What is Consensus?

Consensus is becoming popular as a democratic form of decision-making. It is a process which requires an environment in which all contributions are valued and participation is encouraged. There are however, few organizations which use a model of Consensus which is:

  • Specific
  • Consistent
  • Efficient

Often, the Consensus process is:

  • Informal 
  • Vague
  • Very Inconsistent

This happens when the Consensus process is not based upon a solid foundation and the structure of the unknown or nonexistent. To develop a more formal type of Consensus process, any organization must define the commonly held principles which form the foundation of the group's work and intentionally choose the type of structure within which the process is built.


 A decision-making process whereby decisions are reached when all members present Consent to a Proposal. This process does not assume everyone must be in complete agreement. When differences remain after discussion, individuals can agree to disagree, this, give their Consent by Standing Aside, and allow the Proposal to be accepted by the group.

Consensus is a process of nonviolent conflict resolution. The expression of concerns and conflicting ideas is considered desirable and important. When a group creates an atmosphere which nurtures and supports disagreement without hostility and feat, it builds a foundation for stronger more creative decisions. When using Consensus the decision reflects the will of the entire group, not just the leadership. Each individual is responsible for expressing their own concerns. It is best if each concern is expressed as if it will be resolved. The group then responds by trying to resolve the concern through group discussion. If the concern remains unresolved after a full and open discussion, then the Facilitator asks how the concern is based upon the Foundation of the group. If it is, then the group accepts that the proposal is Blocked.

The people who carry out the plans of the group are more satisfied with their work in this way because they know it is the will of the members of their group. And as the old adage goes, two (or more heads) are better than one. With Consensus, decisions are adopted when all participants consent to the result of discussion about the original proposal. People who do not agree with the proposal are responsible for expressing their concerns. No decision is adopted until there is a resolution to every concern.  When concerns remain after discussion, individuals can agree to disagree by acknowledging that they have unresolved concerns, but consent to the proposal anyway and allow it to be adopted. Therefore, reaching Consensus does not assume that everyone must be in complete agreement, a highly unlikely situation in a group of intelligent, creative individuals.

See also:

Formal Consensus

N Street Consensus


Sources:On Conflict on Consensus 

Contributors: Amy Rothstein, C.T. Butler

Recommended Books: On Conflict on Consensus