Consensus vs. majority-rules

Loomio’s core mission is watered down somewhat if it becomes just a voting tool. I know that it’s never claimed that it would be “just for consensus”, but I think that if it was just for consensus, that might encourage people to use consensus who otherwise might not have done so.
Craig, on whether Loomio should be built for majority rules in addition to consensus

A Business Plan for Loomio

We had a really interesting discussion today about how to create a sustainable economic engine for the Loomio project to thrive, while still maintaining our collaborative, participatory culture, and not getting distracted from our mission by trying to make Loomio about revenue.

We discussed several of the models that other Enspiral companies work on, such as a zero-dividend shareholder model, where being a shareholder means you have a vote, not that you can take value out of the company, a social enterprise with an intentional company constitution specifying that a portion of all profits goes toward our social aims, but leaves dividends and investments as options. 

We have discussed several possibilities for how to sustain Loomio financially while still giving the tool itself away for free and keeping it open source (a must for us). Some ideas are hosting plans for private groups, custom installations, support contracts, training and facilitation around consensus processes, and custom version fo Loomio with special features. Wouldn’t it be cool to see a successful business running in Loomio and exemplifying the potential of participatory decision making?

A lot of interesting potential here, but nothing’s been decided yet. We’re committed to helping Loomio thrive without compromising the values that motivated us to do this work in the first place.


Meeting Highlights – March 16, 2012

  • Decision display has been made cleaner with simple clear icons.
  • Motions now how closing date functionality, or can be left open indefinitely.
  • Working on the dashboard to clean up the visual representation of open and closed motions, so it’s easy to see what you’ve not yet voted on.
  • More discussion of terminology – removing as much as possible so Loomio can be agnostic and fit with many group structures.
  • Discussion of the best way to display voting info on the graphs.
  • Added liquid democracy-style delegation to the feature to-do list.
  • Need to streamline the invitation/registration process.
  • Added creation of subgroups to the to-do list.
  • Discussed the need to integrate the discussion platform.
  • We need to implement more engagement parameters that facilitators can set (such as % of participation needed, etc)
  • Identified the need for more help from a visual designer and UI
  • Discussed plans to apply for council grant

What is a block

A block traditionally means that someone feels so strongly about a decision that if it goes through they will leave the group. This is distinct from a “no” vote, which means they have concerns and don’t think consensus has been reached. If after more discussion they still have concerns but the rest of the group wants to approve something, they will live with it. If this distinction is not made, then there’s really no point in having “no” and “block” since they’d overlap. “No” means “I don’t think consensus has been reached let’s keep talking”… more or less. I think each group will have to define these terms for themselves
Alanna, on the difference between “no” and “block”

Meeting Highlights – March 9, 2012

  • Update of new features from Jon and Aaron, including improvements to the “new motion” interface, tagging, and closing motions.
  • Will be shortly implementing a deadline feature to define when motions will close.
  • Talked about the need for more engagement parameters, such as a minimum participation percentage for a vote to go through.
  • Need notifications of blocks to be emailed.
  • Continuing discussion of PledgeMe video.
  • Discussed project management and agreed to set weekly goals.
  • Talked about the idea of a coding skunkworks.
  • Joshua shared more ideas for the revenue model to help the project sustain and thrive: a consulting business set up around the free Loomio tool.
  • Ben looking into public funding and grants.
  • Continuing discussion about terminology, and the need for Loomio to be agnostic so groups can define their own terms. We want everything to be customizable if possible, but we will have to settle on defaults.
  • Immediate priorities: email notifications, closing dates, dashboard cleanup, tags, group membership and registration process, motion organization, embedding a discussion platform, subgroups within groups.

Some Points for the PledgeMe Pitch (Under Development)

  • What is consensus?
  • How the protocols of a discussion can influence outcomes
  • How this tool will aid group self-understanding
  • Anecdotes about the power of empowering people in organizations to be heard
  • Specific goals for the stage we’re trying to fund (what we’ll accomplish if we’re funded)
  • How we want to bring it to the stage where we can open it up and develop the project using the tool itself with community input
  • Making sure it’s clear this is open source and will be totally free

Meeting Highlights – February 24, 2012

  • There’s an exciting opportunity to use a community art/work space for Loomio, and this might give us room to brainstorm and be creative in our process.
  • We have identified a clear need for some more resources, both money and people. Some ideas for funding: doing a PledgeMe video, applying for a grant from the government, reaching out to potential customers for pre-funding.

Draft of the Elevator Pitch

Jon and Rich came up with this in February. This is an evolving document, but it’s a good start.

