One of the biggest hurdles an intentional community can face is figuring out how to make decisions. There are dozens of decision-making strategies to choose from, from consensus to sociocracy.
But in today’s busy world, simply gathering around the table together as a community can be a challenge. At my community, meeting attendance takes a dive during the summer, as members travel, spend time with family, and enjoy the few brief months of sunshine.
We often have to ask: Do we have enough people in attendance to make this decision? Can people weigh in by e-mail if they can’t be at the meeting? What if the person who came up with the proposal is absent?
While there’s no substitute for in-person meetings, two new tools can help you gather the information you need to make the decision-making process easier. Consider.it is an online tool that helps you “collect feedback, engage stakeholders, make group decisions, teach critical thinking, and more.”
Members of the group share the pros and cons of a decision online, and Consider.it creates an interactive visualization of the responses. This way, it’s easy to pick out trends and see what issues need addressing. The tool lets you “efficiently collect the insights of others, without having to sort through a long email thread or responses to open-ended survey questions.”
Consider.it is great for small communities, but works for larger projects too. Here’s an example of how it was used to collect feedback on an update to Seattle’s comprehensive plan.
A similar tool called Loomio offers responses based on Occupy Wall Street’s hand gestures. Designed by a worker-owned co-op in New Zealand, the tool lets group members quickly show whether they would approve, block, disagree, or stand aside on a particular proposal.
Loomio’s basic plan is free, and users can access it by e-mail or mobile app, or use the open-source code on their own server. It’s offered in dozens of languages, and even includes real-time translation options. Recently, the National Assembly for Wales used it to engage citizens in their decision-making process