Consensus decision-making alive in some unlikely places


It seems that consensus is disappearing from dialogue in the United States, with wider divides in Congress, culture and American politics. But if you look closely enough, consensus is alive and kicking in some unlikely places.

Consensus decision-making is a unique way of coming to an agreement between multiple members of a community. Where a more traditional decision-making process involves voting and yielding to the preference of the majority, consensus requires that every individual in the group agrees to the final decision.

It is used in many communities, including two of the cooperative houses on the Stanford campus, to select rooms, purchase food and make policies about issues like quiet hours and house jobs.

Consensus has been used for centuries — by Native American communities, Quakers, and more recently, in nonprofits and political movements, as well as in companies like Starbucks, Mitsubishi and Levi Strauss & Co., according to a University of Minnesota report.

Since long before these local, intentional communities adopted it, consensus, in some form, has been central to problem solving and mediation in many circles.

In this podcast, we hear from members of local cooperative and Quaker communities, visit a contentious food policy meeting and explore the challenges of unanimity.