Loomio and the advice process

H Hugi Ásgeirsson Public Seen by 70

We've been using Loomio for the participatory festival and community The Borderland since December. It's generally worked well, but the decision tools have been a mixed bag for us since we don't make decisions by popular vote at the Borderland. It's not a democracy. We make decisions with something called the advice process.

In many ways, this breaks from a core assumption of Loomio. At the Borderland, decisions are almost never made "together". They are, in fact, usually made by a single self-appointed person. In theory, anyone can make any decision after consulting key stakeholders. Since Loomio is framed in such a way that decisions are made by voting, this caused some confusion. To make it work better for us, we updated the language of the proposal tool on our version of Loomio to focus on gathering advice. It's not called a decision tool anymore, and you don't vote. It's a tool to quickly gather advice, and doing so is called to start a "round of advice".

And while I was at it, I changed the "Block" option to "Discourage". Essentially, to Discourage is just to give very strong advice against a proposal. If you actually want to block it from happening in our community, you need Conflict escalation, and there is no magic button for that as the process will vary from time to time and benefits from human facilitation, first to attempt to avoid escalation.

Obviously, this a bit of a hack. There are probably ways to facilitate our process in other ways. What do you think? Could standard Loomio facilitate these processes in a good way, or is it to far away from the core ideas?


Rob Goehrke Thu 15 Mar 2018 6:06PM

To me, loomio is exactly a tool for the advice process. It is the core of it. The fact that there is a 'share outcome' action required puts the onus on the advice seeker to interpret the voting and make the final call. However, I like your language tweaks to make that much more clear, and would support making that standard.


Rob Guthrie Sun 18 Mar 2018 2:10AM

Cool idea. Nice to see you've gone and done it.

It's really topical right now. We have a deep research project underway looking at how we can do a good job to support multiple decision making processes within Loomio. So it's really good to hear that this is something you'd like to see considered too.

FYI - some of the things influencing us:
- Integrative Decision Making from Holacracy & The Ready
- Generative Decision Making from Percolab
- Mandate, Consent, or Advice (depending on the decision) from Gini (that article is so good!!!).


Hugi Ásgeirsson Mon 19 Mar 2018 9:43AM

Excellent resources. We've got a lot of people in our community into this sort of stuff. If you'd ever need to bounce ideas with a community using Loomio, doing these sorts of processes in the wild, feel free to get in touch.


Rob Guthrie Mon 19 Mar 2018 7:25PM

I'd love to do that. I'll contact you via email to follow up.


Luke Flegg Sun 18 Mar 2018 9:57AM

That Gini article is nice Robert!

So I'm wondering what the point of Loomio is; what the point of hearing more than 1 perspective on decision making is, if there's no way of 'improving' an idea/ proposal?
I do love Loomio, but am longing for a way to emulate what happens in every effective decision making process that happens collaboratively offline: new perspectives are heard, and the idea improves - integrating the new needs and insights.

The problem is on Loomio, there's no 'propose amendment' button. How come?

You propose an amendment, with a little paragraph on what new needs or insights you've integrated and any other details. It course appear like a fork (competitive amendments, fighting for popularity; still could disqualify any that have objections) or only allow 1 agreement to 'compete' with original proposal (but with very short duration) if it's not collectively considered an improvement over the previous version of the proposal, it automatically reverts back (keeping a record of the unsuccessful amendment for reference).


Rob Guthrie Mon 19 Mar 2018 7:31PM

Thanks for the input Luke. Agree we need to improve in this area. We're keen to support this stuff - and it's really a hot topic internally right now. There is development coming around decision making ux and we're definitely still in the research stage. I'd be keen to chat with you over video call if you have time. Send me an email? rob at loomio dot org


Rob Guthrie Mon 19 Mar 2018 7:32PM

@richarddbartlett you may be interested to know about this thread on decision making processes and how Loomio can be improved to support them better.


Richard D. Bartlett Tue 20 Mar 2018 10:12AM

I'm delighted to see your work @hugi. Over the coming weeks I'm looking forward to sharing the results of my last year of work, looking at the broader organisational context that supports decentralised decision-making. I'll drop it here when I have a draft ready for feedback :)