Contemporary issues in Planning
The process of consensus building has a hidden potential that has not been fully utilized. Failure to discover the power of consensus emanates from the tedious process associated with consensus formation. Human beings are naturally different in their ways of thinking and doing things. Moreover, their goals and aspirations are very diverse, which further magnifies their differences. It is indeed true that the success of consensus building depends on the ability to articulate the common good that would be served by the common ground among various parties privy to the consensus process. Discussing conflicting ideologies is a sure catalyst to the collapse of a consensus process. Avoiding issues likely to generate confrontation ensures that all parties are neutral and pursuing goals that serve the common good (Hanson, 2005). For consensus to succeed, all parties must be truly interested in the common good and not in exploiting the other parties for personal gains. A consensus may be reached, but sustaining it depends on the trust the parties have for each other. If one party feels that the other is only working to for personal gain, then the consensus is bound to collapse for lack of good will from one party. For instance, in the Bear Creek projected, farm workers did not own the purportedly shared vision. They felt that their participation was a means to achieving the growers’ goals. Consequently, they lost trust and withdrew from the consensus process. As demonstrated in the new win-win strategy, inequality causes people to be suspicious of each other. Therefore, to build consensus among unequal people, gaining consent from all parties is the first step in establishing a common ground. This common ground must avoid discussions that may bring historical strife among parties on the surface. As long as the contentious issues remain under the carpet and good will and trust are created, consent will be reached.
One lesson I learnt from the lecture is that consensus building does not only exist in the mainstream politics, but also in other areas of the human life. One specific area that consensus can achieve goals that were previously unattainable is in the development and poverty alleviation. Poverty is usually a result of unequal distribution of wealth where a few people controls large resource bases while the majority remains impoverished. The wealthy then use their power to ensure that the inequality persists through practices that undermine the poor’s effort to gain wealth. The conditions of the poor deteriorate, as exemplified by the Californian farmers. I also learnt that intervention by the government only makes things worse for the poor because the government sides with the rich. Charitable institutions and philanthropists are the only means to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich through discussions in equal participation and avoidance of conflicting issues.
In summary, the lecture elaborates on the process of consensus formation and the issues that should be avoided so that consent is achieved. Issues relating to historical conflicts between the parties should be avoided and concentration be directed at issues that would yield common good for all parties. To demonstrate this idea, the lecture utilizes two case studies of the relationship between farm workers and growers in the valley of California. Consensus in these case studies depended on the common ground for all players rather than on conflicting interests.
Hanson, M.P. (2005). Clues to Achieving Consensus: A Leader’s Guide to Navigating Collaborative Problem-solving. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Pub Incorporated.
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