Facilitation Tips

These points, in combination with your knowledge of the Dotmocracy process, and experience and skills with group facilitation will help you conduct an effective Dotmocracy process. Many of these points relate to an in meeting process, but are not exclusive to that model.


  • Establish authority over the process starting with first impressions. Have a name tag. Stand by the materials or presentation area.

  • Plan each step as part of a time-line within your agenda, leading to a final output. Leave a lot of extra time at the end for reformulation of the final plan.

  • Have participants helps distribute materials, e.g. take-and-pass scrap paper and proposal sheets.

  • Keep yourself and the group aware of the time and your progress within the agenda.

  • Number the posted questions for easy reference. Each proposal should include the question number.

  • Ensure all written materials and proposals are legible for all participants.

  • Remain aware of tone, body language, moods and feelings within the group. Address awkward situations before they escalate.

  • Randomness and a bit of chaos is OK - it helps to deter systematic bias.

  • Be flexible and accommodating to participant needs and surprising outcomes.

  • It good to have fun and keep things light, while still maintaining the legitimacy of the process.

  • Reinforce all the rules that have been established. Consistency builds legitimacy and trust.

  • Provide space for minority views and critical perspectives. Don't stifle debate or dissent, but also avoid letting it dominate discussion.

  • Use short 'energizer' games to get people more engaged and focused.

  • Be aware of the expectations of the participants and the desired effect you wish to achieve. E.g. Are these people coming there with a serious intent or casually 'checking it out'? Are aiming to make people feel like this a folksy sharing of ideas or an important decision-making process. Select your venue, materials, presentation and facilitation style to address these questions.

Producing a useful preamble

  • Aim to provide the most essential information and context necessary for making a smart decision.

  • Provide a broad set of information without bias or commentary.

  • Have key stakeholders author the preamble together.

  • Include important facts, research, references, budgets, history, personal quotes, etc.

  • When helpful use diagrams and photos.

  • Include different perspectives.

  • Include the criteria for an ideal solution to the issue.

  • Keep it simple and concise.

  • When using examples, provide a wide variety to avoid bias towards a singled out example.

  • Presentations should avoid opinionated or personal commentary.

  • Include what will be done with the results: what level of authority will be considering them; what kind of weight will they carry; and where will they be published?

Authoring the right questions

  • Involve stakeholders in the question authoring.

  • Keep it concise and clear.

  • Brainstorm a large number of options. Then shortlist.

  • Test the question on typical participants before presenting to the group.

  • If it makes sense, you may want to have more then one related questions, in parallel or in sequence.

Developing good ideas

  • Make sure participants understand the question and are informed on the topic.

  • In pairs get participants to quickly write down a list of ideas without stopping to discuss and consider any of them. Then in larger groups they can discuss their favorite ideas.

  • Use scrap paper for drafting a proposal before publishing it on a proposal sheet.

  • Encourage groups to seek consensus on proposal texts, but also invite alternative and independent proposals.

  • Stress the need for wide range of ideas. Push participants to go beyond conventional thinking. Use radical examples to demonstrate how far an idea can be taken.

  • Encourage building on ideas and seeking ideal solutions for all stakeholders.

  • Focus on the quest for solutions.

  • Suggest groups don't get bogged down on one idea, but to write it down and move on. While deliberation is encouraged, the goal is to produce a variety of good proposals, not one perfect proposal.

  • Have groups break up and form new groups once or more during the brainstorming and deliberation phase.

  • Get some informed members to author a few well thought out proposals ahead of time, to help seed the process.

  • Each proposal should be clearly associated to its question, although proposals without an associated question should not be censored.

  • If a proposal includes many elements and receives mixed dotting results, suggest that each element be given their own Dotmocracy sheet. This way you can recognize which elements are the most supported.

Helping the dotting process

  • Set-up the Dotmocracy wall in a way that makes it easily accessible to the entire group. For out of meeting process, ensure that participants know where the wall is and are requested to use it.

  • Get participants to distribute themselves evenly along the wall, i.e. not to bunch up around only a few proposals.

  • Maximize space between proposals.

  • Ask people to dot independence and intention, Understand what you are doting and why. Be wary of following the crowd.

  • Bring attention to newly posted proposals and proposals that lack much dotting.

  • Keep the placement of proposals and comments reasonably organized.

  • Refinements and combinations of popular proposals should be posted as soon as possible.

  • Encourage new proposals based on emerging patterns and important comments.

  • Removing proposals only starts to save time when there are more proposals then about the number of participants, i.e. when some proposals have only one or no participants dotting at any time. Remove the duplicate, confusing and objected proposals first.

  • If someone is not comfortable signing their own name, a facilitator can sign as a witness.

Interpreting results

  • Recognize joke proposals and put a Ha ha or funny face sticky note on them to differentiate from serious proposals.

  • 33% objection or 25% confusion after only 12 dots or 20% of dots have been posted (which ever is larger) can usually provide enough of a trend to decide the fate of a proposal for the next stage.

  • Judge a proposal results in comparison to the results of others proposals.

  • A lack of clearly approved proposals may indicate the need for a different question, more information or further brainstorming and deliberation.

  • Pay attention to comments that may indicate the need for further research to inform the process.

  • If people write angry or hurtful comments or aggressive debate occurs, a conflict resolution process may required to build understanding, trust, respect and empathy within the group.

  • Investigate concerns and whether they can be addressed with discussion or a new (possibly more detailed) proposal.

  • Be wary of polarized results, e.g. mostly As and Fs. These are more likely to create conflict than Bs and Cs.

  • The final decision for action should be formulated based on the patterns of approval and relationships between approved proposals, not necessarily the single most popular proposal, or least objected.

Concluding with a clear plan for next steps

  • While its usually good to have a specific conclusion in mind, such as the creation of a policy or goals for a project, decision-makers should be open new conclusions that best reflect the groups preferences, such as the cancellation of a project, or the need for discussion to address an underlying issue.

  • Examples of potential next steps:

  • A specific committee will publish a policy that reflects the results.

  • Results will be published, further research will be undertaken and a new Dotmocracy process will be conducted.

  • A project manager will be assigned to carry out the most approved goals.

  • The results will discussed by the board and several assignments may be given to the manager.

  • Plan for methods of communication to follow through on information sharing and decision implementation, e.g. Mailing lists, newsletters, meetings, web sites, radio.

  • When any decisions are presented, include a clear method for giving feedback and process for changing the decision, if possible. E.g. Provide feedback at this phone number and e-mail; this decision can be overturned by a petition by 15% of members.