The Green Party of Virginia

Outline of Consensus Decision Making

The Goal of Consensus

The goal of consensus is to arrive at agreement by all. It attempts to bring every member to unity where everyone wins and nobody loses. Each person has some of the truth, no person has all of the truth. Each member must come to consensus ready to listen and believing that the group, searching together, can reach the best solution.

Unity does not mean unanimity, it means the best general agreement possible in a reasonable time period.

Participants

  1. Any GPVA member may take part in the discussion and in consensus process.
  2. If a vote is necessary, only the Local Representatives and the GPVA officers may vote.
  3. Participants will treat others with consideration, or will be asked to remain silent or leave the meeting.
  4. Participants sit in a circle, so that all can been seen and heard, and to symbolize our equality.

Roles

  1. The facilitator guides the group toward decisions that everyone can agree on by periodically summarizing the status of the discussion and asking if there is anything else that the group needs to know. He or she makes sure that people are staying on topic, are not speaking out of turn, are not engaging in two person dialogues. If the facilitator has a lot to say on a topic, the alternate facilitator should take over for that topic.
  2. The timekeeper lets the group know how they are doing in relation to their agreed upon time schedule.
  3. The notetaker records notes, reads back proposals as they are altered, submits the notes to the GPVA Co-Chairs within a timely fashion. All proposals, amendments and reports should be presented to the notetaker in writing.
  4. The stack-keeper takes the names of people who want to speak and calls on them in order.
  5. The vibes watcher may interrupt the meeting if tensions get high.

The Agenda

  1. The GPVA Co-Chairs are responsible for preparing an agenda in advance of the meeting, with input from GPVA committees, Locals and members.
  2. Sufficient time should be allotted for each agenda item and for breaks.
  3. The agenda and proposals to be discussed at GPVA business meetings are published 31 days in advance of the meeting.
  4. Advance discussion of agenda items takes place on the gpva-business listserv.
  5. The agenda is approved at the beginning of each meeting and may be amended according to the procedures in the GPVA bylaws.

The Stack

  1. In each discussion period, a "stack" of names is taken.
  2. People are called on in order.
  3. An attempt is made to let others speak before a previous speaker speaks again.
  4. If a concern has already been expressed, there is no need to reiterate it. If you must, a quick "I share Jane's concern" will allow more time for actually addressing the concern.
  5. If you have already spoken once and have other concerns, have faith that if they are truly important someone else will speak to them. You'll be surprised how often this works and allows more people to participate.
  6. The stack-keeper, the timekeeper and the vibes-watcher may interrupt the stack to attend to their jobs. (There are 12 people on the stack and we have 5 minutes left.)
  7. Participants may signal that they have a point of information that will clarify the issue and save time in the discussion. This may break the stack.
  8. Participants may also signal that they have a point of process which needs to be addressed. This may break the stack.
  9. The stack is closed when adding more people to the stack would cause the proposal to run over time. The group may bargain for more time if the proposal needs more discussion.
  10. The facilitator may also choose to use other discussion methods besides the stack, as appropriate, such as asking each member of the circle to speak in turn.

Decision Making

  1. Introduce the proposal. Once the proposal has been introduced, it belongs to the group, not just the proposer.
  2. Clarifying questions.
  3. Call for concerns.
  4. Friendly amendments.
  5. Test for consensus:
    1. Are there any remaining concerns?
      1. Can the be resolved? Will those who have this concern stand aside?
      2. Are they blocking concerns? (serious, ethical objections to the proposal, related to the group's purpose or reputation, or legal issues)
    2. if there are no unresolved concerns (or if the person(s) with those concerns will stand aside) and no blocking concerns, consensus has been achieved.
  6. If consensus cannot be achieved within the time alloted for the proposal, the group may:
    1. Table the item until the next meeting or send to committee.
    2. Allot more time to the item.
    3. Decide to vote on the proposal - voting should be last option as it is failure of consensus:
      1. Major decisions (organizational structure, platform ratification, candidate nomination or endorsement at the state level, formally joining coalitions, financial matters of the GPVA, bylaw changes, etc.) require a vote of three-quarters or more of Local Representatives and GPVA officers for affirmation.
      2. Minor decisions (process, scheduling, and communication decisions) require a simple majority of the Local Representatives and GPVA officers for affirmation.
  7. If a proposal is affirmed, details are ironed out if necessary - volunteers are taken for follow up work or are reminded of what they volunteered to do and by when.

Closing Circle

  1. At the end of the meeting, participants will each give their thoughts on what they liked about the meeting and what could be done differently.
  2. This is not the time to rehash pros or cons of particular proposals or to engage in discussion with other participants.

More Information

  1. On Conflict and Consensus by C.T. Butler & Amy Rothstein
  2. The GPVA Bylaws
  3. A sample proposal form


GPVA

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The Green Party of Virginia
Last Update: December 29, 2009

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