Communities sometimes need a focused effort at consensus building, before a so-called solution is presented as “take it or leave it”. The resolution of public disputes or disagreements with at least a large constituent body on one side, and those “with authority” on the other, is often characterized by lengthy and frustrating political and legal wrangling that yields either stalemate or an outcome that leaves many of the proponents outraged, partly at the result and partly because they feel that their perspective has been neither heard nor understood.
Conflict resolution experts recognize that the use of a neutral facilitator or mediator can help organize, guide and assist when the going gets tough. Communities can find themselves in a debate where it seems that there are only two camps, “my side” or “your side”. But as if often the case, life’s challenges are more complex than that. Across the spectrum of various stakeholders, the competing interests of various groups often overlap. The negative energy of the conflict however often does not allow people to recognize this common interest.
Consensus building is a process that allows a very divergent group of people, with a wide range of stakeholder interests, to form a “common vision” about a certain public policy issue. Getting there involves identification of appropriate representatives, identifying possible funding sources, if required, clarification of roles of various participant groups, setting an agenda and ground rules for meetings, facilitating meetings “of the whole” and smaller sub groups, obtaining buy-in from the various constituencies and confronting the challenges of implementation. The process is initiated by any party who sees the value of the process and reaches out to others to develop interest. A search for a genuine neutral begins.
My goal is to help disparate groups, especially communities, to obtain the benefits of consensus building.