Policy Example: Consensus Decision Making


vote is used in The Cooperative Association Act to indicate a decision making process, or the act of individuals participating in that process. Wherever The Cooperative Association Act refers to "vote" or "voting," we may use "consensus," "unity," "concurrence," or "unanimity."

consensus all decisions requiring a "vote" of members, investors, directors, officers, or other bodies under The Cooperative Association Act will be achieved via consensus, or unanimous consent of those entitled to a "vote" under The Cooperative Association Act.

entitled to vote The Cooperative Association Act specifies who may participate in various votes, such as members, investors, directors, or officers. We will refer to those "entitled to vote" as "participants." Those who may be present, but not legally "entitled to vote" are called "observers" or "guests," and may participate in the decision making process, but do not have a right to veto.

veto also called "blocking," is a situation where one or more participants voice a principled objection to consensus, based on a belief that the proposal is in conflict with the body's values, thus blocking the decision from being implemented.


Depending on the importance of the matter at hand, consensus may be informal, or any participant may request that the following formal consensus process be followed. It is expected that informal consensus will be used in a large majority of decisions, loosely following this process, with only steps #9 and #10 (recording the decision) formalized.

• A problem to be solved is presented as part of the agenda for the meeting.

• A proposed solution is presented.

• Clarifying questions that seek to explain points of the problem or proposal, particularly how the proposal fits with our values, may be asked at this time.

• Objections and concerns about conflicts with our values are then raised by participants. These are recorded and grouped according to topic, but are not addressed at this time.

• A general discussion follows, during which clarifying questions, objections, and concerns are addressed, one at a time, with discussion and suggestions recorded for refining the proposal so it better reflects our values, with the goal of achieving unity within the group.

• A call for consensus on the (possibly refined) proposal is made.

• Participants indicate either "consent", "stand aside", or "veto".

• Those who indicated "stand aside" are given an opportunity to present their concerns to the group, as either "consent with concerns" or "against without veto". If more than one person indicates "against without veto", the group should decide to go back to general discussion, to better achieve unity. If this has already happened, the "against without veto" should be treated as a "veto", as described below.

• The problem and agreed solution proposal are recorded in the organization's decision log for future reference, unless vetoed, as described below.

• Upon achieving consensus without any vetoes, anyone who indicated "stand aside" can make a brief statement of concern regarding conflict with our values, which will also be recorded in the decision log.

• Consensus is vetoed only upon "principled objection", which means that the proposal is contrary to the organization's values, vision, mission, or purpose, or if the vetoing party believes the proposal would result in a catastrophic outcome for the organization through some way that is unanticipated in the organization's guidance documents.

• When consensus cannot be achieved, the dissenting party or parties are required to present an alternative proposal for solving the problem for consideration by the body that they believe to be more agreeable to the body, according to the following procedure.

* • This alternative must be presented within a reasonable period of time, as appropriate to the gravity of the resolution. The date for determination of the alternative resolution must be set at the time of defeat of the original resolution. If consensus cannot be achieved in scheduling a meeting for consideration of the alternative resolution, the meeting facilitator has the authority to schedule such a meeting.

* • The requirement for an alternative resolution may be waived by unanimous consent at the time of the defeat of the original resolution.

* • Those participating on the alternative resolution must include at least a majority of those who participated in the original resolution. Every effort must be made to include all those who participated on the original resolution.

* • If one of the following is true, then the original resolution may be brought before the body again (at a future date) for unanimous minus one consent of those duly notified and present.

-the alternative resolution fails to achieve unanimous consent by those duly notified and present,

-the dissenting parties fail to present an alternative, or

-a majority of parties voting on the original resolution are not able to vote on the alternative resolution.

If the original resolution is brought before the body a second time, every effort must be made to include all those who voted on the original resolution, but there is no majority requirement in this case. Note that this particular clause was created in the effort to avoid blocking or vetoing of resolutions, without the presentation of alternatives.

Proxy Veto

Since consensus is a process, rather than an event, veto by proxy is not allowed unless agreed by the members actually participating. Indications of "consent" or "consent with concern" by proxy will be allowed and recorded.

A member who cannot be present to participate may request that the proposal be re-scheduled, but the Association is not bound by that request.

Veto Abuse

Consensus requires that the parties voting take responsibility to adequately educate themselves about the issues and resolutions under consideration, and that they make reasonable accommodations to achieve unity. Should a party consistently veto resolutions, that party's participation rights may be suspended by unanimous consent of all participants, excluding the party in question. The resolution calling for suspension of participation rights must include a time upon which those rights will be restored. Parties who have had their participation rights suspended agree to attend consensus training at their own expense prior to restoration of their participation rights.