Consensus is a way of talking and working together to make decisions. On Wikipedia, it is the main way we make decisions. Consensus can also mean a decision made in this way, for example The consensus was to use the new picture instead of the old one. Other groups use consensus, but we at Wikipedia are writing an encyclopedia and have a special way of doing it.

Talking and silence

Consensus is usually what happens when people work together on a wiki. On any wiki, like Wikipedia, anyone can change almost every page. Everyone else who reads the page can keep the changes or change them to something else. If someone says something about a change or changes it back, then everyone should talk about it. If nobody says anything about a change, it often means that everyone agrees. This idea is often called silence means consent. This is only true if enough people see the change: a small change on a small page may not be seen by very many people at all. You should ask others (like on Simple talk) if you make a big change to an important page and nobody says anything about it.


Consensus about a page is made by the people who are working on that page. However, they cannot go against the consensus of the entire Simple English Wikipedia. We have worked together to write many rules about how this Wikipedia should be written. These rules can be changed by the community if the consensus changes, but many people must talk about it first.

Building consensus

Consensus is built through talking, editing, or both. Consensus can only work among editors who respect each other. This means thinking that others are working to make the encyclopedia better (assuming good faith). Building a consensus also means that everyone must try to be neutral to try and reach a compromise that everyone can agree on.


To help build consensus, we sometimes use polls. That is when people put their names down to show what they believe. People who are new to Wikipedia may think that this is voting, but it is not. We do not add up the names to see what consensus is. This is because consensus is not just what most people say should happen. Polls are usually the start of a discussion, not the end.

Exceptions to consensus

There are a few times when we do not make decisions by consensus. These are:

  • If Jimmy Wales or the Board of Trustees says we have to do something. Because they are in charge of Wikipedia, they may change or delete a page if it is illegal (if it breaks the law) or if it may get Wikipedia sued. The board does not usually tell us how to run Wikipedia, but Jimmy sometimes gives his opinion.
  • If the Developers say we have to do something. They are in charge of making sure Wikipedia runs well, and may tell us to stop doing something if it is bad for our web servers.
  • We do not go against Foundation Issues, which are Wikipedia's main beliefs.

What consensus is not

Some people may confuse consensus with other things. These are:

  • Voting: consensus is not about seeing who has the most people on their side.
  • Unanimous decisions, or when everyone agrees. There will be times when some people do not agree. Everyone's beliefs should be discussed, but there still may be some people who will not compromise. This does not mean that there is no consensus.

Consensus can change

Editors may suggest a change to current consensus, especially to raise previously unconsidered arguments or circumstances. On the other hand, proposing to change a recent consensus can be disruptive.

Editors may suggest a consensus change by discussion or editing. That said, in most cases, an editor who knows a suggested change will modify a matter resolved by past discussion should propose that change by discussion. Editors who revert a change proposed by an edit should generally avoid short explanations (such as "against consensus") which provide little guidance to the proposing editor (or, if you do use such short explanations, it is helpful to also include a link to the discussion where the consensus was formed).