Civic Engagement - Crowd Wise
Crowd Wise adopts a methodology which is designed to encourage constructive conversation rather than highlight polarisation.
This is a tool developed by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) as a participative method for taking shared decisions – working towards an agreed conclusion rather than divergent opinions.
Basically it is suitable for any organisation hoping to reach a decision where a range of views must be taken into account. The process can be used for a wide range of issues or decisions, including setting policy priorities, allocating budgets, or developing a consultation response.
The format of Crowd Wise is flexible. It can be used for small groups of 15, or large groups of more than 1,000 and timescales can range from a couple of hours to a longer process spread across days.
The process tends to follow a common structure:
- A range of options is developed
- A combination of discussion and ‘consensus voting’ is used to reach a conclusion
- Discussion may lead to options being adapted or combined.
- Consensus voting (online or offline) involves participants ranking the options in order of preference – the higher the preference, the greater the number of points.
- Votes are counted, and the higher the number of points earned by the top option, the greater the degree of consensus.
There may be several rounds of voting and discussion as options are revised, with the ultimate aim of agreeing a common position.
A forerunner of Crowd Wise was used in Belfast in 1986 to discuss the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Over 200 people, including politicians - both unionists and nationalists – chose this outcome from a list of ten options: “Northern Ireland to have devolution and power-sharing with a Belfast-Dublin-London tripartite agreement.” It was a mini-Good Friday Agreement, 12 years ahead of its time!
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