Tue 11 Mar 2014 3:57AM

Loomio Engagement, and Transitioning Off Email

AI Alanna Irving Public Seen by 188

Loomio Community member Dean has asked a really good question I thought would be good to put to the whole community...

> I have tried several times to get Loomio going in the community around me (with different people) but I have found engaging and adoption very difficult. I would really like to discuss and learn about how people have rolled out Loomio in their communities.

> My strategy at the moment is to use it for the less-exciting administrative decisions that take a long till to mull over in person, they would be suited to Loomio and could show people how it is useful for discussion and then decision making.

> At the moment everyone uses emails to submit proposals for discussion at local meetings, so they are interacting online anyway! Are there any stories of transition to Loomio?

This is a common problem - people tend to get set in their ways, even if a new, more effective solution is available. How have people transitioned to using Loomio and introduced new processes?


Alanna Irving Tue 11 Mar 2014 4:02AM

I have found that at first, change can be hard. People resist doing things in new ways, even if in theory they understand it would be more effective.

The first step is getting buy-in from the group members. At an in-person meeting, or whatever the main communications channel is, there needs to be a point where the group opts in. Or at least a critical mass!

It actually can take some strong facilitation after that. If people have agreed to use Loomio, but they are still sending things out by email, respond straight away saying "Great question! Why don't you post this on Loomio?" Or even more strongly, "We agreed we'd post this kind of thing on Loomio, so I've started a discussion there. Please continue the conversation on Loomio".

After a while, the group will form new habits. But it can take time. The trick is to be really consistent. If there's a perception that the group is trying something new out every week, people will not commit because they think they'll invest time and then the group will just change again. Once the decision has been made to move to a new platform, you have to really stick with it in order not to lose trust and attention.


Alanna Irving Tue 11 Mar 2014 4:04AM

There are some other users I know will have great thoughts on this... @seantilleycommunit @jennymc @murdoch perhaps?


Malcolm Colman-Shearer Tue 11 Mar 2014 4:08AM

One thing I found useful was waiting till the right discussion point came along. Something concrete that people don't want to have to meet for and don't want to have to send a whole lot of emails...! It's hopefully something that's not too massive an issue, and gets people engaged. Once there are good discussions going, with practical outcomes, the benefits become pretty self-explanatory.


[deactivated account] Tue 11 Mar 2014 4:56AM

@alanna But how do you get that critical mass?! I know I have people on my side, but they are resistant to join my team because they think it will A) not be a welcome suggestion or B) not adopted after suggested

I really feel that a lot of the enthusiastic people would take it up in a second and see the potential... but it may be blocked by those who think that there are hurdles to use.

Are there any good arguments for why Loomio is much better?

How do i not sound like a tech-savvy nerd who doesn't understand consensus decision making? How do I not make them think that I think they are Luddites?

@malcolmshearer ... Good point. There are plenty of little decisions that no one really cares about... but I could wait for something more important!

Also, there are some things that just go undiscussed because people don't engage with them... is there an argument that Loomio makes it clear as to what is being discussed, what we need to agree on and what we haven't given adequate attention to?


Alanna Irving Tue 11 Mar 2014 5:17AM

One thing Loomio tends to do - which some people don't immediately think about when they first sign up - is make explicit certain protocols and dynamics in a group that were implicit, or never considered before.

So what you're bringing up @deansatchell ... in your group, how is the decision about what communications platforms to use made? Who actually has the power to make that call? Has that ever been clarified?

And if the group as a whole or whomever the group has delegated that power to makes a decision to use Loomio, and then you try to have a decision there and most people don't engage, and this blocks the decision from being adopted (as opposed to another model where low engagement means "too bad" and the decision still holds based on those who did participate) - well then the power to decide where decisions get made didn't lie where you thought it did after all!

Loomio tends to reveal the real power dynamics in a group. Where is that locus of power in your group, Dean? How can actionable decisions (like, we're moving to a new platform, and if you don't participate it means you are implicitly delegating your voice to those who do) actually get made?


Dean Satchell Tue 11 Mar 2014 6:45AM

Who me? Wrong Dean, did you mean @dean ?
I am faced with a depressingly "old school" committee that makes decisions via email, and the vote. The decision comes from preconceived notions so no need for discussion and the decision is made cleanly and swiftly by vote. The traditional decision maker has no comprehension of consensus and being well informed. Nobody has to facilitate anything via email... but when views do diverge it always turns into a dogs breakfast with different strings, misunderstandings and no record of what was said unless you really want to dig for it. Loomio is an excellent concept, but the only way Loomio will work for us is once the chair is a leader and wants to use it. Then they'll drag everyone else along for the ride, by actively facilitating the meeting, calling others in when their views are required and even emailing people to keep them involved. Actively managing the group and getting participants out of their bad habits, because this key person is aware of the benefits. Then once the ball gets rolling, who knows?
Its a bit like the old school mentatilty of flying around the country for face to face meetings because they've always done that, when they could use video conferencing and achieve more in less time. Old habits are hard to break when something better comes along.


