Friday, June 17, 2005

What is consensus?

People often ask me about Consensus decision-making process...
I just found a decent definition here...

Me: To my mind the most important element of this model is the idea of a COMMON GOAL. When the common/unified objective behind the group is compromised in any way, the difficulty of the consensus model is proven. In other words if we dont agree on the original reasons for forming the collective in the first place, then all is ostensibly lost at the foundation. There MUST be a DEFINED objective from the outset. We use the model for decision-making at Perth Indymedia.

What is consensus?

Consensus is a decision-making process that works creatively to include all persons making the decision. Instead of simply voting for an item, and having the majority of the group getting their way, the group is committed to finding solutions that everyone can live with. This ensures that everyone's opinions, ideas and reservations are taken into account. But consensus is more than just a compromise. It is a process that can result in surprising and creative solutions - often better than the original suggestions.

Consensus can work in all types of settings: small groups of activists, local communities, businesses, even whole nations and territories. The Zapatista movement in lower Mexico (Oaxaca and Chiapas) answers to a public control called "la consulta". This group - comprised of all men, women and children age 12 and over - meets in local meetings where discussion is held and all the members make the final decision.

Within a small group of up to 20 people consensus tends to be more simple, as everyone can get to know each other and reach a mutual understanding of backgrounds, values and viewpoints. For larger groups different processes have been developed, such as splitting into smaller units for discussion and decision-making with constant exchange and feedback between the different units. Our briefing Consensus In Large Groups has more examples and ideas for reaching consensus with hundreds and even thousands of people...

...Many activists working for peace, the environment and social justice regard consensus as essential to their work. They believe that the methods for achieving change need to match their goals and visions of a free, non-violent, egalitarian society. Consensus is also a way of building community, trust, a sense of security and mutual support - important in times of stress and emergency.

In the antimilitarist protests at Greenham Common in the 1980s thousands of women participated in actions and experimented with consensus. Mass actions involving several thousand people have repeatedly been planned and carried out using consensus...


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