Strategies for Building Consensus
In order for Teams to be successful, Team members must come together to create common purpose to guide the group’s decision-making. Consensus building is a creative and dynamic way of reaching agreement between all members of a group. Instead of simply voting for an item and having the majority of the group getting their way, a group using consensus is committed to finding solutions that everyone actively supports, or can at least live with.
Remember – consensus building is not automatic; it takes time and requires the participation of all members.
Easing into Consensus Building
It can be helpful for Teams to participate in a low-stakes activity before embarking on more complex projects that require consensus building and shared decision making. The following activities are a great way for members to get to know one another and work together to solve problems during one of the first Team meetings.
In this activity, groups have 18 minutes to build the tallest free-standing structure using spaghetti, tape, string, and a marshmallow. Multiple themes can be explored using this challenge, such as:
- Prototyping matters
- Diverse skills matter
- Incentives maximize outcomes
- The hidden assumptions of a project
The Team can work as one group or break up into smaller groups of 3-6, depending on how many members there are. Groups have 18 minutes to build the tallest free-standing structure using spaghetti, tape, string, and a marshmallow.
The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec. Click here to view instructions and materials needed for the challenge. The TED talk accompanying the instructions may be useful to show once the challenge is completed, as it elaborates further on what can be learned by studying the groups that are most successful compared with those that were least successful.
Lost at Sea
In this activity, the group must pretend that they’ve been shipwrecked and are stranded on a life boat. Each group has a box of matches and other items that they’ve salvaged from the ship. Members must agree on which items are the most important for survival. The Team can work as one group or break up into smaller groups of 3-6, depending on how many members there are.
Click here to view instructions and printable resources for this activity. Many variations of this activity exist and Teams may want to search for other versions as well.
Consensus Building Strategies
There are multiple strategies that can be used to facilitate the consensus building process. Below are five strategies that your team may choose to use. This is not an exhaustive list, and Teams are encouraged to use strategies that they find to be most effective.
Guiding questions regarding consensus building strategies can be found on the "Reflection and Planning Guide," provided below in English and Spanish. Teams can use this guide to reflect on their experiences and plan for incorporating consensus building strategies.