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Consent-based decision-making

Make shared decisions without falling into the trap of consensus



Descended from sociocracy, the consent-based decision-making method is based on the principle that a good decision respects the limits of those who will have to live with its consequences. That means that a decision can only be made if none of these people raise a reasonable objection to it.

This form of decision-making is particularly useful for highly influential proposals, such as a mission statement for a department or division, for example. Dedicating time to this type of project in advance will mean that everyone will be more committed to ensuring it is effectively implemented..


Time needed: 1 hour


Consent-based management or decision-making takes place in a talking circle. The aim is to discuss a proposal by addressing all participants’ objections until everyone gives their consent (and “zero-objection” status is achieved).

Below is a video from the Université du Nous, which delves further into the philosophy of consent.

Key steps

Stage 1: preparation

  1. Explain the principle of consent-based decision-making to the group.
    This exercise requires a different attitude compared to a standard decision-making process:

In a consensus-based approach, the decision is made when everyone says “yes”, at the risk of wasting time or creating serious conflicts down the line.

However, with consent-based decision-making however, the decision is made when nobody says “no”. The idea is not to find THE best possible decision, but just a decision that is within the realm of possibility and that does not pose a risk to the group, the project or the individuals.
2. Define a reasonable objection:

  1. Someone in the group identifies a specific, concrete problem that it not too complex.
    E.g.: what is the best way of sharing our solutions so that they are understood by all our target audiences?

  2. Everyone takes it in turns to reply to the question “what does that make me feel?” This phase can be carried out by simply going round the circle x amount of times or as its own separate exercise ( 6 Thinking Hats, world café, vision-co, etc.).

The aim is to gather as much information as possible about the problem (facts, preferences, limits, ideas, etc.) before launching into it.

Stage 2: the decision-making process itself

  1. Proposal: in line with the previously identified problem, one of the participants formulates a proposal and becomes the “proposer”. The proposal must be simple, clear and reasoned.

You can either get the participants to work on proposals in sub-groups, or simply ask for suggestions.

  1. Clarification: the other participants can ask questions to clarify the proposal and make sure they have understood it properly.
  2. Feelings: go round the circle again to give everyone the chance to express their feelings on the proposal (discussions and back-and-forth conversations not allowed at this stage).
  3. Amendments: the proposer may amend, withdraw or maintain their proposal. It’s important that only one person (the proposer) is in charge of reformulating the proposal, to prevent discussions from developing within the group.
  4. Objections: invite the group to raise their hands if they have any objections so that you can see how many there are.

If nobody raises their hand, the proposal is adopted. Go straight to the celebration stage (6).

If there are any objections, test them out one by one and then list them on the flip chart (alongside the first names of those who raised them).
Ask questions to identify whether each objection is reasonable: is it concrete, specific and well-reasoned? is it definitely an objection rather than a preference or new proposal?

  1. Bonification de la proposition

The objections are either dealt with one by one, or the “proposer” can decide to withdraw their proposal, in which case you then need to go back to step 2.

The objections are dealt with by the group as a whole.
A free discussion is opened and everyone is encouraged to suggest solutions to resolve the objection. Regularly check to see whether the objection has been resolved for the person who raised it.
If a solution succeeds in resolving an objection, the person who raised it must inform the group so that they can move on to the next one.
At the end, go around the group once more to check that all objections have been resolved and that there are no new ones. If there are no objections, you know that you have achieved mutual consent and the proposal can be adopted.

  1. Celebration time! No objections? Invite the group to celebrate this milestone!

This form of decision-making requires a clearly defined process, represented by the diagram below from the Université du nous.

Access the file

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