Consensus Building at CMF
One of the most widely cited historical roots for consensus is the Quakers. The consensus process used by the Society of Friends (Quakers) has been in use for three and a half centuries. It is a highly specific political mechanism, with its own vocabulary, ideology, and traditions. Quakers are very reluctant to describe their consensus process in political terms. Rather, Friends tend to view their decision-making process as an integral part of their religious experience. Many Quakers believe that consensus is so fundamentally spiritual that it cannot be secularized.
Consensus decision-making’s heritage can also be traced to indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples use of consensus is often seen as motivated by a desire to say that the ‘natural’ state of humanity is one of co-operation and not competition. In 1855, Minnie Myrtle observed that no Iroquois treaty was binding unless it was ratified by 75% of the male voters and 75% of the mothers of the nation. Consensus as a decision rule in this case would be defined as a “supermajority” rather than unanimity. Supermajority represents the inclusion of consensus ideology as compared to a simple majority where voting is based on individual preference.
CMF adopted consensus as a model for decision making in its early years. In March 2018, we revisited our consensus building and decision making processes and adopted the procedure described in the documents linked below.