Approaches In & Outside of Meetings

Dotmocracy can be facilitated in many different ways, but the three main approaches are:

  1. In a meeting and focused

  2. In parallel with a meeting

  3. Outside of a meeting

Participants in small groups are focused on discussing and writing ideas in a meetingParticipants in small groups are focused on discussing and writing ideas in a meeting

In a Meeting and Focused

An entire meeting or portion of a meeting is dedicated to a focused Dotmocracy session, i.e. Dotmocracy is given significant time within a meeting agenda.   This is generally the preferred model and is the basis of the Step-by-Step Instructions.

Advantages

  • Specifically who will participate can be planned.
  • The dedicated time in a meeting allows participants to concentrate on the tasks of brainstorming, discussing and dotting. The large team momentum can produce a high number of results within a very short period of time.
  • The preamble can be presented live with engaging media and/or introductions by key persons, potentially including questions and answers.
  • Participants get an opportunity to discuss and formulate ideas in small groups.
  • Participants can meet each other and recognize who was involved and help build community.
  • Results can be announced and celebrated with all participants together, creating a sense of team accomplishment.

Disadvantages

  • Requires a large venue and large meeting logistics, e.g. chairs, snacks and drinks, materials for everyone to use at the same time, audio/video systems.
  • Those who can not attend the meeting are left out of the process.

Examples

  • A residence group has an ad hoc meeting to find solutions to noise pollution complaints.
  • An organization has a bi-annual goal setting staff meeting to give direction to the management.
  • A large steering committee discusses and prioritizes objectives for the coming year.

Suggestions

  • Give everyone their necessary materials as the enter the room or have materials already set out on tables and chairs.
  • Have co-facilitators (e.g. organization staff or volunteers) circulate the room taking filled-in idea sheets and posting them on the Dotmocracy wall, thus allowing participants to continue their small group discussions.
  • Help groups to produce many ideas by encouraging a bit of competition between small groups.
  • Remind participants in small groups that they do not need to reach consensus on an idea in order to post it.  Anyone can also write an idea on their own.

Dotting ideas on a clipboard being passed around in parallel with a plenary presentation at a conferenceDotting ideas on a clipboard being passed around in parallel with a plenary presentation at a conferenceIn Parallel with a Meeting

Within a meeting or event a Dotmocracy process can be conducted in parallel with the main agenda. After a brief preamble early in the meeting, Dotmocracy sheets can be either circulated on clipboards or posted on a wall that is near to the meeting in progress. Participants silently write on the sheets while the main agenda items are addressed.

Advantages

  • Dotmocracy does not take time away from a packed agenda.
  • The Dotmocracy process can be 'added on' last minute without affecting an approved agenda.
  • Meeting discussion can inform and be informed by the dotting results.

Disadvantages

  • Either the verbal meeting or the Dotmocracy process may suffer from distraction by the other.
  • Generally this parallel model does not produce half as many results as a focused Dotmocracy session.

Examples

  • Organization members brainstorm and prioritize slogans while listening to a presentation about a new initiative they want to promote.
  • Audience members write down and prioritize questions for a speaker to address at the end of a presentation. (See Dotmocracy Question Sheets)

Suggestions

  • Clipboards being passed around is more likely to be accepted then a Dotmocracy wall where participants would have to leave their chairs and face away from a speaker as they dot.
  • Try to get a few minutes at the start of the meeting for introducing the process and at the end for celebrating results.
  • Have the written preamble and instructions handed or point out to those who may have missed a verbal introduction.
  • Take advantage of breaks for encouraging more dotting.
  • The main discussion should include mention of the results from the parallel Dotmocracy process.

A Dotmocracy wall set-up in the hall during a three day conferenceA Dotmocracy wall set-up in the hall during a three day conferenceOutside of a Meeting

In this model the Dotmocracy wall is in progress for many hours, days or even without a planned end. Depending on what group of people the process is intended for, the Dotmocracy wall may be in an organization common space such as foyer, lunch room, or hallway, or may be in a public space such as public building, square or park. There may need to be facilitators present to manage the materials and encourage participation, although for experienced organizations, it may be mostly self-managed by participants.

Advantages

  • Provides maximum opportunity for participation by people with competing schedules.
  • Ideal for gathering public input at an event or in a public space.
  • Takes only a few minutes for people to participate at their own leisure.
  • Useful for gathering input and making group decisions outside of meetings.

Disadvantages

  • Can take many more hours, days or even weeks to equal the level of participation accomplished in one focused large meeting.
  • Participants generally don't get to discuss ideas directly with each other.
  • People are less mentally focused on the topic and less likely to carefully consider ideas within a complicated context.
  • Time and energy must be invested in promotion of the preamble and getting people to participate.

Examples

  • A 'suggestions' board in a staff lunch room.
  • A Dotmocracy wall in the foyer of a college for getting input from students and staff on potential changes.
  • A 'key learnings' Dotmocracy wall during a research conference.

Suggestions

  • This process is appropriate for topics that are either 'top of mind' (not requiring much critical thought or research)  or used within a context of learning and discussion (e.g. a conference or symposium).
  • Promote the process in an organizations newsletter or other popular media among the participants so they are aware of the process before they first see it.
  • Position the Dotmocracy wall in highly visible and popular area, such as near food or along a common corridor.
  • Have clear instructions posted on the Dotmocracy wall next to the sheets. Use colour and large signage to draw people's attention.
  • Have pens clearly accessible near the sheets, ideally in pockets next to the sheets on the wall, tips down so they don't dry out.
  • Be proactive in encouraging people to participate. Ask them for a moment of their time. Hand them a pen. Walk them through the process. Answer questions.
  • Post a mailing list sign-up form for participants to request copies of the results upon completion.
Facilitators are encouraged to combine these three approaches, or possible invent other new models.  They key is to always follow the Dotmocracy rules and requirements to ensure reliable and legitimate results. Also see Factors That Can Improve a Dotmocracy Process