Developing cutting-edge policy using Loomio

• Written by Madina Knight

Loomio enabled the Green Party of West Australia’s wide-reaching membership to congregate, collaborate, and agree on policies quickly and efficiently together.

The 2019 federal election in Australia was one Kim Smith will never forget. She was up at two in the morning, putting up signs around polling booths and spent the next 24 hours in a flurry of campaign management tasks for the Green Party’s candidate.

When the news came a month later that Jordon Steele-John had won the senate seat, Kim says it was one of her proudest moments with the Greens.

“When you have a member of parliament elected, there's no better feeling than that, because it validates that you're doing the right thing. People agree with you enough that they're going to vote for someone."

The Greens of West Australia (Greens (WA)) is a political organization underpinned by environmental and social justice principles.

They use these principles to guide their solutions to the major problems they see Australia (as well as much of the world) currently facing like economic inequality, environmental destruction, and climate change.

“We're all really tight because our values and beliefs align and because we’re working for the benefit of the environment and other people – we're not doing it for ourselves,” Kim says.

In order for the Greens to maintain such a unified and clear vision, they must constantly balance input from a myriad of sources from regional groups to policymakers to individual stakeholders.

“Structurally, if you can imagine it like a whole bunch of fingers just kind of coming down and everyone gets their say and then it all goes back to that national space.”

That’s where the Greens use Loomio to keep policies and ideas organized and to create consensus amongst their members.

“I honestly don't know what we would do now without it. I use it every day because I'm in the policy space and most of the regional groups will use it at least a couple of times a month.”

Because they are a massive organization, members in the far-flung regions of Western Australia have the potential to be left out of the loop – but the Loomio specifically helps to bring people back into making those decisions and having that input and feedback.

“With Loomio, long-distance is no longer an issue. You've got the platform to have a discussion, have a vote, and then come to an agreement on something. You can even share your Loomio screen on Zoom and people can see what you're doing in real-time.”

Kim explains Loomio also helps cut down on meeting times because so much can be done in-between.

Often the Greens will upload policy drafts or agendas to Loomio so that people get to read and comment on them before they meet.

“We get a feel of what everybody's position is before you even get to the meeting, and you can spend your time hammering out some more sensitive issues.”

Before Loomio, Kim says the Greens would typically meet in person and would get huge pieces of butcher's paper to put ideas or notes on or print out all of the policies and then go through them clause by clause.

“You wouldn’t have the time to sit there and really think about the clauses and do more research and make sure that everything was really solid.”

Loomio allows the Greens members to have a more in-depth conversation with time to research and receive input from regional groups and stakeholders. Each draft can be broken down piece by piece, voted on, and amended - in one place so that everybody is kept aligned.

“We just keep going through that cyclical process until we get to the end where everybody's happy, we've reached consensus, nobody disagrees – and then we have a pretty solid policy line or suite of policies from there.”

Recently, the Greens (WA) ratified a new agricultural policy that defines the Green’s plans to implement more regenerative and sustainable agriculture. It was a huge project that took 6 months to complete and was discussed, amended, and approved almost exclusively on Loomio.

“There were quite a few underpinning changes about our belief systems and our philosophies about how we approach agriculture to what was in the existing policy.”

Because regenerative agriculture is a broad term and a relatively new concept to the general public, the Greens were diligent in ensuring that it was adequately defined for the people involved in making the policy.

After reaching out to experts in the field, they held discussions on Loomio unpacking the term so that people understood what that meant. Then they coopted that information into a background document that they could attach to future policy discussions.

In the end, the Greens (WA) were able to intake opinions, questions, and beliefs from a wide array of voices and hold meaningful conversations about the future of agriculture.

“Loomio gives you a really good opportunity to have some very in-depth philosophical discussions.”

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