There is some really good information out there about consensus decision making – the pros and cons of it and how to put it into practice, so we're not going to repeat all that here.
Consensus is simply an opinion or position reached by the group as a whole. More commonly a group will be split between those who are agree with a decision and those who do not. Often a vote is taken with the majority view prevailing. With consensus no vote is taken, instead the group discuss an issue until a general agreement is reached.
A key part of consensus decision making is good facilitation. The role of the facilitator ensures that a meeting is well prepared, discussions are useful, relevant and involve everyone, that everyone agrees with the consensus reached, and so on.
As a group of people who know that consensus is the best way to work, and are totally committed to it, we want to say that it still doesn't always feel like the easiest way to work. Most of us aren't used to working by consensus, and it can be a hard change to make.
But we think it's really worthwhile, the decisions made are more likely to work in the long term as everyone has been involved in making them. What we would say is it's really worth researching consensus methods and discussing it properly as group , and getting some training as a group - as it's more likely to be a good experience if you go into it prepared, and all coming from the same understanding of what it is and what is involved.
A website that we really recommend visiting is Seeds for Change. Their resources section has lots of good information and guidance on consensus, facilitation and conflict resolution.
We've developed some tools that have helped us to work and make decisions by consensus, click on the links below: