using a software tool called Loomio, which helps groups make collective decisions using constructive deliberation. This process is based on the principle that diverse perspectives can be synthesised to achieve better solutions that work for more people.

While making use of other channels (online and offline) to enrich input into a decision is strongly encouraged, the results on Loomio are considered the official outcome. This is so that we can keep a clear record and archive, and to ensure that everyone who desires to participate in a given decision-making process has the opportunity to make their voice heard.

Not every Loomio proposal constitutes a formal decision. Many Loomio proposals are created simply to gauge interest or share information. For the purposes of this Agreement, a “formal decision” is a clearly worded Loomio proposal seeking a specific mandate on behalf of the network.

Making Formal Decisions

Anyone can propose a formal decision at any time. We seek open, transparent decision-making and strive to enable the people who are affected by a decision to participate as fully as possible in making it. Root Systems tries to make decisions with the widest possible circle of participants, while recognising the necessity and wisdom of delegating responsibility for certain decisions.

A formal decision is only required whenever there is a significant impact on the network. It is difficult to specify exact criteria for every case, so everyone is encouraged to use their best judgement to balance exercising autonomy with gaining shared understanding.

Formal decisions are needed for the following areas (some with the whole network, some with a subset of people or by a process which has been delegated by an Agreement).

  • Agreements - creating new rules about how Root Systems works
  • Brand - using the Root Systems logo and identity publicly
  • Money - spending collective funds or for actions that impact our financial outlook
  • Tools & Processes - how the network as a whole will work and communicate
  • Relationships - commitments as a network with individuals or entities (such as invitations to membership, appointing directors, MOUs with ventures or other entities)
  • Buy-in & Awareness - when seeking a shared sense of ownership and support from the network as a whole

Decision Types

This agreement sets out the types of consensus decision making protocols that are used within Root Systems. These protocols are named here so they can easily be referred to in other Agreements and contexts, and people can consider which is most appropriate for the situation.

The default for all formal decision making in Root Systems is the Standard Decision.

Type Passing Criteria Engagement Threshold Minimum Timeframe Description
Standard Decision Passes as long as there are no blocks None 3 working days (5 working days encouraged when possible) This is the default option and is used for most decisions at Root Systems. Ensures that no one strongly opposes a course of action, while allowing progress to move forward. If there are a large number of “no”s, it’s strongly advised to work on another iteration to find a better solution, but the proposer may move ahead at their discretion.

Additionally, we have other types of formal decisions for specific circumstances. When using any of the decision types below, it must be clearly specified in the proposal.

Type Passing Criteria Engagement Threshold Minimum Timeframe Description
Significant Decision Passes as long as there are no blocks and more than 50% of those stating a position agree None 5 working days (10 working days encouraged when possible) This option should be used for more consequential decisions, such as changes to Root Systems Agreements.
Quorum Decision Passes as long as there are no blocks. Requires at least 75% of all eligible voters to agree or abstain (meaning at least ¾ of all group members must participate) 5 working days (10 working days encouraged when possible) This option is used when a Special Resolution (as defined in the Constitution) is required
Emergency Decision Passes even if there are blocks, but requires 75% of those stating a position to agree None 10 working days. If faster action is required, the board can exercise its emergency powers. This option is a safeguard when the normal decision making processes fails. This option is only used in specific circumstances where a minority block would be destructive, such as removing a member, contributor, catalyst or venture from the community or a role.

Discussions & Proposals

Loomio decisions are generally preceded by a Loomio discussion. It is recommended to allow space for open discussion before starting a proposal, to give people an opportunity to be actively involved in shaping the context of the decision, and to share relevant information and opinions.

Any participant can raise a proposal, which describes a clear course of action or resolution. Once a proposal has been created, participants are asked to state a position.

position meaning
YES You’re happy with the proposal.
ABSTAIN You’re happy for the group to decide without you.
NO You think there might be a better alternative, but you’re willing to go with the group’s decision.
BLOCK You’ve got serious objections and you’ll be extremely unhappy if this proposal goes ahead.

Blocking

At Root Systems, a single block is sufficient to stop a proposal proceeding in most cases. This places a considerable responsibility on someone blocking to deeply consider their choice, and on everyone involved to respect the right to block and to work toward a resolution.

A decision to block should not be taken lightly, but if you feel strongly about an issue and really want to stop a proposal you actually need to block it, because simply disagreeing or arguing against is not a guarantee that it won't be passed.

Blocking Policies

  • Place the good of the whole group above your own individual preferences.
  • You are not required to propose an alternative solution to raise a block, but you must articulate the nature of your block clearly so the group can understand the concern and work toward a resolution.
  • Simply vetoing a decision is not considered a responsible use of consensus blocking - you must be prepared to work collaboratively to try and reach a resolution, make time for conversations, and to help others understand the issue.
  • Blocks should only be used in cases where the blocker genuinely believes there is a significant risk of harm to the network, or that the proposal contravenes the fundamental values of Root Systems.

Note: Blocks by Root Systems Members are binding. The question of whether blocks by contributors are or should be binding as well is ambiguous, with people in the community feeling strongly both ways. That ambiguity is intentionally left unresolved in this agreement.

Decision Culture & Practice

While this document defines our formal decision making protocols, the effectiveness of our decision-making practice depends on our collective culture. The following principles have been found to be helpful in supporting formal decision-making at Root Systems.

Your Participation

  • Share your genuine and honest views and opinions.
  • Be succinct and clear in your communication.
  • Modulate the volume of your contributions to leave space for equitable participation from others.
  • Practice empathy and ask questions. Listen to understand, not to find fault.
  • Actively engage in order to help the group make progress.
  • Be prepared to have your mind changed - don’t be overly attached to your ideas.
  • Consciously embrace diverse perspectives to reveal blind spots.
  • Ask for help if you are not adequately engaged or don't understand an issue.

Enriching Engagement

  • Open multiple channels to get well-rounded input (not just Loomio, not just online).
  • Involve people who are not in your geographical location and those you do not work with regularly.
  • If you encounter tension, conflict, or confusion, escalate communication to a higher bandwidth channel (Loomio to chat, chat to video, video to one-on-one, one-on-one to mediation by a third party), and then report outcomes back to the group.
  • Take considered acts of facilitation to improve the experience of the group overall (examples: inviting in those we have not yet heard from, clarifying and summarising points raised, suggesting good timing for a proposal, etc).

Living link to Enspiral agreement

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