An example of a consensus process

Step 1: Introduce and clarify issue

“The bit of wasteland that we’ve used as a park for the last ten years is going to be sold by the council – they want to sell it so a supermarket can be built there!”

“But nobody wants another supermarket – we already have three in this town!”

Step 2: Explore the issue and look for ideas

“Let’s go round and see what everyone thinks.”

“I guess it’s time to find somewhere else for the kids to play.”

“I can’t give up that easily – let’s look for ways to raise the money to buy the park!”

“Yeah, let’s form an action group, do some fundraising, and what about squatting it?”

“Mmm… not sure that squatting’s for me. I’d be happy to look at raising money though.”

“OK, but I don’t want to rule out taking action if we can’t raise the money.”

[More ideas are talked about…]

Step 3: Look for emerging proposals

“So what are we going to do? Some of you feel that we should build tree houses in the park to stop the developers, but we think we should try and raise money to buy the land.”

“But nobody’s said that they’re actually against squatting the park – just not everyone wants to do it. And squatting might slow the council down so we have time to raise the money. Let’s do both.”

Step 4: Discuss, clarify and amend your proposal

“So let’s just check how everyone feels about that as a proposal. Let’s do a go-round.”

“I like the idea of both squatting and trying to raise the cash to save the park, but people have been talking about separate groups doing those. I feel that we really need to stay as one group.”

[Everyone has their say…]

“OK, so there’s a suggestion that we amend the proposal to make it clear that we stay as one group, even though we’re squatting and raising funds at the same time.”

Step 5: Test for agreement

“Right, we have a proposal that we squat the park to make sure that it doesn’t get trashed, and at the same time we start doing grant applications to raise money to buy the land. We’re going to be clear that we are one group doing both these things. Does anyone disagree with this proposal? Remember, if you think we should consider any reservations you have then please let us know, even if you’re still going to go along with it. And you can stand aside if you don’t want to take part in all or part of the plans. Finally, the block is if you feel this is really wrong for some reason.”

“Yes, I think squatting has good chances of getting results, but I’m not sure we can raise that much cash. I’m not going to stand in the way – so yeah, I’ll stand aside from the grants bit.”

“I don’t believe we can manage the fundraising either, but I’m happy to give it a try.”

“Does anyone else disagree? No? OK, I think we might have consensus. Let’s just check – wave your hands if you agree with the proposal… Rob, just checking, because you didn’t wave your hands – are you happy with the proposal? Ah, I see, yes… I hope your wrist gets better soon. Great, we have consensus, with one stand aside and one reservation!”

Step 6: Implement the decision

“OK, so we’re going to squat the land and we need to start fundraising. We’ll need to decide things like when we’ll start squatting, and what things we’ll need. And for the fundraising we’ll need to identify funds that may be able to help, and come up with other ideas for raising money. And let’s talk to people who couldn’t come tonight and make sure they can get involved.”