What is "Formal Consensus"?

Many groups regularly use diverse discussion techniques learned from practitioners in the field of Conflict Resolution. Although this website does include several techniques, The Transition uses a structure based in part off of the structure used in Formal Consensus.


Formal Consensus is a structure that creates a separation between the identification and the resolution of concerns. It is a model of Decision-making based on non-hierarchical and Egalitarian structures that is cooperative and inclusive in nature. Formal Consensus has a clearly defined structure. It requires a commitment to active cooperation, disciplined speaking and listening, and respect for the contributions of every member. Likewise, every person has the responsibility to actively participate as a creative individual within the structure.

This structure is presented in levels of cycles. 

1st Level

All participants are given an opportunity to express opinions, including concerns, but group time is not spent resolving problems. Some decisions can be reached after discussion at the first level. 

2nd Level

At the second level, the scope of the discussion is limited to the concerns. They are identified and publicly listed, which enables everyone to get an overall picture of the concerns. The focus of attention is on identifying the body of concerns and grouping similar ones. The group only focuses its attention on identifying concerns, still not resolving them. (Note: This requires discipline. reactive comments, even funny ones, and resolutions, even good ones, can suppress the creative ideas of others.)

3rd Level

The group explores resolutions. Here the scope is very narrow. The focus of discussion is limited to a single unresolved concern until it is resolved.

More Information:


The Rules of Formal Consensus


Consensus FAQ


The Flow of the Formal Consensus Process



Source: On Conflict & Consensus

Contributors: Amy Rothstein, C.T. Butler

Recommended Books: On Conflict on Consensus