Decision-making types and models
Who makes decisions? How are they made? Do some decisions need to be made as a group, while others can be made by particular people? Are there decisions about things that come up that need to be brought back to the group?
If you are deciding whether to do something, make sure you know that people have time and energy to do it, as well as that they agree with it.
Types of decision-making
1) Collective consensus
2) Executive or steering committee
3) Authority-led (with collective input)
- Survivor-led or survivor-centred
- Group leader agreed on by everyone (because they are trusted, can be neutral or have leadership skills)
- Group leader due to their role in the group or institution (for example, parent or kaumātua, church leader, school principal, Human Resources person).
(There are tools for getting everyone’s involvement at the end of this section that can be used with any decision-making method.)
Everyone is part of making decisions. The group needs to trust each other. Guides at the end of this section can help with consensus.
Sometimes the group will agree to a decision when not everyone feels 100% about it. See the Five Finger tool below for ways a group can agree to something without reaching full consensus.
Executive or steering committee
A large group may decide that a smaller team can make decisions, including when to bring something back to the larger group. The large group can decide what needs to be shared with them, and what can be handled by the smaller group.
Groups might have an official or unofficial leader who has more say in decisions. Some groups have a leader who makes decisions by themselves, but that doesn’t work well with a community-based model like this one. Even if one person has more power, the rest of the group still needs to have real input and agree with decisions.
A group should decide whether to have a leader. Sometimes, one person will start to take over, maybe because they are more assertive, have more time, are most obviously upset, or maybe they just expect people to do what they think is best. If that happens, it should be discussed openly.
The leader does not have to be the traditional authority in the group. For example, the leader may be someone who is well respected but not necessarily a kaumātua. In an intervention taking place in a workplace, the intervention leader may be a trusted person who is not the boss.
Good leadership skills and characteristics
A leader should be trusted, have good judgment, and listen to everyone affected by the violence and intervention.
The leader should either have a good understanding of interpersonal violence or take time to learn more about violence by talking to the person harmed. They may talk to someone at a local anti-violence group (see resource section [link to resources]). People leading the intervention should read Basics about violence [link to section] and Basics about violence interventions [link to section].
Your group might decide on a ‘survivor-centred’ or ‘survivor-led’ process, where the person who was harmed drives the decisions, because:
- They are the person most affected by the violence
- Interpersonal violence often leaves the person harmed feeling powerless and unconfident. Having leadership and power in the intervention can help re-build confidence
- The group may consider the leadership and self-determination of the person harmed as a primary goal of the intervention.
Tools for making decisions
Five finger approach
Using hand signals makes it easy to see how everyone feels about a decision. It helps stop people with strong opinions from controlling the decision even if they dominate the discussion. It helps includes the opinions of quiet people, even if they didn’t speak up.
Five fingers helps a group make decisions quickly. It is better than voting because ‘majority rules’ can cover over important disagreements. These can show up later as arguing over action steps, splits in the group, breaking confidentiality and so on.
How to use Five Fingers:
Make sure everyone understands the five finger consensus. It will feel awkward at first. After talking about something, the facilitator might ask for a decision—something like, “are we ready to make a decision? Can we see if we have a consensus?"
Everyone holds up their hand to show their opinion:
- One finger = I strongly agree
- Two fingers = I agree
- Three fingers = I don’t completely agree, but I can go with it
- Four fingers = I don’t like it, but I’ll go along with it. I won’t stop the process
- Five fingers = I feel strongly enough to block this decision
- There may also be a signal for more questions.
If everyone has one to four fingers up, then consensus is reached. If you want a stronger level of consensus (ones and twos), you can ask the threes and fours why they don’t agree. This can lead to more discussion until stronger consensus is reached or the group comes up with better solutions that more people agree with.
If even one person has a five, consensus is blocked. This is a strong stand to take. Your group will need to talk again or come up with other choices that people can agree with. If blocking happens often, the facilitator can help the group figure out what is going on. Has the group ignored some important conflicting opinions? Are there people who can’t work in this team structure?
If anyone has questions, they need to be answered before a decision is made.
Sometimes, a well-functioning collective can’t get consensus on a decision and will agree that a vote is the only way forward. It is a risk. Voting can over-look conflicts in a group. If people don’t agree with a decision, they might leave, they might take different or conflicting actions, including breaking agreements on confidentially.
When voting, people are asked to raise their hands if they agree. Votes are counted, and usually if more than half agree, a decision is made.
When it is useful to get everyone’s opinion, a round-robin asks everyone to share their opinion, concerns and questions. This gives the group a picture of where everyone is at, where there are agreements and differences, and whether some things haven’t been talked about enough.
Round-robins can help to get to know each other, building trust and better understanding the situation of violence you are responding to. It can be especially helpful when you are setting goals, and when it’s important that everyone is clear about what they think should happen, and can hear and understand other people’s ideas.