Unlike typical facilitation, in which the Facilitator guides the group through the meeting while facilitating dialogue and negotiating agreements, Consensus Facilitation is a process conducted by highly skilled professionals who have the additional skills to convene the group and help focus the stakeholders on specific issues to reach agreements, as well as to implement strategies and monitor plans which stem from the negotiated agreement. Consensus Facilitation can be applied to issues as diverse as environmental clean-up and land use, human rights and minority inclusion, community engagement processes and building networks and coalitions. It is a long term process which requires skills and techniques that go beyond the traditional facilitation skills.
The PDCI Consensus Facilitation Training Module has been developed by experienced practitioners at Partners for Democratic Change, USA and applied by the PDCI network trainers to build capacity of wide range of professionals across the globe.
The extensive PDCI network experience in applying Consensus Facilitation has proved successful due to the following key points:
- It is conducted by a trained neutral facilitator
- It incorporates all the best skills and abilities of a traditional facilitation and elevates the process to the next level
- Moves beyond dialogue to reach agreements
- Ensures those agreements are implemented and the outcomes achieved
- Evaluates progress and re-negotiates progressive strategies for change
Traditional facilitation is usually limited to the process of conducting a meeting and managing a dialogue with participation of diverse stakeholders. Everyone fancies themselves a Facilitator. The reality is that it takes specific strategies and techniques to reach sustainable agreements and to manage the implementation of agreements. Pseudo-solutions do not solve anything and provide participants with an illusory feeling of confidence. Compliance by stakeholders very often renders the process ineffective and stalled at the first sign of difficulty.
Consensus Facilitation is much more than a traditional facilitation:
- In contrast to traditional facilitation, Consensus Facilitation features the enhanced Assessment stage, which promotes informed socioeconomic perspectives about all parties involved and gives the Facilitator background knowledge about people, positions and problems relevant to the issue at stake
- Consensus Facilitation is very invested in engaging stakeholders and ensuring that the ‘right’ people are at the table
- Reaching agreements during the Consensus Facilitation process ensures that stakeholders have the ownership of their solutions and that they are fair and acceptable to all parties
- Implementation stage ensures that agreements are acted upon and all parties know their role in the process
- Managed monitoring and evaluation promotes strategies and success of the implementation
The PDCI training module in Consensus Facilitation helps participants to become familiar and comfortable with a set of skills and techniques without which it is impossible to conduct the process. They include Effective Communication, Negotiation, Mediation, Facilitation, Meeting Management, Cooperative Planning, Agreement Writing and Project Management Skills. Once these skills are in place the facilitator can manage the step by step process of multi-stakeholders’ consensus building. This process is presented by interactive exercises and group learning during the training module.
PDCI offers a 5 day basic training course for practitioners working in any field that needs communication, problem solving and group decision making.
The basic training course can be upgraded to certification program which offers additional possibilities for learning such as Training of Trainers and practice through mentorship. The Consensus Facilitation Certification Program includes final evaluation which ensures that trainees’ basic standards of consensus facilitation skills are in place.