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Process of accommodating different needs and viewpoints

Consensus decision making is a creative and dynamic way of reaching agreement between all members of a group.Instead of simply voting for an item and having the majority of the group getting their way, a group using consensus is committed to finding solutions that everyone actively supports, or at least can live with.This ensures that all opinions, ideas and concerns are taken into account.

By definition, in consensus no decision is made against the will of an individual or a minority.

If significant concerns remain unresolved, a proposal can be blocked and prevented from going ahead.

This means that the whole group has to work hard at finding solutions that address everyone's concerns rather than ignoring or overruling minority opinions.

Consensus is used widely by people around the world working towards a more just and equitable society: from small voluntary groups, co-operatives and campaign networks to businesses, local communities and, in some cultures, across much wider regions.

The exact process may differ depending on the size of the group and other factors, but the basic principle of co-operation between equals remains the same.

In this guide you'll find lots of information to help you make decisions using consensus, including why you might use it, the basic principles and process, how to apply it to larger groups of people and ideas for dealing with common problems.We also have a short guide to consensus, and our guide Facilitating meetings contains lots of tips for making your consensus meetings run smoothly.Many of us experience very little control over our lives in the wider world, with decisions being made for us by managers, benefits agencies, the police, politicians.The rewards this system promises are mostly about mobility within the hierarchy: getting a promotion, buying status by owning different stuff.And we're encouraged to compete with each other and scapegoat whoever is beneath us in the pile, instead of questioning why there isn't enough to go round in the first place.Using consensus gives us a taste of how things could be done differently.It aims to dismantle all kind of hierarchy, and replace it with shared power.It is based on the values of equality, freedom, co-operation and respect for everyone's needs.The benefits outlined below don't come automatically when a group switches to consensus!We usually have to work hard at making them a reality.But if these things are what you're aiming for, learning to use consensus is a great place to start.

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