Decision-Making Philosophy - Dialogue and Consensus

Decision-Making Philosophy - Dialogue and Consensus

The district's planning and decision-making processes emphasize the importance of dialogue during decision-making discussions and the importance of consensus to reach final recommendations. Authentic dialogue occurs when colleagues collaboratively explore complex issues to reach a common understanding of the issues. This process requires that the participants enter discussions as equals, suspending their titles and preconceived ideas to listen to others' viewpoints. Authentic dialogues are successful when colleagues combine their insights and knowledge to develop a broader and collective understanding of the issues, resulting in the group being prepared to develop more meaningful recommendations.

Consensus is a collective opinion characterized by the following five elements:

  1. Collaboration: Proposals for consideration are constructed with input from all interested group members.
  2. Inclusion: As many stakeholders as appropriate should be included in the group's discussions.
  3. Participation: All participants contribute to the discussion.
  4. Agreement Seeking: The group makes a concerted attempt to reach a full agreement.
  5. Cooperation: Decisions may incorporate individual concerns but are designed to benefit the whole group. Individual preferences do not override the needs of the whole group.

District-wide committees, councils, and task-forces are encouraged to use the following best practices to reach consensus:

  • Clarification of the Issue: At the outset of the discussion, issues are clearly presented.
  • Discussion/Dialogue: Participants combine their insights and knowledge to develop a broader and collective understanding of the issues.
  • Participation: Committee members accept responsibility for attending meetings, designating a substitute when unable to attend, contributing to the discussion, and following up on action items. Committee chairs are expected to schedule meetings in a way that maximizes participation.
  • Consensus: Committee members are asked to utilize consensus to reach a decision. The committee reaches consensus once all members and guests have had an opportunity to contribute to the discussion, and no one feels so strongly against a resolution that their objection must be noted.
    • Consensus does not require unanimous approval; however, consensus requires that the group attempts to hear members' perspectives for mutual understanding and find a compromise, if possible. If a group cannot reach a consensus, the differing viewpoints can be forwarded to the next level of decision-making as unresolved.
  • Committee Recommendations/Decisions: Once consensus is achieved; all committee members support the decision-making process and the committee's recommendations.