Ask an Advisor is a feature from the Community Tool Box (http://ctb.ku.edu) in which anyone around the world seeking for advice regarding community work, could find a brief and personalized response. For this week’s post, we feature the following question:
Question: Our coalition has recently made an attempt to broaden the stakeholders at the table. We are currently realizing that although we have been a group for some time, we have not really addressed/discussed what it is to be a coalition member or how to take on roles etc. We're beginning to do this. But a pressing and challenging issue is how we make decisions? Consensus vs. majority or super majority. Do you have helpful reading on this?
Answer: We refer you to the Troubleshooting Guide in the Tool Box: http://ctb.ku.edu/en/solveproblem/index.aspx. Take a look at chapters 4 through 7 for information that may be helpful. Many new groups face the dilemma you describe, and a very important early decision is how the group will make decisions. There are at least three options your group might choose: Require consensus on all decisions; Accept the will of the majority (or perhaps a supermajority) on all decisions; or identify those issues that will require full consensus and those that can be decided by majority vote. Requiring consensus on all decisions will slow you down, as democracy can be a ponderous process. Accepting the will of the majority may introduce a higher level of conflict and may leave some members feeling like losers. Whatever method you choose, it is fundamental to engage in a fair negotiating process.
To submit a question about your community-based work to Ask an Advisor, please visit http://ctb.ku.edu/en/AskAnAdvisor.aspx