Consensus and Surveys


Consensus Process

The consensus process is a procedure that is used to check for consensus. Each time a group forms, they need to adopt group agreements and a crucial part of those agreements is to determine how group members will know they have consensus. The following process is a guideline that has been successfully used, but it's still important that it be adapted for each group.

Date Approved: add approval date here.


  • All participants contribute their ideas, encourage the use of each other's resources and opinions, and view differences as helpful rather than as a hindrance.
  • Everyone understands the issue and is able to paraphrase it.
  • Consensus does not mean that the decision represents everyone's first choice; rather, consensus means that members are sufficiently in favor of the decision that no one will become an obstacle to carrying it out.
  • All share in the final decision; if consensus is not reached, the discussion is automatically recycled for more information.
  • All participants feel they have been heard.


A survey is essential for testing for consensus and is a non-binding opportunity for individuals to convey their thoughts, feelings, and impressions.

A survey may be called at any time by any member. The person asking for the survey states what he or she would like other members to respond to (and the convener may ask someone else in the group to paraphrase the request, if necessary, for clarity’s sake). Other members in the group then relate their responses in one or two short sentences, or by the "Five Finger" method.

One method for a survey is to use a five-finger "vote":

  5 I enthusiastically support the proposal.
  4 I support the proposal. While I may not be a major player, I will do what is appropriate.
  3 I am neutral, but can live with the proposal. I don't care if others want to adopt it. I won't undermine their efforts.
  2 I don't support the proposal, but will not sabotage it. I prefer other options. I feel others have heard and honestly considered my concerns.
  1 I am against the proposal. I will offer a counterproposal if given a reasonable time to do so or I feel that others have not heard and honestly listened to my concerns and I would like more time to discuss the issue.

As stated above, a survey is non-binding.

Final Agreement

When it is time for agreement, which is usually after surveys have indicated that everybody is a two or above, the five finger method may be used, or it may be a simple "thumbs up" vote. If you don't know what the outcome is before you call for it, you haven't reached consensus. Agreement is a final step that is recorded to show that everyone agrees and can support the final decision. The advantage of recording the results of a five-finger survey as the final agreement is that the record shows that all have agreed to abide by the proposal. Although it is desirable to have all participants at three or above for consensus, the only requirement is that all participants be two or above.

If consensus cannot be reached on a proposal or recommendation and there is insufficient time to reach consensus, group members will be surveyed to determine who is in favor and who opposes the proposal/recommendation. That information will be noted for the record.

Adapted from the work of Bill Kentta and the ASIJ Process and Communication Team (PACT, 1997)


Created 3/2/2002

Last maintained 08/23/2003


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