Consensus Basics

Thanks to everyone who came out to the training we held in December. It was a great success.   Here’s a quick “cheat-sheet” overview of some consensus basics, as a Word file that you can download (Consensus-Overview) or just read on here below:

What is consensus?

a)      Decisions that are backed by full group

b)     Creative process for finding solutions that meet everyone’s needs


            Note that consensus refers to people’s “consent” not necessarilly full agreement with a decision. In other words “I can live with it” or “good enough”.

            Also note, you can use a consensus process without using consensus decision making, although in all cases the decision-making process should be clear.


Why use it?

a)      By considering everyone’s viewpoint and needs, can often reach a better solution

b)     Doesn’t alienate people

c)      Decisions are often enacted faster and with greater support


When should you us it?

Here are some key questions to ask when considering using consensus:

a)      Do you have the skills to make consensus work?

b)     What’s the group’s relationship to work after the decision?

c)      How accountable is the group to their decisions? How will the effectiveness of their decisions be measured?

d)     Why were the people in this group selected to be in it?

e)      Do you have a commonly agreed upon goal for your decisions?

f)       Are you open to creative or unorthodox solutions?

g)      Will consensus with this group facilitate positive change or protect the status quo?


4 Essential Ingredients for consensus (borrowed from Laird Schaub)

a)      Explicit, shared values and purpose for group

b)     Work appropriate for the group

c)      Willingness to engage in process (buy-in)

d)     Belief in the process


3 Basic responses to a call for consensus

a)      Agree – usually meaning “I can support this”

b)     Stand Aside – I can’t support this, but I won’t stop it from going forward.

Note: If this happens a lot, then it’s an indication that the group is quite divided and the consensus process may be weak.

c)      Block – This decision cannot move forward

Note: A block must be justified according to the explicit purpose and values of the group, not personal interests. Also, if a person should typically only expect to block a decision a few times in their lives. If it’s happening more than that, then a serious flaw in the process or the person’s understanding of the process must be addressed.

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