Consensus Cards

Type of Activity: Processing, Decision-Making, Consensus Building

Props Needed: Consensus Cards (see picture)

Concept: Consensus Cards are a decision-making tool designed for use with      participants needing to come to consensus on an issue.  Most groups will take a vote and identify majority-rules voting as consensus.  Individuals need a way to make their voice heard and the group needs a way to easily check for individual responses. So emerged consensus cards.


  • Consensus cards are palm-sized cards with three colored circles arranged like a stop light on it. The top circle is red, next is yellow, followed by green at the bottom. On the back, the definition of each color is printed: red indicates I do not agree with this plan, yellow indicates that I need more information/I have a question before proceeding, and green indicates that I do agree with this plan.
  • Each member of the group receives one consensus card.
  • Once a proposal is given to the group, each member votes by holding up his/her card with two of the three colors covered by his/her hand. If everyone is green, the group can go forward with the proposal. If anyone is yellow, the group must respond to the person’s need or request before continuing. If anyone is red, the person is given the opportunity to explain his/her resistance and offer a compromise. This visual voting system allows the group to quickly hear from each person and the use of the stoplight colors is familiar to them.

Consensus cards work best when initially introduced as a decision-making tool for a decision that doesn’t have a huge impact on the group. For example, you might ask the group to decide how many hits they want as their goal for the activity Moonball, and then introduce the consensus cards for them to use to find out if everyone is in agreement. You can then continue to have the group use the cards throughout the day for increasingly difficult decisions.

Sabotage: What if a participant/student simply answers red to any proposal, just in order to delay the group process? That is when the facilitator/teacher must intervene appropriately. One way to do that is to require anyone voting red to give the group an alternative suggestion/plan.

Finally, most consensus tools include a way for people to vote that they can live with the plan even though they’re not thrilled with it (they won’t block the proposal). Younger groups responds better to the options described above. As appropriate, however, you can introduce that option, and offer that yellow could indicate a willingness to go along, or that green indicates either outright support for the proposal or a willingness to go along with it.

For more resources see:  A Teachable Moment, Consensus Cards

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