Consensus decision making

Some key points taken from a description of consensus decision making processes by Seeds for Change:


What is consensus?

  • Agreement between all members to find solutions everyone supports (or can live with)
  • Encourages close listening and ensuring everyone’s voices are heard

Why use consensus?

  • Shared power – taking collective control over decisions
  • Building trust and community – respect and deep listening are foundations
  • Better decisions – weaving together everyone’s ideas and concerns
  • Getting things done – active commitment because everyone has formed the decision
  • Protecting minority needs and opinions

Conditions for consensus

  • Common goal – having shared overall objectives
  • Commitment to consensus – being prepared to do the work of listening and collaborating all the way to solution
  • Trust and openness – honesty about needs vs preferences, flexibility, implementing decisions
  • Sufficient time – taking the time to make good decisions
  • Clear process – shared understanding of the decision making process
  • Active participation – listening to everyone and voicing our own thoughts
  • Good facilitation – helps the group work harmoniously, creatively and democratically
  • Knowing who should be included – ideally involving everyone who is impacted by the outcome

‘Journey’ of consensus

A consensus flowchart

Options for agreement & disagreement

Possible options for agreement & disagreement

  • Agreement – “I support the proposal and am willing to implement it.”
  • Reservations – “I still have some problems with the proposal, but I’ll go along with it.”
  • Standing Aside – “I can’t support this proposal because… but I don’t want to stop the group, so I’ll let the decision happen without me and I won’t be part of implementing it.”
  • Blocking – “I have a fundamental disagreement with the core of the proposal that has not been resolved. We need to look for a new proposal.“