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Conflict Resolution Activity: Coming to a Consensus

Coming to a Consensus

Consensus is defined as finding the middle ground between total agreement and total disagreement. A consensus means that everyone has come together to agree on one thing. In a consensus, there are no winners or losers. Everyone accepts the final solution or decision and understands why that is the best decision for the conflict. It’s a Win-Win.

Consensus is best used when:

  • A long term relationship is important
  • Participants have good cooperation skills
  • When there is sufficient time to create a mutually agreeable solution.
  • When participants have hard feelings or are emotional about the issue.
  • Problems with consensus
  • It requires creativity
  • It takes time and commitment to finding a solution

Steps for coming to a consensus

  1. Explain the five ground rules for reaching consensus

Inclusion – Everyone gets to speak in a fair and orderly way

Participation – Everyone is expected to contribute and decide on the final outcome

Cooperation – Everyone will listen to each other, build on each other’s ideas, and not put anyone down.

Democratic – Everyone’s input is weighed equally. Everyone can amend, veto, or accept ideas.

Commitment – Everyone is committed to coming up with the best solution for them all. This may mean not getting one’s own idea or first choice. The group will need to decide how they will come to an agreement and finalize their decision = consensus. This could be by majority vote or unanimously, simple majority or super-majority, for example.

  1. Write a clear statement of what the problem to be solved is.
  2. Make list of concerns.
  3. Brainstorm possible solutions that meet these concerns. Do not discuss or critique at this time.
  4. Take a straw poll to see which of the brainstormed ideas have the most support.
  5. Research and discuss the ideas with the most support.
  6. Come to a consensus. If a consensus cannot be reached go back to step 3 and repeat the process.

Coming to a Consensus

Activity: Coming to a Consensus

Objective Participants will practice coming to a consensus.

Level Upper elementary and up

Preparation Choose an issue or problem that relates to a topic of study or local or national events and has conflicting sides. The more emotionally-involved and the more students have at stake in the issue the better the process will work.

Don't be afraid to choose an issue that challenges participants' values and beliefs. Remember coming to a consensus is a way to deal with conflict. Provide relevant articles and books about the topic or issue.

Sample issues

  • A pond near where you live has been polluted with oil from a broken pipeline. How would you get the pond cleaned up?
  • To save an endangered species, should all dirt bikes be banned?
  • Should immigration from some countries should be banned?

Procedure

Divide participants into small groups of 4 or 5.  Explain the issue and how they will work collaboratively in their groups using the ground rules as detailed above.  They will brainstorm a list of solutions, research and discuss, and come to a consensus.

Follow Up Discussion

  • How did the process work? What parts were easy? What parts were hard?
  • Do you feel you reached a Win-Win decision? Why or why not?
  • Did all the groups come up with the same solution? Why or why not?

Extension

Writing: Have groups write a letter to the editor or a government representative explaining their decision.

Art: Have groups make flyers or posters in support of their decision.

Other Consensus Process Resources

Consensus Decision-making  Students read literary or informational texts about an issue and then come to consensus on the issue.

Lesson Plan for Teaching the Consensus Process 

The EASY approach to building consensus: A Guide for Facilitators

The Quaker Model of Consensus


Have you ever worked in a group to come to a consensus? How did it work out?

We welcome your thoughts and comments.

 

 

Teach Peace Now
Teach Peace Now
We offer books, activities, lesson plans, and ideas that teachers, parents, and students can use to promote values, attitudes and behaviors which encourage non-violent resolution of conflict, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding and tolerance.

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