Re: Consensus
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 94 10:25 CST
 Stephen Lewin-Berlin Wrote:

>I think that -consensus- is one of those words that has been misused and
>abused to the point that it is difficult to know if people are speaking of
>the same thing.  On the issue at hand - coming to consensus on the name of a
>group - I certainly believe that it can be done.  My definition of consensus
>does not require that everybody agrees that the decision made is their
>*favorite* choice - merely that nobody is prepared to *block* the choice.

In my very limited studies into consensus I have found that there seems 
to be two opposite operating definitions for consensus.  In one 
definition, which I call passive consensus, A choice is made if no one 
blocks it.  In the other definition, which I call active consensus, A 
choice is made, only if everyone affirms it.

So far, and I will admit my knowledge and study of this is limited at 
this time, The passive consensus model seems to lead to false consensus 
more often than the active model does.  False consensus is where a 
person goes along with a choice or decision without really supporting 
it because it would take too much energy or be too risky to block 
consensus.  To stand against a whole group, even if it is the truth, 
takes enourmous courage which most people seldom can muster on a regular basis.

One of the challenges inherent in using consensus is creating an 
environment which supports dissent and encourages people to speak their 
truth.  If a person who takes the enourmous risk of speaking their 
truth, and their truth runs counter to the group, they need to be 
affirmed and supported, otherwise they will not share their truth, and 
the group is heading into false consensus, where you beleive you have 
everyone's agreement but really what you have is no one who is willing 
to risk disagreement.

There are a couple of sIgns which indicate  false consensus. The first 
is when what people say publically is not what they say privately in 
regards to a group consensus. Another sign is when a course of action 
or decision or agreement is not followed much, routinely ignored or 
outright rebelled against.

In the active consensus model, each individual in turn must personally 
state that they affirm and support the decision as the best interest 
for the group.  This takes longer, but in requiring each member to 
speak, it offers the opportunity to speak the truth.

In the passive model, it is very easy to be silent and let a bad 
decision go forward.

Rob Sandelin
Puget Sound Cohousing Network
Building a better society, one neighborhood at a time

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