Gradients of Agreement can help move groups forward

Gradients of Agreement is a consensus tool that has the ability to allow groups to move forward.

Michigan State University Extension educators from the Government and Public Policy and the Leadership and Community Engagement team had the opportunity to provide educational programming with Michigan Tribes on an initiative brought together through the Intertribal Council of Michigan, Inc.

One of the tools demonstrated was Gradients of Agreement. Gradients of Agreement helps a group move from disagreement to a decision everyone can agree on at some level. It can be thought of as the minimal level of agreement needed to move the group forward. The tool was developed by Sam Kaner and is pictured below. The tool has eight levels of agreement moving from Whole-hearted Endorsement to veto, with definitions under each option.

levels of agreement

The tool is relatively easy to use and can described in a few steps:

  • Ask the group what consensus means. After they discuss it, give the definition: The level of agreement necessary for a group to move forward.
  • Explain that there are levels of agreement and discuss them with the group
  • Write a possible decision or solution on a flip chart. Draw the gradient scale underneath it.
  • Go around the group, asking each person to place themselves on a scale, marking their positions.
  • Ask those who disagree or veto how the proposal could be changed to make it agreeable to them.
  • Make the changes the group agrees with, and poll the participants again, making new check marks with a different color.
  • Repeat the process until the necessary level of agreement is reached.

Note: You could demonstrate the tool with a simple solution such as; I propose we go to “Taco Town” for lunch. Ask the group what level of agreement is necessary for this decision. After this has been decided, poll the group, marking each vote. Ask each person to explain their vote. Discuss how the proposal can be modified to suit those who disagreed. For example, I propose we go to “Taco Town” for lunch if Ashley and Tom will drive us. Vote on the new proposal, continuing to change it if necessary, until consensus is reached.

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