There are many websites and organizations devoted to utilizing and implementing consensus processes to reach common ground and agreement. I have found that the formal consensus process works quite well when developing plan policies as they relate to density and housing development. If executed well, the consensus process creates an environment where everyone in the group feels comfortable contributing, it lets ideas build upon ideas until the best emerges and sets up a system where all opinions and values are respected. I have however noticed a troubling trend in the last several years. That being racism. Let me set the (true) scenario. While working with a group of residents we were discussing the concept of creating affordable rural housing opportunities under a formal consensus process. The process was working as ideas built upon ideas and everyone was respecting the input given by everyone. While we were not trying to reach complete consensus, our goal was to reach agreement and go along with the majority. Those who blocked a proposal were given a chance to express their rationale. In the end we reached consensus on the issue at hand—after a 3-hour session. I was pleased with the process and result except for one issue.
To better understand this issue it is important to note that this community is very rural and according to the 1990 census 100% white. It was 99.3 % in 2000. During the discussion about creating affordable housing one of the members prefaced his comment and mumbled something about not being racist, but went on to say that he blocked the proposal to create affordable housing opportunities because he did not want—in his own words (insert here)—people who were not white to move into the community.
After he was done expressing his opinion the room fell silent and being the facilitator of the process I did not know how to react. So after collecting my thoughts I just went on to the next person who blocked to get their opinion. In other words I did not acknowledge the comment but did not challenge it either.
What would you have done in this situation and would it have been proper to address the issue and if so how would you do it? I think that part of my reaction to just move on was because I was ill prepared to respond in a reasonable amount of time. Yet if it were to happen again I do not know how I would respond. So again, what would you do and remember the audience.