How to Do a Consensus Formation Activity
with a General Purpose Audience
1. Optional: READ THE DRAFT CONSENSUS
DOCUMENT called Creating a New Vision of Farming.
This is a long document (17 pages), from which pieces of use
for consensus formation are taken for use in the workshop./activity.
(Download the PDF version.)
2. Download and print from the Tools
page (items 4a and 5a) two documents: 1.) The Process of
Stating Farming Values and 2.)The Process of Stating
Ethical Principles and its Rationale.
[Notice in these two documents the distinction
between the values, which are nouns and ethical principles
which are whole sentences. As an example, in the Judeo-Christian
tradition, God and neighbor are supreme values. VALUES are
nouns, like God or neighbor. PRINCIPLES are complete sentences
telling us to protect, honor, or construct those values. E.G.
"We must love God" and "We must love our neighbors."]
3. FORM A SUB-COMMITTEE OF YOUR GROUP
made up of persons convinced of the importance of having a
community and national consensus on the public values of family
managed farming. If possible try to get an articulate farmer
or rural community member on the committee. . Get your people
to draw up lists of all the values and corresponding ethics
of family managed farming using the two documents or the overhead
projector versions thereof (items 4b and 5b on the Tools
page) mainly as a model of how to cast values and principles
and so that, where possible, similar language and lengths
are used. Do not fail to use the wealth of your community's
traditions, church and civic groups, their rural mission statements
and so forth.
4. CALL A MEETING OF THE LARGER COMMUNITY,
with appropriate permissions and sponsorship, to get a broader
input. If your group is mainly farm families, try to include
those who have special known expertise or interests such as
direct marketing, environmental issues, farm animal welfare,
5. CONDUCT A CONSENSUS FORMATION EXERCISE,
starting with the lists of values and corresponding ethical
principles developed by the smaller group Determine an appropriate
method to insure openness, creativity and consensus but with
efficient use of time. Determine democratically a means to
establish the outcome of your consensus formation exercise
as a "practical consensus". E.G. a two thirds vote,
a period of time to allow fundamental and/or language-based
differences to be ironed out, the use of minority reports
or footnotes containing reservations or any other agreeable
6. WRITE UP A POLISHED VERSION of your
consensus statement and publish it for your whole community
(or restrict it to your official membership first for comment
and possible reform).
7. KEEP SOUL OF AGRICULTURE INFORMED of
your progress and when you are ready we will post your consensus
on our web-site for other groups to emulate and to join to
a national consensus.
Finally, remember the goal: A Consensus statement
on the multiple values and ethics of family managed farming
so broad, so rich and so diverse in its supporters that: