Consensus-Based Decision Making

OPIRG Peterborough uses consensus-based decision making in group settings to ensure that there is no division in the group and that all voices are heard. We encourage consensus as it prioritizes equality and demonstrates that each member’s voice carries the same weight.

What is Consensus?

A consensus is a method of making decisions within a group context where all participants’ voices are heard and the group works toward a result that every participant deems to be acceptable and can actively support. This means that there are not any decisions made against the will of participants or the minority.

Consensus-based decision making does not involve any leader or chairperson that dictates the process. Instead, there is a facilitator, minute taker, timekeeper, and mood minder. As consensus emphasizes equality of each participant, the win/lose – or voting system is not an option. Participants work together as equals bringing forth their ideas, and concerns and work collectively towards a consensus.

Although all may not agree, consensus ensures that everyone is willing to live with the result. Thus, consensus sometimes works towards a middle ground where all parties’ needs are met, and usually leads to a better decision. This is more common than an ‘all win’ situation.

Why Use This Model of Decision Making?

Consensus encourages creative and innovative solutions to complex problems because it brings a diversity of knowledge and expertise into the process. Those involved gain both respect for and understanding of different viewpoints.

Consensus-based decision making also:

  • Provides an equal opportunity for everyone to contribute information and have their opinions recognized.
  • Decides without voting, so there are no “losing” and “winning” sides.
  • Results in a stronger decision because everyone can willingly give assent to an idea and therefore participate more fully in its implementation.
  • People get a chance to talk things over and as a result, often develop better proposals. A quick vote leaves a lot of creative ideas in the dust.
  • Discourages back-room politics and encourages openness.
  • Attempts to break down traditional power structures that generally ignore people from marginalized groups.
  • Is essential in environmental and social justice work. Otherwise, how can activists work for justice and equality if their decisions are being made in a hierarchical and divisive fashion?

Training

OPIRG Peterborough/Nogojiwanong offers consensus-based decision making training! We offer training sessions as an opportunity to learn about this form of decision making and become accustomed to its function and purpose.

In the training, we cover what consensus is, consensus vs. majority rule, how to go about consensus-based decision making, the gradient of agreement, conditions of consensus, the process of consensus, power and oppression within consensus, and practice with consensus-based decision making.

To book a training session, please contact us at

Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all training will take place in an online environment until it is safe to do so in person.

Consensus Decision-Making Resources

Use the links below to begin learning about consensus-based decision making and why it is a significant process to adopt.

Consensus decision-making: what it is and what it is not:
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/consensus-decision-making-what-it-is-and-what-it-is-not/

Consensus decision-making: go with the flow:
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/consensus-decision-making-go-with-the-flow/

Consensus decision-making: Why?
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/consensus-decision-making-why/

A brief history of consensus decision-making:
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/a-brief-history-of-consenus-decision-making/

Consensus decision-making: the first step:
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/consensus-decision-making-the-first-step/

Consensus decision-making: the muddle in the middle:
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/consensus-decision-making-the-muddle-in-the-middle/

Consensus decision-making: weaving it all together:
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/consensus-decision-making-weaving-it-all-together/

Consensus decision-making: the moment of truth:
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/consensus-decision-making-the-moment-of-truth/

When not to use consensus…
https://rhizomenetwork.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/when-not-to-use-consensus/

When Consensus Doesn’t Work:
http://howtosavetheworld.ca/2011/09/24/when-consensus-doesnt-work/

OPIRG Peterborough