community is a community of equals - no matter how diverse its members
may be in age, background, education or ability. The more we learn
about making decisions as equals, the better we are able to make
those decisions. Each group refines the decision-making process
to suit their needs.
following is a sample list of guidelines that some groups may follow:
we reach a Stalemate...
good decision is made when everyone agrees to it. First we will
decisions by consensus does not necessarily mean that everyone
is in complete agreement - but rather that a solution is found
that all participants can live with or are at least willing to
process used in making a decision is very important in reaching
comes only after open expression of any differences and a look
at all alternatives.
will give an opportunity for quiet participants to speak and we
will discourage monopolizing.
will strive to stay focused on the specific task at hand by following
the process steps.
will pay attention to strong disagreements, since these often
lead to creative solutions.
will strive to hear and understand what everyone is saying and
to make ourselves fully understood.
will take notice when agreements are reached too easily and ask
if everyone has really participated.
will acknowledge each other's contributions and the group's progress.
will state tentative consensus in concrete question form, assure
that we have agreement, and not take silence for an answer.
Colored Cards to Achieve Consensus
will each stick with "What can I live with?" and a compromise
will state points of agreement along the way: this helps group
morale and may lead to agreement on principle.
will ask those who disagree to come up with alternatives.
will try to get unstuck by using humor, taking a break, sitting
in silence, changing seats, screaming together, stretching, etc.
may postpone the decision or send the proposal back to committee
for more study. In the meantime, more information can be gathered
and tempers can cool. Everyone will have time to reflect on options.
can resort to voting when consensus can not be reached and a decision
is needed immediately. This option should be considered as a last
resort. If people feel forced into decisions they do not agree
with, they are less likely to stick with the group.
have successfully used the following system of colored cards to
facilitate the consensus process. There are two contexts in which
to use the cards: Procedural and Decision Making.
uses occur during preliminary discussions of an issue. Participants
hold up a card before speaking. The facilitator recognizes them
in the following order:
Red (2) Yellow
the procedural context, the cards have the following meanings:
means "Stop the Process" (time out) and indicates a breach
in agreed upon procedures. Examples include; discussing topics not
on the agenda, going overtime, and suggesting that a member of the
group is being inconsiderate of the group process. It can also be
used when a member feels uncomfortable with the way that the process
is proceeding or if they believe that a break would be appropriate.
The red card may be raised at any time during discussion.
indicates a member's ability to clarify some part of the discussion.
indicates a member's desire to make a comment or ask a question.
than one card may be raised at a time by a single member, but the
order of priority listed above is still observed. When there is
more than one card of the same color raised, the facilitator ensures
that the individuals are heard in the order that the cards have
the decision-making context the cards have the following meanings:
indicates agreement with the proposal under discussion.
indicates that the member has reservations but is unwilling to block
group consensus because of those reservations.
indicates the member's opposition to the proposal at hand and their
willingness to block group consensus because of that opposition.
When a member/or members use a red card, it becomes his or her responsibility
to work with the proposing committee to come up with a solution
that will work for everyone.
is incumbent upon group members to use red cards judiciously within
the procedural context, remembering that green cards permit questions
and comments. Similarly, in the decision-making context, members
should be conscious of the seriousness of blocking consensus and
use the red cards only for principled objections. However, when
a member strongly believes that the fundamental interests of the
group are not being served by a particular decision, the red card
should be used as a vote of conscience, even if unpopular.
all yellow cards have been responded to (assuming there are no red
cards displayed) consensus is presumed to have been reached.
if yellow cards are predominant, it is worthwhile to reconsider
the decision. A primary benefit of the colored card system versus
majority rule is the opportunity for a more accurate reading of
members' positions regarding a particular matter. The shades of
"for" and "against" responses using the card
system can serve as notice that a proposal needs refining.