Building and Sustaining Community Partnerships for Teen Pregnancy Prevention: A Working Paper. 5. Building Consensus

06/01/1998

Crucial to the adoption of a shared mission and common goals and objectives is the process of building consensus, an "on-going challenge" in developing and sustaining partnerships.(137) The more diverse the group, the greater the challenge.(138) In the literature on partnerships, several techniques are identified as useful in building consensus. In the early stages, focusing on the importance of the problem rather than specific solutions increases consensus.(139) Respecting differences and building on similarities are also important in consensus building.(140) Having staff who reflect the diversity of the community and extensive early outreach to all sectors and to "values' shapers," for example, media, clergy, and community leaders, help in building consensus.(141)

On-going discussions, in which all points of view are heard and respected, allow those whose personal values conflict with the initiative's approach to support the group's position.(142) Sometimes members have to agree to disagree. This is particularly true for "single issue" members and for those who represent organizations strongly opposed to the group's position. Acknowledging differences in writing sometimes allows partners to move beyond their differences; in other cases, dissenting partners must leave the group.(143) Partners need to fully explore alternatives and avoid agreeing simply to maintain harmony.(144)