The Regional Municipality of Durham (Ontario, Canada) carried out two large face-to-face workshop sessions. The 70 participants consisted of Durham staff, representatives of the eight lower tier municipalities, subject matter experts, post-secondary institutions, utilities, major polluters, environmental non-governmental organizations, and some private companies.
The first workshop focused on creating a vision for Durham’s energy future and began to identify potential goals and objectives to further the vision. The second workshop, and the one at which the Feedback Frames were used, involved evaluating additional goals to be added to the plan.
Both sessions were facilitated by 3rd party, professional award winning facilitator, Karyn Dumble, of The Monarch Park Group Inc.
The Feb 28th, 2017 session opened with a series of short presentations of national and international case studies. Participants reflected how the example projects could be applied locally. As the day progressed to the morning break, a series of 14 additional goals developed by the Steering Committee for consideration in addition to the goals named during the first stakeholder session were presented. The 70 participants were invited to rate each goal using Feedback Frames. A scale of one through five stars was offered, along with the invitation to note pros and cons to support their rating. If there were deep concerns about a particular goal, there was an option to drop a token under ‘flag’ instead of rating it. Voting was kept open through the morning break. Those without a stake (e.g. experts) and those with a conflict of interest were not included in the voting.
The ratings were tabulated and the three Steering Committee goals with the highest ratings went forward and became the focus of the next agenda activity.
The participants worked in small groups through a goal creation-improvement process where an additional set of nine bold goals were crafted and revised. These nine bold goals were offered for evaluation through Feedback Frame voting. The scale used for this round of blind voting was from strongly disagree to strongly agree in terms of which goals were needed for Durham’s energy future.
The value the Feedback Frames brought to the session was clear: blind voting using a rating scale enabled participants to avoid prematurely determining which goals were favoured. Using an visual voting process, such as “dotmocracy”-type processes, sways people’s thinking to focus on a limited number of ideas that receive the bulk of dots off the start. Looking at how the ratings staked up, there were ideas that were more successful than others, but it is fair to say that the votes were more broadly spread out because individuals were required to read and consider each goal without the conglomeration of dots acting as visual cues to how their peers felt. “Group think” was avoided.
Feedback Frames is a very useful tool for rating ideas and the situations in which they may be used are as varied as one’s process-planning imagination.
For more details about the workshop, see Durham Community Energy Plan – Stakeholder Consultation Final Report (PDF)