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:
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.
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.
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
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.