Consensus building involves informal, face-to-face interaction among representatives of stakeholding groups. It aims for "mutual gain" solutions, rather than win-lose or lowest common denominator outcomes. Consensus building approaches are broadly applicable in all parts of the world and to the full range of international issues. Conflicts in the international arena involve multiple parties - nations, private actors, and NGOs.
Consensus building is a three stage process:
- The first stage requires the parties to prepare appropriately for face-to-face negotiation. Facilitators or mediators can do a lot to assist parties in their internal (i.e. team) negotiations. They can also help to "map the conflict" and suggest ground rules to guide negotiations.
- The second stage involves face-to-face problem solving, often assisted by a facilitator or a mediator. Whether the parties have interacted before, or not, face-to-face dialogue involves both "value creation" and "value distribution."
- The third stage involves planning for implementation of whatever agreements have been worked out. No matter what has been negotiated, the consensus building process isn't over until everyone has lived up to their commitments. Unexpected events can undermine even the most "iron clad" agreements and require re-negotiation, monitoring, or other forms of on-going interaction.
Source: Concensus-Building Institute - www.cbuilding.org