Dotmocracy is an established facilitation method for collecting and recognizing levels of agreement on written statements among a large number of people.
Participants write down ideas on paper forms called Dotmocracy sheets and fill-in one dot per sheet to record their opinion of each idea on a scale of “strong agreement”, “agreement”, “neutral”, “disagreement”, “strong disagreement” or “confusion”. Participants sign each sheet they dot and may add brief comments. The result is a graph-like visual representation of the group's collective opinion on each posted statement.
Dotmocracy is based on a simple assumption: If you ask many people to discuss and brainstorm the same questions, at least one of them will eventually give an answer that the rest will agree with or can at least accept.
This comparison chart from dotmocracy.org explains the differences between dotmocracy and multi-voting with stickers.
Multi-voting with Stickers
|Participants can read and dot as many or as few ideas as they please. There is no practical limit to the number of ideas posted.||Participants need to review all the ideas before dotting their favorites. The more ideas, the more impractical it is for any person to sensibly read and compare them all.|
|The agreement scale makes clear the levels of agreement, disagreement and confusion for each idea relative or independent of any other.||
Dots only give results relative to other ideas.Does not recognize levels of disagreement and confusion.
|Add new ideas at any time.||All ideas have to be presented at the same time.|
|Recognize priority between similar, related or hybrid ideas, i.e. allows for the importance of subtle differences to be discovered.||Similar ideas can cause vote-splitting, so facilitators are forced to amalgamate variations of an idea, i.e. ideas are generalized and differences are lost.|
|Signatures validate that the number of dots is one per a person. Using pens dots can not be altered.||It is impossible to recognize fraudulent dotting, e.g. adding extra stickers or moving stickers.|
|One dot per person on each sheet means you can always recognize how many people have expressed agreement.||Allowing multiple dots per a person makes it impossible to tell the difference, for example, between five dots from one person, or five dots from five people.|
|Documented rules and requirements promote consistency and reliability of results.||Each facilitator tends to apply their own set of rules, depending on the situation.|
|Any participant can present a detailed idea in their own words without the bottleneck and filter of a facilitator. In effect, many more ideas can be posted in a much shorter period of time.||Although some facilitators will invite participants to write ideas themselves on separate sheets, most facilitators tend to do the writing themselves on easel paper.|
|The letter-size Dotmocracy sheets can be easily scanned, photocopied, and archived in a binder or folder.||Although letter-size sheets can be used, large easel paper is typically used, which is awkward to store and review.|
|Each sheet includes space for recording comments.||Typically comments are not recorded on each idea.|
|Materials required: Dotmocracy sheets, pens and a writing surface (wall with tape and/or clipboards).||Materials required: Markers, (Easel) paper, stickers, tape.|
Advice for choosing this method
The dotmocracy site has a list of advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages of Brainstorm Plus Voting or Consensus Over Dotmocracy
- Many people are used to traditional models and thus they may have more perceived legitimacy and may be easier to facilitate.
- All the communication is verbal and face-to-face, which helps build trust and community.
- There are more opportunities to smile, laugh and cheer as a whole group.
- People can feel heard by the group.
- The final decision is a single choice that may appear to be more decisive.
- A good facilitator may draw out people and ideas that might have not been written on a Dotmocracy sheet.
Disadvantages of Brainstorm-Voting or Consensus Compared to Dotmocracy
- The number and detail of ideas is limited to the facilitators' ability to record them. The facilitator is a 'bottleneck' that does not allow the process to scale-up to large (e.g. greater than 30) numbers of participants and ideas.
- A facilitator may not correctly interpret what a participant is trying to say and thus record the wrong idea.
- The facilitator may have a bias that affects how the ideas are discussed and recorded. For example a facilitator may subtly ignore or downplay ideas they do not like, or give extra time and attention to ideas they prefer.
- There is limited opportunity for commenting and reflection on ideas. Any time spent listening to comments reduces time for new ideas.
- Discussion may be swayed by confident public speakers, not necessarily with the best idea.
- The final vote is public (i.e. not anonymous) and may be easily skewed by strong personalities, people with authority or status, power relationships, cliquing and cultural influences.
- The process requires participants to do public speaking in order to contribute, which many people with good ideas may be to shy to do.
- Discussions about the process can often take time away from the content of the decision-making.
'Dotmocracy' is referenced in:
- Communication for Development (C4D) :
- Rainbow Framework :
- Rainbow Framework :