AAPIP Voices

Part 4: Civic Engagement Fund (CEF) Critical Collaboration Series


Collaboration through Consensus Building
By: Simran Kaur, Advocacy Manager, The Sikh Coalition

Consensus building is an incredibly powerful process in decision-making.  When groups want strong support for a project, by all members, consensus building is not only beneficial but it is also impactful.  Consensus building has a rich history and has been used by various communities, groups and political movements over time.

“Consensus is a cooperative process in which all group members develop and agree to support a decision in the best interest of the whole. In consensus, the input of every participant is carefully considered and there is a good faith effort to address all legitimate concerns.” (Dressler, 2006)

The Political Engagement Learning Circle, of the Civic Engagement Fund, recently created a Candidate Questionnaire that addressed issues affecting AMEMSA communities.  The project was an excellent example of how communities can build bridges through civic engagement.  This project was the first of its kind and led the learning circle on a journey to engage all participants by being inclusive of various issues and cultivating trust and ownership along the way.  Consensus building was used predominately as our decision-making process.  While it required a commitment from everyone in the group, it ensured that there was a shared understanding of our goals.  This process helped us create a questionnaire that was representative of the larger AMEMSA community.

While this type of decision-making is not always possible (or easy!) it can lead to better quality outcomes that empower the group or community to move forward to create a stronger voice together.

The Political Engagement Learning Circle is comprised of the following five organizations: The Afghan Coalition, Arab American Cultural Center of Silicon Valley, Arab Cultural and Community Center, Semah, Inc. and The Sikh Coalition.

[Editors Note: This is the fourth installment of the CEF Critical Collaboration series, from the perspective of one of CEF’s community partners – Simran Kaur, Advocacy Manager for the Sikh Coalition, a national civil rights organization.  Simran is charged with leading the organization’s outreach and advocacy efforts in California.  This past year, Simran oversaw the passage of AB1964 in California – the nation’s strongest workplace religious freedom law, sponsored by the Sikh Coalition. Simran was asked to describe one aspect of collaboration for this post.  Parts 123 of the series can be found here – Laila Mehta – Director, Civic Engagement Fund]