Leaders learn to “guide groups to consensus”

Michigan Lake and Stream Leaders Institute class of 2013 participates in consensus building program.

The Lake and Stream Leaders Institute is a cooperative program of Michigan State University Extension, the Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, Inc., with support from the Paul H. Young Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Participants take part in classroom and field-based sessions designed to help them better understand local water resource management planning and program implementation. Expert presenters from academia, natural resource agencies and local communities cover topics including watershed management, lake and stream ecology, environmental education, leadership and working with local and state government. The Institute is offered every other year, and conducted through three in-depth sessions held across Michigan.

A portion of one session was taught by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), part of MSU Extension’s Leadership and Community Engagement program team. Participants learned how to build group consensus using a tool called Gradients of Agreement. This is important when the topic being discussed is crucial to the successful completion of the group’s ultimate goal. Rarely are there true “yes” and “no” solutions in group decision making. More often, there are many “degrees” of agreement. Any variation from absolute “agreement” can potentially sabotage the final outcome. Using the “Gradients of Agreement” tool can help participants identify solutions to specific concerns and then move forward through consensus.

Program participants said: “I liked the tool-I feel I can use it effectively.” “It gave me a new tool to try and work with my Association.” “Opened my eyes to another valid method of voting & possibly moving forward.” “I plan on using this as much as possible in order for it to stay fresh in my mind and practice.”

Program Coordinator .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) explained that “lake and stream management decisions often fall to the local community, and in every community, there are a lot of different points of view. Participants in the Lake and Stream Leaders Institute build a toolbox of techniques for working effectively with their neighbors, and the Gradients of Agreement tool is extremely useful for moving groups towards consensus.”

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