In Unit 3, you looked at different styles of democratic decision-making. Of the three styles listed there – majority vote, consensus and proportional outcomes – ‘consensus’ is the one that requires the greatest participation, and the one that most promotes empowerment. In the rest of this unit we examine the meaning of ‘consensus’ in more detail, and look at how to work in a consensual manner.

Young people involved in the Commonwealth Youth Exchange programme in Trinidad and Tobago organised by the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) Caribbean Regional Centre.The word ‘consensus’ comes from the Latin for ‘to think together’. We use it to mean a conclusion or agreement. Its Latin root helps us to keep in mind that it is a process as well as a product.

In other words, consensus is not just where you end up; it is how you get there. For this reason, it often involves many different processes, and so it is often easier to define consensus by explaining what it is not. That is what we will do next.