The consensus process

The key for a group working towards consensus is for all members of the group express their needs and viewpoints clearly, recognise their common ground and find solutions to any areas of disagreement.

The diagram below shows how a discussion evolves during the consensus process. At the beginning it widens out as people bring different perspectives and ideas to the group. This provides the material needed for a broad ranging discussion (the middle section) which explores all the options and helps people understand each others’ concerns. This can be a turbulent and sometimes difficult stage – people might be grappling with lots of competing or contradictory ideas – but it is the most creative part, so don’t lose heart!

Finally the group finds common ground and weeds out some of the options, combining all the useful bits into a proposal. The third stage in the diagram shows this convergence of the discussion, culminating in the decision.

A lozenge shape to illustrate the pattern of a consensus discussion
Opening Out
Share needs, concerns, desires and emotions.
Generate ideas.
Explore ideas and pros and cons.
Try to understand each other’s needs and concerns.
Find common ground and build proposals by weaving together different ideas.
Proposals need to address fundamental needs and key concerns.