Consensus resource recommendation
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999 16:20:37 -0500
At RoseWind Cohousing, we have been using consensus-seeking process for 
10 years, though sometimes clumsily. Our resources included workshops 
people had attended, such as those by Caroline Estes, personal 
experiences with consensus process in peace or nuclear-protest 
organizations or Quaker meetings or other ventures. The best book we had 
found was "the blue book" Building United Judgement, and its companion 
facilitation volume. 

Lately we have been very pleased to find and use as our basic guide, the 
handbook "On Conflict and Consensus" by C.T. Lawrence Butler and Amy 
Rothstein. It is published by Food Not Bombs, 1-800-569-4054; website; email to fnbp [at]

This small, 60-page, handbook differs from Building United Judgement in 
that it outlines one basic "how-to" scenario. The writing is articulate, 
the reasoning clear, and the process easy to follow. We have used the 
basic flow chart --posted on the wall-- at our business meetings for the 
past several months, and it is a very good fit with the sort of issues we 
discuss, and has enough flexibility that it does not feel limiting. 

One interesting aspect of the process as recommended by this book is the 
treatment of Blocking. In short, the group must acknowledge the 
legitimacy of the objection -- as being based on a generally recognized 
principle, not personal preference, or it must be essential to the entire 
group's well-being-- for it to be allowed to  block a decision being 
made. This engendered a certain amount of discussion, as we also hold the 
notion that "each person has a piece of the truth" and try to closely 
examine objections as sources of new understanding of a situation. It 
seems at least a tiny bit risky to let the majority of the group decide 
on the legitimacy of a dissent. But we are trying it, and so far, so 
good. Usually, there are no potentially blocking objections, once all the 
discussion and synthesis has happened. 

The rest of the process seems simply to be a coherent outline of common 
sense orderly sorting of an issue. Which often gets lost in heated 

I believe the book is also viewable on line, presumably at the above 
Internet addresses. 

If anyone else's group is using this book as a basic tool, I'd be 
interested to hear how it works for others. Or if folks have found 
something even better. 

Lynn Nadeau
RoseWind Cohousing 
Port Townsend WA (we have 20 families, and only 3 more lots to sell: each 
5000 sq ft, build what you choose)

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