Consensus Queries

by Tree Bressen

If your group can engage with all of the queries listed here to a sense of satisfaction, then your consensus process has a high chance of success. Queries have a long tradition among Quakers (who are also very experienced practitioners of the consensus process), and there is a way in which the consensus process at its heart is a questioning process.

1. What is the common purpose of our group? How encompassing is it; that is, which decisions are made by the group (or its subgroups) and which by individuals? Why do we have meetings, and what are the goals of those meetings?

2. How do we orient individuals who are new to our group? How is our consensus method—both culture and procedures—taught to new members?

3. How is the self-awareness of each person supported? What do we do to help our members step toward personal growth?

4. How are friendships nourished among our members? Which relationships most need support? What else would help improve our relationships, and what can we do to make that happen?

5. What spirit do our meetings convey? Do they feel safe and welcoming? What is the energy like?

6. What steps or procedures does this group use in order to reach consensus? What is the structure of our method?

7. How do we work with dissent? Do we have a healthy balance between expecting cooperation and honoring legitimate differences, in service to the whole? What is the menu of options for constructively addressing concerns? How do we invite genuine consent rather than coercion? What is our robust procedure to deal effectively with inappropriate blocks?

8. How does the group learn together for continual improvement of its decision-making system? What feedback loops are in place? How does change happen?

Tree Bressen, facilitator and teacher, has been assisting intentional communities, nonprofits, and other organizations with group process since 1994. Pages from her website are available for copying and distribution free of charge as long as you continue to include these credit lines and contact information.

Tree Bressen
Eugene, Oregon