Principles of Process/Consensus Guidelines

Principles of Process

  • Please keep in mind that it takes time to develop as a group; real democracy is messy.  Be patient.
  • Please say your name before you speak. We want to know who you are.
  • Assembly time is precious. Think 3 times before you speak. “Does this really help the assembly make a better decision?”  Never repeat what someone else already said.
  • As we work to create a culture of peace, we must be mindful of how violence is expressed in our words and actions. Try to express yourself in a non-violent way.
  • Nothing is more precious than the thoughts of the quiet. Nothing is more precious than the words of the silenced. Speak Up. Please. Especially when it’s really hard.
  • Facilitators make space and move the process. Facilitators never present content or impose their beliefs on someone else’s thoughts. The assembly is responsible for keeping the facilitators in line.
  • The assembly is responsible for signaling to the facilitator. If the assembly doesn’t signal, the facilitators do not have anything to facilitate.
  • No one else can speak for you. That’s why we need you here.
  • Please take these principles seriously; this process is a reflection of what we want to see in the world.

Review of Hand Signals

These are the hand signals we’re working with right now; we will formally propose them to the group during today’s agenda.

  • Twinkling/Detwinkling – Agreement, neutral, disagreement
  • Raised Hand – Question, objection, suggestion, comment, etc.
  • Pointed Finger – Direct information – I have information directly related to the topic (this jumps stack, so make it brief and relevant)
  • Wave – Pass (no comment, used in the question and reaction rounds)
  • Diamond – Point of Process – the discussion is being derailed from the agreed-to process or agenda
  • Wagon Wheel – Wrap-up, we get your point

Consensus-Round-Specific Signals

  • Agree (Twinkle) – I agree with this proposal.
  • Stand Aside (Wave) – I may still have some objections to this proposal, but I am willing to allow the proposal to be approved.
  • Block (X) – I feel that this proposal goes against the principles that we stand for, and so it should not be approved.

Review of Consensus Process

Here is a breakdown of the steps of the Consensus decision-making process in the General Assembly:

  1.    Presentation of proposal
  2.    Clarifying questions (not expressing opinion; getting information), in stack format (raise hand to be put on    stack)
  3.   Proposer asks for temperature check (agree, neutral, disagree)
  4.   Round of Reactions (objections, suggestions, agreement, additions, deletions)
    1. Brief responses in round format
    2. Open discussion, facilitators take stack
    3.  Proposer makes any possible on-the-spot revisions
  5.  Consensus Round – individuals agree, step aside, or block
    1. If Consensus is reached, Celebrate!
    2. If Consensus is not reached, discussion and revision can continue, followed by another consensus round.
    3. If Consensus is still not reached by the end of the allotted time, or if objections are strong enough, the item returns to committee to be revised and re-submitted at a later date.

Review of Agenda:

-Welcome (5 mins)

-Introductions (5 mins)

-Workgroup Presentations (20 mins)

-Main Agenda (1 hr 5 mins)

-Process Reflection (10 mins)

-Meeting officially adjourns at 5

-1 hr of open meeting time


The Two Models of Decision Making: Voting and Consensus

  • A voting system – where a decision is made based on the proportion of votes given to a proposal – always creates a majority and a minority.  In this system, the majority literally rules.  Decision-making rests on who makes a better argument, and who is better at convincing others.
  • Consensus – where a decision is made based on the consent of every individual in the group – makes a collaborative, co-creative effort, and works until it finds a solution that everyone can live with.

The common understanding of consensus is that we have to argue until everyone agrees that proposed decision is the best way to move forward.  But consensus does not mean everyone agrees; rather, it means no-one objects or refuses to go along with proposal; solidarity is created through collaborative discussion and modification on the way to reaching consent.  In our consensus model, we look for disagreement – can you live with the proposal?  Understanding that consent is not an absolute, but rather that we all have a range of tolerance, is critical to being able to work within a Consensus framework effectively.

Using consent to reach consensus allows the group to efficiently make a decision to get things going, have an active, experiential trial of that decision, and then get feedback and make changes.  True democracy is alive and always evolving; our processes need to embody that same adaptability.

Voicing Objections

The consensus process depends on Objections.  We encourage anyone with an objection to speak up and voice it – it’s the only way we’ll all be heard.  However, Objections must be specific – every concern should have a suggestion for improvement (or a request to send the proposal back to committee if you really disagree with it).  Objections without any reason or without an idea that would resolve the issue slow down or halt the decision-making process.  If an objection is addressed by the proposer, the objector can withdraw the objection.

The Call for Consensus

If objections have been addressed, the facilitator calls the group for consensus.  When there is a call for consensus, the individuals in the group can take one of three actions (represented by hand signals):

  1. Agree (Twinkle) – I agree with this proposal.
  2. Stand Aside (Wave) – I may still have some objections to this proposal, but I am willing to allow the proposal to be approved.
  3. Block (X) – I feel that this proposal goes against the principles that we stand for, and so it should not be approved.

As long as there are no blocks, the proposal is approved, the facilitator announces that consensus has been reached, and the group celebrates a healthy, hearty consensus decision.  Note that this means that the stand aside action allows the proposal to be approved without everyone necessarily agreeing.

Time Limit

Every agenda item has a Time Limit.  The time limit will depend on the Item, to be determined by the Facilitation group once all of the agenda items for the week have been compiled.  If consensus has not been reached by the end of the time limit, the proposal returns to committee.

Feedback, Review, and Revision of Process

The process is reviewed by the group at the end of every meeting, so that it can evolve and be modified to best suit the needs of the group.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);