Alanna Irving Tue 11 Mar 2014 10:38PM

Woops sorry, I tagged the wrong Dean @deansatchell !! But I'm glad I did since your comment is definitely adding the the conversation. Sounds like you're encountering very similar issues to @dean ...

It is true that if a group is not already working in a collaborative way, it can take the chair or leader to make the initial jump to Loomio and participatory process before others will follow. Some might wonder why someone at the top of a hierarchy would want to loosed their grip on power, but I think most leaders actually really do want to work better with their teams, hear their good ideas, and give people the opportunity to prevent them from making mistakes. But that shift requires changes in process (digital technology) and in "cultural technology".


Danyl Strype Wed 19 Mar 2014 4:41AM

The problem of changing habits is complicated, especially if the group is using a confusing plethora of online tools for different purposes. One thing that might help is for the group (or a subgroup) to go through a Communications Strategy exercise:

  • List all the tools currently in use and what they're used for - both what is supposed to happen on paper, and what is actually happening in practice
  • Talk as a group about whether you can simplify and streamline your processes, especially where it allows you to reduce the number of tools you use
  • update the list to include any changes made
  • refer back to the Communications Strategy with friendly reminders if group members are not sticking to the agreed processes, and ask if the Strategy needs to be updated again

On another point, one comment that continues to come up with the NZ Pirate Party Loomio group is that Loomio needs "delegated voting" like Liquid Feedback. What I keep pointing out is that Loomio is a consensus engine, not a voting engine. If a consensus is not how a group wants to make decisions, Loomio is probably not the right tool. Loomio is awesome, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution to any and every problem.


Richard D. Bartlett Wed 19 Mar 2014 4:58AM

Wonderful insight @strypey. @alanna has written an excellent 'Communication Strategy' doc that helps people navigate Enspiral (the confusing network that lives on HipChat, Loomio, G+, email, Google Apps, Trello, Github, Pivotal...)

Writing a little guide like this that explains how all these channels work, is a small energy investment for a huge return.


Rasikananda Dasa Thu 20 Mar 2014 2:35AM

There are various decision making models, and facilitating them with various tools is a good idea for Loomio to become not a one-trick pony, but actually a collaborative decision making tool.

Having a wizard-style step by step process that guides people through the decision making process, after giving them an overview to decide which process to use, would be ideal for empowering non-visionary, or non-technical users to become seeds of change within their organizations and communities.

In order to get critical mass adoption, you need to first have adoption that works. Take a field within your influence and use Loomio to affect it. Judge the results and repeat. Repeated successful results is the best evidence to convince others to try something new, especially if their friends or trusted authorities are using it.

Find the social leaders in your field, find out where they are focusing their newest efforts, see where Loomio can play a beneficial role, then pitch them a use-case scenario that can help them, give your expertise to help them set it up, and then they will be more willing than if they had to find out about Loomio on their own, figure out how to use it, and set it up, to get people on board.

There is a difference between leadership and management.

Leaders go where nobody has gone before and familiarize themselves with the new territory, thus becoming authorities who can servant-lead others to the new territory.

Managers use systems that already exist and run them as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Marked difference.


Alanna Irving Thu 20 Mar 2014 3:07AM

Well said @rasikanandadasa ! I think that for success you actually need a well functioning process involving both leadership - the willingness to try new things and innovate for continuous improvement - and management - effectively implementing processes and changes in a way that functionally works for everyone following that leader. Sometimes these two aspects of the process can be fulfilled by a single person, and sometimes it needs to be a team effort.


Rasikananda Dasa Thu 20 Mar 2014 4:06AM

The reason email is so popular is it's a catch-all for relationship interaction. People return to facebook and email so frequently as it's the outlet for personal interaction, which is the flavor of life.

We are by nature nectar-seeking, so if difficult decisions are presented to us all the time, our appetite for them wanes.

What we celebrate becomes valued.

Where we assess we improve.

What we measure we excel in.

Creating the infrastructure to measure, assess and celebrate the value of personal interactions in the collaborative decision making process is what will propel Loomio into the long-term future.


