Spreading the collaborative decision-making meme

Loomio cofounder Richard D. Bartlett chats with Matthew Luxon, Auckland changemaker and Loomio champ

Matthew LuxonMatthew Luxon is director of Envision NZ. They develop ideas for social benefit, especially those related to waste and resource recovery: e.g. establishing community recycling centres.

“Last year I was working on a project in the Waikato region, with a wide range of stakeholders. As I’m driving from Auckland to Hamilton over and over again, I’m thinking: there must be a better way. Loomio would have halved those trips!”

He was first introduced to Loomio by a couple of different people, who each told him they were finding it useful for decision-making in their organisations. He thought it sounded like the perfect tool for his work, but it took a while before he got started.

“We can be so passive: even if you know something is going to help and save you time, trying a new tool for the first time really takes a conscious burst of energy.”

It took 8 months before he found the right project to start with: an Auckland cohousing group.

ban marmiteHe started by trialling it with a small working group, just three people from the group of 15 households. The trial group of three people found it useful, so Matthew brought it to the rest of the group at their next meeting. He set up a projector with a demonstration proposal: “We should ban Marmite!”

Everyone could see how it worked and why it was useful. Like any new group process though, there was some resistance, especially from people that are not super techy. It helped that there were three people supporting the idea, rather than just one. In the end, the argument that really convinced them was, “we’ll spend less time in tedious meetings!

So immediately after the meeting, he invited everyone into the Loomio group. Everyone got engaged right away. In fact, some of the people who were most resistant are now the most active participants, liking people’s comments and raising proposals to move conversations towards agreement.

“I think everyone was a bit pent up with things they wanted to talk about, but had never had the space to discuss before.”

This flood of content can be a bit daunting, so I suggested that at their next meeting they could take a minute to discuss the “information overload” problem. At the very least, it would be cool if they could check in to make sure everyone knows how to configure their email settings so there’s not such a high volume of messages every day.

This is a volunteer group that doesn’t have a budget to pay for software, so they’re using Loomio on the “Gift” plan. This means any of the members can make a voluntary individual donation, rather than paying a subscription for the whole group.

Matthew made a donation last week, which was what prompted me to reach out to him. And I’m glad I did: he had some excellent ideas that I am going to bring to my own cohousing group. For instance, they have a one-vote-per-household policy. This encourages families to deliberate together and enables streamlined decision-making in the whole group. They also have an informal policy that any proposal should span a weekend, preferably with a weekday on either side, to make sure everyone has plenty of time to engage.

And I was stoked to be able to introduce him to the people behind CoHOP – the Collaborative Home Ownership Program, who have been using Loomio for years.

CoHOP group

Now that Matthew’s a Loomio pro, he’s got a vision for how it could weave into his work as a codesign consultant who regularly collaborates with local government:

“Loomio is awesome, fantastic. It’s a simple but powerful tool. I can see heaps of applications.”

I’m looking forward to catching up with him in a few months to see how that vision is progressing!

If you want to get started on a new collaboration habit, start a Loomio group today :)

Author: Richard D. Bartlett

Loomio co-founder; open source hardware and software hacker; activist;

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