Loomio – “Helping groups move together”

Loomio is a web app that helps groups of individuals make decisions together. 

As groups get larger they tend to become less efficient, and often individuals start to feel that the group is no longer accomplishing what it set out to do. This happens with companies, political entities, universities… pretty much any large collective. However, while groups can often become very inefficient, they can also become very powerful when engaged together with common purpose and intent. 

Loomio aims to leverage the power of groups by using the Internet to facilitate consensus-based decision-making. It provides a platform where group members can discuss issues, propose ideas and solutions, and then vote on decisions together. The end result is that better decisions are made, and the group has a greater understanding of itself and it’s direction forward.


Loomio is being collaboratively developed as an open source project. We are seeking input from a diverse range of people, from activists to business people.

Some Good Ideas for Features

We’ve heard these requests a few times, and have put them on our development wish list:

  • sub group (I want to have an Enspiral Members group as a subset of enspiral as a whole)
  • anonymous motion : you can see the counts but not who voted on an issue. I want to use this for voting in new members
  • better inviting : I want to be able add user accounts for people that they can activate and then vote straight away without me having to approve in the middle

Meeting Highlights – January 12, 2012

  • Discussed terminology choices around “abstain” vs “indifferent” and what the terms we chose imply.
  • Decided to make the voting process just one click but bringing the options right onto the motion page. Previously you had to click “vote” and then pick your position. Our goal is to enable engagement even on the smallest level – if you can engage extensively, great, if you can only spare time for a single click, that’s OK too.
  • Loomio is currently focusing on building for the needs of our first user group, Enspiral. We think this will help us focus on iterating effectively with constant user feedback, with the idea that we will expand and add features for other types of groups in the future.

A Discussion of Icons

There are many visual ways of representing the tools of consensus.

Our goal in Loomio is to have simple, effective symbols that are also agnostic – this means we want to empower groups to be able to set up their decision making process in the way that works best for them. If we can have a powerful but flexible set of visual symbols in Loomio, groups can define them for themselves, and experiment with the power of conscious process design in their decision making.

The difference between offline and online communication

One of the things I’ve been considering is the difference between offline and online communications. To me the people’s mic (or even one person speaks at a time) is al limitation of offline environments that we shouldn’t be emulating to replicate. Instead I would suggest a philosophy of harvesting lots of content simultaneously and providing mechanisms to filter the noise and promote the group sentiment – similar to the reddit approach.
Joshua, pointing out the benefits of an “everyone talks at once, everyone is heard” internet-style communication model, versus the “one person talks at once” model of in-person meetings.

eDemocracy and civic engagement

I have been thinking in the eDemocracy and general civic engagement space for many years now, but in the light of OWS, the Arab Spring, and the increasing tensions between the haves and have-nots around the world, which are only likely to accelerate as the financial excrement seriously begins to hit the reality fan in 2012, I have more recently started putting thoughts into actions.
Seth, describing why he’s interested in helping the Loomio project

Why Limit the “Statement” Length

In Loomio, you assert your stance (yes, no, block, abstain, or whatever terms the group administrator decides to define), and you also have the option to make a statement about why you feel that way. We decided to limit the length of this statement. 

By design, the discussion about the motion will take place on the discussion platform. This is a space for people to express themselves freely, respond to other people’s concerns and ideas, and hash out disagreements. The intent is for people to participate and/or read over the discussion, and then vote only when they are very clear about their final stance. For this reason, the statement length is quite limited, as we feel if you are clear about your stance and you’ve already discussed any concerns or issues in the discussion space, you should be able to state your case simply and briefly. 

This also has the benefit of making the final Loomio results very clear and succinct – it’s easy to see what people think and why.

A Short History and Introduction

The Loomio project began in late 2011 when some members of the Occupy Wellington movement met up with some people at Enspiral and we realized we had a common need for a better decision making tool.

As non-hierarchical groups that aim to give all members a voice in the process, traditional top-down decision making wasn’t an option, but traditional consensus decision making requiring everyone to sit in a circle and talk each point through was too slow and inefficient.

Loomio was conceived to take the best of participatory processes and make it efficient and straightforward for use in groups where people might be in different locations and time zones, and have busy members who don’t have too much time to spare. 

Our goal as a team is to create a simple, effective tool that helps groups move together. We believe in the power of giving each person affected by a decision a voice – it encourages people to feel ownership of outcomes, and takes advantage of the good ideas anyone in the group, regardless of their status, may come up with.

We committed from the outset to create a free and open source tool, and it is our aim to build a community of Loomio contributors who will help make this tool as great as it can be.