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Consensus decision making

Organising for nonviolent action is (often) based on affinity groups, autonomous groups of 5-15 persons where people trust each other and can rely on each other (see the article on affinity groups.

Consensus decision making differs greatly from majority decision making. While majority decision making often leads to a power struggle between two different solutions, consensus decision making aims to take everyone's concerns on board, often modifying a proposed solution several times in the process.

It is very much based on listening and respect, and participation by everyone.

Consensus levels

Consensus does not necessary mean that all agree 100% - while this might be the optimum, it is in practice often not the case. It is therefore important that everyone in the group is aware of different levels of support or non-support that can be given to a certain proposal:

Non-support: "I don't see the need for this, but I'll go along with it."

Standing aside: "I personally can't do this, but I won't stop others from doing it." The person standing aside is not responsible for the consequences. This should be recorded in the minutes.

Veto/major objection: A single veto/major objection blocks the proposal from passing. If you have a major objection it means that you cannot live with the proposal if it passes. It is so objectionable to you/those you are representing that you will stop the proposal. A major objection isn't an "I don't really like it " or "I liked the other idea better." It is an "I cannot live with this proposal if it passes, and here is why?.!". The group can either accept the veto or discuss the issue further and draw up new proposals. The veto is a powerful tool and should be used with caution.

Agree to disagree: the group decides that no agreement can be reached on this issue.