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Thor Prohaska - Snowbording Experience
When I was a lone snowboarder I had no organisational problems with other snowboarders. As the number of snowboarders slowly grew we began to organise things together. We would sort things out just by talking about them the way any group of friends or family do. We were a tribe and to make our bond stronger we had a common enemy in the form of the authorities that ran the ski resorts as they had banned us from most of the ski lifts. So to lobby for change we formed an organisation known as the Snowboard Riders of Victoria (SRV). We then became part of the mainstream by affiliating with the Victorian Ski Association to give more leverage to our lobbying efforts.
The SRV had the normal structure of any traditional hierarchical organisation. There was a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, committee members and ordinary members. At the start this arrangement was working fine and we were making progress towards our goal of promoting snowboarding and opening up all Victorian alpine resorts to snowboarders. Then in the late 1980's snowboarding started to become popular and the money began flowing into the sport. All of a sudden people who had been open about what they were doing started to withhold information and to scheme and plan things to suit their own ends. This was not a surprise as it is a common, but lower, expression of human nature. As a result we started to get decisions being made that were not as effective as they had been before because all the facts of the issue were not being revealed.
In an attempt to sort out some issues that had gone off the rails we found ourselves going back to the way we made decisions when we were a 'tribe' which meant that only those people who had an interest in an issue got to vote. This removed those people who didn't really know about the issue or didn't really care or had some other agenda to push that had nothing directly to do with the merits of the issue. This established the consensus group.
Then we found that we needed to establish at the start of the process, before there was any discussion or voting, what the required level of consensus would be when it was time to vote. It is a fact that some issues are more important than other and therefore require a greater level of consensus while lesser issues require a lower levels of consensus. The level is obviously somewhere between 51% and 100% . With this understanding in place those who are on the loosing side of the vote were more likely to support the groups decision.
Next we would ensure that there was clear agreement on the timeframe available to resolve issues. As some issues are very time sensitive they must be decided by a deadline. Those issues that aren't time sensitive can be allowed to run until the required level of consensus has been reached. Once we had this established it made for an easier resolution process.
So by this stage of the process only those people with a genuine interest were involved, the level of agreement needed was known and we knew when it had to be agreed by. All that remained was to resolve the issue.
If somebody had a problem with the issue then they had to actually state what their objection was and argue their case. This removed those people who objected for reasons that had nothing to do with the merits of the issue. For example because the person who was coordinating the issue didn't buy them a beer or reminded them of somebody they didn't like or because they had their own idea that wasn’t as good but they liked it better. What was very interesting was that when a person who objected to an idea couldn't argue their case, because they didn't really have a case, then they realised that there was no further point in objecting and the rest of the group no longer took them seriously.
The next type of objection came from a person who was able to argue their point. This generated healthy debate that resulted in either the person being persuaded that the majority position was right or they persuaded the majority that their position was superior and as a result the group changed their mind.
The third type of objection came from a person who just said that it was their gut instinct or intuition telling them that it 'didn't feel good'. As they were unable to say why they felt this way it was not possible to engage in debate with them. Initially when this happened the person who said that it 'didn't feel good' said go ahead and do it because they couldn't offer an argument. However, as the decision was implemented and more became known about it then the flaw in the idea that had 'not felt good' became evident. As a result in future instances we listened to those people whose gut instinct or intuition sensed something was not right and take more care and time to investigate an issue further before implementing it.
The process described briefly above is based on the way humans naturally work together and therefore it is a more effective approach. It has been from this and similar experiences in my professional and personal life that has led me to the conclusion that there is no reason why this approach couldn't be scaled up to resolve local, regional or national issues.
To turn these ideas into reality I ran for the federal parliament in 2013 as the PUP candidate for the Brisbane seat of Petrie. I came third with 10.2% of the primary vote but that doesn't get you elected. Anyway, the Palmer United Party is in my opinion not walking the talk when it comes to fixing what is wrong with our democracy. So I have resigned from PUP and I am now working with other Australians who also believe that we need to put policy and real representation back at the centre of our nation's democracy. Call me on 0419 344 806 if you are intrested in knowing more.