EHE's Summary of Consensus Process

(Adapted from On Conflict & Consensus by Butler & Rothstein)

Butler and Rothstein are authors of a handbook on formal consensus decision making. They teach and write about this process extensively. Consensus has evolved over hundreds of years and is used successfully by many large organizations.

Principals and Values
The consensus process is based on the concept that every member of the group holds part of the truth. The following are principles which, when valued and respected, encourage and build consensus: trust, respect, unity of purpose, non-violence, self-empowerment, co- operation, conflict resolution, commitment to the group, active participation, equal access to power, and patience. It is important for members to come to the Business Meeting with open minds and to be amenable to the consensus process.

Meeting Structure
  1. Members are selected to fill the following roles:
    • Agenda Planner: Accepts and tracks proposals for discussion.
    • Facilitator: Conducts group business and guides the meeting.
    • Time Keeper: Assists the facilitator in keeping within the time limits set in the agenda.
    • Stacker: Lists the names of people wishing to speak and calls them in order.
    • Note Taker: Keeps a written record of the meeting, puts it into the official EHE Blue Book, and distributes it to members.
  2. An agenda for the meeting, including times allotted for discussion of each topic, is accepted by consensus at the beginning of the meeting (see Proposal Process below for an explanation of what constitutes consensus).
  3. The agenda is followed. Comments and concerns are discussed in the time allotted, extended to further meetings as necessary, or called for consensus when all concerns are resolved.
  4. The meeting is evaluated.

Proposal Process
  1. A written proposal or topic for discussion is submitted to the agenda planner. Proposals to be considered for consensus by the group must be submitted to the agenda planner according to the directions in the Blue Book. These proposals are distributed with the meeting minutes.
  2. At the Business Meeting, the topic or proposal is presented for questions and clarification. Very simple proposals may continue to consensus, but more complex proposals will be extended to additional meetings.
  3. Comments and concerns are discussed until all concerns are addressed. Each concern should be expressed as if it will be resolved. Committees may be formed to further discuss and clarify a proposal. Committees will report to the Business Meeting at a future time.
  4. When the facilitator or anyone recognized to speak feels that all the concerns have been addressed, they may call for consensus. The facilitator addresses each member and asks him or her to select one of three options:
    • Give their Consent, which may be done silently.
    • When a person disagrees with the proposal, they may Stand Aside, and any reason they may give is recorded in the minutes. This action allows the proposal to pass.
    • The participant has the right to stop the adoption of a proposal and Block Consensus if he or she believes that the unresolved concerns would jeopardize the integrity, viability, or mission of the group. If a participant chooses to block a proposal, he/she must present specific, concrete, defendable concerns that address how the proposal would jeopardize the integrity, viability, or mission of the group. A person must be present at the meeting to block a proposal.

EHE's Summary of Consensus Process has been adapted to expedite the understanding of and ease in following a consensus method of completing business for Evanston Home Educators.

We are a group that strives for inclusion and participation of every member. The goal of consensus is to respect and consider each member's voice, addressing concerns and welcoming proposals for change.