Consensus Decision-Making

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Description

DailyKos:

"What exactly is this consensus process? There is no one set of rules for reaching consensus.


At the site ConsensusDecisionMaking.org they have this to say:

- There are many meanings to the word "consensus." And there are many variations in the ways groups use "consensus decision-making." These differences are expressed in the articles and other resurces on this website. The following unifying principles, however, form a common trunk from which different branches grow.

They list and elaborate on the following principles:

   * Inclusive
   * Agreement Seeking
   * Process Oriented
   * Collaborative
   * Relationship Building
   * Whole Group Thinking

At that site, you can find a lot of discussion about the variations which can be employed to reach consensus.


The basic steps involved are:

      1. Discussion
      2. Identification of a Proposal
      3. Identification of any unresolved concerns
      4. Collaborative alteration of the proposal
      5. Assessment of support
      6. Finalizing a decision or returning to step 1 or 3

The key to this is giving time for all voices to raise their concerns and for building the proposal so that all members agree they can live with it. You don't leave unaddressed concerns on the table and just plow forward. This is how minority groups are protected." (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/08/1022710/--occupywallstreet:-a-primer)


Discussion

DailyKos:

"As you can see just from reading this, consensus takes time. In a society where we go apoplectic if we have to sit behind a car at a traffic light or a web page takes more than 2 seconds to load, we must be aware that are not acculturated to have the patience for this process. We're a "bigger, better, faster" gang. Only our definition of 'better' may be stunted. So, we have to give ourselves room for mistakes and failures. We have to embrace the frustration and tediousness of it. In doing so, we embrace one another. We say, "Yes, I'll take the time to listen." We do so because it is only through listening to everyone that we can build solutions which serve everyone. When everyone is served well, systems are sustainable. People feel connected to the solutions and one another and there is far more contentment than in a system where 51% of the people vote for a solution that 49% of the people disagree with.

As I said earlier, we had some spectacular failures with the General Assembly at #OccupyBoston. We learned from those failures. We stopped, took a step back and asked ourselves, "Do we want to fail? If not, let's keep trying and let's keep learning." There was enough commitment to persevere that we almost as spectacularly went from near demise to very inspiring General Assembly experiences. It's a work in progress. A collective work in progress. One where decisions to solve the problems and concerns we encounter along the way are addressed collaboratively and solutions are decided upon by consensus. It's a lovely atmosphere to work in. It's slow. It can be messy. It can feel tedious. It can feel like you'll never get anywhere. Then, it's amazing how something emerges and the energy is full of creativity and hope and a community gels. When that happens you feel like you have the power to do anything. Maybe even the power to topple a plutocratic kleptocracy and build a governance system of equity and justice." (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/08/1022710/--occupywallstreet:-a-primer)


Example

OccupyBoston

DailyKos:

"This is a Facilitator guide for how OccupyBoston is currently conducting the consensus process. The Facilitation Working Group is preparing a proposal to present to the General Assembly with all the details for conducting a General Assembly.

What is Consensus

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 fear, it builds a foundation for stronger, more creative decisions.

Direct Consensus

1. Ask the group or individual to state their/her/his proposal.

2. Ask them/her/him to stand aside while you:

a. ask if there are any clarifying questions,

b. ask if there are any points of information,


c. ask if there are any strong concerns or objections with the following explanations:

- “Before we share concerns, let's remember that in a consensus process, when you share a concern, it becomes a group concern. We will all be responsible for making sure it's addressed before we vote.”

- we will allow some silent time, the more challenging the topic, the longer silence we will allow to make room for everyone to think and express,

- we are only listing, not addressing or resolving concerns or objections in this moment, that process will come later (that is what amendments and the proposer’s consideration of changes are for,)

- ask that concerns & objections be stated with the assumption that the group will attempt to resolve them,


d. ask if there are any friendly amendments to address the expressed concerns and objections.

NOTE: during this section (except for part a) there should be no direct responses. People will feel most safe expressing concerns and objections if they know that they will not have to immediately hear rebuttals or ideas.

The amendments offered are the response to concerns and objections. The time where proposers consider amending their proposal is a way of addressing or resolving concerns and objections. The goal is to keep it non-confrontational and to focus on building solutions together by assuming that every input is a brick in a building and the next input is a brick placed above the foundation all the other bricks already laid.

