Why use consensus?

No one is more qualified than you to decide what your life will be.

Consensus decision making is based on the idea that people should have full control over their lives and that power should be shared by all rather than concentrated in the hands of a few. It implies wide-ranging liberty, including the freedom to decide one’s own course in life and the right to play an equal role in forging a common future.

As well as wanting to enjoy as much freedom as possible, most of us wish to live in, and are dependent on, some form of society. This means finding ways to balance the needs and desires of every individual with those of the closer community and the wider world.

Consensus decision making aims to provide a way of doing this. It builds on respect, trust, co-operation and mutual aid to achieve agreeable solutions for everyone concerned.

At the heart of consensus is a respectful dialogue between equals. It’s about helping groups to work together to meet both the individual’s and the group’s needs. It’s about how to work with each other rather than for or against each other, something that requires openness and trust. Consensus is looking for ‘win-win’ solutions that are acceptable to all, with the direct benefit that everyone agrees with the final decision, resulting in a greater commitment to actually turning it into reality.

In consensus every person has the power to make changes in the group they are working in – and to prevent changes they find unacceptable. The right to block a decision means that minorities cannot just be ignored, but solutions will have to be found to deal with their concerns. No decision will be made against the will of an individual or a minority, instead the group constantly adapts to all its member’s needs.

Consensus is about active participation and sharing power equally. This makes it a powerful tool not only for empowering individuals, but also for bringing people together and building communities.