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|How Do You Build Consensus?
Making decisions can be a challenge, especially when you are working with several ethnic groups, or with a group which does not come from a democratic heritage.
Westerners are typically comfortable with a short discussion followed by a vote -- majority rules.
But voting western style, is a highly individualist activity. In many cultures, people are reluctant to express personal opinions.
In many cultures, the head man (or men) make decisions for the group and group members (especially women) may find it unthinkable to voice a different opinion.
For others, decision-making relies on hours or days of talk among everyone involved until a consensus emerges.
People from these cultures may easily feel overwhelmed and left out of a western-style discussion where people raise their hands to vote after a quick discussion of the issues.
I'd like to collect articles and stories about the alternative methods of decision-making in multi-cultural situations.
One article I've found is "Can Permission-Giving Churches Use Consensus Instead of Voting," written by William A. Easum, a church-growth consultant. Easum's web site has a section on "permission giving" principles for church leadership.
This wonderful book will open your eyes with a new perception of the social dynamics at interracial meetings, and should be read by EVERYONE working in multicultural ministry. The author grew up in Hong Kong, emigrated to the United States, and is now an Episcopal priest. Law draws on his Asian-American background for this Biblical exploration of how individual power and group dynamics are influenced by cultural heritage.
The book contains practical suggestions for structuring meetings so that cultural background is honored and everyone present feels included and heard.
Believing not only that conflict is inevitable in human life but that it is essential and can be quite constructive, Augsburger proposes a shift to an "international" approach in resolving conflict. Augsburger focuses on interpersonal and group conflicts and provides a comparison of conflict patterns within and among various cultures.
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