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Making Civics Real Workshop 2: Electoral Politics  
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Essential Readings

Building Consensus

The San Diego Unified School District Triton/Patterns Project developed this guide to help both students and teachers understand what consensus means and how to achieve it in group settings.

When working in a group it is important that all members of the group play a role. While the simple majority rules concept works for our nation, in smaller groups it could leave members feeling slighted or out of the loop. Consensus is a strategy that involves everyone playing a role in the decision making of the group. In order for this to be successful, it is important to be open to compromise!

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of consensus is:

  1. a: general agreement; b: the judgment arrived at by most or all of those concerned
  2. group solidarity in sentiment and belief


  • Trust each other. This is not a competition; everyone must not be afraid to express his or her ideas and opinions.
  • Make sure everyone understands the topic/problem. While building a consensus, make sure everyone is following, listening to, and understanding each other.
  • All members should contribute their ideas and knowledge related to the subject.
  • Stay on the task.
  • You may disagree, that is OK and healthy. However, you must be flexible and willing to give something up to reach an agreement.
  • Separate the issue from the personalities. This is not a time to disagree just because you don't like someone.
  • Spend some time on this process. Being quick is not a sign of quality. The thought process needs to be drawn out some.


  1. Agree on your objectives for the task/project, expectations, and rules (see guidelines above).
  2. Define the problem or decision to be reached by consensus.
  3. Figure out what must be done to reach a solution.
  4. Brainstorm possible solutions.
  5. Discuss pros and cons of the narrowed down list of ideas/solutions.
  6. Adjust, compromise, and fine-tune the agreed upon idea/solution so all group members are satisfied with the result.
  7. Make your decision. If a consensus isn't reached, review and/or repeat steps one through six.
  8. Once the decision has been made, act upon what you decided.

Source: San Diego Unified School District Triton/Patterns Project, 1999

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