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Building Public Policy Together: Consensus-Based Policy Creation, Employers & Employees Welcome

Learn about types of consensus-based policy creation that bring together employers, government agencies, advocates and workingwomen and men to work together to create common ground solutions to workplace issues. This process of consensus-based policy creation is especially important when building public policy that helps build equitable, flexible and diverse workplaces.

Presented by: Jim Hudson, Program Director, Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest Katie Corrigan, Co-Director, Workplace Flexibility 2010, Georgetown University Law Center

Tricia Dwyer-Morgan, Director of Programs, BPW Foundation

consensus based policy creation
Consensus-Based Policy Creation

We must hang together, or we shall

surely hang separately.

- Benjamin Franklin

consensus based decision making
Consensus-Based Decision-Making

A consensual agreement or win-win outcome of collaborative problem-solving and conflict resolution(

informal vs formal consensus based policymaking
Informal vs. Formal Consensus-Based Policymaking

Informal…deliberately reaching out to various stakeholder groups and building policy that reflects a perceived consensus among the offered opinions

Formal… banding together to develop common ground and influence policy

A spectrum of options…not either/or

models of consensus building
Models of Consensus-Building
  • 3rd Party Broker*
  • Coalition-Building*
  • Cooperative Ventures
  • Neighborhood, City, County, State Task Forces
  • Civic Coalitions
  • Forums and Dialogues
  • Advisory Commission
who uses consensus based decision making
Who Uses Consensus–Based Decision Making?
  • Employer/employee policy development (Workplace Flexibility 2010; BPW Foundation)
  • Government agencies--National Park Service uses to create strong public involvement in land-use decisions (www.nps.gove/phso/rtcatoolbox/dec_consensus.htm)
  • International coalitions to resolve international issues such as negotiations over limiting emission greenhouse gasses
  • Local volunteer-based coalitions and partnerships to engage volunteer resources to solve community issues (
  • Administrative law has traits of consensus-based decision-making

Traits of Consensus-Based Process

  • Unbiased mediator/facilitator
  • Longer timeframe
  • Participants identify issues in common to all the groups, seek to understand each other, develop agreed upon results
  • Decisions aren’t made until everyone agrees
consensus building for policy change
Consensus-Building for Policy Change
  • How does consensus-based decision-making for policy change differ from other forms of consensus-building?
  • How does it “feel” different from other types of policy efforts
  • How is it similar?
  • What tools do you need?
tools for the campaign six steps for advocacy
Tools for the Campaign – Six Steps for Advocacy
  • Vision and Strategy – what is the coalition’s mission and how will it achieve success?
  • Lobbying – how will the coalition effectively persuade policymakers?
  • Policy Management – how will the coalition negotiate to move its policy goals forward?
  • Policy Research – what data is available to strengthen the coalition’s argument?
  • Outreach – how will the coalition gain constituency and/or grassroots support?
  • Communications – how will the coalition frame its message to increase awareness of and support for its mission?
3 rd party brokers
3rd Party Brokers

Case Study – Workplace Flexibility 2010

  • Our mission: To achieve – by the year 2010 – consensus-based policy solutions on workplace flexibility that work for both business and families.
case study workplace flexibility 2010
Case Study – Workplace Flexibility 2010
  • Our goal: an accepted norm of workplace flexibility, which includes:
      • Flexibility in the scheduling of work hours;
      • Flexibility in the amount of hours worked;
      • Career flexibility over a lifetime;
      • Ability to deal with emergent needs.
case study workplace flexibility 20101
Case Study – Workplace Flexibility 2010
  • Our challenges:
      • To define workplace flexibility as a compelling public policy issue, not simply an individual problem
      • To bring together stakeholders – including employers and employees – with very different perspectives on workplace policies and the role of government in framing them
      • To engage those stakeholders in meaningful dialogue on workplace flexibility, while remaining a neutral facilitator of those discussions
case study workplace flexibility 20102
Case Study – Workplace Flexibility 2010
  • Our consensus-based process: A combination of formal and informal consensus-building
case study workplace flexibility 20103
Case Study – Workplace Flexibility 2010
  • In order to build support for comprehensive workplace flexibility policy, we have:
      • Built a substantive knowledge base on workplace flexibility, so we can serve as a resource for stakeholders and educate policymakers
      • Expanded the constituency base that cares about workplace flexibility – by engaging groups not ordinarily associated with workplace issues
      • Begun meaningful conversations between employers and employees on workplace flexibility – by convening working groups that equally represent those perspectives
case study workplace flexibility 20104
Case Study – Workplace Flexibility 2010
  • Our Lessons Learned:
      • When and where you can, take advantage of the longer timeline a consensus-based approach provides – to build your institutional knowledge and your understanding of the playing field
      • Provide opportunities for meaningful discussion without pressing for immediate consensus
      • Reach out to individuals and organizations who you might not ordinarily identity as an ally
focusing on coalitions
Focusing on Coalitions

