Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 1986


Affilia: Feminist Inquiry in Social Work (Summer 1986) 1(2): 53-56

doi: 10.1177/08861099860010


Copyright 1986, the author. Used by permission.


For several years I have been teaching a social work course on how social workers can make their employing organization more responsive to consumers. We study how decisions are made in organizations. The students and I have become intrigued with the use of consensus decision-making in some organizations. Many—but by no means all—of these organizations are feminist organizations that wish to put feminist beliefs and philosophy into practice within organizations and to avoid structured administrative hierarchies for decision making. In their study of consensus decision-making organizations, students have reported that some participants are impatient with the time required by the use of consensus decision-making for all decisions—large and small. One student brought to class a copy of Martha’s Rules that were developed by Martha’s Housing Co-op for families in Madison, Wisconsin. Martha’s Rules are not only an alternative to Robert’s Rules, but provide ideas for people in organizations who are committed to consensus decision-making and who want to make it work well.