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From RECL 3P25 Fall 2011 - Group 02 - Dot-Mocracy
Description of Technique
Dotmocracy is a simple method for recognizing points of agreement among a large number of people. In the dotmocracy method, many people can easily contribute their ideas or solutions to problems by writing them on the designated dotmocracy sheets. These sheets are then taped to the wall for all participants to read and record their level of agreement on. The results produce a very visual representation of the group’s different opinions in an easy to interpret way.
Background and History: Dotmocracy has not always used the fill in the dot technique to show levels of agreement. In the early days of dotmocracy participants would “use three different coloured sets of five dots each to indicate by ‘vote’ what they want to build on, prevent, or protect in their community” (George, Mair, Reid, & Taylor, 2002, p.2). Typically, participants are given about half the number of dots as statements so that they will have to choose which statements they agree with and place their dot there (List, n.d.). Things have generally moved away from the actual sticker process, and instead people simply use an ink pen to fill in the dots on the dotmocracy sheets. The older style of dotmocracy also limited participation because there was no place to write comments on the sheets. Dotmocracy today allows participants to dot, sign, and write additional comments all on the same idea sheet.
Who developed it and why: This theory was created by Jason Diceman whose name can be found on the bottom of the Dotmocracy Handbook webpage. He created this technique in order to easily identify agreement within large groups of people.
Philosophical/Theoretical Underpinnings of the technique: This technique is really aiming to include all people and opinions in order to reach the best decision for the group. Dotmocracy has several advantages over other decision making techqniques such that it is anonymous and written. This means that people who are generally nervous speaking up in front of a group will have the opportunity to have their ideas recognized. Also, dotmocracy is not a majority rules way of decision making. Instead, dotmocracy works to find the most suitable option for everyone involved and this is a very important feature. Dotmocracy has underlying rules in order to avoid many of the problems that traditional decision making techniques face. Anonymity and the fact that even the most diverse groups are represented equally in the dotmocracy technique are two examples of what makes it so great.
This technique should be used within a large group setting, or when you have many different opinions within a group. It can be used by any knowledgeable facilitator and it is effective in many types of situations. It works with a situation as complex as trying to figure out how to improve a community, and it works with something simple like seeing what people would prefer for lunch. It is a very versatile technique that when facilitated and explained properly is very effective. It can be effective for varying age groups and education levels. It is very visual and the dotmocracy sheets themselves are largely self explanatory. It can be introduced and used with young children for problems that affect them, and also for the older age groups and more diverse problems.
This technique has been used in real-life by the Mayors Youth Advisory Group of Niagara, BikeCamp TO, and ChangeCamp. All three of these organizations/programs have used the dotmocracy process in order to identify agreement within a large group on a particular topic.
Step by Step Process (Adapted from Diceman, J. (n.d.). Step by Step Process. Retrieved from http://dotmocracy.org/steps)
1. Learn about the issue. Before starting a Dotmocracy process on a complex topic, education should be provided to the participants to ensure they are knowledgeable on the issue that will be addressed, e.g., distribute a primer booklet a few days ahead of time, or host an introductory lesson on the topic.
2. Present the issue and question(s). The hosting group provides a preamble to introduce the issue at hand and the context in which it will be addressed. The hosting group posts the key question(s) participants will answer through the Dotmocracy process in large letters on a wall or powerpoint screen.
3. Discuss potential answers. In small groups, have participants brainstorm and deliberate potential answers to the posted questions. Invite participants to collectively and independently draft many ideas.
4. Write ideas on Dotmocracy sheets. Participants clearly print idea statements Dotmocracy sheets. Sheets are usually either posted on a wall or passed around among participants. Participants should be allowed to write down as many ideas as they want on separate sheets.
5. Fill dots to record opinions. Write comments. Participants read and consider the ideas and fill in one dot per sheet to record their opinion of each idea on a scale of “strong agreement”, “agreement”, “neutral”, “disagreement”, “strong disagreement” or “confusion”. Participants sign each sheet they dot and may choose to add brief comments.
Repeat steps 3 through 5. Participants review ideas, discuss comments and dotting patterns, and post new ideas to be dotted. This is one of the most interesting, complex and important steps of the dotmocracy process. Dotmocracy occurs in waves, narrowing down the pool of ideas to those with the highest level of agreement and then refining and re-posting those ideas. Instead of being a “majority rules” vote, dotmocracy is a tool for consensus decision making. Concerns about popular ideas should be discussed as a group and collaborative or refined ideas which address these concerns are then re-written on new sheets. Participants dot their feelings about the new ideas and then the ensuing results are discussed again. This can be a three or four wave process and can take 2-3 hours.
One of the biggest questions for facilitators is “how do we analyze the results?” Dotmocracy sheets are fairly visual and ideas with the highest levels of agreement will usually stand out. However, to be fair, the number of dots under each level of agreement can be tallied and recorded as numbers in a chart. This requires “time out” for facilitators to count and prepare charts of the results. Another option is to discuss each idea as a group and share concerns and opportunities verbally. This can make everyone feel included in the process but it takes a long time and takes away from the anonymity of the dotmocracy process.
6. Report the results. The end of the dotting process is announced. The sheets are collected and sorted by topic and/or level of agreement. All results are published, with the most popularly agreed-upon ideas celebrated and the important disagreements recognized.
