Systemic consensus

Systemic consensus (herein syscon) is a progressive consensus decision making process. A key feature is the use of scalar, resistance voting: in contrast to the divisive plurality vote where people are often dragged into outcomes they didn't want, the resistance vote promotes collaboration by selecting the outcome that the group as a whole can live with best.[details] syscon can occur in a number of formats, quick (offline), full (offline) and online - all of which contain the same fundamental phases described below.

This form of decision making is not familiar to most people and requires practice to become comfortable with.

The question

As the input for an intensive process, it is important to form questions as best possible. Questions should be clear & open and made with self-awareness & research. More on forming questions in Question forming guidance.


Participation self-selection

Contributors decide for themselves if and how they will take part in a systemic consensus: We don't restrict access to decisions, but value the self-determination of contributors by trusting them to self-select their level of participation in the systemic consensus cycle.

In order to figure out how you should participate in a systemic consensus, ask yourself the following;

  • Do I feel that the outcome will affect me?
  • Do I feel that I will be accountable for the outcome of the decision?
  • Do I feel that I will be part of doing the outcome of the decision?

If you answer 'yes!' to...

  • none, feel free to witness the process silently or to spend your time somewhere else.
  • one, give your needs, wants and values and also your proposals in the consensus cycle.
  • two or all, participate in the whole consensus cycle with voting.

The systemic consensus process

Express needs, wants and values

Participants express their feelings towards the question.

This provides a safe space for personal, emotional expression and a connection between participants: This is important because the rest of the process is emotionally quite 'cold' and deliberately prevents discussion from stalling the process. Participants are invited to briefly write from the personal perspective of 'I' and 'me', not 'us' and 'we'. Keeping things brief makes people really think about what their core feelings are. Speaking from the personal perspective shows what the group actually thinks and prevents debate.

'Needs, wants and values' reflect how people feel about the question with proposals being withheld for the next stage in the process.


Form proposals

Participants form proposals to answer the question.

All proposals are included in the ballot, though considering the needs, wants and values of the group and the Proposal forming guidance will help form proposals that are less likely to meet resistance.

In addition to proposals from individuals, two control proposals are always included;

  • Zero option: We keep everything as it is and change nothing. This should include a description of 'how everything currently is' before the vote begins. If the 'how everything currently is' cannot be clarified or is disputed then the zero option is "Not definable"
  • Further solutions: We look for other solutions. The cycle restarts on the same question: participants express NWVs, form proposals then vote again.



Participants vote against each proposal with a resistance rating.

The vote is a multi-choice, resistance rating: voters rate each proposal with how much they resist that option being selected. The scale starts at zero which expresses the absence of resistance, the maximum value of the scale expresses maximum resistance.

The proposal with the lowest net resistance is selected. 

  • If 'Further solutions' is selected, the cycle restarts, otherwise the cycle stops.
  • If the 'Zero option' is selected, the current situation is maintained - no changes are made.
  • If two proposals have equally low resistance, just those two proposals are immediately re-voted on.

The decision

Coming to a decision is hopefully a celebration: good decisions feel good!


Looking at the % maximum resistance of the selected proposal can give an indication of how happy people are with the outcome;

 Calculating % maximum resistance
Relative total resistance to proposalequalstotal resistance to proposaldivided bymax. rating of resistance scalemultiplied bynumber of participantsmultiplied by100 %
  • 0 % maximum resistance: Congratulations! You and your group have reached a consent. 
  • 1 - 1% maximum resistance: Very low resistance, wide acceptance.
  • 10 % - 25 % maximum resistance: Fair resistance, worth considering reevaluation.
  • > 25 % maximum resistance: Considerable resistance, schedule reevaluation.

Sometimes decisions have low % maximum resistance but may have very high point resistance(s). This is more common in decisions with larger groups and shouldn't be ignored. Reaching out to the voter with resistance and finding out the reason for their voting behaviour might sometimes prove to be very useful. 


Reevaluation of decisions is done by re-initiating the same systemic consensus. This is currently done on an ad-hoc basis.


It was initially conceived of by Erich Visotschnig and Siegfried Schrotta in 2001, two ex-IBM system analysts from Austria.[website]


Last positive review 2016/03/09 by Joachim Thome