April 8, 2005

More on Sense and Consensus

The “hotter” the issue the harder it is for to capture the sense or consensus (if there is one) or even the range of opinions in a group accurately, whether by a poll or a vote of the whole body. In the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory we use a “consensus tool” in which, instead of straight up and down votes on certain matters, everyone votes on a scale of 0-10 (0=completely and utterly opposed, 10=completely and utterly in favor, and 5 as the midpoint means no opinion either way), and the results are both averaged and graphed and action taken (or not) in response.

This produces some interesting results. For instance, on subject X you might have a majority who are moderately in favor but a minority strongly opposed. For instance, four people score the issue as a 6 (mildly in favor) and three score it at a 2, rather strongly against it. If this were an “up and down” vote it would be approved, but the average is actually at 3.86, a No position. Should the “majority” who are only moderately in favor bow to the stronger feelings of the minority who are strongly opposed? (Usually in cases like this we decide to wait until we have a greater consensus!). If something like this could be worked out for the church as a whole, I think we might in fact get a reasonable sense as to the range and relative strength of opinion on any number of matters, with the caveat that just because people feel a certain way (even strongly) doesn’t make them right!

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