Principle of Consent & Decision-Making

The consent principle means that a decision has been made when none of the identified participants in the decision have any significant objection to it; i.e. when no one can identify a risk that they cannot afford to take. When participants state an objection, typically it involves conflicts with the network’s purpose, strategies, or the creation of conditions that would make it very difficult for a participant to perform his or her role. Under those conditions, the group or person would be “out of their range of tolerance” in supporting the choice as stated. This difference of opinion creates an opportunity for dialogue: to inquire about and gain an understanding of the reasoning behind the objection, and through that process find solutions to generate more choices, address the objection, and bring the system back within its range of tolerance. Objection(s) are supported by reasons that can be understood by other members.

By Consent, Alliance Partners:

  • Can choose to adopt any process, form, or method that enables it to make its decisions and carry them out. 
  • Can choose to use forms of decision-making other than consent, as long as:  (1) the conditions for use are specific, documented, and have a defined term; and, (2) the choice can be revisited if a member is no longer in consent.
  • Can empower leadership roles and select the people who fill them.
  • Can defer to individual, autonomous initiative.
  • Can add, remove, and evaluate the performance of any member. When removing someone, s/he does not have consent to the decision.

Consent in Practice:

  • Members don’t “block” governance decisions. If they sense an unacceptable risk with a suggested action or proposal, they describe their objections with reasons that can be understood by others. Members in a governance system commit to listening with the intent to understand those reasons and to find solutions that bring the member and the whole system into the range of tolerance.
  • People do not need to debate or persuade other people to minimize their objections. (Remember: “out of consent” does not mean convince me!) Participants use dialogue as a method of discourse, which is more about deeper inquiry and learning. Consent is not compromise, which is more about making concessions.
  • There is no need to agree on the perfect solution for the foreseeable future. Consent is met with “good enough” solutions to move forward, including a timeframe for evaluation and a willingness to adjust and learn as we go.
  • Alliance Partners set policies that give individuals and teams the autonomy they need to get things done, balancing efficiency and inclusion.