Consensus Process

CASA groups and teams, including the Board of Directors, make decisions and recommendations by consensus.

Representatives from government, industry, and non-government organizations use consensus to actively participate on CASA groups and teams. CASA follows the Consensus Decision‑Making Toolkit a Martha Kostuch Legacy.

To learn more about CASA, go to About Us page.


  1. CASA’s projects originate from a statement of opportunity, a brief outline which clearly and concisely describes the issue, why it is a concern and how it fits within CASA’s mandate. Anyone affected by, or interested in, air quality issues can request CASA’s attention at any time.
  2. After receiving the statement of opportunity, the CASA secretariat does an initial screening to ensure it meets the basic requirements for CASA involvement.
  3. If the issue appears suitable, the statement of opportunity along with the “screen and scope” document from the secretariat are presented to the board of directors. The board makes a more substantive assessment, considering whether the issue can be addressed with existing CASA resources.
  4. If the board decides the issue is appropriate, it accepts the statement of opportunity and establishes a multi-stakeholder working group to develop a plan or framework for responding to the issue.
  5. The working group presents draft terms of reference for board approval, describing in more detail any specific areas needing exploration.
  6. If the draft terms of reference are approved, a project team is formed. CASA’s works teams of experts represent the three stakeholder groups. Each team uses the CASA process and ground rules, and project teams develop recommendations for board consideration.


The widely accepted definition of consensus is “general agreement.”

Consensus is reached when each stakeholder can live with the outcome. Stakeholders may not achieve all their goals, but the optimal solution is in everyone’s best interests. The resulting recommendations are likely to be more innovative and longer-lasting than those reached through traditional negotiation processes.

Consensus decision-making brings together a group of people in an attempt to address interests or concerns underlying each parties’ position on an issue. The focus is on finding solutions to the problems faced by each party so every participant can agree to a final set of recommendations.

Three CASA publications about consensus provide information about consensus:

  1. The Consensus Decision-making Toolkit is a collaborative publication by the Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA) and the Alberta Water Council (AWC), two multi-stakeholder organizations using consensus decision-making to improve air quality and water management in Alberta.
  2. The toolkit helps people identify what needs to be in place to conduct a consensus process, and offers practical suggestions on what to do when problems rise.
  3. Beyond Consultation: Making Consensus Decisions tells you more about consensus. The Comprehensive Air Quality Management System (CAMS) explains more about the consensus decision-making process CASA uses.

Setting the Stage for Success

One of the ways CASA sets the stage for success in its meetings is by establishing ground rules for participants. These ground rules are:

  1. Listen generously
  2. Speak straight
  3. Be "for" each other
  4. Honour commitments 
  5. Acknowledge and appreciate others
  6. Be concerned for inclusion
  7. Be concerned for alignment

These ground rules are an important part of the process and encourage the group dynamics and atmosphere needed to support the consensus process.


The Managing Collaborative Processes Guide is a comprehensive guide to collaborative decision making developed by CASA to better support its multi-stakeholder teams in developing sustainable solutions for air quality.

The Guide is a leading practice manual for those participating in CASA’s multi-stakeholder teams, including project managers, co-chairs and participants. It introduces the concepts of collaboration and interest-based negotiation, and clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved. It will provide useful guidance to virtually any group with an interest in reaching consensus (apart from CASA-led processes).

It also outlines the project management process, including screen and scope, the steps needed to build agreement on a recommended solution, as well as project close-out.

Ultimately, the Guide integrates more structure into the process, which will lead to:

  • Improved project deliverables
  • A higher level of innovation and creativity in decision making
  • Improved fit of decisions with stakeholder interests
  • Stronger cross-stakeholder relationships and networks

Current Status: 2014 version of CASA’s Guide to MCP now available for download.


This toolkit was a joint publication by CASA and the Alberta Water Council (AWC); two multi‑stakeholder organizations that use consensus decision‑making to improve air quality and water management in Alberta, respectively. The toolkit was part of an initiative to honor Dr. Martha Kostuch who passed away in April 2008. Dr. Kostuch was a nationally recognized environmental activist who made a significant contribution to our understanding of consensus decision making and how it can lead to innovative and sustainable solutions. Martha was also passionate about the need to provide people with practical skills to work with others from diverse perspectives so they could solve important environmental issues. We are pleased to present this work as part of her continuing legacy.

The Toolkit contains the following:

1. A screening checklist to help determine if an issue is suitable for a consensus process

2. A ‘necessary conditions’ checklist to help get a CDM process started

3. A communication checklist

4. A checklist for responding to challenging behaviours

5. A primer on testing for, and dealing with blocks to, consensus

6. An evaluation and monitoring checklist

7. A template for developing a terms of reference

8. Sample communication tools for consensus processes

9. A meeting checklist

To view the toolkit, see here.