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Decision-making in coalitions

Consensus

What it is:

  • a process for people who want to work together honestly in good faith to find good solutions for the group.
  • allows everyone in the group to participate co-operatively.
  • gives people power to make decisions, and demands that they take responsibility for those decisions.
  • allows members to explore the complete range of options and concerns in a non-adversarial manner.
  • involves problem-solving, questioning, and examining conflicts.
  • a process where ideas are challenged but people are listened to and supported.
  • requires skill and a focus on the good of the whole.
  • can require sacrifice of ideas for a common outcome, final decision may not be the first preference of anyone in the group.
  • can be a stage of a good voting process.

What it isn’t:

  • consensus in not necessarily unanimity, does not mean waiting until everyone agrees with one member or a group of members.
  • is not a process whereby a member or group refuses to move and holds the whole group up.
  • does not need to take excessive amounts of time, especially where the group members have experience with and some trust of each other.

The Flow of a Co-operative Decision-Making Process

  • issue raised, what is the problem?
  • clarify problem, put it in context.
  • discuss, bring out a diversity of ideas, concerns and perspectives, look at possible solutions.
  • encourage heartfelt dissent and challenge.
  • note agreements and disagreements and the underlying reasons for them, discuss the underlying reasons.
  • synthesize proposed ideas/solutions and come up with totally new ideas in a supportive atmosphere.
  • evaluate the different ideas until one seems right for the group.
  • establish how the idea will be implemented.
  • make sure there are no loose ends.
  • restate the decision, including the implementation, for the note taker.

Adapted from Randy Schutt, “A Checklist for the Consensus Process”, “Consensus is not Unanimity”, Cleveland, Ohio.