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Participatory Group Decision-Making

Youth Community Health Group

What is participatory group decision-making?

  • an opportunity for everyone in the group to have a chance to speak their mind, where differences of opinion are valued rather than feared.
  • an environment where group members do their best to understand one another especially in the face of pressure or when contradictions arise.
  • a process that takes time and careful facilitation so that each member of the group feels heard, divergent opinions and ideas are allowed to surface, and where final decisions reflect a wide range of opinions.

What are the benefits of participatory group decision-making?

When done well, participatory group decision-making creates a deep respect for individuals and their points of view. The search for synergies and overlapping goals can strengthen the power of the group as a whole. Participatory decision-making takes time and requires patience, flexibility, and a high tolerance for ambiguity in order to allow the decision-making process to evolve and solidify. In the end, the benefits are clear – improved thinking, greater commitment from individual members, and better decisions.

Characteristics of participatory group decision-making:

  • Everyone participates
  • Everyone is given time to think and fully express their thoughts
  • Everyone listens fully and without judgment
  • Differing opinions are expressed freely
  • Members can accurately represent different points of view even if they don’t agree with them
  • A decision is not made until all group members understand the reasoning.
  • When a final decision is made, it still reflects a wide variety of viewpoints.



Adapted from Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, Sam Kaner et al, New Society Publishers, 1996