|Trust:||Between the individuals involved|
|Respect:||For the emotional and logical viewpoints of the individuals|
|Unity of Purpose:||Our purpose is stated above in the "statement of purpose"|
|Nonviolence:||The power to reveal your part of the truth is the maximum force allowed.|
|Self Empowerment:||Do not rely on authorities or experts, learn your self. Be careful about delegating power.|
|Cooperation:||The goal is to reach a decision not to "win." Adversarial attitudes about people or proposals weaken this goal.|
|Conflict Resolution:||Open discussion about areas of disagreement to facilitate moving towards a good decision for the group as a whole.|
|Commitment to the Group||An understanding that the goals of the group are in line with your personal goals|
|Active Participation:||From the Quakers perspective this is critical because each individual knows part of the truth, and the whole truth can only be known if everyone participates. Consensus is a process of synthesis, all sincere comments are important and valuable.|
|Equal Access to Power:||Because of personal differences and political disparities, some people inevitably have more effective power than others. To balance this inequity, everyone needs to consciously attempt to creatively share power, skills and information.|
|Patience:||Consensus cannot be rushed.|
|Lack of Training:||Consensus is in many ways the opposite of how decisions are made in our society. We are neither trained nor exposed to it. Everyone has ways in which they can improve their consensus process.|
|External Hierarchical Structures:||In can be difficult for a group to reach consensus when externals forces can disrupt the decision making structure.|
|Social Prejudice:||Everyone has been exposed to biases, assumptions, and prejudices which interfere with the spirit of cooperation and equal participation.|
Fundamentally there are two parts:
To Consense means that you agree with the proposal and would like it to be a decision.
To Stand Aside is the weaker method of disagreement. In standing aside you are saying that you don't agree with the proposal but that you let the group decide it without your support. If you choose this method you are expected to comply with any of the decisions made even if you disagree with them.
To Block means that you think the group is making the wrong decision and that you can't let the group proceed. You must have an articulated concern before you can block.
Usually proposals can be created which are inclusive enough to make the use of blocking power a rarity. Standing Aside is slightly more common but also rare. If members of the group are using these powers often then the group should look carefully at the discussion process in the interests of creating more inclusive decisions and in the interests of understanding the individuals involved more clearly.
Although there are more complicated systems, a simple version of the consensus discussion process works as follows:
If a person would like to speak about the agenda item they raise their hand and the facilitator calls upon them in the order in which their hands were raised. It is important that each person speak only as they are called upon. This system provides an orderly way for people to speak. Since the goal of this discussion is understanding, it's very important for everyone to listen to each person carefully. Often times it's good to allow a slight pause in between speakers.
As the discussion proceeds it may be useful for the facilitator to summarize the "sense of the meeting." Usually this will involve laying out the various "sides" of an issues including the pros and cons. The facilitator should attempt to only summarize what has been said and not add in her/his own opinions. This means in effect that the facilitator is NOT part of the discussion like the other participants.
As the discussion proceeds someone should make a proposal which attempts to synthesize everyone's comments into a possible decision. In more formal consensus, agenda items are not even placed on the agenda without being in the form of a "starting place" proposal.
Some times individuals will use their speaking time to ask a "clarifying" question. This would be a question which is directed at an "expert" in the interests of clarifying or understanding something more clearly. These questions should not be used rhetorically or to make a point. These questions can be answered immediately, but without straying from the question.
After a proposal is made and the process of clarification is finished. Then a period of "broad discussion" should generally occur. This is a time for philosophical comments about the proposal. As this discussion moves forward it should narrow down towards specific concerns.
Finally a call for concerns can be made by the facilitator. Concerns are basically issues people have with the proposal which incline them towards blocking or standing aside. Even if you feel you would still consense upon the proposal you should make any concerns you have heard. At this point if there are significant concerns then the proposal should be modified to attempt to address the concerns. If there are no concerns then the facilitator should ask if there is consesus. "Speak now or forever hold you peace" This is when individuals can state that they are blocking or standing aside. Saying nothing IMPLIES THAT YOU AGREE WITH THE PROPOSAL. It is expected that if you are blocking that you have specific poorly addressed concerns.
If this system seem ungainly find ways to "streamline it." On the other hand if your meetings tend to be out of control you may want to add more details. An excellent reference for a more complicated but more powerful discussion process is C. T. Butler's "On Conflict and Consensus"