Rasikananda Dasa Thu 20 Mar 2014 4:13AM

In addition to simply the decisions themselves, creating the communication and relationship tools to aide in personal character development, interdependent relationship skills, inter-personal communication, understanding different personality natures and how they best relate, are all very important and foundational fields, which Loomio could do well to support.

Perhaps a branch of Loomio can be dedicated to providing information and education on these skills, and provide infrastructure built to facilitate them in the decision making process.

Otherwise, we may make decisions, but may not get the buy-in or follow-through of those who made them, simply from a theoretical basis. If we're committed to effecting tangible changes, the field in which those changes occur needs to be recognized, and that field is the heart.

If we care enough to go out of our way to hear, receive and care for others from our hearts, then that touches them deeper than words and graphs alone ever will. That touch is where change happens.


Rasikananda Dasa Thu 20 Mar 2014 4:15AM

In that light, I'm planning an educational relationship development and management platform called GoodSouled.com

It will use the OpenID system to create a trust network, celebrating the contributions and evolution of individuals through a peer-reviewed process of awards that inspire us to live and interact by the values we hold most dear.


Alanna Irving Thu 20 Mar 2014 7:10AM

One of our major goals for the crowdfunding campaign is developing training resources for exactly that @rasikanandadasa

A technology tool is never the whole answer. It must be supported by culture, context, and relationships. There's a lot of amazing expertise out there in the world, such as in networks of facilitators, and Loomio could be a magnet to draw a lot of it together. @vivienmaidabornloo has thought about this a lot, and @mjkaplan


Chris Taklis Thu 20 Mar 2014 9:39AM

The people usually afraid of engage in something new, especially when they haven't try it and they don't know it.

The story of Pirates of Hellas, was something like yours.
In the beginning it was via facebook messages and mumble. Yes we had online communication. But those weren't stayed somewhere written and was very difficult to take decisions and to discuss on topic.

So we decided all the decisions will be through loomio or they are invalid.

After that we saw some improvement. it has passed 8 months from that decision and now is starting to have more and more discussions in loomio and not in facebook until it still is in facebook.

They need time! Someone needs to make the first step! Show them how to use it! Show them how easy it is for use! Try it! Make a discussion and invite them to engage!

I hope i helped!


vivien maidaborn Thu 20 Mar 2014 9:01PM

Great discussion, I am increasingly thinking about technology solutions as being in the last quadrant of 4 that relate to organisational life. I have begun to develop this idea here
Love to hear what you all think:-)


Alanna Irving Thu 20 Mar 2014 10:10PM

Really interesting stuff @vivienmaidabornloo - actually I find a lot of it relates to the content of the recent interview we did with Nancy:



Danyl Strype Sat 22 Mar 2014 10:20AM

Absolutely agree Vivien. Online tools are only useful when they provide a distributed community of people with a shared place that works to help them follow their agreed processes.

Take the case of the Permaculture in NZ Council, which is a distributed group, but already had an email list, monthly Skype calls, and 3-4 face-to-face meetings a year. A Loomio group was created after somebody (not me) evangelized it, because they were excited by the idea of it, not because we had a problem to which it was a solution. Consequently, it hasn't really had much use, and has created a lot of confusion about whether a given message should be posted to the email list, on the CoActivate wiki, or on the Loomio group.

I have been encouraging the Council to open up our Loomio group to the whole membership of PINZ, with a private subgroup for the Council to use for sensitive discussions. That way we can involve more of our activists in the day-to-day running of the organisation, and get more value from our use of Loomio.


Mary Jo Kaplan Sun 23 Mar 2014 11:24PM

@vivienmaidabornloo i really appreciate this conversation. Loomio is a tool that requires many other components to maximize impact. Vivien's quadrants remind me of the Four Frames by Bolman and Deal that delineate 4 aspects of change - people, politics (as in power), structure (processes and tools fit here) and the aspect that i think is usually underestimated- symbolism (culture falls here).


Danyl Strype Tue 1 Apr 2014 11:08PM

I recently stumbled across this old conversation:

Perhaps another way for the Loomio crew to understand the issues groups are having in transitioning to Loomio from legacy tools (email lists etc) is to think back to the process of transitioning themselves from their legacy tools (Yammer, email, GoogleDocs) to using Loomio, a process which I imagine is in many ways still ongoing.


Alanna Irving Wed 2 Apr 2014 1:23AM

OMg @strypey you have no idea! I actually don't think the issue is "tech vs non-tech" - plenty of highly technical people resist change, or don't work well with certain tools and processes. I think the work here is actually very non-technical and very much about communication and human relationships and group dynamics. Technology often just makes the issues clearer.