There are many different formats and ways of building consensus. Some groups have developed detailed procedures, whereas in other groups it may be an organic process. This also depends on the size of the group and how well people know each other.
Below we have outlined a process that covers all the aspects of consensus, and can easily be adapted to fit your group. There are, however, a few conditions that have to be met for consensus building to be possible:
Common goal: All members of the group/meeting need to be united in a common goal, whether it is an action, living communally, or greening the neighbourhood. It helps to clearly establish what this overall goal of the group is and to write it down for all to see. In situations where consensus seems difficult to achieve, it helps to come back to this common goal repeatedly throughout the discussion.
Commitment to consensus building: All members of the group must be committed to reaching consensus on all decisions taken. It can be very damaging if individuals secretly want to return to majority voting, just waiting for the chance to say “I told you it wouldn’t work.” Consensus requires commitment, patience, and willingness to put the group first.
Sufficient time: Time must be set aside for making decisions as well as to learn to work in this way.
Clear process: Make sure that the group is clear about the process they will use for tackling any given issue. Agree beforehand on processes and guidelines. In most cases this will include having one or more facilitators help the group move through the process.
When the facilitator polls for consensus, anyone can declare the fourth level and stop the item from going forward. If that happens there are a few options of what can happen next: