Consensus Decision Making

Consensus Decision Making

For More Information: Seeds for Change, http://seedsforchange.org.uk/free/consens

Purpose:
To synthesize collective wisdom in order to generate decisions that best serve the needs of the whole.

Outcomes:
High-quality decisions with strong support for follow-through and enhanced sense of connection among the participants.

When to Use:

  • When the group participating has authority to make decisions
  • When creative solutions are required to meet all the needs that are present
  • When implementation will be ineffective unless everyone involved is really on board


When Not to Use:

  • When there is no common purpose or willingness to cooperate
  • When there is strictly limited time combined with low trust within the group
  • When the decision would more appropriately be delegated to an individual or committee


Number of Participants:
2–1,000+

Types of Participants:
All the members who are entrusted to make group decisions

Typical Duration:

  • Preparation: Typically 1 hour outside meeting for every hour in the meeting
  • Events: One or more meetings of <1 hour to several days
  • Follow-up: Implementation of whatever decisions are reached


Brief Example:
The Federation of Egalitarian Communities runs programs to support its affiliated groups in areas such as recruitment, labor exchange, and health care. In 2001, two of its groups were seeking to move the organization in a more politically active direction, drawing concerns from the largest community that such a change would alienate its membership base. The solution that emerged was to become more politically engaged in ways that also supported existing goals, for example, by doing recruitment at political events.

Historical Context:
Method of group decision making throughout human history. Contemporary secular tradition has roots in Quaker practices (1647), Free Speech Movement (1964), Movement for a New Society (1971).