As North Dakota emerged from the 1980s farm crisis, public and private leaders created the Consensus Council out of concern that public cynicism and partisan discord threatened the state’s ability to address important challenges. Established in 1990, Consensus Council is a North Dakota-based, nonprofit corporation dedicated to bringing diverse viewpoints together and to building consensus across differences in the northern plains region of North America.
Our founding executive director was Larry Spears, who established the first office in Bismarck. Originally called the North Dakota Consensus Council, Inc., the name was changed in 1999 to The Consensus Council, Inc. to more accurately reflect our growing regional presence, particularly across Minnesota, South Dakota, and Manitoba. In 2021, the name was simplified to Consensus Council.
When our organization was founded, the primary function of Consensus Council was to assist to leaders and citizens in establishing basic agreements regarding public structures, policies, and services. The original mission of Consensus Council was to assist citizens and leaders reach collaborative agreements on important issues of public policy and the provision of crucial community services.
Rose Stoller served as Consensus Council executive director from 2003 to 2019. Rose helped broaden our mission and services to extend beyond public policy, and we now work with a variety of community groups, nonprofits, coalitions, faith communities, school districts, and government entities. Our current mission is to facilitate conversations and build agreements that empower people, transform communities, and advance the public good. Ann Crews Melton became the organization’s third executive director in 2020. Consensus Council added a statewide Restorative Justice program, as well as a Fargo office, in 2021.
Consensus Council is committed to the use of innovative consensus-building tools and methods. The consensus process creates forums for discussion among citizens and leaders of diverse viewpoints and lived experiences. Consensus Council provides facilitation and decision-making models for community groups and institutions that can be adapted to various models of governance in our region and around the world. The organization’s success at turning contention into collaboration, and ultimately implementation, has earned Consensus Council substantial credibility and legitimacy among citizens, leaders, and community groups across the region.
Bruce T. Levi and Larry Spears (1994) “Public Policy Consensus Building: Connecting to Change for Capturing the Future,” North Dakota Law Review: Vol. 70 : No. 2 , Article 9. https://commons.und.edu/ndlr/vol70/iss2/9
Ann Crews Melton, “Building Consensus Across Differences,” TEDxAustinCollege, 2001.