Reaching Consensus vs. Voting

 #14 Three Models of Troop Government (continued)



The process of synthesizing several diverse elements together.
A means by which a group chooses one alternative from several.
Advantages to Consensus: 
With consensus people can and should work through differences and reach a mutually satisfactory position. It is possible for one person’s insights or strongly held beliefs to sway the whole group. No ideas are lost.
Disadvantages to Voting:
Voting is a win or lose model. Voting does not take into account individual feelings or needs. In essence, voting is a quantitative, rather than qualitative, method of decision-making. Sometimes people are more often concerned with the number it takes to “win” than with the issue itself.

Building and reaching consensus is an important life skill, and can be taught in Girl Scouting. This skill will serve the girls well throughout their lives.

What is Consensus:

Consensus does not mean that everyone thinks that the decision made is necessarily the best one possible, or even that they are sure it will work.  What it does mean is that in coming to that decision, no one felt that her/his position on the matter was misunderstood or that it wasn’t given a proper hearing.  Hopefully, everyone will think it is the best decision; this often happens because, when it works, collective intelligence does come up with better solutions than could individuals.

Consensus takes more time and member skill, but uses lots of resources before a decision is made, creates commitment to the decision and often facilitates creative decision.  It gives everyone some experience with the processes of interaction and conflict resolution, which is basic but important skill-building.  

How Does It Work?

  1. Presentation: The proposal is presented as clearly as possible.
  2. Clarifying Questions: Make sure everyone understands it before you discuss it.
  3. Discussion: The proposal is discussed and debated. Possible changes to the proposal are made at this time.
  4. Take General Feelings on the Proposal: Straw poll, round robin, signal such as thumbs up/thumbs down.
  5. Call for Major Objection or Strong Concern: A single major objection blocks the proposal from passing. A major objective isn’t “I don’t really like it” or “I liked the other idea better” – It is an “I cannot live with this proposal and here’s why . . . “ A strong concern does not block the passing of a proposal, but it a public statement of why you dislike it.
  6. Does the Proposal Pass? If the feelings of the group are generally positive and there are no major objectives, then the proposal passes. If general feelings are positive, but someone has a major objective to the proposal, the proposal doesn’t pass. If the group feelings are generally negative, the proposal doesn’t pass. If the group feelings are mixed, not generally positive or negative, discussion continues or the proposal is tabled until the next meeting or until more information is available. At any time during the process, a group can:
  • Decide to drop the proposal
  • Move on to approval voting of specific options within the proposal
  • Rework the proposal to work out the objectives.