Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nationsfor a world without hunger
Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
This method helps groups to come to consensus about a topic in a short period of time as it weaves its best ideas into a whole picture that leads a group to see new patterns and opportunities.
The Technology of Participation (ToP) Consensus Workshop draws upon rational and intuitive thought processes as it joins together diverse ideas and guides a group to consensus about a topic or issue. The way it works is for participants to reflect on their thoughts about a topic, and then share these in small groups where the group’s best ideas are written on cards. These cards are organized on the wall into clusters of similar ideas and then named by the group to discern their consensus.
Ideas can also be expressed through drawing images. As ideas are written with markers on cards a ‘sticky wall’ (nylon sheet sprayed with non-permanent adhesive) is used to organize the cards. Failing this, simple masking tape loops can be used to affix the cards on a wall. Flip chart paper is needed for the workshop focus question and facilitating the group’s reflection.
EAF Tool Tips
This method helps groups to come to consensus about a topic in a short period of time as it weaves its best ideas into a whole picture that leads a group to see new patterns and opportunities. When a consensus is reached, each person feels a sense of ownership of the entire group‘s decisions and experiences the expansion of his/her personal insights and a connection to the rest of the group. There are numerous uses for the Consensus Workshop. Some common ones are creating a shared vision, setting team priorities, agreeing on criteria for decisions, finding common ground among parties with opposing views of perspectives, motivating volunteers or team members, doing weekly planning, creating alignment in teams and developing policy. Any one of these can be used in support of EAF since it helps in group planning and decision making. Using in intra-group activities can be very helpful in directing the communication and avoiding potential conflict through focusing on strong opinions or personalities.
EAF Tool Usage
The methodology can be acquired through training either by attending the public ICA course, Group Facilitation Methods (held in many cities around the world) or hiring a trainer to teach a course in-house. ICA trainers can provide teaching materials and as they must pay royalties to ICA the price can be steep for a small organisation. To reduce the cost one or two persons can be trained who would then share the method with their group. A comprehensive book on the topic to help a group get started in using this method is referenced below.
EAF Tool Capacity
The facilitator will require having had formal training. To participate in a consensus workshop persons should be able to read or write but the method has been done with groups who were not all literate so that more literate participants can help others who are not.
The data for a consensus workshop are mainly centered on the knowledge and experience of participants around a specific topic. The greater the experience of the participants in terms of the area of focus, will determine the quality of the outcome.
Moderate - High
This method provides an opportunity to bring many persons into the process however each consensus workshop is limited in size due to the total amount of data that can be dealt with at one time. It can be done with a range of 12-30 comfortably with a total number of individual ideas not exceeding 40. For those who attend, participation is high as it takes in as many individual, small team and full group ideas as possible.
Short – Moderate
A typical workshop runs for about 1 ½ hours and includes five steps: setting the context, individual and group brainstorm of ideas, clustering the ideas, naming the ideas, confirmation of the group’s resolve gained from the workshop. But if training is required this may take some time to occur.
Source of Information
Stanfield, R.B. 2002 The workshop book: From individual creativity to group action. R. Brian New Society Publishers, BC, Canada, 171pp.