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Consensus Workshops

A consensus workshop is a type of public meeting that allows stakeholders to be involved in assessing an issue or proposal, work together to find common ground, and deliver consensus-based input. Formal consensus workshops are generally two to four days and consist of:

  • Dialogue between a selected Community Panel and subject-matter experts;
  • Deliberation by the Community Panel to find consensus; and
  • Presentation of a position statement to achieve consensus on the issue.

The dialogue between the Community Panel and the experts is usually open to the public and the media (if necessary). This is an opportunity to include a wide array of stakeholders, and allow the audience to ask question and provide input.

To prepare for a consensus workshop, a County Planning Committee selects a panel of community members. The Community Panel decides on the questions to be taken up at the conference and helps to select experts to answer them. The experts are selected in a way that ensures that essential opposing views and professional conflicts can emerge and be discussed at the conference. After the workshop event, the County Planning Committee prepares a report of the outcomes and distributes to panelists, media, and decision-making bodies. 


  • Gives members of the community a chance to have their say on community issues, increase their knowledge of and ability to participate in such a discussion, and come to one position statement that all participants can “own.”
  • Leads to a position statement that reflects the joint decision(s) of all participants on an issue or proposal.
  • Assists in the facilitation of public debate from a range of perspectives.
  • Empowers lthe community to develop an informed understanding and make some contribution to the development of policy on a sensitive topic.
  • Demonstrates a plurality of views on issues.
  • Bridges the gap between experts and the community, including previously excluded members of the community.
  • Can develop new knowledge.

Challenges to Consider

  • High costs for set up and recruitment of participants and staging the event.
  • The conference would run for a two-to-four day period and therefore can be costly.
  • For the Community Panel, need to recruit members who are representative and from a wide range of backgrounds rather than members of the community who are usually present in participatory processes.
  • Strict adherence to the implementation rules is required for the workshop to be successful.
  • Rapid production of reports and findings is required.
  • Choice of an effective facilitator is critical to the success of the workshop.

Principles for Successful Planning

  • Select a County Planning Committee to have the overall responsibility for making sure that all rules of a democratic, fair, and transparent process have been followed.
  • Organize a public meeting and advertise the venue, time and topic to the public.
  • Select participants for the Community Panel, ensuring a representative sample of the geographic area and/or relevant community groups (about 14 people).
  • Hire a professional facilitator to work with the Community Panel during its preparation.
  • Book suitable venues for the Community Panel to meet and work with a facilitator to formulate the questions to be taken up at the workshop and participate in the selection of experts to answer the questions.
  • With the help of the Community Panel, select the expert panel in a way that ensures that essential opposing views and professional conflicts can emerge and be discussed at the workshop. Good experts are not only knowledgeable but also open-minded and good communicators with an overview of their field.


  • Moderator/facilitator
  • Experts
  • Recorders
  • Administrative and logistical support
  • Photographer/videographer, if necessary


  • Publicity
  • Venue
  • Audio and visual recording and amplification
  • Projection screen
  • Props for working in groups (pens, paper, pins, etc.)
  • Interpretation, if necessary

Planning Time

  • There is significant planning involved and can take several months.

Implementation Time

  • Two-to-four days in general.