The Challenge of Peer Organisation

J. P. Hoogma, The Challenge of Peer Organisation. Edinburgh, Scotland: CornuCopia Publications, 2001.

or the art of being in charge of ourselves
and still working productively together

Preface

In 1996 friends repeatedly asked me to write down my vision of how Co-Counsellors can organise themselves. How can peership be combined with effective organisation? The reason they gave me was that Co-Counsellors in the Scottish network did not really know and understand what my vision was. Eventually I accepted this challenge and wrote two articles for the Scottish Good&Newsletter, published in 1996 and 1997. This publication contains the almost unchanged version of these two articles.

Chapter 1 "Some facts about Co-Counsellors" describes facts that I think need to be taken into account when Co-Counsellors try to organise themselves. These facts actually pose challenges that are easily overlooked. When not dealt with, efforts invested into Co-Counselling often are wasted and lead to disappointment.

In Chapter 2 "Choices made in Scotland" you will find the decisions we made in the Scottish experiment, e.g How did we meet the above-mentioned challenges in Scotland in the period from 1992-1997?

Consensual peership not only promises everybody to have a voice in decision-making but also the opportunity to block everything what one doesn't like. Therefore each peership organisation is confronted with the challenge to avoid the trap of messy, ineffective democracy and to develop a decision making process that involves as many Co-Counsellors as possible and produces wise decisions and good results as well.

In Chapter 3 "Decision Making" I take a closer look at critical issues in the decision-making of peer and voluntary organisations. I also describe the proposals I made for the 1997 AGM to improve decision making and involvement in the Scottish Co-Counselling network. Many of my proposals are now implemented, though in amended forms.

At the time it was my aim to write a chapter about how the development of a strong Co-Counselling volunteers base can be stimulated. In 1998 however, my priorities shifted and I didn't finalise and publish the draft. A slightly changed version you can read in the Scottish Section of the five Case Studies "How can we support new Co-Counsellors to settle into Co-Counselling."

Finally, the things I have written are not pure theory or speculative fantasy. I am pleased to see that those ideas translated themselves very much into a vibrant Co-Counselling community in Scotland, now already existing for several years.

Thanks for your attention,

JanPieter Hoogma, February 2001

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