case study

Learning Democracy by Doing Conference 2008

Provided a Dotmocracy Wall at the 2008 Learning Democracy by Doing Conference hosted by Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Participation was too low to provide very useful outcomes.
Date / Time: 
October 16-18, 2008
Name of Facilitator(s): 
Jason Diceman
Number of participants: 
Total number of ideas dotted: 

Near the conference registration area I set-up a Dotmocracy wall with posted instructions in both English and Spanish:


1. Consider: "What is needed to make participatory democracy a more common practise?"

2. Read an answer posted on a Dotmocracy sheet below, fill-in one dot to record your opinion, sign the sheet, and optionally add any comments.

3. You may dot as many or as few sheets as you please.

4. If you have anew answer for the question, clearly write in on a blank Dotmocracy sheet and post in on the wall.

This process will close Saturday after lunch. These results will be reviewed by members of the Transformative Learning Centre and posted Nov 3rd at Facilitator of this process is Jason Diceman (jd [at] cooptools [dot] ca).


I also posted the question (English and Spanish) in large over the Dotmocracy sheets: "What is needed to make participatory democracy a more common practise?"


Although dozens of conference participants passed by the area, only about 20 stopped to dot any sheets, and only 10 ideas were posted (PDF of results attached below) from a variety of people, including one in Spanish. While interesting ideas were posted, not enough dots were provided to give clear prioritization.

2008 Learning Democracy by Doing Conference - Dotmocracy OISE-15

See more photos on Flickr

Thank you to Daniel Schugurensky and the conference organizers and volunteers for their support. I did get positive feedback from some people who 'got it'. Hopefully some people will try it on their own.



This Dotmocracy wall in a conference did not work that well for a few reasons:

  1. There was not time in the agenda that focused or introducing and kick-starting the process.
  2. The process was not promoted effectively in conference materials or during plenary sessions.
  3. The posted question was too difficult.  Although it was a conference on participatory democracy, I did not get the feeling that participants were brimming with suggestions for making it a reality and thus answering the question.
  4. The process and conference over all was very academic, and thus people did not have any real stake in the outcomes.  Participants did not feel there would be any negative or positive impacts from the Dotmocracy process, so why bother?
  5. The wall itself was not very eye catching in its appearance. Text was black on white and written very dry. Maybe more colour and snappy writing might have attracted more interest.
  6. Workshops were scattered through multiple floors and spaces in the OISE building and thus the wall location did not have a frequent critical mass of people to participate.

Next time I would ensure there is at least 20 minutes set aside early in the agenda to kick-start the process and would also work with the conference organizers to ensure process was valued and well integrated with the conference plans.

Public contact information: 

October 2008 - Learning Democracy by Doing

Alternative Practices in Citizenship Learning and Participatory Democracy

An international conference organized by the Transformative Learning Centre (TLC), Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

October 16-18, 2008
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
252 Bloor St. West, Toronto, Canada

Case Studies

Descriptions of Dotmocracy in action. Submit your own story here.

  • Dotmocracy sheets were used to get feedback on 5 key issues relating to execution of a project for a construction company in Hong Kong.
  • BikeCamp TO was a one day unconference hosted by the Toronto Cyclist Union. The event used an Open Space approach. At the end of various workshops participants generated ideas for actions that were then dotted.
  • At the first ChangeCamp in Toronto we invited participants to write and dot ideas for "next steps" during the closing plenary. Although Dotmocracy was not the focus, some very popular ideas were recognized in about 20 minutes.
  • Provided a Dotmocracy Wall at the 2008 Learning Democracy by Doing Conference hosted by Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Participation was too low to provide very useful outcomes.
  • We used Dotmocracy to help with the an inquiry process that we were doing school-wide to improve our lunchroom. We conducted the process working with K-5 children and adults. It was a wonderful clarifying process. Our ultimate result was a greatly improved lunchroom.

  • I used it February with a group of about 40 who are members of what we call the statewide Traffic Records Coordinating Committee (TRCC), a grant funded project representing law enforcement and traffic engineering professionals here in Nevada. Dotmocracy worked like a charm in an exercise to update the objectives of our strategic plan.

  • We used dotmocracy tools to complete a strategic planning exercise we had begun with an online survey prior to the conference. The sheets allowed us to focus the room's attention on 8 key ideas for the association, and to come to agreement on how to prioritize that list.

  • In an open air and poorly lit weekly community meeting, neighbours collected agreements on how to improve their shanty town.

  • A demonstration of the Dotmocracy process as part of the Methods Showcase at the National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation Dotmocracy in San Francisco, California. View photo
  • Dotmocracy process was used at the end of a two-day symposium to find agreement on a concrete project the group could move forward on.
  • The process resulted in over 25 strongly approved proposals covering eight key questions, completed within 80 minutes. The participants were a diverse group of residents, business owners and community visitors.
  • The Big Carrot food co-op used dotmocracy to inform the policy decision concerning staff uniforms.
  • Collecting clear direction for next steps at the conclusion of a non-profit leaders project training.
  • In parallel with the meeting agenda, members were invited to post and dot ideas for the co-op. We used an early version of the dotmocracy sheet with stickers.
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