• English
  • About
    • CEI Structure

      The CEI welcomes in districts and LEAs through a cohort model. Each Cohort makes a two year commitment learn and grow within the initiative, and many stay longer to share their expertise and facilitate the learning of newer cohorts.

  • Blog
    • Online Learning

      The CEI is proud to offer a selection of CEI-created and curated resources and learning modules on a variety of topics designed to help educators strengthen their community engagement practices.

  • Joining CEI
  • Contact
  • Find Your Closest CEI Team
  • Search
Protocol Toolkit Item: 1c


Print Friendly and PDF


Getting consensus differs from voting. Consensus decision-making has a greater chance of success than other types of decision making. In this protocol, all participants support, agree to, or can live with a decision.




1 Minutes


This protocol can be used in any situation where a group needs to make a decision, and consensus is the desired outcome. Unlike voting, where some are perceived to “win” and others “lose,” getting consensus allows all group members to agree and support a decision. The Center for Collaborative Solutions describes the impact of getting consensus:
“Getting consensus on a decision ensures that all stakeholders have been heard and that each view is understood before a joint commitment is made to a solution. Therefore, ownership and support for the decision are more significant, leading to smoother implementation than might be expected using more traditional decision-making models such as a majority vote. Also, the quality of a consensus decision is usually greater because it was made with the increased knowledge and experience provided by the group. This is one reason why consensus decision-making is the preferred method of high-performing teams that strive to utilize each person’s talents, knowledge, and experience to the fullest.”
At any point in a meeting, a facilitator can use this method to reach agreement with the group. 


Step 1:

 Introduce Protocol (3 minutes) Share the following information with participants:
  • We are now going to decide on the option before us.
  • Unlike voting, where some are perceived to “win” and others “lose,” getting consensus allows all group members to agree on a decision. It may take longer to reach a consensus when deciding, but the outcomes and support for the decision are better.
  • Participants will show their support for a decision by using their thumbs. You will pick one of three below:
    • A thumbs-up indicates full support for the option/decision.
    • A thumb sideways indicates that a participant might not love the option/decision but can live with it and get behind it.
    • A thumb down indicates that a participant desires to continue discussing the option/decision before agreeing. Note that a thumb down does not imply an unequivocal “No.” Instead, it allows participants to share their concerns and continue the conversation until everyone is comfortable agreeing to the option/decision.

Step 2:

Show Thumbs
  • The facilitator should restate the option/decision so that all participants clearly understand what they are asked to agree to.
  • Ask participants to show their thumbs and scan the room. If any participants show a thumbs down, continue the conversation by asking some of the questions below and encouraging further discussion.
    • Can those who showed a thumbs down share more about why they are not ready to support the option/decision? What is keeping you from a thumb sideways or thumb up?
    • What changes to our decision might make it one everyone can support? 
  • The most important thing is to continue discussing and developing an option/decision until all participants feel good about it and agree with it.
  • Continue to ask for a show of thumbs as revisions are made and until a consensus is reached, with all participants showing a thumb up or thumb sideways.

Resources & Further Reading

Examples of Use

Skip to content