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Exploring the efficacy of consensus-based decision-making: A pilot study of the Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Ireland

Paul A. Cunningham (College of Intercultural Communication, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan)

International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis

ISSN: 1753-8270

Article publication date: 27 May 2014




This pilot study aims to explore the case of Cloughjordan Ecovillage from the perspective of the consensus-based decision-making approach adopted by this like-minded intentional community. Ecovillages have grown in number around the world since the early 1990s. This growth is largely due to the contested nature of postmodernity and the desire to establish a simpler, meaningful and sustainable lifestyle centered on participatory democracy within the local community. The primary research question guiding this study was – Does consensus work in an intentional community such as an ecovillage?


Data collection included semistructured interviews with current and former ecovillage members, questionnaires (reported elsewhere), literature review, content analysis of relevant documents and media and participant observation.


The preliminary findings suggest that despite the impressive nature of the built infrastructure at this site, the community continues to struggle with governance, decision-making, consensus and communication issues.


Considerable interpersonal conflict, leading to the departure of half of the community membership in 2007, acted as a catalyst in calling in outside experts to resolve disputes and to implement a more effective and sustainable framework within which to organize and govern the community. The “Viable Systems Model” was adopted in the same year and thus far appears to have provided a more viable and equitable leadership model that has generally been well received by the current membership.



A. Cunningham, P. (2014), "Exploring the efficacy of consensus-based decision-making: A pilot study of the Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Ireland", International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 233-253.



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