7. Announce a decision. The hosting group authors a plan that selects, combines, prioritizes, and/or finds compromise among the popularly agreed-upon ideas, with minimal disagreement. The decision is publicized and the hosting group is held accountable to the reported results of the Dotmocracy process, in relation to the original preamble provided.
Video of Process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z5rA-HroPI
• Participants can present any idea of theirs in their own words
• Unlimited ideas are allowed because of the use of many Dotmocracy sheets
• Clear levels of agreement, disagreement, and confusion
• The sheet allowing one dot per person allows it to have accurate representation from the participants
• They can write useful comments beside the ideas
• You get more consistent and reliable results with the guidelines and rules of Dotmocracy. There are a lot of strong points that are included in Dotmocracy. It a powerful decision making tool for large groups and it is inclusive. Using this technique versus others, this is the best for large groups because everybody is included. Other decision making tools are used for smaller groups. Dotmocracy is useful for uniting many different opinions into one final decision. Through the use of practice sessions and expert interviews we learned where the process was used locally and how effective and useful it really is. We found out a local youth mayors advisory groups uses it and they find it a very good way to sort through their group's ideas and come to a final decision. Prepared by the UNBC student university committee, they completed a large Dotmocracy process with 500 people. Through this they came up with all different “green” ideas for their campus. They found this process easy to use, and best used in large groups.
• Participants are distracted, or too tired
• Participants don't get a clear explanation of the process
• The host or facilitator is not trusted by the group
• Not enough time to answer a complex question
• Dot Mocracy wall is not easy to find
• The process is long and can be exhausting
Although there are strengths to this process there are also drawbacks that limit the technique. We found some of these through our practice sessions and interviews. We were short for time because this process can be very long and can be confusing compared to other techniques. Dotmocracy can be a lot more complex, versus consensus decision making technique. Through the UNBC Dotmocracy process they used this to vote with 500 people. This was a good process for them. Some limitations we found through our interview were that although it includes everyone sometimes it’s hard for everyone to voice their opinions. They can vote but sometimes in the first stage it is hard to hear everyone. Even though there are weaknesses in their process it is still a suitable choice for large groups.
Tips for Successful Implementation
One of the most important strategies is to give participants an overview of what dotmocracy is and what the process will be like before it starts. This lets people know what will be expected of them, how their ideas will be used, and the extent of their power in terms of final decision making for their particular issue. For example dotmocracy could theoretically be used to pacify citizens through “token participation” when city staff still have the final say. For true community development to take place, the facilitators should make it clear that participants will hold the decision making power and that any staff or upper management will abide by the decisions made in the dotmocracy session. This will increase participants’ investment and ownership of the process.
Another strategy is to set up the room so that there are good pathways for movement and so that there are not too many dotmocracy sheets posted on one wall. The sheets should be spaced out evenly and at good distances apart so that people don’t feel crowded. Aisles should be wide enough for wheelchairs to maneuver.
Sheets should also be at a height that is appropriate for participants. For example sheets can be taped lower on the wall or can be placed on clipboards on tables to be accessible to children and those who use wheelchairs.
In terms of room set up, a circle formation of chairs is helpful so that during discussions everyone can see each other’s faces.
Dotmocracy sheets should be passed around the circle to every participant just before they split into small groups. This ensures that during discussions, individuals can write down any ideas that come to them. Facilitators should be sure every person has a dotmocracy sheet and should have many extra dotmocracy sheets on hand. After all, some people may have more than one idea and several waves of dotmocracy must take place.
Groups can be told that if they come up with one idea with which they are all satisfied, they only need to write it down on one sheet. However if some people in the group have alternate ideas they can feel free to write them down independently.
Facilitators should be approachable and encouraging so that participants feel free to ask questions. Facilitators can amble about when groups are discussing solutions and ask if anyone has questions or needs help.
Facilitators should also encourage people to be specific and detailed in their solutions. Specific, detailed solutions fare better in the dotmocracy process because they give readers a clearer idea of what you are envisioning. If ideas are not sufficiently detailed in the first round, facilitators can encourage more detail in the second and third rounds. By the final round the remaining idea should be very clear and detailed, incorporating several ideas and critiques.
Biggar, J. (2009). Report on Green Day Feedback: Feedback Generated on January 21st, 2009. UNBC Green University Committee. Retrieved from http://www.unbc.ca/assets/green/unbcgreendayreport.pdf
Diceman, J. (n.d.). Dotmocracy. Retrieved from http://dotmocracy.org/
Diceman, J. (n.d.). Step by Step Process. Retrieved from http://dotmocracy.org/steps
George, E.W., Mair, H., Reid, D. & Taylor, J. (2002). Towards a democratic process for planning community tourism development: A participant action research approach. Paper presented at the Canadian Congress on Leisure Research, Edmonton, AB. Abstract retrieved from http://lin.ca/uploads/cclr10/cclr10-35.pdf
List, D. (n.d.). Some methods for putting broadcasters more closely in touch with their audiences. Radio in the World, pp. 103 - 114. Retrieved from http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:2WsjMYzqY90J:scholar.google.com/+dotmocracy&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5.
Pam, April, Courtney, Hayley, Takanya, and Lise
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