Gathering: A process to support decision making


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    • Network & Organisation
    • Decision making
    • A-Z
    • Peerness
    • Network & Organisation

This is a highly effective and surprisingly efficient method of decision making. It works in any group whose members are prepared to take responsibility for some of the group process. In other words it works in peer facilitated groups and it can also work in hierarchically facilitated groups as long as the members can exercise some of their power.

The process goes like this:

At any stage anyone who thinks it is appropriate can start a gather. What they do is to summarise the situation. The aim of the summary is to incorporate all the different opinions and needs being expressed.

If anyone disagrees with the gather, i.e. they think it is not a complete summary or it is inaccurate in some way, then they can re-gather. The rule is, though, that the re-gather must be a complete summary. In other words the re-gatherer is not allowed to just disagree with some part of the gather.

If anyone disagrees with the re-gather then they can re-gather in the same way. The process continues until everyone is content with the latest gather.

This way a summary is arrived at which incorporates all shades of opinion, need and fact. This means that the group validates all points of view, minority views are as important as majority views.

The gather may effectively be a decision. It could, for instance, be along the lines that a majority want to do A, a minority would prefer to do B, which is incompatible with A, but do not object to A, another minority want to do C which can be done in addition to A, another minority is opposed to A and most people think that it is acceptable for A to be done despite this latter minority's objections.

If there is a sense that that the situation outlined in the gather is not a satisfactory basis upon which to proceed then the discussion will continue until someone starts another gather.

Although the process can sound a bit complicated, in practice it is usually surprisingly easy. Often it can circumvent the need for unnecessary discussion. Thus, in an ongoing group dealing with an ongoing issue someone can start off with a gather that summarises the current situation. If everyone is happy with that and there is nothing more that needs doing currently then the group can get straight on with the next business.

The discipline of the process encourages everyone to give good attention to all points of view. That means that people are and feel heard and understood. This can avoid a lot of repetitive argument as people struggle to be heard.

The process also encourages a creative problem solving approach to decision making. In other words the group looks for solutions that can honour all the different needs and opinions rather than arguing over the merits of existing proposals.

The process supports non hierarchical decision making where no one and no group tries or has the authority to exercise control over others. At the end of the process each individual decides for themselves what to do, but they do so in the light of the information contained in the gathers.

A Definition of Co-Counselling International - CCI

J. Heron, A Definition of Co-Counselling International - CCI, One to One, 1996.

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  • CCI
  • Session
  • Client In Charge
  • Session Contracts
  • Peerness

CCI is a planet-wide association of individuals and local networks committed to affirm a core discipline of co-counselling while encouraging, on an international and co-operative basis, the advancement of sound theory, effective practice, network development and planetary transformation. Local networks of co-counsellors within CCI are independent, self-governing peer organisations, exploring ways of being effective social structures while avoiding all forms of authoritarian control. Any person and network is a member of CCI if :

  1. they understand and apply the principles of co-counselling given below
  2. they have had at least 40 hours training from a member of CCI
  3. they grasp, in theory and practice, the ideas of pattern, discharge and re-evaluation

The Principles of Co-Counselling

  1. Co-counselling is usually practised in pairs with one person working, the client, one person facilitating, the counsellor, then they reverse these roles. In every session each person spends the same time in the role of both client and counsellor. A session is usually on the same occasion, although sometimes people may take turns as client and counsellor on different occasions.
  2. When co-counsellors work in groups of three or more, members take an equal time as client, each client either choosing one other person as counsellor, or working in a self-directing way with the silent, supportive attention of the group. For certain purposes, the client may request co-operative interventions by two or more counsellors.
  3. The client is in charge of their session in at least seven ways:
    1. trusting and following the living process of liberation emerging within
    2. choosing at the start of the session one of three contracts given in no. 9 below
    3. choosing within the first two contracts what to work on and how
    4. being free to change the contract during their session
    5. having a right to accept or disregard interventions made by the counsellor
    6. being responsible for keeping a balance of attention
    7. being responsible for working in a way that does not harm themselves, the counsellor, other people, or the environment
  4. The client's work is their own deep process. It may include, but is not restricted to:
    1. discharge and re-evaluation on personal distress and cultural oppression
    2. celebration of personal strengths
    3. creative thinking at the frontiers of personal belief
    4. visualising future personal and cultural states for goal-setting and action-planning
    5. extending consciousness into transpersonal states

    CCI takes the view that the first of these is a secure foundation for the other four.

  5. The role of the counsellor is to:
    1. give full, supportive attention to the client at all times
    2. intervene in accordance with the contract chosen by the client
    3. inform the client about time at the end of the session and whenever the client requests
    4. end the session immediately if the client becomes irresponsibly harmful to themselves, the counsellor, other people, or the environment
  6. The counsellor's intervention is a behaviour that facilitates the client's work. It may be verbal, and/or nonverbal through eye contact, facial expression, gesture, posture or touch.
  7. A verbal intervention is a practical suggestion about what the client may say or do as a way of enhancing their working process within the session. It is not a stated interpretation or analysis and does not give advice. It is not driven by counsellor distress and is not harmful or invasive. It liberates client autonomy and self-esteem.
  8. The main use of nonverbal interventions is to give sustained, supportive and distress-free attention: being present for the client in a way that affirms and enables full emergence. This use is the foundation of all three contracts given below. Nonverbal interventions can also be used to elaborate verbal interventions; or to work on their own in conveying a practical suggestion; or, in the case of touch, to release discharge through appropriate kinds of pressure, applied movement or massage.
  9. The contract which the client chooses at the start of the session is an agreement about time, and primarily about the range and type of intervention the counsellor will make. The three kinds of contract are:
    Free attention
    The counsellor makes no verbal interventions and only uses nonverbal interventions to give sustained, supportive attention. The client is entirely self-directing in managing their own working process.
    The counsellor is alert to what the client misses and makes some interventions of either kind to facilitate and enhance what the client is working on. There is a co-operative balance between client self-direction and counsellor suggestions.
    The counsellor makes as many interventions as seem necessary to enable the client to deepen and sustain their process, hold a direction, interrupt a pattern and liberate discharge. This may include leading a client in working areas being omitted or avoided. The counsellor may take a sensitive, finely-tuned and sustained directive role.
  10. Counsellors have a right to interrupt a client's session if they are too heavily restimulated by what the client is working on and so cannot sustain effective attention. If, when they explain this to the client, the client continues to work in the same way, then they have a right to withdraw completely from the session.
  11. Whatever a client works on in a session is confidential. The counsellor, or others giving attention in a group, do not refer to it in any way in any context, unless the client has given them explicit, specific permission to do so. It is, however, to be taken into account, where relevant, by the counsellor in future sessions with the same client.