Consensus Building

Moving Toward Agreement from the Extremes

Moving Toward Agreement from the Extremes

Image courtesy of Nihat Dursun – Fotolia.com In the last post, I summarized different ways of thinking about the effect of extreme beliefs on efforts to resolve conflict and solve problems. Elizabeth Bader approaches the mediation context in terms of personality and psychoanalytic theory, while Eggers and O’Leary describe how government solutions to major issues […]

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Consensus Building and the Unshakable Rightness of Belief

Consensus Building and the Unshakable Rightness of Belief

Anyone who’s worked at building consensus on public policy knows the frustration of trying to reason with someone who just won’t change a position or even consider alternative possibilities. They may refuse to accept any evidence that seems to disprove their positions and become aggressive and disruptive in the face of challenges. Sometimes, it’s possible […]

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Consensus Building: Changing Minds to Reach Agreement

Consensus Building: Changing Minds to Reach Agreement

For a diverse group to reach consensus, at least some of the participants – perhaps all of them – have to change their minds. They come into the room with differing, often fundamentally conflicting ideas about the challenges they face. They likely disagree on how to define problems, technical methods that should be used to […]

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Mediating on Two Tracks: the Rational and the Rest of Human Nature

Mediating on Two Tracks: the Rational and the Rest of Human Nature

Robert Benjamin’s essay on the place of irrationality in mediation, discussed in the previous post, urges mediators to focus as much on the emotional and even illogical motives contributing to conflict as on the rational analysis of issues. Many practitioners do this, in so far as they can, because they not only recognize the importance […]

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What Do You Do When Consensus Fails?

What Do You Do When Consensus Fails?

This is the nightmare scenario for any consensus process: After months of hard work by 20 or 30 participants, one or two holdouts, perhaps representing narrow or personal interests, block agreement and frustrate the entire effort. That is possible if the only route to agreement requires unanimous consent. There has to be a way to […]

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How Do Consensus Groups Make Choices?

How Do Consensus Groups Make Choices?

As in any other field, public sector consensus building always gets to the critical moment when choices have to be made. In my experience, how a group accomplishes this reveals more about motives behind decisions than any other step in the process. Several years ago, I worked with a large group to build consensus on […]

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