Building Agreement and Consensus in Communities and Families

A process to build consensus among a large group of participants to reach agreements on conflicts, issues or joint future plans. The process is conducted by a qualified mediator that specializes in consensus building.

What is consensus building?

A process to build consensus among a large group of participants to reach agreements on conflicts, issues or joint future plans. The process is conducted by a qualified mediator that specializes in consensus building.

Consensus building processes are commonly used for families, apartment building tenants, urban renewal projects, municipal and rural communities, organizations, groups and others.

Similar to mediation, consensus building is voluntary and conducted by experience and neutral mediators. All involved parties may participate. The mediators begin the process by mapping the needs, interests, strengths and resources connected to the dispute and to the parties. During the process, various and creative solutions are raised with the aim of reaching agreements which will optimally address the needs of all the parties involved. The central point in consensus building is creating a consensus and not a simple majority. This requires detailed preparation, often meeting with the parties separately before bringing them all together.

The Advantages of Consensus Building:

  1. A process that increases cooperation and emphasizes continued cordial connections among parties.
  2. A focused and structured process to produce broad agreements on a specific issue or subject leading to clearly defined outcomes (agreement, plan, joint vision, etc.).
  3. An effective process for managing issues that involve a large group of people.

Who could use the service?

Families, organizations, tenants, communities, authorities, community leaders, urban renewal managers, groups and workplaces.

Who conducts the service?

Qualified and experienced mediators, graduates of specialized training in consensus building.

How much does it cost?

Cost of services is determined by the number and length of meetings.

Examples of consensus building processes

A community worker in one of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods referred Tanya, head of the Tenants’ Association of an apartment building, to the Mosaica’s Mediation Center. There was a dispute between the neighbors in the building. During conversations by Mosaica with all the neighbors, Mosaica received the following picture:

The ground floor of the building includes two rented apartments. Sara, a divorcee with two teenage daughters, lived in one apartment. She lacked hanging space for drying laundry and so she positioned two laundry ­­racks in the communal lobby area and hung clothes, including underwear, in the communal area. In addition, Sara’s daughters observed the Sabbath and therefore they placed toothpicks in the stairwell light fixtures so that that the lights remained on over the Sabbath. Lastly, Sara was very unhappy with the cleaning service provided by the building cleaner and therefore, refused to pay her part of the fees to upkeep the building.

The other apartment on the ground floor was home to Gidi, a divorce with two grown sons. Gidi basically appropriated the building lobby, putting in sofas, table, and chairs for his personal use. The boys and Gidi’s friends used the lobby as their recreation room, smoking and drinking late into the night. Neighbors from the other apartments threw the sofas in the trash but Gidi just organized other sofas to replace them. The neighbors notified the authorities and Gidi was fined, but nothing changed. Gidi ignored the presence of the other tenants, even going so far as to take up all the space in the communal building storage room. The tenants felt that he cared only for his own interests. He claimed that this is how he was raised, in keeping with the “Jerusalem tenement building” mentality and anyone with a problem with him should just leave.

Gant and Damos, an Ethiopian couple with grown children, live on a floor above Gidi. The woman speaks relatively fluent Hebrew and was previously the building cleaner until the tenants’ association said they had no money to pay her. Recently, a new cleaner was brought to the building. Gant was not happy with her cleaning abilities and refused to pay her part for the service. There was also a lot of friction in the lobby between Gant and Damos’ boys and those of Gidi. The sofas in the lobby were the primary reason for problems. They attracted cats and strangers that came to sleep there. Gant and Damos threw out the sofas, but they did not take them far enough. Gigi brought them back and his conduct worsened.

Another first-floor tenant was an Arab lady called Rafa. She was very disturbed by the occurrences in the lobby as well as the fact that the lights were left on for the entire Sabbath. She paid her tenants association fees fully and on time but was very concerned that others were not doing likewise. She was afraid of Sara and Gidi and did not intend to speak to them directly.

Natalie, a recent immigrant from France, lived on the second floor. She was also alarmed by the recreation area established in the lobby. The place was filthy, covered in cigarette butts and the smell of cat urine. Arriving at the building late at night, she felt uncomfortable crossing a lobby area filled with people smoking and drinking alcohol. She felt threatened. Sara’s laundry racks were always in the way. Natalie dreamt about a lobby like the ones in Paris, a place that one would be proud to bring guests. She would prefer that the tenants work together to clean and tidy the area and designate a place for a bike rack. She had a bike and did not use it because of lack of storage space.

Tania lives on the floor above Natalie, a woman from the Soviet Union and a member of the tenant’s association. She struggled with getting some tenants to pay their fees, not knowing how to approach them for payment and not assertive enough to contact them directly. In the past, Sara would help her collect the fees, but she quickly lost interest and quit. The atmosphere in the building deteriorated badly. Everyone had complaints, particularly about the lobby, and Tania was at a loss.

The tenants participated in the consensus building process facilitated by two Mosaica mediators. During that time, they listened to each other’s needs, listened, learned to understand each other, and planned how the lobby would look and what hours it would serve their needs. It was decided that, as an act of goodwill, Sara would buy the building a Sabbath timer for the lights and Gidi would install it. Gant was elected to clean the building in return for a deduction on her rent.