3. Give the proposers a moment to consider whether they will address the concerns and objections by doing any of the following:

a. explain how any concerns or objections are already addressed,

b. withdraw the proposal,

c. amend the proposal based on concerns & objections,

d. adopt any of the suggested amendments, or

e. keep the proposal as is.


4. Instruct the proposers to restate the proposal (whether changed or not)

NOTE: this is done, even if there are no changes, to allow a refreshed hearing and to make space for people consider again whether they concerns, objections or amendments to offer. Don’t want to move on to asking for consensus until it feels as though all of this is expressed.

4. Go through steps 2 & 3, again.

5. Repeat steps 2-4 until there are no more objections or amendments.

NOTE: we need to decide how many rounds of this before jumping to the Indirect Consensus.

6. Ask if there are any blocks and define block.

NOTE: In all the models Allison has seen, a block can actually override a consensus. (Defining how this happens is key.) This is different from a “serious concern” which might be noted but will not block a consensus. We need to decide a) if we want to allow blocks (there can be serious disadvantages to allowing blocks, but people’s fears about marginalized voices being oppressed can be triggered if there is not a clear understanding of the limits of individual power over a group) and if so, how they can happen. (Can an individual, if the group considers the block to be principled, block? Or can someone express their reason for a block and then must get some percentage of people to support the block?)

(from wikipedia: Blocks are generally considered to be an extreme measure, only used when a member feels a proposal "endanger[s] the organization or its participants, or violate[s] the mission of the organization" (i.e., a principled objection) Group determines if block is principled and whether to allow it to block

7. If not blocked, ask “Is this a proposal you can live with?” and get temperature check NOTE: Allison is clarifying, with “Is this a proposal you can live with?”, how you make the ask for consensus, as, before this, we’ve not had a clear wording. Consensus is supposed to be about getting to a decision that everyone can live with. It doesn’t mean everyone agrees, it means they consent. It’s important that we make the distinction between consent (hence, consensus) and agreement.

8. If there is 75% consent, confirm with the participants that all see 75% consent, then announce that consensus is reached and the proposal is adopted.

9. (If necessary) if there is not consensus, but the proposal is not blocked, you can move to indirect consensus.

Indirect Consensus - involves mini-presentations and possible break out groups:

1. Ask 3 people who support the proposal and 3 people who oppose it to each speak for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, alternating the supporters and the opposers.

2. Restate the proposal and ask “can you live with this proposal?” before taking a temperature check.

3. If consensus is not reached, instruct assembly to break into small discussion groups for 3 to 5 minutes.


NOTE: there are different kinds of discussion groups. We can decide to use one or have a menu to choose from based on what the facilitator sees as most fit


4. Call participants back to assembly and . . .

a. ask if there are any clarifying questions,

b. ask if there are any points of information,


c. ask if there are any strong concerns or objections with the following explanations:

- we will allow some silent time, the more challenging the topic, the longer silence we will allow to make room for everyone to think and express,

- we are only listing, not addressing or resolving concerns or objections in this moment, that process will come later,

- ask that concerns & objections be stated with the assumption that the group will attempt to resolve them


d. ask if there are any friendly amendments.

5. Give the proposers a moment to consider whether they want to:

e. explain how any concerns or objections are already addressed, f. withdraw the proposal, g. amend the proposal based on concerns & objections, h. adopt any of the suggested amendments, or i. keep their proposal as is.

6. Instruct the proposers to restate the proposal (whether changed or not).

7. Define block and ask if there are any blocks.

8. If not blocked, ask “Is this a proposal you can live with?” and get temperature check

9. if consensus is not reached, you can repeat steps 1-8 or send the proposal back to a working group. (if it was made by an individual, the individual should be directed to work with a working group to reform the proposal.)

HAND SIGNALS:

1. I consent, I like, I feel good about this - hands up fingers wiggling upward

2. I’m neutral, I feel so-so - hands flat with fingers wigging forward

3. I don’t consent, I don’t like, I feel badly about this - hands down, fingers wigging downward

4. Point of Information - point index finger up

5. Point of Process - place tips of index finger together in horizontal line

6. Clarifying Question - put index finger and thumb into ‘c’ shape

7. Friendly Amendment - “peace” sign

8. Move it along, we hear what you’re saying - roll fists around one another

9. Block - crossed arms over head

10.Concerns/Objections????" (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/08/1022710/--occupywallstreet:-a-primer)