Group Decision-Making

On conflict and consensus: A handbook on formal consensus decisionmaking

Butler, C. L., & Rothstein, A. (2007). On conflict and consensus: A handbook on formal consensus decisionmaking. Creative Commons.

From the text: Formal Consensus is a specific kind of decision-making. It must be defined by the group using it. It provides a foundation, structure, and collection of techniques for efficient and productive group discussions. The foundation is the commonly-held principles and decisions which created the group originally. The structure is predetermined, although flexible. The agenda is formal and extremely important. The roles, techniques, and skills necessary for smooth operation must be accessible to and developed in all members. Evaluation of the process must happen on a consistent and frequent basis, as a tool for self-education and self-management. Above all, Formal Consensus must be taught. It is unreasonable to expect people to be familiar with this process already. In general, cooperative nonviolent conflict resolution does not exist in modern North American society. These skills must be developed in what is primarily a competitive environment. Only time will tell if, in fact, this model will flourish and prove itself effective and worthwhile.


Beyond Consensus: Improving Collaborative Planning and Management

Margerum, R. D., & others. (2011). Beyond Consensus: Improving Collaborative Planning and Management, MIT Press: Cambridge Mass.

This book highlights severali mportant parts of conducting a consensus meeting which is getting the right people into the group, how the participants are collaborating, and effective product generated from consensus.These chapters go in to great detail on each of these topics and cite numerous case studies as evidence of what to do, and what not to do.  This book is useful because it shows real world examples of many of the problems that can arise from convening a consensus meeting.  It illustrates that the consensus meeting starts long before the group sits down to collaborate and its results may effect projects for years after.  The case studies are from a range of governmental management and the focus of this book is how to have consensus meeting have a tangible effect on management and policy.

Facilitation as Action Research in the Moment

Mackewn, J. (2008). Facilitation as Action Research in the Moment. The Sage handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice, 615-628

This article goes into detail about one key factor in a successful consensus meeting, the facilitator.  The author lists necessary skills for facilitation and describes the process of facilitation as Action Research in which the group influences how the facilitator works, navigating through preconceived notions of individuals, communities, or organizations, awareness of the wider context of the group, and managing group energy.  It lays out how facilitator’s behavior changes as the group develops.  It highlights the difficulties of facilitation and outlines what is required of a great facilitator.  The role of a researcher in a consensus meeting is that of a facilitator and this is an important read for anyone attempting facilitation using a Participatory/activist Research methodology.

Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making

Kaner, S. (2014). Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. John Wiley & Sons.

This is exactly what it says, a guidebook to successful facilitation.  It details a variety of situations that can occur within participatory decision making, how this process should ideally go, and how to solve problems that arise in the real world application of facilitating participatory decision making.  This book contains many graphics and charts to illustrate facilitation.  It gives many examples of each step of facilitating participatory decision making as well as the necessary skills to achieve consensus.  It covers everything from setting up the layout of the meeting, how to write the ideas presented down, and how to guide diverse participants into agreement.  It focuses on the wide range of problems a facilitator can encounter during this process and gives a number of ways to best address them.

Consensus through conversation

Dressler, L. (2006). Consensus through conversation: How to achieve high-commitment decisions. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Abstract: Consensus is a cooperative process in which all of a group’s members actively develop and agree to support a decision that’s in the best interest of the whole. It’s not mere acquiescence-consensus goes several steps beyond, moves people from being resigned recipients of instructions to dedicated champions of an idea. Larry Dressler discusses the basic concepts behind consensus, shows you exactly how to prepare for a successful consensus-building process, takes you step-by-step through that process, and offers tips for success and traps to avoid. Throughout, he provides a host of tools and examples that make this an eminently practical and immediately useful guide.

Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making: The CODM Model for Facilitating Groups to Widespread Agreement

Hartnett, Tim. Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making: The CODM Model for Facilitating Groups to Widespread Agreement. New Society Publishers, 2013.

This model follows simple steps that people working in a group can use to ensure maximum participation by the members and maximum efficiency. The model is based upon the most successful principles and practices from the field of professional group facilitation. The categories in the model include Key Concepts, Communication Skill Builders, Facilitator Language Guides, Facilitator Tasks, Options to Consider, Shortcuts, and Group Dynamics in Action. The author encourages groups to be creative and not be restricted by this model in their activities; they can modify it depending on the time and context.  The model also includes concepts that make up a fully participatory process such as inclusion, open-mindedness, and empathy.