The Consensus Building Handbook

A Comprehensive Guide to Reaching Agreement
Sarah McKearnan , Jennifer Thomas-Larmer
Sage Publications, Inc
July 1999

Whether you work in the corporate world, a nonprofit organization, or the government sector, you likely face the need to work with others to solve problems and make decisions on a daily basis. And you've undoubtedly been frustrated by how laborious and conflict-ridden such group efforts can be. At all levels – from neighborhood block associations to boards of directors of multinational corporations – the consensus building process is highly effective in an increasingly fragmented, contentious society. In addition, the old top-down methods such as Robert’s Rules of Orders often prompt more problems then they solve.

Consensus helps you to implement better, more creative solutions. It provides a winning alternative to top-down decision making – and even parliamentary procedure. By learning to build consensus, stakeholders come to understand and respect one another’s perspectives. The consensus building process allows participants to find solutions and forge agreements that meet everyone’s needs – and provides a meaningful basis for effective, long-range implementation of decisions.

The Consensus Building Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Reaching Agreement provides a blueprint to help make the process work in your organization, including a practical, quick-reference Short Guide. Plus, you’ll find in-depth commentary and seventeen case studies to provide the theoretical basis for the consensus building approach.

Case Studies

  • Activating a Policy Network: The Case of Mainport Schiphol
  • The Northern Oxford County Coalition: Four Maine Towns Tackle a Public Health Mystery
  • The Chelsea Charter Consensus Process
  • Resolving Science-Intensive Public Policy Disputes: Reflections on the New York Bight Initiative Negotiation
  • Superfund Cleanup at the Massachusetts Military Reservation
  • RuleNet: An Experiment in Online Consensus Building
  • Regulatory Negotiations: The Native American Experience
  • The Chattanooga Process: A City’s Vision Is Realized
  • From City Hall to the Streets: A Community Plan Meets the Real World
  • The Catron County Citizens Group: A Case Study in Community Collaboration
  • Facilitating Statewide HIV/AIDS Policies and Priorities in Colorado
  • Building Consensus for Change Within a Major Corporation: The Case of Levi-Strauss & Company