Building a coalition of key stakeholders is one strategy used to bring together key stakeholders to affect policy development

what forms can these partnerships take
What forms can these partnerships take?
  • Ad hoc task force
  • Legally recognized associations/federations
  • Partners in efficiency:
    • shared resources (space, staff, talent)
  • Information sharing network
  • Advocacy coalition
why coalitions build power
WHY??? Coalitions Build Power
  • Greater scale, reach, impact
  • Increased resources and capacity
  • Creates momentum
  • Mutual success fosters formidable perceptions
  • Individual organizations gain: credibility, power, recognition and CONTACTS.
collaboration requires
Collaboration Requires
  • Common goals
  • Structures for planning, decision making, and action
  • Clear definition of roles and responsibilities.
  • Shared risks and rewards
  • General understandings and accepted agreements
obtaining benefits of coalitions
Obtaining Benefits of Coalitions


  • Identify the Issue and the Stakeholders
  • Anticipate Conflicts; Agree to Disagree
  • Identify Capacity; Define Roles and Responsibilities
  • Ascertain: Is this Workable for Everyone?
  • Identify Your Logistical Capacity
  • Identify Your Place In the Policy Process
  • Organize
  • Get Down to Work
  • Pay Attention to Legal Considerations
tip 1 identify the issue and the stakeholders
Tip 1:Identify the Issue and the Stakeholders
  • Do we have a history of collaborating with others in our community? Can we transform that collaboration?
  • Who are the current convening groups or leaders in the community?
  • Are there any risks that come with this association?
  • Approach them!
tip 2 anticipate conflicts agree to disagree
Tip 2: Anticipate Conflicts; Agree to Disagree

Address the following immediately:

  • Acknowledge any competing interests
  • Acknowledge mutual respect and trust
  • Acknowledge that coalition serves self-interests as well as common interests.
tip 3 identify capacity define roles and responsibilities
Tip 3: Identify Capacity; Define Roles and Responsibilities
  • Identify each partners strengths and weaknesses.
  • Establish a structure for deciding and defining roles and policies which builds on strengths.
  • Create the understanding that the coalition must be tolerant of dissent, nimble, flexible, and adaptable.
tip 4 is this workable for everyone
Tip 4: Is this Workable for Everyone?
  • Yes
    • Rural Groups
      • Chamber, hospitals, fraternal, booster clubs, state level affinity organizations
    • Urban Groups
      • Neighborhood associations, ethnic associations, unions, church
    • State Groups
      • Local organizations give voice and credibility
    • National Groups
      • State and local groups demonstrate representation.
tip 5 identify your logistical capacity
Tip 5: Identify Your Logistical Capacity

Identify how you will communicate,

track, organize and mobilize.

  • Desktop Availability?
  • Website?
  • Other means of communication?
  • Who is responsible, and for which piece?
  • What and how are we tracking our effort?
tip 6 identify the policy process
Tip 6: Identify the Policy Process

Learn the Basics of the system you intend

to influence

  • You don’t have to be political scientist
  • School House Rock is the key
  • Use your lack of knowledge to foster relationships and trust
  • Surf the internet
  • Determine you insertion points
tip 7 organize
Tip 7: Organize
  • Find an ally and commit them to assisting
  • Delegate and assign responsibility
  • Reach out to those who know
  • Predict and prepare for positive and negative responses
  • Structure the organization so that it becomes institutional not peripheral
tip 8 get down to work
Tip 8: Get Down to Work

Manage the coalition and get them to work

  • Choose issues based on common ground
  • Build towards success
    • Put up a “stop sign” before you move the highway
  • Fight today’s battles
  • Fight with today’s tools and today’s insights
tip 9 legal considerations what works best depends on the mission
Tip 9: Legal Considerations, What Works Best Depends on the Mission
  • What’s the purpose
    • Legislative advocacy
    • New power base?
    • Ballot Initiative?
    • Electoral Activities?
tip 9 legal considerations ii
Tip 9: Legal Considerations II
  • It alway$ $eem$ to come down to the $$$
    • Who’ll act as the fiduciary?
    • Is there any benefit to having a (c)(4)?
    • Tax deductibility
    • Will the coalition even qualify as a (c)(3)?
    • Would we be better of remaining unofficial?
interactive exercise
Interactive Exercise

- Use the following

next steps
Next Steps…

Is there any situation or issue in your community that would benefit from consensus-based policy building?