top of page


SDANW's board and committees make decisions using a consensus process.  Here are our guidelines.

Reaching Agreement by Consensus

Consensus is a collaborative decision-making process.  To use consensus, all members of a group must have equal decision-making status, regardless of their roles outside of the group.

In parliamentary procedure, members make and vote on motions.  In a consensus process, the members make and voice their support—or lack thereof—of proposals.

Proposals emerge from discussion.  During discussion a facilitator’s role is to encourage participation and listen closely for comments that are proposals.

When a proposal is made, the facilitator will check for agreement, encouraging all participants to share their opinions.  It’s not necessary to poll the group.  If support seems likely, simply ask if anyone has an issue with the proposal.  If there is none, consensus has been reached.

A member who has an issue with a proposal is obliged to explain his or her concern and to suggest how to modify the proposal so that s/he can support it on behalf of the group.

The proposal is modified and restated, and the facilitator checks again for consensus.  The process of modifying and restating a proposal is similar to a negotiation, with the facilitator serving as neutral moderator of the discussion.

Decisions reached through consensus are not necessarily unanimous.  A member with unresolved concerns may accept the proposal with reservations—acknowledging that s/he “can live with it” and support the decision on behalf of the group.  A member can also stand aside—acknowledging that s/he has a more serious personal disagreement with a proposal and while willing to let it pass, is not willing to assist in advancing the decision.

Consensus is blocked by a member’s objection.  An objection typically arises over a conflict of values or morality.  When a member states an objection, s/he is saying that s/he would rather leave the group than support the proposal.

It’s sometimes a challenge to get a proposal from a group. 


Participants who aren’t familiar with the process are often reticent to make proposals.  They will inadvertently disguise a proposal as a question such as, “Do you think we need more information?”  The facilitator is free to say, “That sounds like a proposal that we get more information.  Am I right?”  The process steps are:

  1. State the goal of the discussion, “We’re here to decide ______________________.”

  2. Lead discussion, making sure to solicit each member’s viewpoint.

  3. As discussion winds down, query participants to elicit a proposal.  “Would you like to make a proposal?”  “Sounds like there’s a consensus emerging.  Am I right?  Are you proposing that we __________________________?”

  4. Record the proposal on the group memory, checking to make sure your phrasing of the statement is an accurate reflection of the proposer’s intent.

  5. Check for consensus.  If all are in agreement, star the proposal, and move on to the next agenda item.

  6. If someone expresses a concern, ask the member to explain his/her concern and how s/he would like to amend the proposal so that it’s acceptable.  It may take several rounds of amendment and clarification to reach a satisfactory proposal.


©hansoncraneco 2021

SD logo_edited.png

SDANW is a force for positive change for the women and children in our state. 


We are dedicated to empowering women to achieve economic self-sufficiency and to assure their health and the health and well-being of their families.  


We work to encourage respect for women to make their own choices in health, education, employment, and family life.

bottom of page