Reaching Consensus

Consensus building techniques, fallback voting, dispute resolution

Few groups work by pure consensus outside those that live in community (e.g. cohousing), are religiously based (e.g. Quakers) or are on a criminal jury. But modified-consensus can work remarkably well even in complex and contentious issues. For example, in over four years of Steering Committee meetings for the San Joaquin River Dissolved Oxygen TMDL, only two votes have occurred and both passed with over 90% support. All other decisions were unanimous.

Consensus can be reached almost all the time with well run meetings, but having a way to make a decision when one or a few participants cannot agree has been an important factor in the success of the consensus-based process. Dispute resolution skills and principles and clarifying common interests versus initial positions are also important to reaching consensus.

Consensus Training Workshops

Examples of Consensus-based, Fallback Voting Groundrules

From Position to Interests

By Kevin Wolf

Identifying common interests and clarifying stakeholders’ initial “positions” are early steps in dispute resolution.

Community Dispute Resolution: Building Consensus on Public Policy
By Susan Sherry and Sharon Huntsman, BROKEN California Center for Public Dispute Resolution 

Excellent overview including: key concepts, interest based approach, core stakeholders, options for mutual gain, four steps to crafting options, stages of consensus and more.