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Why we work collectively

written by COSHG workers several years ago

"Show us not the aim without the way

For ends and means on earth are so entangled

That changing one, you change the other too;

Each different path brings other ends in view".

Ferdinand Lassale: Franz von Sickengen.

COSHG works collectively because we believe that this is the most appropriate way for us to work towards achieving our goals.

This involves developing a sense of trust and mutual respect amongst members of the collective, recognising the value of the skills and experience of each member, with all members having the same right to participate in the decision making process.

At the same time, we acknowledge the barriers to equality within our collective structures, because not all members have the same level of experience, skills, confidence and involvement. We attempt to break down these inequalities and power differences through ensuring that all members have access to the necessary information and by fostering a supportive environment where people are free to learn, make mistakes and develop their knowledge. We believe that this process is critical in breaking power structures and barriers to participation in the wider society

By working collectively, we are accountable to our membership and open to their input. Access to COSHG is not denied or limited by a hierarchical structure. Through this process of working collectively, we draw strength that carries over into the rest of our lives and reinforces our experience that change is possible.

Through this we exercise control over our working environment which is not possible in a situation where people are divided and classified according to sex or age, and the other aspects mentioned above. We exercise control not possible where there are strict hierarchical lines of power within an organisation.

In other words, we attempt to put into practice our goals for society.

Some notes:

1. Avoid arguing for your own rankings. Present your position as lucidly and logically as possible, but listen to the other members' reactions and consider them carefully before you press your point.

2. Do not assume that someone must win and someone must lose when discussion reaches a stalemate. Instead, look for the next-most-acceptable alternative for all parties.

3. Do not change your mind simply to avoid conflict and to reach agreement and harmony. When agreement seems to come too quickly and easily, be suspicious. Explore the reasons and be sure everyone accepts the solution for basically similar or complementary reasons. Yield only to positions that have objective and logically sound foundations.

4. Avoid conflict-reducing techniques such as majority vote, averages, coin-flips and bargaining. When dissenting members finally agree, don't feel that they must be rewarded by having their own way on some later point.

5. Differences of opinion are natural and expected. Seek them out and try to involve everyone in the decision process. Disagreements can help the group's decision because with a wide range of information and opinions, there is a greater chance that the group will hit upon more adequate solutions.

More information about Consensus Decision Making

There's a website about consensus: 

See also Pt' Chang on the Links to Groups page

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