Updated December 7th, 2018
NOTES Voting vs Consensus:
– Voting assumes that people are always competitive and that agreement can only be reached through compromise. Consensus assumes that people are willing to agree with each other, and that in such an atmosphere, conflict and differences can result in creative and intelligent decisions.
– The only reason to oppose a proposition is conflicts with any of our shared or core values. Just to disagree for the sake of not liking an idea is not part of the consensus process and roadblocks the ability to be in right relationship.
Below is how a congregant on a womens council with me describes the consensus process:
- Consensus is different from voting and is not the same as reaching unanimity.
- In this process a proposal is put forward and the facilitator will ask if anyone wishes to speak about it: either to speak for it, ask questions, or voice concerns.
- The concept of “concerns” is important. Negative reactions are expressed as concerns with a reason that is based on the values we identified in the beginning of the Council (ex: I am concerned about this proposal because I don’t think it’s aligned with the value X.) This gives room for the proposal to be modified to address the concerns.
- After the first round of discussion, the facilitator will ask again if there are any concerns. At that point, we ask those expressing concerns to also identify possible solutions or say that they don’t have a solution but are still concerned (again, a “concern” is based on some shared value the group holds). We’ll try to address any concerns still expressed.
- At some point, it will become clear that most concerns have been addressed and there is consensus.
- If a someone has ethical objections to the proposal, she may block it and we’ll start over. Obviously blocking is not something one would do lightly and it should be clear from the discussion that this is going to happen. (no last minute surprises)
- The most typical question will probably be along the lines of, what if I don’t have an ethical objection but just don’t like the idea. And I think the answer is that the process doesn’t include simply objecting without a reason, but does provide for anyone to step aside from the decision making process. (meaning they can abstain from the decision, but not impede it).
Sheila Murphy, Women’s Circle Massachusetts
"Why Consensus? Consensus is a creative thinking process: When we vote, we decide between two alternatives. With consensus, we take an issue, hear the range of enthusiasm, ideas and concerns about it, and synthesize a proposal that best serves everybody’s vision. Consensus values every voice: The care we take in a consensus process to hear everyone’s opinions and weave them into a whole is a living demonstration that each one of us is important. It’s a counter to systems that tell us some people count while others don’t. In consensus, everyone matters. But for consensus to work, we must also be flexible, willing to let go. Consensus means you get your say—it doesn’t mean you get your way! Consensus creates a sense of unity: When we all participate in shaping a course of action, we all feel a sense of commitment and responsibility. Unity is not unanimity—within consensus there is room for disagreement, for objections, reservations, for people to stand aside and not participate."
For more information, the above excerpt is from a wonderful article by Starhawk: