Tips for Loomio Coordinators
Settings and general use
- Get the whole team to upload profile pictures – it really helps humanise communication.
- Make sure everyone knows they can control their email settings, so they can be notified in a way that suits them. You can adjust them on a per-group basis and per-discussion bases. Click your own name in the upper right, and select ‘Email Preferences’. The direct link is https://www.loomio.org/email_preferences.
- Make sure everyone knows they can ‘at-mention’ other group members to draw things to their attention. At-mentioning is done by typing the ‘@’ symbol and then first few letters of the person’s name and choosing them from the list.
Be aware of information overload. Practice efficient communication, and encourage usage norms to maximise signal/noise ratio. For example:
- Don’t post ‘I agree’ as a separate comment, use the like button instead.
- Don’t sign your name to comments, since your name is already displayed next to your post and it’s extra information.
- If the topic has been discussed before, use the search function to find the related discussion and add your comment to the end of that, instead of starting a whole new one.
Loomio is just one tool in your communications toolbox. Ask yourself:
- What is the message?
- Who is the intended audience?
- What’s the best channel for this?
Clarify to yourself: Why am I seeking input on this decision? What would be the ideal kind of participation, and the outcome I’m ideally hoping for?
Be honest about constraints. If the decision is one that needs to be made by a certain person or small group, frame wider participation as input and consultation. Some discussions are real group decisions, while others result in recommendations – differentiating these is important.
Challenge yourself to be as inclusive and open as possible. Some discussions need to be behind closed doors, but others can be opened up. To reach the goal of collaborative culture, everyone needs to work on moving in that direction when possible.
Discuss decisions that really matter, and see them all the way through. If a discussion fizzles out, it may mean the topic wasn’t very important, key information or people are missing, or the real decision is being made elsewhere.
It’s okay to use Loomio as a way to solicit feedback or just discuss a topic, even if you’re not sure it will lead to a specific decision. It’s great for transparency, and often surfaces important issues that can lead to decisions after all. Be aware of how open ended discussion evolves toward decision-making.
Give all the background information someone might need to meaningfully participate. Frame discussions in an open way, not jumping to solutions too soon. Leave space for generative thinking at the beginning.
Remember that as a leader you have a strong voice – refrain from sharing your own opinion until others have had a chance to give input and use your voice to clarify and amplify the group’s input.
- Make sure proposals are specific, so that if people agree or disagree they know what that means. Don’t try to include multiple things in the same proposal, because someone might agree to one part but not another. You can have sequential proposals under the same discussion topic to keep the context all in one place.
- If appropriate, include information on who will execute a proposal, not just what the proposal is. Sometimes a great proposal that everyone was in support of will still languish after being approved if clear responsibility/agency is not communicated.
- Use proposals to get engagement and clarify the issue, even if the solution might not be apparent yet. Taking a stab and proposing something inspires people to articulate why exactly they disagree, which often leads to another proposal that’s more successful. A proposal failing is not a bad thing, it’s a normal step in the process. And sometimes you might be surprised by getting quick consensus on something you thought was going to be complicated!
- Use blocks sparingly. They can be very powerful, so save them for when they are absolutely needed. Each group can define for themselves what they mean in their context, but traditionally it’s something so serious that you’d consider leaving the group if it went ahead.
- Set proposal deadlines consciously (e.g. not ending on weekends). A very long proposal time can signal the expectation of deeper conversation and giving people time to change their minds, but sometimes people won’t participate until the last minute anyway. You can also set a shorter time and then extend before the closing date if needed.
- Not everyone needs to participate in everything. There’s power in simply knowing that your voice would be heard if you wanted to raise it. You can abstain and say “I trust the rest of the group to make a good decision on this.”
Model behaviour that others can learn to emulate, to be more inclusive and engaging, and help decisions progress constructively:
- “@Jane that could be a good idea, why don’t you raise a proposal so we can see if the rest of the group agrees?”
- “We haven’t heard from @Bill and @Ngaire … what are your thoughts?”
- “It seems we might be getting off topic here. Should we start another Loomio discussion about that and bring this back to the original topic?”
Be aware of “bike shedding” a.k.a. Parkinson's law of triviality. It’s very common for groups to spend the most time on the least important topics (‘What colour should we paint the bike-shed at our new office?’), because they are the easiest things to have opinions about.
If someone is expressing distress, not participating constructively, or is in a minority opinion and seems to care strongly about the topic, it’s a good indication that a face-to-face or phone conversation might be helpful. Supporting in the background so online discussions can be productive is a normal part of the process. Loomio can often help identify where this energy is most needed in the team.
When appropriate, instead of raising a discussion or proposal yourself, quietly shoulder-tap someone else and support them to facilitate, to share a sense of leadership. Team members feeling empowered to start their own discussions is a sign of a democratic culture.